Synopsis: Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies by Arvind Narayana et. al helps readers to understand the nuts and bolts of the technical side of crypto. Hash functions and cryptography get a full treatment. This article is a comprehensive Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies book review, from bestselling author Nathan Rose.
***This review is part of a series. Click here for my full list of the world’s best cryptocurrency books.***
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies Book Review
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies was published by Princeton University Press in 2016 by a five-strong team of academic writers. The really outstanding thing about this book is the level of academic rigor these authors bring to the subject, especially since crypto has suffered from a proliferation of “gurus”, who make it hard for newcomers to separate fact from fiction.
In essence, Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies is a deep dive into how Bitcoin and blockchain works. The “why” of Bitcoin is covered, but there is much more coverage of the “how”. As the authors say in the preface, they are assuming the reader already has some programming experience, as well as a basic understanding of computer science (e.g. data structures, algorithms, etc.) This is not the first book that a newcomer should read. Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies can be better described as a textbook, rather than an easy-to-follow book suitable for absolute beginners. There are already other introductory guides (such as my own book: The Crypto Intro), which means that something like this book is absolutely welcome. Other experts have already expressed positive Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies book review sentiments of their own, including:
- Wilko Bolt (Journal of Economic Literature)
- Jeffrey Putnam (Association for Computing Machinery Computing Reviews)
- Campbell R. Harvey (Duke University)
Think Of It As A College-Level Course In Crypto
The structure of this book is somewhat similar to the structure of a university class. The first two chapters start out with rather generalized information, to lay the groundwork. Then, from chapter three onwards, the book starts delving into the details. By the end, the reader should feel confident of their mastery of the subject matter. The technical coverage includes:
- Mechanics of Bitcoin (Ch 3) – the data structures and scripts of how the “append only” Bitcoin ledger operates
- How to Store and Use Bitcoin (Ch 4) – how to safely keep track of the private keys, and trade-offs involved
- Bitcoin Mining (Ch5) – how the miners validate blocks, how they compete, and what motivates them.
- Alternative Mining Puzzles (Ch 8) – other ways of mining, apart from Bitcoin’s proof of work system
- Bitcoin as a Platform (Ch 9) – Introduces Bitcoin is a protocol-layer, capable of hosting applications.
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies also has a companion video course, which anyone can take on the online learning platform Coursera, free of charge. It’s like being able to learn from Princeton lecturers, without having to travel to New Jersey, or fork out the eye-watering tuition!
Top Quotes From Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies
This Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies book review includs below five of best quotes from the book. The purpose is to give the reader a sample of what they can expect if they choose to read it. This should give enough of a taste of what’s in store within Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, to help readers make up their mind whether it’s the right book for them to continue their crypto education.
“… unlike fiat currencies, the security rues of cryptocurrencies need to be enforced purely technologically and without relying on a central authority.”
“In Bitcoin… for an attacker to change history, they must solve computational puzzles at a faster rate than the rest of the participants combined. This is not only more secure, it allows us to quantify the security of the system.”
“In essence, Bitcoin combines the idea of using computational puzzles to regulate the creation of new currency units with the idea of secure timestamping to record a ledger of transactions and prevent doube spending.”
“Any currency, whether a fiat currency like the dollar or cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, relies on the consensus that it has value. That is, you need peopple to generally accept that it’s exchangeable for something else of value, now and in the future.”
“There were numerous failed attempts at digital or electronic cash before Bitcoin… Bitcoin’s key difference compared to most of these attempts is decentralization. The core innovation of Bitcoin that enables decentralization is the block chain.”
The Verdict: Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies
This is a wonderful and unique book. Although there have been plenty of guides that describe the history of crypto, and lots of books that provide absolute beginner material, Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies tackles the inner workings and does a superb job of it. Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies is a particularly essential resource for programmers who are tasked with creating applications to work in tandem with Bitcoin and other crypto assets.
If you enjoyed this Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies book review, then you would also enjoy my book – The Crypto Intro. My book is more of a hands-on how-to guide for getting started with crypto. Read Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies for the detailed technical specifics of how Bitcoin works, but read The Crypto Intro if you need step-by-step instructions about how to buying your first crypto as quickly as possible.