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Best Books on the Technology Industry

Best Books on the Technology Industry

Umbrex has developed this list of the best books on the technology industry based on input from the management consultants in our community, our clients, and other professionals.

We believe that to serve a client effectively, it is helpful to have a deep context on the history of the client’s industry, including prominent companies, individuals, and technologies.

This list of best books on the technology industry is a work in progress, not a final answer, and we invite you to submit your recommendations on our Contact page.

We also invite you to check out our list of the best podcasts on the technology industry.

Clients:

Consultants:

A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

Jimmy Soni & Rob Goodman
2017

In their second collaboration, biographers Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman present the story of Claude Shannon—one of the foremost intellects of the twentieth century and the architect of the Information Age, whose insights stand behind every computer built, email sent, video streamed, and webpage loaded. Claude Shannon was a groundbreaking polymath, a brilliant tinkerer, and a digital pioneer. He constructed the first wearable computer, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots. He also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution, which has been called “the Magna Carta of the Information Age.” In this elegantly written, exhaustively researched biography, Soni and Goodman reveal Claude Shannon’s full story for the first time. With unique access to Shannon’s family and friends, A Mind at Play brings this singular innovator and always playful genius to life.

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Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley

Antonio Garcia Martinez
2016

Liar’s Poker meets The Social Network in an irreverent exposé of life inside the tech bubble, from industry provocateur Antonio García Martínez, a former Twitter advisor, Facebook product manager and startup founder/CEO.

The reality is, Silicon Valley capitalism is very simple:

Investors are people with more money than time.

Employees are people with more time than money.

Entrepreneurs are the seductive go-between.

Marketing is like sex: only losers pay for it. 

Imagine a chimpanzee rampaging through a datacenter powering everything from Google to Facebook. Infrastructure engineers use a software version of this “chaos monkey” to test online services’ robustness—their ability to survive random failure and correct mistakes before they actually occur. Tech entrepreneurs are society’s chaos monkeys, disruptors testing and transforming every aspect of our lives, from transportation (Uber) and lodging (AirBnB) to television (Netflix) and dating (Tinder). One of Silicon Valley’s most audacious chaos monkeys is Antonio García Martínez.

After stints on Wall Street and as CEO of his own startup, García Martínez joined Facebook’s nascent advertising team, turning its users’ data into profit for COO Sheryl Sandberg and chairman and CEO Mark “Zuck” Zuckerberg. Forced out in the wake of an internal product war over the future of the company’s monetization strategy, García Martínez eventually landed at rival Twitter. He also fathered two children with a woman he barely knew, committed lewd acts and brewed illegal beer on the Facebook campus (accidentally flooding Zuckerberg’s desk), lived on a sailboat, raced sport cars on the 101, and enthusiastically pursued the life of an overpaid Silicon Valley wastrel.

Now, this gleeful contrarian unravels the chaotic evolution of social media and online marketing and reveals how it is invading our lives and shaping our future. Weighing in on everything from startups and credit derivatives to Big Brother and data tracking, social media monetization and digital “privacy,” García Martínez shares his scathing observations and outrageous antics, taking us on a humorous, subversive tour of the fascinatingly insular tech industry. Chaos Monkeys lays bare the hijinks, trade secrets, and power plays of the visionaries, grunts, sociopaths, opportunists, accidental tourists, and money cowboys who are revolutionizing our world. The question is, will we survive?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

An NPR Best Book of the Year • Business Insider Top 20 Business Book of the Year • An Inc. Best Book of the Year for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

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Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology

Chris Miller
2022

An epic account of the decades-long battle to control what has emerged as the world’s most critical resource—microchip technology—with the United States and China increasingly in conflict.

You may be surprised to learn that microchips are the new oil—the scarce resource on which the modern world depends. Today, military, economic, and geopolitical power are built on a foundation of computer chips. Virtually everything—from missiles to microwaves, smartphones to the stock marketruns on chips. Until recently, America designed and built the fastest chips and maintained its lead as the #1 superpower. Now, America’s edge is slipping, undermined by competitors in Taiwan, Korea, Europe, and, above all, China. Today, as Chip War reveals, China, which spends more money each year importing chips than it spends importing oil, is pouring billions into a chip-building initiative to catch up to the US. At stake is America’s military superiority and economic prosperity.

Economic historian Chris Miller explains how the semiconductor came to play a critical role in modern life and how the U.S. become dominant in chip design and manufacturing and applied this technology to military systems. America’s victory in the Cold War and its global military dominance stems from its ability to harness computing power more effectively than any other power. But here, too, China is catching up, with its chip-building ambitions and military modernization going hand in hand. America has let key components of the chip-building process slip out of its grasp, contributing not only to a worldwide chip shortage but also a new Cold War with a superpower adversary that is desperate to bridge the gap.

