The best computer networks books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about computer networks and why they recommend each book.

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A People's History of Computing in the United States

By Joy Lisi Rankin,

Book cover of A People's History of Computing in the United States

A thorough look at the origins of personal computing and connections between computer users beginning in the 1960s that highlights the BASIC programming language and The Oregon Trail game. Shines a light on the role that universities and the education system played in fostering networks between users.


Who am I?

Joanne McNeil has written about internet culture for over fifteen years. Her book considers the development of the internet from a user's perspective since the launch of the World Wide Web. Her interest in digital technology spans from the culture that enabled the founding of major companies in Silicon Valley to their reception in broader culture.


I wrote...

Lurking: How a Person Became a User

By Joanne McNeil,

Book cover of Lurking: How a Person Became a User

What is my book about?

A concise but wide-ranging personal history of the internet from the point of view of the user. 

In a shockingly short amount of time, the internet has bound people around the world together and torn us apart and changed not just the way we communicate but who we are and who we can be. It has created a new, unprecedented cultural space that we are all a part of—even if we don’t participate, that is how we participate—but by which we’re continually surprised, betrayed, enriched, befuddled. We have churned through platforms and technologies and in turn been churned by them. And yet, the internet is us and always has been. In Lurking, Joanne McNeil digs deep and identifies the primary (if sometimes contradictory) concerns of people online: searching, safety, privacy, identity, community, anonymity, and visibility. 

Managing Chaos

By Lisa Welchman,

Book cover of Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design

You might not think of excitement when you hear the words “Digital Governance” but I can assure you that this book is a real page-turner…especially if your job involves managing large-scale information messes. There is a special kind of chaos that only information and knowledge workers can understand and this book paints a picture so many of us have seen in practice but in a way that leaves the reader inspired to fight another day, instead of wallowing in a sea of information-induced self-pity.

I recommend this book because I have seen too many information architecture efforts die on the vine due to a lack of good governance. The frameworks and recommendations in this book mean I always have a playbook to hand to teams in need.


Who am I?

I am an information architect, writer, and community organizer on a mission to make information architecture education accessible to everybody. I started practicing IA in pure pursuit of stronger visual design, but in the two decades since have developed an insatiable appetite for understanding and teaching the practical skills that make people better sensemakers, regardless of their role or medium. The books I chose for this list are all foundational to me becoming the sensemaker that I am today. I offer them as suggestions because they are not the books you will find should you search for “Information Architecture” yet they have all become my go-to recommendations for helping others to strengthen their own sensemaking.


I wrote...

How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody

By Abby Covert,

Book cover of How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody

What is my book about?

How to Make Sense of Any Mess is a beginner’s guide to information architecture (IA) that provides frameworks and exercises to help anyone learn how to make sense of any mess. I wrote this book because everyone has a mess in their life they need to make sense of. 

As our world becomes more and more complex, I believe that we are going to need a new wave of sensemakers who are prepared for the information-based challenges that lay ahead. I believe that information architecture is the right framing of theory and practice to prepare someone to make sense of those kinds of challenges.

Agile Application Security

By Laura Bell, Michael Brunton-Spall, Rich Smith, Jim Bird

Book cover of Agile Application Security: Enabling Security in a Continuous Delivery Pipeline

When I worked in application security at Microsoft, we still had products that shipped every few years. I learned to scale application security in that world, but many people live in a different world now. AAS helped me understand which of our approaches translated well, which had to be transformed, and which needed to be discarded or replaced. I regularly refer back to it, even a few years later.


Who am I?

Being able to understand and change reality through our knowledge and skill is literal magic. We’re building systems with so many exciting and unexpected properties that can be exploited and repurposed for both good and evil. I want to keep some of that magic and help people engineer – build great systems that make people’s lives better. I’ve been securing (and breaking) systems, from operating rooms to spaceships, from banks to self-driving cars for over 25 years. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if security is not infused from the start, we’re forced to rely on what ought to be our last lines of defense. This list helps you infuse security into your systems.


I wrote...

Threat Modeling: Designing for Security

By Adam Shostack,

Book cover of Threat Modeling: Designing for Security

What is my book about?

How to anticipate and address software threats before you’ve written a line of code. The proven tools in this book can be applied by anyone. They give you a structured and systematic approach that are be applied at any scale – from a website built with CI/CD to complex waterfall projects like spacecraft.

This book captures years of experience in a simple, accessible, and practical way.

Software Security Engineering

By Julia H. Allen, Sean Barnum, Robert J. Ellison, Gary McGraw, Nancy R. Mead

Book cover of Software Security Engineering: A Guide for Project Managers

This book is a “how-to” guide for teams developing secure software. Written by a team of experts, it covers the important issues in developing software that is better able to prevent successful attacks. The book contains many references, a strategy, and an implementation guide with cross-references. For each topic, the maturity of practice at the time of writing is provided, as well as an indication of the audience.  


Who am I?

As a kid, I used to do all the math problems in my textbooks just for fun, even if they weren’t part of a homework assignment. My grandchildren cringe when I tell them this. I am a researcher and educator in secure software engineering and have enjoyed a productive career in software development and management, software engineering and software security research, and software and secure software engineering education.  


