Recommended ReadingLast modified 03-Dec-2011.
There are only a few in-print computer tech books that I wholeheartedly recommend. None of them have the words "idiot" or "dummy" in their title. I don't know about you, but I have a shred of self-respect.
Clicking on any of these books will take you to Amazon.com, and a portion of the purchase price - which is no higher than the normal discounted Amazon price - will go towards supporting this site.
So it's your duty to buy them, really, when you think about it.
Now up to the 16th edition, this is Mark Minasi's 900 pound gorilla of PC data books. Like any comprehensive reference, it contains a load of information you'll probably never need; there's still lots of data about legacy systems which you probably don't own. But Minasi also covers current technology, and is never less than clear, and frequently quite entertaining.
Another big 'un, and also up to edition 16 - by the time you read this, the 17th edition may be out. it must be better, 'cause it's up to its 16th edition now. I reviewed the 13th edition here, and it's just gotten bigger; it covers some of the same ground as Minasi's tome, and is about the same monstrous size. If I was going to buy only one of these books, it'd be this one.
If you'd like to learn more about digital photography, you'll probably love this book. I review it here.
The paper reference that'll make you sound as if you know what you're talking about. If you refer to it often enough, you probably will. The average PC user will find this book interesting, but if you work in the industry in some capacity, or you're studying computing, it's practically essential. Well-researched, highly reliable, very comprehensive, small enough to fit in a briefcase. It's also got a comprehensive style guide for technology writers, which is unfortunately not completely subscribed to by any popular computing periodical I know of, but danged well should be.
To be perfectly frank, the place to go to read The Jargon File, the core of the paper Hacker's Dictionary, is here (originally here, before ESR went even odder), and it won't cost you a penny. But if you want a version you can read in the bath or give to an interested newbie, this is it. The New Hacker's Dictionary contains a fair few dry definitions of technical terms, but its focus is on the distinctive jargon of past and current hackers - "hacker", in this case, used in its original, complimentary sense. And you'd better believe all senses are thoroughly defined here.
If you have even a slight technical, linguistical or sociological bent, and use a computer, you'll find this book dashed entertaining. I've linked to the cheaper paperback version, above; the hardcover version is here.