Synopsis: Anyone with an interest in innovation, disruption or their financial future will want to hungrily devour every last scrap of knowledge available. There is much to learn, and that’s where cryptocurrency books come in. All of these recommended cryptocurrency books represent a deep dive into their respective topics.
The 15 Best Cryptocurrency Books
Anyone with an interest in innovation, disruption or their financial future will eventually stumble upon cryptocurrency. Once they do, they will want to hungrily devour every last scrap of knowledge available. There is much to learn, and that’s where cryptocurrency books come in. All of these recommended cryptocurrency books represent a deep dive into their respective topics.
Unlike blog posts and disorganized social media messages, these cryptocurrency books are coherently structured, taking the reader step-by-step to a higher plane of understanding. All of the books in this list have been meticulously researched. Between them, they cover all aspects of cryptocurrency, blockchain, Bitcoin, and other crypto assets of all kinds.
“… these are still very early days for the technology. The general public finds crypto to be, well, cryptic. Very few can credibly claim to understand how it all works. And among those that do, fewer still are able to explain it without resorting to techno-babble. Not only that, but many people are highly skeptical. If that sounds like you, then this book was written with you firmly in mind.”
My book distills the learnings from all the other cryptocurrency books into a one-stop guide. The Crypto Intro takes the reader from zero understanding, to knowing how crypto works and how to get started. My book explains everything the reader needs to choose an exchange, sign up, make a deposit, and buy crypto for the first time. These are points which most of the other cryptocurrency books gloss over. Then, the reader will learn how to implement security over their crypto, and get comfortable with terms like ‘forks’ and ‘initial coin offerings’, and come to grips with the main debates / challenges within the crypto universe. Think of it as a quick-start guide for the crypto curious.
“The users, at this point, were mostly young men whose lives were untethered to anything other than their laptops, in constant communication with people on the other side of the world. For them, moving money around the globe with a paper check or an old-fashioned wire transfer seemed absurdly backward.”
A brilliant narrative non-fiction account of the early days of Bitcoin. If you like the way that someone like Michael Lewis writes, then you will absolutely love Digital Gold. What we have here is an incredibly page-turning story of Bitcoin – unique among cryptocurrency books. Popper seamlessly weaves between the mystery of Bitcoin’s anonymous founder Satoshi Nakamoto, the rise and fall of Silk Road, the Mt. Gox hacking scandal, the Winklevoss twins (of Facebook fame), and all the rest of the colorful pioneers at the forefront of the Bitcoin movement. It will be impossible for readers to finish this book without a profound sense of awe at those early, Wild West days of Bitcoin – which in some ways, we are still in the midst of.
“When you throw a disruptive technology in the middle of the most powerful organizations on the planet, they don’t like it. Right now, we’re still in the early stages. To use the trite expression, ‘First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, then we win.’ We’re still at the laughing-at-us stage.”
This is probably the best stepping-off point for those who are entirely new. Any reader can pick it up and quickly get up to speed. The Internet of Money isn’t one of the how-to cryptocurrency books, but is more of a ‘what is it all about’ and ‘why should I care’. Antonopoulos cleanly addresses many of the most pertinent questions about Bitcoin, while also dispelling common misconceptions. Antonopoulos also has a prolific YouTube channel, where he regularly uploads excerpts from the presentations that he gives all around the world in front of live audiences. Make sure to also get the recently published Volume 2, which is every bit as good.
“Crypto trading and the FinTech innovations unlocked by blockchain will do to Wall Street what personal Internet publishing and blogging did to media empires. This power shift is inevitable. Capital allocation no longer needs to be managed by powerful institutions which have proven to be corrupt and reckless.”
When it comes to thinking about how to invest in these new digital assets, none of the other cryptocurrency books have formed such a coherent framework as this one. Cryptoassets gives the reader a foundational course in the tech, but where this book really shines is how it applies portfolio theory to crypto – which, to my knowledge, no-one else has really done before. The depth of research that has gone into the book is clearly evident with the fascinating charts that feature throughout. For example, they track Bitcoin’s volatility over time, and compare returns in crypto to the broader market. If you manage money on behalf of others, you absolutely must read this book.
“… the more important question is whether cryptocurrencies can become money. That’s where the insistence that money must be backed by something ‘real’ must be put away. What matters is whether it has utility. Ultimately, does it enhance our ability to engage in exchange, commerce, and human interaction? By that score, bitcoin has something to offer: a remarkable capacity to facilitate low-cost, near-instant transfers of value anywhere in the world.”
In this book, Vigna and Casey have created an excellent 1,000-foot view of cryptocurrency. Readers will be stepped through how the Bitcoin protocol works, and will get an insight into the history. But out of all cryptocurrency books, the greatest strength of this one is placing crypto into its proper societal context. Nathaniel Popper’s Digital Gold does a masterful job of looking backwards, but The Age Of Cryptocurrency presents a very well-thought-out look into what the future might hold.
“Unlike ordinary electronic payments, it was theorized digital currency would make it possible to spend money online, or even person-to-person, with the speed of the Internet and the privacy of cash.”
All cryptocurrency books tend to touch on the significant questions raised by Bitcoin and crypto, but none go into so much detail as How Money Got Free. One of the book’s real strengths is telling the story of the fight for Bitcoin’s soul – between the anarcho-libertarians who want to bring big banks and big government to their knees, and the Silicon Valley crowd who want to work within the existing regulatory system and are more motivated by the prospect of making money.
“As the word suggests, cryptocurrencies make heavy use of cryptography. Cryptography provides a mechanism for securely encoding the rules of a cryptocurrency system in the system itself. We can use it to prevent tampering and equivocation, as well as to encode, in a mathematical protocol, the rules for creation of new units of the currency.”
