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My Top 10 Audiobooks for Software Engineers

Time for another top ten list. Today I’d like to share my current top 10 audiobooks for software engineers. This will be a mix of fiction and nonfiction books.

Full disclosure, I use Audible for all my audiobooks. I’m not sponsored by them but I do have an affiliate link if you’re interested in checking out audiobooks. Use it or ignore it, it doesn’t affect this list and how awesome these books are.

Alright, well let’s jump right in!

  • #10: The Millennium Series
    I’m already cheating a bit here since this is a series of books as opposed to one. The Millennium series has three books in total. There are two new books written by a different author so I won’t include them here. This series tells a fictional story about a hacker with social issues that gets involved in a deep murder mystery. I got into this book after watching the 2005 American film based on the first book. In this case the series of books is definitely better than the movie. I recommend this book if you’re into murder mysteries. Great way to include hackers in the mix.
  • #9: Snow Crash
    This was the first science fiction book I physically read. I didn’t really read novels growing up. I mainly read comic books, graphic novels, programming books and other tech related stuff. Years later I rediscovered this book via Audible. The narrator did a great job and sound effects between chapters are pretty cool. This is a fun yet complex sci-fi novel that really gets your imagination going.
  • #8: Elon Musk
    Elon Musk is arguably the most famous engineer in the world right now. His ambitions and accomplishments have surpassed what many tech billionaires have hoped to accomplish. There are other extremely successful engineers from the dot com days but none have taken on other countries in the new space race. So far, this is the best book about Elon Musk.
  • #7: The Martian
    The performance by the narrator of this audiobook is amazing. When I first listened to this book, I would sit in my car after a long commute home just to listen to the rest of a chapter. Great sci-fi story that is closely based on reality.
  • #6: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series
    This classic dramatized radio series will make you feel like a kid from the 50s sitting next to your parents old living room radio. I didn’t know this story until I saw the 2005 movie. After I listened to the book on Audible. I think the radio series is way better than the movie.
  • #5: Reamde
    This sci-fi story is from the same author behind Snow Crash. Even though it is less complicated and much longer, the story still keeps you caught in the story. The title is a play on a filename many software engineers are familiar with… README. Love the mix of hackers, terrorist, spies, gamers, farmers, tech mogul and an innocent refugee girl turn badass.
  • #4: Ready Player One
    This is a fun nostalgic 80s read that still manages to add a ton of modern day sci-fi. On top of that, it’s read by Wil Wheaton. Aside from the dystopian future, this book is probably not to far off on the tech side since VR and AR platforms are lining up to be the next big thing. I’m a big fan of virtual worlds both in media and tech. I suspect most software engineers are as well.
  • #3: The Daemon Series
    If I were to sort this list by the books I listen to the most, these two books would take the top two spots. These book do an amazing job of using modern day tech like daemon programs, AR glasses, autonomous vehicles, cryptocurrency and so much more to create a suspenseful thriller that really pulls you in. I listen to this book so many times. I’ll probably listen to it again in the next week or two since I’m running low on new books in my Audible queue.
  • #2: Masters of Doom
    This book tells the amazing story of ID software and the two young programmers who created a whole new genre of video games. I was a huge fan of Doom and spent many hours playing the original games. I had no idea the same company that was behind a popular BBS distributed game called Commander Keen. This is a great book that’s well written and fun to listen too since I got into programming because I wanted to create games. Of Course having Wil Wheaton narrate it is another plus.
  • #1: Ghost in the Wires
    This is the amazing detailed thrilling story of Kevin Mitnick written by the man himself. There’s so much tech details in this story and yet feels like a fictional techno thriller. The cat and mouse chase between the FBI and Mitnick reminds me of another true life audiobook I enjoyed called “Catch Me If You Can”. I love stories like this.

Well that’s it, my current top 10 audiobooks for software engineers. I was initially going to make this a top 15 list but decided to trim it down. Here are some honorable mentions: iWoz, The Accidental Billionaires, All The Rave and I’m Feeling Lucky.

Feel free to share your favorite audiobooks in the comments below.

