The best Alan Turing books 📚

Browse the best books on Alan Turing as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness

Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness

By Roger Penrose

Why this book?

My second choice relates more subtly to Turing’s sudden end in 1954. In 1955, Turing’s colleague Max Newman gave a talk on logic in his honour. This greatly impressed a student, Roger Penrose, who was also studying the quantum mechanics and relativity that had first fascinated the young Turing. Years later, Penrose announced an astonishing thesis relating logic and physics. This book explains the theory he developed. It claims that the brain must exploit quantum-mechanical physics that no computer can emulate. Turing famously promoted the prospects for computer-based Artificial Intelligence, but he would have taken this anti-AI thesis more seriously…

From the list:

The best books to widen your picture of Alan Turing’s world

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Book cover of Alan Turing: The Enigma

Alan Turing: The Enigma

By Andrew Hodges

Why this book?

Turing was the greatest mathematician in mid-century England—a codebreaker for the German codes and much much more. Turing machines are still the (abstract) computers that model what is possible and what is not. Alan Turing himself was gay when this was an unsolvable problem—and his life ended far too soon. He had so much to give.

From the list:

The best books about mathematicians and their lives

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Book cover of Inside The Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Inside The Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer

By Ray Monk

Why this book?

Ray Monk has, like me, been drawn to the idea of a linear biographical narrative fusing life and work together. My third pick is his biography of the American physicist Robert Oppenheimer. This is a fascinating story parallel to Turing’s. The Second World War brought both of them, hitherto pure researchers, to intense and crucial involvement in the world’s affairs. Nuclear weapons for Oppenheimer were what codebreaking was for Turing. Afterward, both were at odds with the governments they had empowered.

When in 1953 Turing wrote ‘I detest America’ he might well have been reacting to the McCarthy period in…

From the list:

The best books to widen your picture of Alan Turing’s world

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Book cover of Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes

Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes

By Richard Davenport-Hines

Why this book?

My fourth pick is another biography, of the economist John Maynard Keynes. Richard Davenport-Hines has divided up his account into ‘seven lives’. Yet by taking his personal life and sexual identity seriously, Davenport-Hines achieves an outstanding unification. Seriousness is not solemnity: readers will find here a delightful story about Keynes admiring Alan Turing’s fingernails at King’s College, Cambridge. There is much more to illustrate the extraordinary King’s College ambiance in which Turing found his home, and deeper connections: in late 1946, both were crossing the Atlantic, Keynes to rescue the British economy, Turing on his start-up of the computer industry.…
From the list:

The best books to widen your picture of Alan Turing’s world

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Book cover of Before Enigma: The Room 40 Codebreakers of the First World War

Before Enigma: The Room 40 Codebreakers of the First World War

By David Boyle

Why this book?

This is a short punchy book that provides a great introduction to the topic of codebreaking in England during the Great War, giving a sweeping overview and then some entertaining and tantalizing stories about the people involved. At just over a hundred pages, this is a quick read that serves as a fun introduction to the topic.

From the list:

The best books about British intelligence in WW1

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Book cover of Alan Turing's Manchester

Alan Turing's Manchester

By Jonathan Swinton

Why this book?

My first pick is the one most directly about Alan Turing himself. After 1950 his attention turned mainly to his new theory of mathematical biology, but his death in 1954 left most of this work unpublished.  His ideas were 20 or more years ahead of their time and few people could assess them. Jonathan Swinton is a leading expert in this field, and has been studying Turing’s manuscripts for 30 years. But his book has a much broader range: he adds so much on the culture of Manchester and its region, with a particular focus on women both as protagonists…

From the list:

The best books to widen your picture of Alan Turing’s world

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