Illuminating, timely, and fascinating, Chip War shows that, to make sense of the current state of politics, economics, and technology, we must first understand the vital role played by chips.

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Facebook: The Inside Story

Steven Levy
2020

The definitive history, packed with untold stories, of one of America’s most controversial and powerful companies: Facebook

As a college sophomore, Mark Zuckerberg created a simple website to serve as a campus social network.

Today, Facebook is nearly unrecognizable from its first, modest iteration. In light of recent controversies surrounding election-influencing “fake news” accounts, the handling of its users’ personal data, and growing discontent with the actions of its founder and CEO—who has enormous power over what the world sees and says—never has a company been more central to the national conversation.

Millions of words have been written about Facebook, but no one has told the complete story, documenting its ascendancy and missteps. There is no denying the power and omnipresence of Facebook in American daily life, or the imperative of this book to document the unchecked power and shocking techniques of the company, from growing at all costs to outmaneuvering its biggest rivals to acquire WhatsApp and Instagram, to developing a platform so addictive even some of its own are now beginning to realize its dangers.

Based on hundreds of interviews from inside and outside Facebook, Levy’s sweeping narrative of incredible entrepreneurial success and failure digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences.

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Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days

Jessica Livingston
2008

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days is a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days. These people are celebrities now. What was it like when they were just a couple friends with an idea? Founders like Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal), and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail) tell you in their own words about their surprising and often very funny discoveries as they learned how to build a company.

Where did they get the ideas that made them rich? How did they convince investors to back them? What went wrong, and how did they recover?

Nearly all technical people have thought of one day starting or working for a startup. For them, this book is the closest you can come to being a fly on the wall at a successful startup, to learn how it’s done.

But ultimately these interviews are required reading for anyone who wants to understand business, because startups are business reduced to its essence. The reason their founders become rich is that startups do what businesses do―create value―more intensively than almost any other part of the economy. How? What are the secrets that make successful startups so insanely productive? Read this book, and let the founders themselves tell you.

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Influence Empire: Inside the Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition

Lulu Chen
2022

‘A fascinating study of the tech giant and its symbiotic relationship with the Chinese government’ – Guardian

In 2017, a company known as Tencent overtook Facebook to become the world’s fifth largest company. It was a watershed moment, a wake-up call for those in the West accustomed to regarding the global tech industry through the prism of Silicon Valley: Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft.

Yet to many of the two billion-plus people who live just across the Pacific Ocean, it came as no surprise at all.

Founded by the enigmatic billionaire Pony Ma, the firm that began life as a simple text-message operator invested in and created some of China’s most iconic games en route to dreaming up WeChat – the Swiss Army knife super-app that combines messaging, shopping and entertainment. Through billions of dollars of global investments in marquee names from Fortnite to Tesla and a horde of start-ups, Ma’s company went on to build a near-unparalleled empire of influence.

In this fascinating narrative – crammed with insider interviews and exclusive details – Lulu Chen tells the story of how Tencent created the golden era of Chinese technology, and delves into key battles involving Didi, Meituan and Alibaba. It’s a chronicle of critical junctures and asks just what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in China.
__________

Lulu Yilun Chen has written a sharply informed, smart and compelling account of the rise of some of the most powerful companies in China, which also stand among the biggest and richest tech giants in the world. Despite their enormous size and power, few outside of China know of or understand these companies. Now, thanks to Influence Empire: Inside the Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition, that will finally change. — Howard French, former NY Times Shanghai bureau chief and author of Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power

A book that tells Tencent’s story has been long overdue, and Lulu Chen’s account is not only comprehensive, but also a gripping business narrative. The globally influential company finally has the account it deserves. — David Barboza, The Wire

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Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, With an Introduction by Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson & Jeff Bezos
2020

In Jeff Bezos’s own words, the core principles and philosophy that have guided him in creating, building, and leading Amazon and Blue Origin.

In this collection of Jeff Bezos’s writings—his unique and strikingly original annual shareholder letters, plus numerous speeches and interviews that provide insight into his background, his work, and the evolution of his ideas—you’ll gain an insider’s view of the why and how of his success. Spanning a range of topics across business and public policy, from innovation and customer obsession to climate change and outer space, this book provides a rare glimpse into how Bezos thinks about the world and where the future might take us.

Written in a direct, down-to-earth style, Invent and Wander offers readers a master class in business values, strategy, and execution:

  • The importance of a Day 1 mindset
  • Why “it’s all about the long term”
  • What it really means to be customer obsessed
  • How to start new businesses and create significant organic growth in an already successful company
  • Why culture is an imperative
  • How a willingness to fail is closely connected to innovation
  • What the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us

Each insight offers new ways of thinking through today’s challenges—and more importantly, tomorrow’s—and the never-ending urgency of striving ahead, never resting on one’s laurels. Everyone from CEOs of the Fortune 100 to entrepreneurs just setting up shop to the millions who use Amazon’s products and services in their homes or businesses will come to understand the principles that have driven the success of one of the most important innovators of our time.

