A “New to Open Source” Reading List

Book pile courtesy of jvoves on Flickr. Licensed CC-BY-NC.

A non-technical colleague of mine wanted to learn more about the IT industry and open source. He asked for some reading suggestions, and here they are. It’s heavy on open source, as you might expect. I’m sure I’ve missed some great ones – leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.


Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
A very readable history of the minicomputer. If you don’t know anything about the importance of Route 128 or why Red Hat’s engineering center is in Boston, start here.
A History of Modern Computing by Paul E. Ceruzzi
Just what it says on the tin. I haven’t read this, but it comes highly recommended.
Open Source in Government
A little shameless self-promotion. A list of every major event and code release in the US government.


Simon Wardley‘s blog
Would that every industry blog was like this. Why he hasn’t written a book yet, I don’t know.
Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman.
I’ve already written about this book extensively. The parallels between manufacturing and IT are spooky.
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson.
A great way to understand the value of standardization and commoditization, while simultaneously learning how nasty and messy it can be.

Open Source

Cathedral and Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond.
The mothership.
Open Source for the Enterprise: Managing Risks, Reaping Rewards by Dan Woods
Great, enterprise-y, practical advice.
Producing Open Source Software by Karl Fogel
Grateful to call Karl a friend. If you want to understand how hard it is to run an open source project, this is one of the authoritative works.
Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing by Lawrence Rosen.
Licensing has always been complicated. Every lawyer working in open source has this book on their shelf, and it’s on Red Hat’s new-hire reading list.
Rebel Code by Glyn Moody
Glyn has written more about open source than I’ve ever read, and it shows in this book.
Open Sources by Chris DiBona et al.
Vignettes from some of the giants in open source.


Yes, the movie. Every nerd you meet has seen it.
Just for Fun by Linux Torvalds
‘Cause Linus.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Another cultural touchstone.