The best books about nerds getting into trouble

Why am I passionate about this?

I love nerds. I’ve always identified as one and years working in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley made me appreciate their passion, dedication to optimization, and wonderful senses of humor. I once scheduled a meeting with a programmer and afterwards he said “this meeting wasn’t the complete waste of time I expected,” and I took that as a compliment. A lot of books and movies make nerds pretty and shiny and one note. The nerds in these books all rang true to me—they approach difficult situations with logic and humor. They’re complex and compassionate and the kind of people I want to know more about.

I wrote...

The Girl Who Would Live Forever

By Rebecca Cantrell,

Book cover of The Girl Who Would Live Forever

What is my book about?

Ivy Corva’s first novel makes her the target of online trolls. As the threats get nastier and her address is posted on the Internet for all to see, she runs from her old life and moves to San Francisco to work for her friend Shelby. But Shelby isn’t there.

Shelby threw herself off the Golden Gate Bridge right after their phone call to avoid her own demons: accusations of financial fraud and lying about her new immortality drug. As the world seeks to destroy her friend’s legacy, Ivy searches for the truth. But when Ivy's trolls move from the virtual world to the real one and Shelby's foes close in, Ivy fears that the price for the truth will be her life.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Lessons in Chemistry

Rebecca Cantrell Why did I love this book?

Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant chemist making her way in a very sexist lab in the 1960s who ends up creating a chemistry-inspired cooking show that empowers everyone who watches it. She’s inspiring and relentless and funny as hell. It was a GoodReads Choice winner in 2022 and I’m not surprised.

This book helped me to slog through some low moments in my own life and made me think about cooking in a whole new way. “I’m disrupting the egg’s internal bonds in order to elongate the amino acid chain,” she told the dog in typical nerd fashion. (The dog survives.) I loved her precision in language and life and the absurdity it brings.

By Bonnie Garmus,

Why should I read it?

64 authors picked Lessons in Chemistry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK • Meet Elizabeth Zott: a “formidable, unapologetic and inspiring” (PARADE) scientist in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show in this novel that is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel. It reminds you that change takes time and always requires heat” (The New York Times Book Review).

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Daily, Newsweek, GoodReads

"A unique heroine ... you'll find yourself wishing she wasn’t fictional." —Seattle Times…

Book cover of Project Hail Mary

Rebecca Cantrell Why did I love this book?

You can’t talk about nerds in trouble without mentioning Andy Weir. This one came out in the pandemic and it’s about a man who wakes up in a spaceship and doesn’t know who he is or what he’s supposed to do. I read this during the second year of the pandemic and I very much sympathized with his plight—he can’t go outside because it will kill him, he senses that he has important things to do, and he has a lingering feeling of existential dread. But even with all those worries, Ryland Grace manages to find his way forward with science and logic and humor. He’s nerdy and funny and he’s going to try to save the world.

By Andy Weir,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Project Hail Mary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through…

Book cover of All Systems Red

Rebecca Cantrell Why did I love this book?

I read this novella in one long insomniac night, snorting with laughter so much that I eventually had to leave the bedroom to keep from waking up my husband. A murderous bot overrides its programming so it doesn’t have to do quite so much murdering and instead can sneak off to watch television shows. But pesky humans keep pressing it into service to keep them from killing themselves and each other. It’s science fiction and crime fiction and a wry study of the human condition all rolled up together.

Murderbot is cynical, funny, and surprisingly heartwarming. We all have inner Murderbots, but we’re very lucky that we don’t all let them out. Too much. First in a series.

By Martha Wells,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked All Systems Red as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All Systems Red by Martha Wells begins The Murderbot Diaries, a new science fiction action and adventure series that tackles questions of the ethics of sentient robotics. It appeals to fans of Westworld, Ex Machina, Ann Leckie's Imperial Raadch series, or lain M. Banks' Culture novels. The main character is a deadly security droid that has bucked its restrictive programming and is balanced between contemplative self discovery and an idle instinct to kill all humans. In a corporate dominated s pa cef a ring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by…

Book cover of The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

Rebecca Cantrell Why did I love this book?