Top 15 Movies Programmers Should Watch

This is a follow up to my list of documentaries programmers should watch. Movies are a bit different since they don’t always have a direct connection to programming but have a lot to do with hacker lifestyles. Most of the movies in my list are oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

  1. Matrix (1999)
    I’m sure you’re not surprised that this is my top pick. If you are a programmer and you haven’t seen this movie then something is terribly wrong with you. Or maybe you just don’t like movies.
  2. Tron (1982)
    This use to be my top pick until Matrix came along. It’s old but the content is still good. The funny thing is this has a lot in common with the Matrix. In this movie the programmer gets zapped into the computer world. The effects used in this movie were a big deal back in the day.
  3. Primer (2004)
    A movie about a group of geeks building a startup in a garage that takes a strange turn. This is the type of movie you have to watch a couple times to understand but it’s worth it. I like subtle sci-fi movies like this.
  4. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
    Probably the best movie about how Apple, Microsoft and the rivalry between them got started. This movie even impressed the real Steve Jobs. He even had the actor that played him in the movie kick off one of his his Macworld keynotes. If you haven’t seen this then you need to fire up Netflix right now and enjoy. Probably only available as DVD though.
  5. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
    This not your average cartoon. If you’re into anime then this is a must see. My guess is if you like anime you’ve seen this already but for those new to anime then this is a good start.
  6. The Social Network (2010)
    If you can get past the many inaccurate parts of this movie in relation to the real world Marc Zuckerberg then this movie will be entertaining. I do like the fact that they did get the hacking in the movie right. It’s not easy to make programming fun to watch on screen but they pulled it off a bit in this movie. It kinda helped my wife understand what I do.
  7. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
    A hacker movie that takes on the dark thriller genre. It’s based on the popular novel about a hacker girl with social issues helping a journalist solve a murder mystery. Here’s the original Swedish version (2009) of the movie. This should be a trilogy but it doesn’t look like the US version will continue. The Swedish version was made into a trilogy.
  8. Sneakers (1992) This is a hacker movie that stars Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd and the late River Phoenix. Even Mary McDonnell, who later played President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, has a role in this movie.
  9. Office Space (1999) By far the best programmer comedy movie out there. The only other movie I watch more than this one is probably The Matrix.
  10. War Games (1983) Probably the most popular hacker movie from the 80s. Pure fiction but it probably convinced a lot of people that kids can somehow start wars from home using computers.
  11. Weird Science (1985) The only other comedy movie on this list. Staring Anthony Michael Hall who was in a lot of movies I enjoyed from the 80s and is also in Pirates of Silicon Valley. Also look out for Bill Paxton and young Robert Downey Jr. There’s not much hacking in this movie but if you were into programming when you were young like I was… one of your dreams was being able to use your skill to create what the kids in this movie created.
  12. Catch Me If You Can (2002) I know, this movie has nothing to do with programmers. But it has a lot to do with hacking. Social engineering is a way to hack humans and this movie is all about that. Based on a true story which makes it even more interesting. It stars two of the biggest names in Hollywood, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. More importantly its directed by Steven Spielberg.
  13. Tron: Legacy (2010) This movie falls short of a good story but it makes up for it with great visuals and a cool soundtrack. Plus I got a thing for Tron and this sequel includes some of the original actors.
  14. Takedown (2000) Now this is a controversial one. Based on the life of famous hacker Kevin Mitnick, this movie attempts to tell the story of how Kevin became a world famous hacker. But it’s filled with holes and doesn’t really tell the real story. So if you are a Kevin Mitnick fan then just like The Social Network try to ignore the inaccurate depiction of the real person. If you do that then this is a decent movie. If you want to know the true story of Kevin then read his book.
  15. Antitrust (2001) I don’t know why I like this movie. It kinda sucks but I keep watching it. Maybe it has something to do with the jabs at Bill Gates or the dot com hype. Most likely is probably because it reminds me of my dot com days. I really shouldn’t like this but I do. Let me know what you think.

There it is! I left out crapy movies like Hackers and The Net but if you liked those movies or others then let me know. Maybe you can convince me to change my top 15.

**UPDATE 1**
I posted my top 10 list of audiobooks programmers should listen to. Check it out and let me know what your list is.