I wrote...

Cyber Security Engineering: A Practical Approach for Systems and Software Assurance

By Nancy R. Mead, Carol Woody,

Book cover of Cyber Security Engineering: A Practical Approach for Systems and Software Assurance

What is my book about?

I saw a need for books on cybersecurity that could be used both in educational settings and in practice. I like this book because it focuses on developing and acquiring assured software and systems, and it provides a risk-aware orientation, while making practical suggestions for getting started. The book covers a wide variety of software security topics for both developed and acquired software, provides copious references, and gives the readers a roadmap for implementation of good cyber security practices for developing and acquiring assured software.

Here Comes Everybody

By Clay Shirky,

Book cover of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Shirky explained the fascination with how everyone becomes media long before TikTok was even a gleam in the eye of its founder Zhang Yiming. In this world that becomes louder, faster, and where attention is harder to come by we might think that it becomes every person for themselves. Not so. Communities become stronger and we enter the age of "We" rather than the age of "Me." A fascinating read on the power of organizations that don't rely on traditional organization hierarchies. If you want to know how good ideas spread in the 21st Century, this is a good book to read.


Who am I?

Ever since touching my first computer (the Apple IIC) in 1985, broadcasting a radio show in 1988, logging onto the world wide web in 1991, launching my first podcast in 2004 or producing the highly viewed YouTube show The Download in 2020 I've been interested in what Marshall McLuhan has dubbed, "The Medium is the Message." Not only how media and technology are used but how it intersects with humanity, education, entertainment, marketing and popular culture to drive word of mouth. To me, marketing isn't just about the technology or the quantified metrics but about how it shapes long lasting impressions on people and leads to sustained behavioral change.


I wrote...

Disruptive Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us about Navigating the New Normal

By Geoffrey Colon,

Book cover of Disruptive Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us about Navigating the New Normal

What is my book about?

In the 21st century, the best marketing comes from what Geoffrey Colon calls “creative hybrids,” marketers with training in design, video production, psychology, and statistics. Creative direction is driven by customer experience and social media research, he says. Colon brings a fresh view to marketing in this provocative and useful book.

Data and Goliath

By Bruce Schneier,

Book cover of Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

Security expert Bruce Schneier wrote this excellent book, talking about the “Goliaths” who are looking to exploit individuals’ data. Focusing more on politics (specifically US politics) than the other books on this list, Schneier talks about the Edward Snowden classified information reveal. He talks about mass surveillance conducted by the US and other governments around the world, and lays out in detail why this should concern us all.


Who am I?

I have been an information technology and cybersecurity professional for over two decades. I’ve learned over and over again that “people are the weakest link.” You can build the most secure system in the world, with stringent password requirements. But if the user writes their password down and leaves it where someone else can see it, system security is irrelevant! The easiest way to gain access to a system is via “social engineering” – to trick a human being into giving you the access you need, rather than trying to hack the system itself. The books on this list will help the reader lower their chances of being exploited like this.


I wrote...

10 Don'ts on Your Digital Devices: The Non-Techie's Survival Guide to Cyber Security and Privacy

By Eric J. Rzeszut, Daniel Bachrach,

Book cover of 10 Don'ts on Your Digital Devices: The Non-Techie's Survival Guide to Cyber Security and Privacy

What is my book about?

In nontechnical language and engaging style, 10 Don’ts on Your Digital Devices explains to non-techie users of PCs and handheld devices exactly what to do and what not to do to protect their digital data from security and privacy threats at home, at work, and on the road. These include chronic threats such as malware and phishing attacks and emerging threats that exploit cloudbased storage and mobile apps.

Through ten vignettes told in accessible language and illustrated with helpful screenshots, 10 Don’ts teaches non-technical readers ten key lessons for protecting your digital security and privacy with the same care you reflexively give to your physical security and privacy.

From Counterculture to Cyberculture

By Fred Turner,

Book cover of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism

Beginning with Steward Brand’s influence through his projects like The Whole Earth Catalog, the WELL, and Wired magazine, this book examines the unique culture of Silicon Valley. An essential history and one that clarifies the tech industry’s seemingly contradictory values of revolution and corporate power.


Who am I?

Joanne McNeil has written about internet culture for over fifteen years. Her book considers the development of the internet from a user's perspective since the launch of the World Wide Web. Her interest in digital technology spans from the culture that enabled the founding of major companies in Silicon Valley to their reception in broader culture.


I wrote...

Lurking: How a Person Became a User

By Joanne McNeil,

Book cover of Lurking: How a Person Became a User

What is my book about?

A concise but wide-ranging personal history of the internet from the point of view of the user. 

In a shockingly short amount of time, the internet has bound people around the world together and torn us apart and changed not just the way we communicate but who we are and who we can be. It has created a new, unprecedented cultural space that we are all a part of—even if we don’t participate, that is how we participate—but by which we’re continually surprised, betrayed, enriched, befuddled. We have churned through platforms and technologies and in turn been churned by them. And yet, the internet is us and always has been. In Lurking, Joanne McNeil digs deep and identifies the primary (if sometimes contradictory) concerns of people online: searching, safety, privacy, identity, community, anonymity, and visibility. 

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