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Picture yourself living a secret life as a codebreaker

A list of 25 must read books covering all things cryptography

gm creators!

I hope everyone is having a great Monday and has a productive rest of the week 😎

In case you missed my posts from over the weekend, check them out below:

  • Friday: The history of Steganography, the art of concealing messages

  • Saturday: Cypherpunk Mafia, 21 geniuses who helped shape internet security

  • Sunday: Highlights from reading part 2 of Peter Pan's "Before Bitcoin" series

If I had to recommend one of the above, I'd say read Friday's post on Steganography. The examples are really interesting. Doing research for that post helped me realize how important secret communication has been throughout all eras of human history.

If you're new to The Bigger Picture, welcome!

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Today at a Glance 👓

Today I'm making a quick post on crypto literature. As I mentioned in my Steganography post, I'm currently reading The Code Book by Simon Singh and have been really enjoying it.

With the help of ChatGPT, I made a couple of lists covering different kinds of books related to cryptography.

  1. History & early days

  2. Technical books

  3. Non-Fiction

  4. Fiction

  5. Biographies

  6. Ethical Cryptography

  7. Cryptography in Warfare & Espionage

I attached the Amazon links to most of the books mentioned below as well :)

Early Cryptography Writing
  1. Polygraphia by Johannes Trithemius (1518)

    • One of the earliest books on cryptology. It contains 384 different codes.

  2. Traicté des chiffres by Blaise de Vigenère (1586)

    • Introduced the famous Vigenère cipher, an early method for encrypting text.

  3. The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

    • A short story where cryptography plays a pivotal role in the plot

  4. The Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver (1949)

    • Shannon's theories laid much of the groundwork for cryptography

  5. The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet" by David Kahn (1967)

    • A seminal work detailing the history of cryptography

  6. Cryptanalysis: A Study of Ciphers and Their Solution" by Helen F. Gaines (1956)

    • A foundational book in cryptanalysis, illustrating techniques for breaking ciphers

Fiction Books

  1. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson: A tale weaving together WWII code-breakers with modern cryptographers uncovering a gold cache.

  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson: A gripping modern mystery with cryptographic elements driving the plot.

  3. Digital Fortress by Dan Brown: A thriller revolving around the NSA, a supercomputer, and an unbreakable code.

  4. Enigma by Robert Harris: A fictional portrayal of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park during WWII.


  1. Crypto by Steven Levy: A chronicle of the rebellious cryptographers who championed privacy in the digital age.

  2. Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks: A riveting account of WWII code-making and breaking.

  3. The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett: An exploration of the dark corners of the internet and the challenges they pose to society and law.

  4. Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier: A deep dive into the world of data surveillance and how privacy can be reclaimed.


  1. Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges: The biography of Alan Turing, the genius behind breaking the Enigma code.

  2. The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone: The incredible story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, a pioneer in codebreaking.

  3. Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea by Kathleen Broome Williams: A biography of Grace Hopper, the naval officer and computer pioneer.

  4. A Mind at Play by Soni and Goodman: A portrayal of Claude Shannon, the father of the information age.

Cryptography in Warfare & Espionage

  1. Battle of Wits by Stephen Budiansky: A detailed account of the codebreaking feats and challenges during WWII.

  2. The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay: A glimpse into the lives of those who worked at Bletchley Park.

  3. Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre: A true WWII espionage story where the Allies deceive the Nazis with fake strategic plans

Ethical Cryptography

  1. Privacy on the Line by Diffie and Landau: An exploration of the politics and ethics of wiretapping and encryption.

  2. Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace by Lawrence Lessig: A philosophical look into the laws and ethics of the digital realm.

  3. The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain: A look into the challenges and future trajectories of the internet.

That's all for today's post - if you enjoyed, I'd love for you to share with your friends in crypto :)

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