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Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube's Chaotic Rise to World Domination

Mark Bergen
2022

The gripping inside story of YouTube, the company that upended media, culture, industry, and democracy—by a leading tech journalist.

Across the world, people watch more than a billion hours of video on YouTube every day. Every minute, more than five hundred additional hours of footage are uploaded to the site, a technical feat unmatched in the history of computing. YouTube invented the attention economy we all live in today, forever changing how people are entertained, informed, and paid online. Everyone knows YouTube. And yet virtually no one knows how it works.

Like, Comment, Subscribe is the first book to reveal the riveting, behind-the-scenes account of YouTube’s technology and business, detailing how it helped Google, its parent company, achieve unimaginable power, a narrative told through the people who run YouTube and the famous stars born on its stage. It’s the story of a revolution in media and an industry run amok, how a devotion to a simple idea—let everyone broadcast online and make money doing so—unleashed an outrage and addiction machine that spun out of the company’s control and forever changed the world.

Mark Bergen, a top technology reporter at Bloomberg, might know Google better than any other reporter in Silicon Valley, having broken numerous stories about its successes and scandals. As compelling as the very platform it investigates, Like, Comment, Subscribe is a thrilling, character-driven story of technological and creative ingenuity and the hubris that undermined it.

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The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

Margaret O'Mara
2019

The true, behind-the-scenes history of the people who built Silicon Valley and shaped Big Tech in America.

Long before Margaret O’Mara became one of our most consequential historians of the American-led digital revolution, she worked in the White House of Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the earliest days of the commercial Internet. There she saw firsthand how deeply intertwined Silicon Valley was with the federal government–and always had been–and how shallow the common understanding of the secrets of the Valley’s success actually was. Now, after almost five years of pioneering research, O’Mara has produced the definitive history of Silicon Valley for our time, the story of mavericks and visionaries, but also of powerful institutions creating the framework for innovation, from the Pentagon to Stanford University. It is also a story of a community that started off remarkably homogeneous and tight-knit and stayed that way, and whose belief in its own mythology has deepened into a collective hubris that has led to astonishing triumphs as well as devastating second-order effects.

Deploying a wonderfully rich and diverse cast of protagonists, from the justly famous to the unjustly obscure, across four generations of explosive growth in the Valley, from the forties to the present, O’Mara has wrestled one of the most fateful developments in modern American history into magnificent narrative form. She is on the ground with all of the key tech companies, chronicling the evolution in their offerings through each successive era, and she has a profound fingertip feel for the politics of the sector and its relation to the larger cultural narrative about tech as it has evolved over the years. Perhaps most impressive, O’Mara has penetrated the inner kingdom of tech venture capital firms, the insular and still remarkably old-boy world that became the cockpit of American capitalism and the crucible for bringing technological innovation to market, or not.

The transformation of big tech into the engine room of the American economy and the nexus of so many of our hopes and dreams–and, increasingly, our nightmares–can be understood, in Margaret O’Mara’s masterful hands, as the story of one California valley. As her majestic history makes clear, its fate is the fate of us all.

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The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Brad Stone
2019

The authoritative account of the rise of Amazon and its intensely driven founder, Jeff Bezos, praised by the Seattle Times as “the definitive account of how a tech icon came to life.” 

Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that’s never been cracked. Until now. Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. Compared to tech’s other elite innovators — Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg — Bezos is a private man. But he stands out for his restless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in the same way Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing.

The Everything Store is the revealing, definitive biography of the company that placed one of the first and largest bets on the Internet and forever changed the way we shop and read.

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The Founders: The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley

Jimmy Soni
2022

“A gripping account of PayPal’s origins and a vivid portrait of the geeks and contrarians who made its meteoric rise possible” (The Wall Street Journal)—including Elon Musk, Amy Rowe Klement, Peter Thiel, Julie Anderson, Max Levchin, Reid Hoffman, and many others whose stories have never been shared.

Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, and LinkedIn, among many others. As a group, they have driven twenty-first-century innovation and entrepreneurship. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired.

Yet for all their influence, the story of where they first started has gone largely untold. Before igniting the commercial space race or jumpstarting social media’s rise, they were the unknown creators of a scrappy online payments start-up called PayPal. In building what became one of the world’s foremost companies, they faced bruising competition, internal strife, the emergence of widespread online fraud, and the devastating dot-com bust of the 2000s. Their success was anything but certain.

In The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley, award-winning author and biographer Jimmy Soni explores PayPal’s turbulent early days. With hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to thousands of pages of internal material, he shows how the seeds of so much of what shapes our world today—fast-scaling digital start-ups, cashless currency concepts, mobile money transfer—were planted two decades ago. He also reveals the stories of countless individuals who were left out of the front-page features and banner headlines but who were central to PayPal’s success.