Narayana is an assistant professor at Princeton University, and he (along with four co-authors) attacks the subject with typical academic thoroughness. This book is both wide and deep – likely you will take a lot of notes, particularly on the nuts and bolts of how the tech side of crypto works. Hash functions and cryptography get a full treatment. Fortunately, diagrams are sprinkled liberally throughout to assist the reader with their understanding. Notably, the author has also created an entire online course on crypto technologies which can be accessed (for free) on Coursera.
“With the rise of a global peer-to-peer platform for identity, trust, reputation, and transactions, we can finally re-architect the deep structures of the firm for innovation, shared value creation, and perhaps even prosperity for the many, rather than just wealth for the few.”
One of the foundational technologies behind Bitcoin and the other assets mentioned in all these cryptocurrency books is blockchain. As many people are at pains to point out, the blockchain may have implications well beyond cryptocurrencies. The Tapscotts (a father-and-son team) get into topics like new business models that may be created, what it might do for digital rights in music, and using blockchain to enable voting and more direct democracy. A must-read for a broad insight into what could be on the horizon. For a taste, check out Don Tapscott’s very thought-provoking TED talk.
“There are often ancillary people who are hurt as the result of dangerous substances that had been sold on Silk Road, she said. People die. Junkies are created. There are social costs, and in many instances drug addicts lose their ability to care for their children and a generation can grow up neglected… ‘Did you commission a murder? Five? Yes’ she scolded, ‘Did you pay for it? Yes. Did you get photographs relating to what you thought was the result of that murder? Yes.’”
When you have absorbed so much crypto knowledge that your head is ready to explode (from all the other cryptocurrency books), go ahead and turn to American Kingpin. It tells the you-won’t-believe-it’s-true tale of Silk Road, the website that brazenly enabled users to buy and sell illicit drugs, firearms, forged documents, and much more… with all payments facilitated through Bitcoin. Central to the story is Ross Ulbricht, the criminal mastermind behind it all, and the F.B.I.’s efforts to root him out and bring him to justice. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.
“If you view mining only as the process by which coins are created, you are mistaking the means (incentives) as the goals of the process. Mining is the mechanism that underpins the decentralized clearinghouse, by which transactions are validated and cleared. Mining is the invention that makes bitcoin special, a decentralized security mechanism that is the basis for P2P digital cash. Mining secures the bitcoin system and enables the emergence of network-wide consensus without a central authority.”
Andreas Antonopoulos is the only author to appear in this list twice. Have you have breezed through The Internet of Money and think you are ready for something much more challenging? Try taking on Mastering Bitcoin, the most technical of cryptocurrency books on this list. Weighing in at 408 pages in the paperback version and interspersed with a lot of software script, this book is seriously dense and in-depth. The title is exactly representative of what’s inside – it’s for those who want to master Bitcoin, not for absolute beginners. Even so, intermediate readers can still parse through it and get a lot of value, without necessarily needing to understand the computer code.
“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.”
The premise of this book is very simple – to collect the writings of Bitcoin’s anonymous founder, who we know only as Satoshi Nakamoto. All attempts to track Nakamoto down have failed, so all we know of the Promethean creator of Bitcoin is gathered here, in The Book of Satoshi. It includes the original Bitcoin white paper (which can also be downloaded by itself, for free), but it’s very convenient to see the unfiltered thoughts of the figure that kicked the crypto revolution into life.
“Where there is an economic or political crisis, capital controls often follow. Innocent people are made to pay for the profigacies of their banks, their financial system, or their governments. Bitcoin has been dubbed ‘money without government’ and ‘money without borders.’ You can send money to another country as easily as you can send an email, and nearly as instantly.”
Most cryptocurrency books are narrating a story from a distance, but what makes Frisby’s book different is that for a large part of it, the author is narrating his own journey into discovering Bitcoin for the first time. Such as, the first time he attended a Bitcoin meetup, and how he actually used Silk Road to buy some cannabis. It makes the story very personable, and the reader will get a tangible sense of what it’s like to try crypto for the first time. As well as being an author, Frisby is a comedian – and his book provides a dose of welcome levity at times.
“Technically, the blockchain is a back-end database that maintains a distributed ledger that can be inspected openly. Business-wise, the blockchain is an exchange network for moving transactions, value, assets between peers, without the assistance of intermediaries. Legally speaking, blockchain validates transactions, replacing previously trusted entities.”
A great book for those interested in ‘blockchain 2.0’. Once you understand crypto assets, how can you use them and even start creating new applications with this foundational technology? The start of The Business Blockchain contains one of the best explanations of blockchain to be found anywhere – step-by-step, Mougayar systematically steps through how it all works with no prior knowledge assumed. Tellingly, the book even contains a foreword by the creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin – probably the biggest name in crypto to lend their name to another author’s book. Likely the best of the cryptocurrency books for up-to-date industry trends.
“Bitcoin can be best understood as distributed software that allows for transfer of value using a currency protected from unexpected inflation without relying on trusted third parties. In other words, Bitcoin automates the functions of a modern central bank and makes them predictable and virtually immutable by programming them into code decentralized among thousands of network members, none of whom can alter the code without the consent of the rest.”
The Bitcoin Standard is new in 2018, and places Bitcoin into societal context. It takes the reader all the way from the origins of primitive money, to metalic money, government money, and finallly – digital money. Possibly the best part of the book is the final chapter entitled “Bitcoin Questions”, which handles some of the frequent criticisms and queries surrounding Bitcoin.