Get your read on: Best tech books of 2016

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Best Tech Books of 2016
Get caught up on your reading this holiday.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

2016 Year in Review Cult of Mac The holidays are a great time to hide away from visiting relatives and enjoy a good book. Fortunately, when it comes to tech-centric books released this year, there’s a great crop to pick from.

Here are our choices for the best tech books of 2016 (and no, we’re not including Jony Ive’s $300 tribute to himself).

The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

TI
Want to know the technologies that will shape the coming years?
Photo: Viking Press

A co-founder and former executive editor of Wired, Kevin Kelly is always a provocative, engaging writer on the subject of technology. Here, he takes stock of 12 “technological forces” that will shape the coming years.

Unlike a lot of futurist tech writers, particularly on subjects like artificial intelligence, Kelly tends toward optimism. His belief in technology as a force by itself (one of his previous books was titled What Technology Wants) certainly evokes more than a hint of religious, hippie counterculture zeal — but his conclusions make fascinating reading.

Most relevant to Apple fans? Personally, I was intrigued by the discussion of how “access is … superior to ownership,” which could have big ramifications for a tech company built on selling you the latest gadget (but which is currently shifting its business model toward subscription-based services).

Get it from: Amazon

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

Future
The five trends that will shape our future.
Photo: Simon & Schuster

As its name suggests, this book is a rundown of the technologies shaping the new industrial age. It sits neatly alongside Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable as a survey of the future, but one that’s somewhat less optimistic.

Alec Ross served in the State Department as a senior innovation adviser during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and he’s certainly got plenty of interesting insights into where things go from here — including advice on how the average American worker can prepare for what’s next.

Get it from: Amazon

Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World by Marc Raboy

Marconi
Marconi beat both Facebook and Google to the mission of connecting the world.
Photo: Oxford Press

One way to understand technology is to follow the latest news, and to read the work of futurists, (respected) analysts and others who can tell you where it’s going. The other way is to go back to the past and see how technologies we now take for granted shook the world.

This new biography of Guglielmo Marconi falls into the latter camp. Detailing the life of the famous long-distance radio transmission pioneer, Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World traces his story from prodigal inventor to patent-holding head of an enormous communications empire. And also his uncomfortable later association with Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

If you enjoy history and haven’t ventured further back in tech history than the early days of Apple, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

Get it from: Amazon

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Originals
Here’s to the crazy ones…
Photo: Viking

In the vein of Malcolm Gladwell’s writings, Originals serves up fascinating insights into how we can recognize good ideas, even when they appear to exist out of our prescriptive way of thinking about what works and what doesn’t.

There’s plenty of interesting material that’s applicable to Cupertino’s inner workings here, including a story from a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs despite being far below him in the pecking order.

Coming at the end of a year during which Apple, from my perspective at least, proved long on incremental improvements and short on “thinking different,” this book poses some fascinating questions — and posits some intriguing hypotheses.

Get it from: Amazon

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio García Martínez

Chaos Monkeys
A crazy look at life in the tech trenches.
Photo: HarperCollins

Apple’s way of hiding its behind-the-scenes process matches the way a lot of us view Silicon Valley: as a black box from which great hardware and software just happens to emerge.

This book, by former Goldman Sachs employee-turned-ad-startup maven Antonio García Martínez, shows us the other side: the craziness, the deals, the politics, and the just-beneath-the-surface fear that maybe this is all luck rather than skill.

If you enjoy the TV comedy Silicon Valley, you’ll like this fun, crazy, informative look at life in the tech trenches.

Get it from: Amazon

George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones

Lucas
Another book to add to your Star Wars collection.
Photo: Little, Brown and Company

Is a book about Star Wars creator George Lucas a tech book? Perhaps not in the purest sense, but Lucas — of all major modern filmmakers — has the biggest crossover with Silicon Valley.

In the 1980s, he paved the way for the digital film and CGI revolution with his groundbreaking computer imaging lab. His story also features plenty of crossover with Steve Jobs, to whom he sold Pixar, so if you’re searching for another fresh take on Jobs, you’ll get a bit of material here.

What this book really does, however, is paint a picture of a filmmaker who (for better or worse) did his own thing with almost total autonomy. It’s interesting stuff, and particularly fascinating as we’re currently getting our second dose of what a Disney-fied Star Wars looks like.

Get it from: Amazon

To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History by Lawrence Levy

Pixar and beyond
To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs shaped Apple more than any other single person, but which company most shaped him? A good case could be made for Pixar, which Jobs acquired during his wilderness years outside Apple — and which ultimately turned him into a billionaire.

This book, by former Pixar CFO Lawrence Levy, relates the author’s personal journey with Jobs from 1994 to the height of the studio’s success. It’s a fascinating story, and a glimpse at another facet of Jobs’ life — which means you’ll be reading stories that haven’t been endlessly repeated elsewhere in other Apple-focused biographies.

Get it from: Amazon

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