Cryptonomicon

By Neal Stephenson,

Book cover of Cryptonomicon

Book description

With this extraordinary first volume in an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment…

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

Why read it?

5 authors picked Cryptonomicon as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

About WWII codebreaking, the reason this makes my ‘Best 5’ is that, besides being constantly inventive and informative, it’s also very funny. (I’m that shallow.)

There are similarities, I think, with Catch 22, in the plot’s intelligence, absurdity, and dreamlike turns.

I think Stephenson’s character Bobbie Shaftoe, a soldier who carries out counterintelligence deceptions, is hilarious. Also, Stephenson’s use of real historical characters–he presents believable portraits of Alan Turing, Douglas MacArthur, Karl Dönitz, and Hermann Göring, with a walk-on appearance by Albert  Einsteingave me license to do so in my own fiction.

We’re clearly suckers for dual timeline books about geniuses solving near-impossible ciphers.

This one, by the dauntingly clever Neal Stephenson, is a heady mix of real history, invented history, and modern intrigue, all tied together by the field of cryptology. I knew absolutely nothing about code-breaking before I read this, and when I’d finished, I felt I’d earned a master's at the very least.

Although we’ll never compete with the Bletchley Park brains, we very much enjoy being thrown into the mix, pretending we can keep up!

From Lee's list on readers who like a good puzzle.

Cryptonomicon is a sprawling saga of the obsessive nerds who shaped the 20th century.

The plot deftly intertwines the adventures of a handful soldiers and codebreakers in World War II, with a tech startup in the 2000s.

The plot is epic drama - sunken Nazi submarines, hidden gold, data havens, island-hopping warfare in the South Pacific - and Stephenson has a matchless gift for making the nerdiest subjects vastly entertaining.

From Austin's list on set in alternate histories.

Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

By K.R. Wilson,

Book cover of Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

K.R. Wilson Author Of Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Reader History enthusiast Occasional composer Sometime chorister

K.R.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When King Priam's pregnant daughter was fleeing the sack of Troy, Stan was there. When Jesus of Nazareth was beaten and crucified, Stan was there - one crossover. He’s been a Hittite warrior, a Silk Road mercenary, a reluctant rebel in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, and an information peddler in the cabarets of post-war Berlin. Stan doesn't die, and he doesn't know why. And now he's being investigated for a horrific crime.

As Stan tells his story, from his origins as an Anatolian sheep farmer to his custody in a Toronto police interview room, he brings a wry, anachronistic…

Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

By K.R. Wilson,

What is this book about?

Long-listed for the 2022 Leacock Medal for Humour

When King Priam's pregnant daughter was fleeing the sack of Troy, Stan was there. When Jesus of Nazareth was beaten and crucified, Stan was there - one cross over. Stan has been a Hittite warrior, a Roman legionnaire, a mercenary for the caravans of the Silk Road and a Great War German grunt. He’s been a toymaker in a time of plague, a reluctant rebel in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and an information peddler in the cabarets of post-war Berlin. Stan doesn't die, and he doesn't know why. And now he's…


This 1999 novel is what got me hooked on Stephenson. A book about cryptocurrencies and blockchain that came out a decade before they were even invented. Set both during World War II and the modern day, Stephenson writes a gripping page-turning action thriller in the style of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, but about big ideas like how cryptography was crucial to winning World War II, and how cryptocurrencies teach us something about the true nature of money and how blockchains could be the key to saving democracy. (Also love it because the novel includes code written in perl, my…

Neal Stephenson makes his readers think and learn. I love the complexity of the plot. The shifting timelines. The assorted and wildly different locales. And Neal doesn’t let his characters take themselves too seriously. There are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout his thriller.

My absolute favorite endorsement of my novel was a thoughtful comparison to Cryptonomicon. Such very high praise.

Want books like Cryptonomicon?

Our community of 11,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like Cryptonomicon.

Browse books like Cryptonomicon

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cryptography, presidential biography, and World War 1?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about cryptography, presidential biography, and World War 1.

Cryptography Explore 29 books about cryptography
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography
World War 1 Explore 897 books about World War 1