A nonfiction book about an actual nerd who stubbornly investigated a 75 cent accounting error and ended up uncovering an international espionage ring during the Cold War. As nerds do. Along the way, he invented many techniques still used in cybersecurity. It ought to be dry, but it’s funny and charming and it perfectly evokes Berkeley in the 1980s. I was a computer operator at Carnegie Mellon and my workday was very similar to Stoll’s. For me this book was a time machine to my early 20s. I could see, hear, and feel every scene. If you ever think that your nerdy obsessions don’t matterthis shows that they do.

By Clifford Stoll,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Cuckoo's Egg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before the Internet became widely known as a global tool for terrorists, one perceptive U.S. citizen recognized its ominous potential. Armed with clear evidence of computer espionage, he began a highly personal quest to expose a hidden network of spies that threatened national security. But would the authorities back him up? Cliff Stoll's dramatic firsthand account is "a computer-age detective story, instantly fascinating [and] astonishingly gripping" (Smithsonian).

Cliff Stoll was an astronomer turned systems manager at Lawrence Berkeley Lab when a 75-cent accounting error alerted him to the presence of an unauthorized user on his system. The hacker's code name…

Book cover of The Circle

Rebecca Cantrell Why did I love this book?

This one’s darker than the others on my list. I’ve worked in high-tech for years and the world of the Circle is far too close to my working life. The dystopian story of a young woman who stumbles into a dystopian world filled with surveillance and the eradication of privacy is chilling. And the veneer of toxic positivity that the Circle presents to the wider world is too familiar to ignore. I’ve worked at places that are only a few small steps removed from the one in this story, and I worry that we will all end up living in that world. These are not funny, happy nerds who will save the world if they can. But they’re nerds and they’re definitely causing trouble.

By Dave Eggers,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Circle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - a dark, thrilling and unputdownable novel about our obsession with the internet

'Prepare to be addicted' Daily Mail

'A gripping and highly unsettling read' Sunday Times

'The Circle is 'Brave New World' for our brave new world... Fast, witty and troubling' Washington Post

When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users' personal emails,…

You might also like...

Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

Book cover of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

John Kenneth White Author Of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Reading was a childhood passion of mine. My mother was a librarian and got me interested in reading early in life. When John F. Kennedy was running for president and after his assassination, I became intensely interested in politics. In addition to reading history and political biographies, I consumed newspapers and television news. It is this background that I have drawn upon over the decades that has added value to my research.

John's book list on who we are, how we’ve changed, and what gives us hope

What is my book about?

It didn’t begin with Donald Trump. When the Republican Party lost five straight presidential elections during the 1930s and 1940s, three things happened: (1) Republicans came to believe that presidential elections are rigged; (2) Conspiracy theories arose and were believed; and (3) The presidency was elevated to cult-like status.

Long before Trump, each of these phenomena grew in importance. The John Birch Society and McCarthyism became powerful forces; Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first “personal president” to rise above the party; and the development of what Harry Truman called “the big lie,” where outrageous falsehoods came to be believed. Trump…

Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

What is this book about?

It didn't begin with Donald Trump. The unraveling of the Grand Old Party has been decades in the making. Since the time of FDR, the Republican Party has been home to conspiracy thinking, including a belief that lost elections were rigged. And when Republicans later won the White House, the party elevated their presidents to heroic status-a predisposition that eventually posed a threat to democracy. Building on his esteemed 2016 book, What Happened to the Republican Party?, John Kenneth White proposes to explain why this happened-not just the election of Trump but the authoritarian shift in the party as a…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in robots, technology, and women in the sciences?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about robots, technology, and women in the sciences.

Robots Explore 96 books about robots
Technology Explore 126 books about technology
Women In The Sciences Explore 32 books about women in the sciences