The Cypherpunk Reading List

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The List
  2.1 Cypherpunks
  2.2 The Background of Cryptography
  2.3 Cryptography "Light Reading"
  2.4 Hacker/Phreaker/Cyberpunk
  2.5 Society at Large
  2.6 Websites
3. FAQ
4. License

1. Introduction

The Cypherpunk Reading List is a collection of books that interest cypherpunks, security people, science fiction fans, and people who generally think on their own. It originated with reading lists sent on the various incarnations of the Cypherpunk listserv. The intent of this site is to aggregate and maintain a list of recommended reading and to put it in one accessible place.

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2. The List

2.1 Cypherpunks
Reading that is specific to the Cypherpunks, cryptography, and cryptoanarchy.

The Cypherpunk Manifesto -Eric Hughes
This is a manifesto-style declaration of who the Cypherpunks are and what they stand for. "Cypherpunks write code."

The Cyphernomicon -Tim May
A FAQ for the Cypherpunks and their listserv. It's a good introduction to cryptography and some other concepts.

The Cryptoanarchist Manifesto -Tim May
Tim May's essential cryptanarchist statement-of-purpose on cryptography bringing the demise of governments. "Arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!"

Assassination Politics -Jim Bell
The most fascinating and yet disturbing description of Assassination Markets.

Homeland Defense and the Prosecution of Jim Bell -Deborah Natsios
The story of Jim Bell's trial. Jim Bell was the author of Assassination Politics which is listed above.

Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government -- Saving Privacy in the Digital Age -Steven Levy
The story of the Cypherpunks and the cryptographic revolution.

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2.2 The Background of Cryptography
Heavy scientific writing not just on crypto but also on economics and mathematics.

The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet -David Kahn
A historical study of cryptography. This provides an excellent background to modern cryptography.

Applied Cryptography -Bruce Schneier
One of the densest books you'll ever read. Try the Cypherpunk FAQ before you read this one just so you can keep up. Comes with programming snippets to illustrate how the cryptography works. Bruce wishes he had never wrote this book because the first thing you'll try to do is to write your own crypto system instead of using something already proven.

The Puzzle Palace: A Report on NSA, America's Most Secret Agency -James Bamford
A study on the National Security Agency. Some of it might be right.

Capitalism and Freedom -Milton Friedman
An economics book often reprinted and used as a source document for many generations. You know it has to be good when Lyndon LaRouche writes an attack piece against you.

The Road to Serfdom -Friedrich August Hayek
Political philosophy, economics, the problems with the socialist society and how it will lead us into serfdom, Hayek tags them all. There's also an illustrated, ultra-condensed version online that you might like.

Law's Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters -David Friedman
A treatise on efficiency in the law and how it relates to economic efficiencies.

The Evolution of Cooperation -Robert Axelrod
Cooperation as the right strategy for survival. Draws heavily on the Prisoner's Dilemma and game theory.

Prisoner's Dilemma -William Poundstone
A thorough study of the Prisoner's Dilemma, its creator John von Neumann, and its impact on the Cold War.

The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism -David Friedman
A fundamental anarcho-capitalist.

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics -Henry Hazlitt
A primer on economics.

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2.3 Cryptography "Light Reading"
Cryptography disguised as historical fiction or other sci-fi.

Cryptonomicon -Neal Stephenson
Basic cryptology concepts. Killing Nazis at every corner. Network building and Internet startups. Data havens and gold crypts. Submarine warfare. And let me tell you about the iguana I saw. A personal favorite of mine.

Ender's Game -Orson Scott Card
Social commentary disguised as a science-fiction bug hunt/space war. Note the sideline with Ender's brother and sister using pseudonyms.

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2.4 Hacker/Phreaker/Cyberpunk
People doing stuff with computers that they shouldn't.

The Shockwave Rider -John Brunner
Cyberpunk before anybody knew what cyberpunk was. Shockingly relevant today even though it was written in 1974. Crossover into a distopian view of the world.

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier -Bruce Sterling
History of the day the phones stopped working in January of 1990 and the backlash against the hacker community. An interesting investigation of the BBS kids with a moderately-objective slant.