Described as “an intensely magnetic chronicle” (The New York Times) and “engrossing” (Business Insider), The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness—the products of which have cast a long and powerful shadow over modern life. This narrative illustrates how this rare assemblage of talent came to work together and how their collaboration changed our world forever.

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The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

Scott Galloway
2017

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four most influential companies on the planet. Just about everyone thinks they know how they got there. Just about everyone is wrong.

For all that’s been written about the Four over the last two decades, no one has captured their power and staggering success as insightfully as Scott Galloway.

Instead of buying the myths these compa­nies broadcast, Galloway asks fundamental questions. How did the Four infiltrate our lives so completely that they’re almost impossible to avoid (or boycott)? Why does the stock market forgive them for sins that would destroy other firms? And as they race to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company, can anyone chal­lenge them?

In the same irreverent style that has made him one of the world’s most celebrated business professors, Galloway deconstructs the strategies of the Four that lurk beneath their shiny veneers. He shows how they manipulate the fundamental emotional needs that have driven us since our ancestors lived in caves, at a speed and scope others can’t match. And he reveals how you can apply the lessons of their ascent to your own business or career.

Whether you want to compete with them, do business with them, or simply live in the world they dominate, you need to understand the Four.

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The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Kevin Kelly
2016

From one of our leading technology thinkers and writers, a guide through the twelve technological imperatives that will shape the next thirty years and transform our lives.

Much of what will happen in the next thirty years is inevitable, driven by technological trends that are already in motion. In this fascinating, provocative new book, Kevin Kelly provides an optimistic road map for the future, showing how the coming changes in our lives—from virtual reality in the home to an on-demand economy to artificial intelligence embedded in everything we manufacture—can be understood as the result of a few long-term, accelerating forces. Kelly both describes these deep trends—interacting, cognifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking, and questioning—and demonstrates how they overlap and are codependent on one another. These larger forces will completely revolutionize the way we buy, work, learn, and communicate with each other. By understanding and embracing them, says Kelly, it will be easier for us to remain on top of the coming wave of changes and to arrange our day-to-day relationships with technology in ways that bring forth maximum benefits. Kelly’s bright, hopeful book will be indispensable to anyone who seeks guidance on where their business, industry, or life is heading—what to invent, where to work, in what to invest, how to better reach customers, and what to begin to put into place—as this new world emerges.

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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

James Gleick
2011

From the bestselling author of the acclaimed books Chaos and Genius comes a thoughtful and provocative exploration of the big ideas of the modern era: Information, communication, and information theory.
 
Acclaimed science writer James Gleick presents an eye-opening vision of how our relationship to information has transformed the very nature of human consciousness. A fascinating intellectual journey through the history of communication and information, from the language of Africa’s talking drums to the invention of written alphabets; from the electronic transmission of code to the origins of information theory, into the new information age and the current deluge of news, tweets, images, and blogs. Along the way, Gleick profiles key innovators, including Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Samuel Morse, and Claude Shannon, and reveals how our understanding of information is transforming not only how we look at the world, but how we live.

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The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything

Matthew Ball, Luis Moreno, et al.
2022

From the leading theorist of the Metaverse comes the definitive account of the next internet: what the Metaverse is, what it will take to build it, and what it means for all of us.

The term “Metaverse” is suddenly everywhere, from the front pages of national newspapers and the latest fashion trends to the plans of the most powerful companies in history. It is already shaping the policy platforms of the US government, the European Union, and the Chinese Communist Party.

But what, exactly, is the Metaverse? As pioneering theorist and venture capitalist Matthew Ball explains, it is a persistent and interconnected network of 3D virtual worlds that will eventually serve as the gateway to most online experiences, and also underpin much of the physical world. For decades, these ideas have been limited to science fiction and video games, but they are now poised to revolutionize every industry and function, from finance and healthcare to education, consumer products, city planning, dating, and well beyond.

Taking us on an expansive tour of the “next internet,” Ball demonstrates that many proto-Metaverses are already here, such as FortniteMinecraft, and Roblox. Yet these offer only a glimpse of what is to come. Ball presents a comprehensive definition of the Metaverse before explaining the technologies that will power it―and the breakthroughs that will be necessary to fully realize it. He addresses the governance challenges the Metaverse entails; investigates the role of Web3, blockchains, and NFTs; and predicts Metaverse winners and losers. Most importantly, he examines many of the Metaverse’s almost unlimited applications.

The internet will no longer be at arm’s length; instead, it will surround us, with much of our lives, labor, and leisure taking place inside the Metaverse. Bringing clarity and authority to a frequently misunderstood concept, Ball foresees trillions of dollars in new value―and the radical reshaping of society.

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