Summer is almost upon us, and with it comes the promise of at least a week or two of that mythical stretch of time called "vacation," or for you non-U.S. readers, that government-guaranteed period called "holiday.” (No, I'm not the least bit jealous.)

 

When we finally escape our desks and the glare of fluorescent lights, we’ll likely find ourselves outside, peering up at the piercing day-star we so rarely see, wondering what to do that doesn't involve a keyboard or screen (unless that screen happens to be an e-reader of some sort).

 

Well, we here at SolarWinds are here to help. The Head Geekä team, along with a few of our friends and colleagues, have assembled a list of titles you are guaranteed to find thought-provoking, engaging, or just plain fun.

 

Be warned: this list is... well, we asked a bunch of geeks for their thoughts on fun books to read, so let's just call it comprehensive and leave it at that, shall we?

 

Take a look, dip into your Amazon credits, slather on some SPF 50, and start putting something more than network diagrams, PowerShellä verbs, and IOS commands into that brain of yours.

 

  • "Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words" and "xkcd: volume 0" by Randall Munroe
    • Recommended by several of us.
    • Why: Randall Munroe, author of the popular Web comic xkcd, has a twisted sense of humor and the ability to take deeply technical concepts and put them into amusing contexts. Trust us. You’ll be copying pages from the book and posting them in your cube before you are halfway finished.
  • "The Decline and Fall of IBM: End of an American Icon?" by Robert X. Cringely
    • Recommended by Leon Adato, Head Geek.
    • Why: IBM is currently (and somewhat quietly) going through a sea change in its business. Understanding some of the background, history, and behind-the-scenes conversations about the company can help make sense of the headlines when they hit social media. Cringely has watched IBM rise and fall, and he’s the best prognosticator to foretell what might come next.
  • "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson
    • Recommended by Lawrence Garvin, Head Geek.
  • "Zero Day" by Mark Russinovich
    • Recommended by Lawrence Garvin, Head Geek.
  • "Trojan Horse" by Mark Russinovich
    • Recommended by Lawrence Garvin, Head Geek.
  • "Daemon" and "Freedom" by Daniel Suarez
    • Recommended by Doug Johnson.
    • Why: Suarez takes current technology, extends it to an imaginable utility, and uses that world to build a thriller. Both books basically make up one story, and the ending of the first would be disappointing if the second book didn't exist. The story involves a dark net that a large group of people use to gain control over their lives against an oppressive government. The significance of this is that Suarez persuades the reader to imagine this becoming reality within the next ten years, not as an eventuality in some weird future dystopia.
  • "Being Digital" by Nicholas Negroponte
    • Recommended by Leon Adato, Head Geek.
    • Why: Back in the 1970s, before iTunesâ, Napsterâ, and the Internet, Mr. Negroponte envisioned a world where "bits" could be de-coupled from atoms and presented on their own. That world has come to be, and this work continues to be prescient in its understanding of the human and technical hurdles we face.
  • "Accidental Empires" by Robert X. Cringely
    • Recommended by Leon Adato, Head Geek.
    • Why: First published in 1992, this book explained the current state of computing through the lens of what came before, specifically the monumental contributions of the Xerox PARC project. While we've come a long way since TrueType, ethernet, and the mouse, it's still a wonderful foundation for people wondering what personalities and historical decisions came together to bring about Microsoftâ, Appleâ, and the rest of the Silicon Valley landscape.
  • "The Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb
    • Recommended by Leon Adato, Head Geek.
    • Why: Monitoring professionals make their living attempting to set up systems to catch nearly impossible scenarios, but we may not truly grasp the folly of that course of action. Mr. Taleb does a fantastic job of explaining why black swan events tend to be so attention-grabbing yet unimportant in the larger picture, and how we can refocus our efforts so that they have a greater impact.
  • “Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America” by Jeff Ryan
    • Recommended by Kevin Sparenberg, Technical Product Manager.
  • “The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron” by Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind, and Joe Nocera
    • Recommended by Kate Asaf, Program Manager.
    • Why: I loved this book because I think the Enron scandal was all about hubris and thinking that being smart makes some people untouchable. The book has been updated to cover the trials as well.
  • “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis
    • Recommended by Kate Asaf, Program Manager.
    • Why: I found this to be a bit of a slog to get into, but as boring as financial markets are, the author does a good job of intermingling some personal stories so you don’t totally fall asleep reading about default credit swaps.

 

Other recommendations (without attribution or explanation).

  • "Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence" by Gerard Jones
  • "Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet" by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon
  • "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed" by Ray Kurzweil