True Names -Vernor Vinge
Mr Slippery meets people who know his real name and becomes an involuntary hacker for the government. "An honest citizen would settle for a standard processor and a few thousand megabytes of fast storage."

Snow Crash -Neal Stephenson
Viruses that are a drug, a piece of malware, an ancient Sumerian spell, and a plot for world domination. From the Valley to the Burbclaves, this book delivers.

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2.5 Society at Large
Libertarian manifestos, distopian societies, and maybe some epiphanies.

Atlas Shrugged -Ayn Rand
A distopian society where the government takes over industry.

TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism: Anarchy and Conspiracy -Hakim Bey
Aside from the whacked style of the first parts of the book, the Temporal Autonomous Zone part is a study of pirate society and how people can function in a anarchist society. Really interesting if you're inclined towards cryptoanarchy or "libertarianism carried to extreme". Also check out the rest of his writings.

The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? -David Brin
You really need a description of the book after the lengthy subtitle? Basically a study of the dynamic between transparency and privacy. "BrinWorld" is a Cypherpunk phrase for a truly transparent society.

Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias -Peter Ludlow (Editor)
A collection of essays on utopian cyber societies with works from many of the authors listed in the Cypherpunk Reading List.

Anthem -Ayn Rand
A story of one man's breakout from society's monoculture and beaurocracy. Commentary on the necessity for individualism and how innovation according to "the rules" isn't really innovation.

The Ungoverned -Vernor Vinge
Pirate utopia in a semi-futuristic Kansas. A loose alliance keeps everything in balance until you get a bigger, stronger, badder neighbor.

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2.6 Websites
Interesting websites with content relevant to this crowd.
John Young's site with many open secrets and leaked documents. Google search for "keywords" makes it much more useful.
A companion site to Cryptome focusing on geography, computers, and physical surveillance. Fantastic work, I just wish Deborah Natsios was still actively writing. Bibliography
A bibliography of papers dealing with anonymity.

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3. FAQ

Who are you, what make you think you're so special to represent the Cypherpunks in this way?
My handle is rybolov and I'm an information security dweeb. I blog quasi-religiously at I knew that Cypherpunk reading list was sent out periodically to the Cypherpunk listserve but when I tried to find it via teh gooooogles, I had a hard time. I figure if I needed to compile a reading list, then I might as well webify it and share.

What's with the Amazon links, isn't it unethical to make money off consilidating other peoples lists of recommended reading?
Just trying to pay for some of my hosting. In reality, I'm not making much money at all because, well, this is a niche site in a niche place and in order for Amazon to give me kickbacks there are quite a few "ifs" that have to be satisfied. Whenever possible, I link to web versions like Project Gutenberg or which are absolutely free. You're always free to find your subversive reading elsewhere, like, say, a libertarian-minded library or a used book store. =)

I've heard about some of these books, what kind of a weird neo-fascist techno-weenie elitist jerk are you? Do you really believe in Assassination Markets?
Just because I maintain the list does not mean that I agree with everything ever written on every piece of writing therein. What I do believe in is being exposed to ideas in order to provide a frame of reference for other ideas. Besides, it would be "cheating" if I mentioned what pieces in this list I didn't agree with--it's up to you to make up your own mind. In the words of a former President, "Why do you hate freedom so much?"

OMG I just browsed to this site and now I'm on some DHS/DoJ/IRS/NSA/$FooAgency watchlist, is this site really just a honeypot designed to catch radical thinkers?
Well, if I say that I don't put any site tracking stuff, can I prove that I don't? Look, you're trying to do a zero-knowledge proof of a negative, does this sound like the sane thing to do? I do shred referrer files every week. Amazon links I use here do have an affiliate idea so in theory they could be traced back to you and me. I don't use any kind of google analytics, webalizer, urchin, etc for traffic analysis so I really have no idea how many people are visiting this site. BTW, go read True Names.

How do I recommend an addition, correction, or complaint?
Just email me at rybolov(a) and put "Cypherpunk Reading List" in the subject line.

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4. License:

This site and its contents are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Creative Commons BY-NC-SA logo

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