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10 Great Audio Books for Makers and Geeks
Disclaimer: The DIYcrap blog is meant to be exclusively about crap that I am making. This post is going to be one rare exception to that rule.
I am a sucker for inspirational and geeky audio books. Although there are tons of excellent non-ficion books on paper or as e-books, not all of them are that good when transferred to audio. Some audiobooks are, however, really good and can make a boring commute become the most inspirational time of your day. This is a non-prioritized list of some of the best audio books about making, geeking, nerding (whatever) that I have heard during the last two years. They are all positive, refreshing and inspirational, and explains why new inventions in technology make the world progress towards a better place. These books are perfect if you are fed up with all the negative news stories telling you the world is going to hell and that we are soon going to die from the melting polar ice, hunger or terrorism.
Enough said. Lets begin with the list, emphasizing again that the list is not prioritized.
1: The Second Machine Age:
Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
The book explains how digital technology dictates changes in the economy. The authors give many examples on different technologies that contributes to this change, such as robotics, 3D-printing, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. The thesis of the book is very good, but on the negative side, the book is very similar to “The race against the machine” written by the same authors. If you have read (or listened) to the previous book, you can skip this. If you have not read the first book, you should choose “The second Machine age” as it is more updated.
2: Stuff Matters:
Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World
This book is all about materials science. The author goes into detail about the history behind some key materials and the impact they have in our everyday lifes. Materials such as glass, steel, plastic and chocolate are explained with lots of humour and with interesting stories. If you have forgotten absolutely everything from your chemistry classes this book can reboot your interest in that direction.
3: The Innovators:
How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
This book describes the fascinating history of the computer and electronics age. Among the heroes whose lifes and work are described are Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, Grace Hopper, Howard Aiken, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. It is obvious already in the first pages that Walter Isaacson does not like the romantic illusion of a lone inventor often described in biographies. He rather advocates that collaboration between different people is the main driver behind innovation. Overall, the book is really great, it is well written, and it goes through the whole history of information technology.
How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Along the Way
The books is told by Steve Wozniak about Steve Wozniak. In fact, the whole book is about Wozniak. Wozniak, Wozniak, Wozniak. As you probably can tell, there is a lot of bragging self-centered Wozniak in there, but who cares? Wozniak is an electronic genius, and he knows it. Although the book is badly edited, there are lots of interesting stories in here.
Walter Isaacson claims in Innovators (above) that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were equally important in making Apple a big success. It might be true from a business point of view, but Wozniaks romantic story of creating a working computer sitting on his own is of no doubt the more interesting story of the two (at least from a geeky point of view).
This book advocates that mankind could not only be causing all problems we face on earth, but we can also do something about these problems. Thanks to recent developments within digital technology, material technology and so on, we can actually improve the life of all people with water purification, diagnostic apps, new means of food production, renewable energy etc. If you are tired of all negative news stories telling you the earth is going to hell, this book will bring the optimist out in you.
6: The Long Tail:
Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More
This book is already a classic. You can read more about Chris Andersons concept on his web-page, and he explains it like this: “The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.”
Most of Chris Andersons predictions in this book has already come true, and it might seem somewhat outdated. However, the main thesis still holds, and it is well written, and highly recommended.
Although the statement that algorithms “came to rule our world” is very exaggerated, the book has some interesting stories. Most of the use of algorithms described in the book is from Wall street, and there is no doubt that algorithmic trading has changed the way Wall street and that part of the economy is working (or not working). I would not use this book to teach people about algorithms. Novices might even be scared to believe that algorithms are, in fact, taking over the world. But as pure entertainment, this book is recommended.
Another book of Chris Anderson made it on my list! This book is about how 3D-printers, laser cutters, digital fabrication, Kickstarter, Arduino and the new DIY/Maker-movement is altering how businesses are created and run, and how the digital age also influences the production of physical stuff (i.e., bits and atoms).
Anderson believes that we face a new industrial revolution, and that the new tools and production processes can offer a way for USA and Europe to incource production of physical objects from China. He might or might not be true about this thesis. It does not matter for me. The book is full of optimism about the future and it just makes me want to make stuff right away.
9: What If?:
Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
This book is full of humor and hard facts. It provides answers to questions like “What is the farthest one human being has ever been from every other living person? Were they lonely?”, and “What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?”, or “How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?” and ” If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?”. If you have ever read (and understood) Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic xkcd.com, this book is for you. The book makes you proud that you enjoyed physics and chemistry classes all those years ago while the other kids hated them.
This book is written by the same authors that wrote Abundance in 2012. It is sort of an update of this book and sort of isn’t. It is mainly a motivational book for business people wanting to understand exponential technology. For an inventor or engineer, it can be quite irritating reading a book that constantly talks about going big, bold and make a billion-dollar company. Unfortunately, most of the stories and examples in the book are well-known and does not bring anything new to the table.
The book is narrated by one of the authors, Steven Kotler. A very bad idea. Although the book is very optimistic in its style, the narration seems very monotone, negative and depressive. It is as if he is just about to jump off a cliff. Why am I even bothering to recommend this book? Well, it is about creating businesses that changes the the world, it is optimistic, and makes me want to be an entrepreneur.