Private Reading: Electronic Frontier Foundation's Best Books of 2013

At the end of each year, EFF puts together a list of some of the interesting and noteworthy books that have been published in the past 12 months or so. We don't endorse all of their arguments, but we find they've added some valuable insight to the conversation around the areas and issues on which we work.

Some notes about this list: it's presented in alphabetical order by author's last name, and the links contain our Amazon affiliate code, which means EFF will receive a portion of purchases made through this page.

The Internet Police: How Crime Went Online, and the Cops Followed, by Nate Anderson

Nate Anderson is a writer for Ars Technica and has had occasion to report on many stories of crime—and investigation—online. In The Internet Police, he gets a chance to re-tell the most interesting, using those anecdotes to make points about how law enforcement reacts to technology. The opinions Anderson presents don't always match up with EFF's, but his take is always readable and informative.

On Internet Freedom, by Marvin Ammori

In this short volume, available as a DRM-free ebook, the established First Amendment scholar and longtime digital rights advocate Marvin Ammori takes on the question of why everybody should care about keeping the Internet free. Along the way, he explains how online battles like the SOPA protests have helped shape our understanding—and the reality—of our online rights. It's also available at a name-your-own-price through Techdirt.

Beyond WikiLeaks: Implications for the Future of Communications, Journalism and Society, edited by Benedetta Brevini, Arne Hintz, and Patrick McCurdy

This collection of essays looks toward the broader implications and consequences of WikiLeaks and similar ventures on politics, media, and transparency activism. It includes writing from Yochai Benkler, Gabriella Coleman, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, and EFF's Jillian C. York.

Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess, edited by Jerry Brito

This collection of essays starts from the premise that the U.S. Constitution requires a balancing act in copyright policy, but our laws no longer reflect that. Many of the contributors are prominent libertarian writers and thinkers, and where the essays take a political stance, it's a conservative one. But deeper than that, it's a pragmatic look at the problems with a half-century of an unbalanced copyright debate.

Coding Freedom, by Gabriella Coleman

Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist, so her book on hackers and free software communities was sure to be more rigorous than a pop science or even journalistic take. Coding Freedomdelivers spectacularly, with a readable and hugely informative ethnography of the hacker, focusing on the Debian project in particular. In true hacker spirit, the book is also CC-licensed and available for free download.

Captive Audience, by Susan Crawford

Using the Comcast-NBC Universal merger as a case study, Susan Crawford explores consolidation in the telecommunications industry. Accessibly written, "Captive Audience" is one of the fullest accounts to date of why telecom monopolies result in slower connection speeds at higher prices.

Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace, by Ronald J. Deibert

Ronald Deibert runs the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, a group EFF regularly works with on computer security issues and malware analysis; his take on these issues and the problems we collectively face is highly informed and incredibly important. Better yet, he gives real suggestions on what we must do to make the networked world safer for all of us.

Homeland, by Cory Doctorow

In this highly-anticipated sequel to the young-adult bestseller "Little Brother," EFF Fellow Cory Doctorow takes our protagonist Marcus to the next level, weaving together straight-from-the-news plotlines that include a cache of 800,000 top secret government documents and a cutting-edge local political campaign. The relevance of the novel is underscored by the poignant afterword written by Aaron Swartz just months before his death. This book is also available for free download.

This Machine Kills Secrets, by Andy Greenberg

Andy Greenberg's taken the action-packed history of the Crypto Wars, the rise of cypherpunks, and the tremendous global impact of publishers like WikiLeaks and weaved it all together into a highly enjoyable narrative. Greenberg has covered these issues for Forbes for years, and this book serves as a great background for the stories in the headlines today. As with any telling of recent history, there are bound to be disagreements about both the players and events, butThis Machine Kills Secrets also serves as a great starting point for somebody who wants to dig deeper.

The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind—and Changed the History of Free Speech in America by Thomas Healy

Ask folks about the limitations of the First Amendment and odds are you'll get the Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's "shouting fire in a crowded theater" trope as your answer. But Justice Holmes abandoned that unhelpful and insufficiently rigorous analogy a mere six months after he wrote it. Why he changed his mind so quickly has been one of the great judicial mysteries of our times. The Great Dissent solves the mystery—but we're not spoiling it for you here.

A Copyright Masquerade, by Monica Horten

From our longer review of this book: "Dr. Monica Horten goes deep into those details to detail how the entertainment industries gain political sway, and how policymakers respond to the industry's advances. ... For those interested in the structures that influence copyright policy around the world, Horten's book will prove a valuable resource."

Exploding the Phone, by Phil Lapsley

EFF may have been working with hackers for a long time, but long before we ever came onto the scene there was a whole community of "phone phreakers," a ragtag group of folks who took the global phone network as the target of their hacking. Exploding the Phone is among the most comprehensive and engaging histories of that community ever published.

To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, by Evgeny Morozov

Evgeny Morozov must be among the most prolific critics of technological utopianism, and his latest book covers more ground than even his 30,000-word magazine pieces manage. Per usual, he is provocative and at times antagonistic, but his criticisms of the tech industry's "solutionism"—and arguments for why our conversation about the moral consequences of technology need more depth—are sorely needed.

Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals and Reagan's Rise to Power, by Seth Rosenfeld

Investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld spent over 30 years researching this examination of the FBI's extensive spying on legal activities of the Free Speech Movement, practices which presaged today's NSA mass surveillance regime. He also details Ronald Reagan's work as an informant for the FBI and how the agency reciprocated by furthering his political career. Much of the documentation upon which the book is based were obtained by Rosenfeld through Freedom of Information Act requests that were vehemently opposed by the government resulting in rulings in Rosenfeld's favor by nine different federal judges.

Carry On: Sound Advice from Schneier on Security, by Bruce Schneier

EFF board member and security expert Bruce Schneier is both extremely prolific and deeply insightful about how to view questions of security, trust, and power in society. This collection is all previously published material from the past five years; in case you've missed something, this book is a great way to catch up.

The Human Face of Big Data, by Rick Smolan

The Human Face of Big Data translates the often convoluted discussion over massive data sets into a visually dazzling coffee table book. From large scale government surveillance to interconnected household appliances, from the Zoological Society of London's crowdsourcing app to the Internet Archive's digitization efforts, author and documentarian Rick Smolan captures in pictures how technology is changing human society on a global scale. EFF Media Relations Coordinator Dave Maass wrote a longer review in San Diego City Beat.

Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection, by Ethan Zuckerman

If Ethan Zuckerman's contributions to Internet scholarship had stopped at the cute cat theory of digital activism, we would have already owed him a debt of gratitude. But we're fortunate that he's provided so much more. In Rewire, Zuckerman provides a valuable perspective on where the Internet succeeds in bringing people closer together, where it does not, and what we can (and should) do about it.


This post first appeared on Electronic Frontier Foundation and is reproduced here under Creative Commons license.