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The IT Nerd's Summer Reading List

  • Ah, summer. Time for BBQs, pool parties, and family vacations. And the perfect time to pick up a good book. Of course, for IT pros, downtime can be a pretty foreign concept. Still, if you've got that long-awaited vacation coming up and need a good book to read by the pool, we've got 12 recommendations for you.  

    We polled our team of expert bloggers and editors to find out what's on the top of their reading lists. Naturally, our list is filled with a lot of technical books because what else would an IT nerd take to the beach? We've got recommendations for those inclined to expand their skillsets or brush up on a particular area with books on everything from network architecture to 802.11ac, IPv6, and Python.

    But if you want to branch out from the technical stuff, we've also got some lighter fare. Our recommendations include an engaging account of the development of Internet precursor Arpanet, Ray Kurzweil's book on reverse-engineering the human brain, and a post-apocalyptic thriller. So get your beach towel, sunscreen, and grab a book.

  • Learn a language

    Summer can be a good time to learn a new language, but we're not talking about French, Spanish or German. If youre a networking pro, it just might be time for you to learn a new language like Python. The emergence of software-defined networking has sparked concerns about whether it will put network pros out of work. Why not take the opportunity to future-proof your career by learning some skills outside the traditional networking realm? While there's some debate about whether network pros will need to acquire programming skills in order to adapt to the new SDN paradigm, it certainly can't hurt to get familiar with a tool like Python. "Learning Python" by Mark Lutz is among the Python Software Foundation's recommendations.

  • The art of network architecture

    If you're a network architect, you might want to consider "The Art of Network Architecture" by Russ White and Denise Donohue. Arnold recommends this one for providing good design considerations. The publisher, Cisco Press, describes it as "the first book that places business needs and capabilities at the center of the process of architecting and evolving networks." A PacketPushers podcast earlier this year with the authors used the book as an avenue to talk about how business requirements need to impact network design. Ethan Banks wrote: "After all, it's the business that defines what the network should be, and not the other way around." And did we mention that Russ White is a Network Computing blogger?

  • All about 802.11ac

    Those in charge of wireless networks will be interested in "802.11ac: A Survival Guide," by Matthew Gast. The new wireless standard is coming on fast, and this book provides guidance for 802.11ac planning, design and deployment. Gast, who led development of 802.11-2012, explains how 802.11ac improves wireless networks and provides tips on how to upgrade.

  • Get familiar with IPv6

    With ICANN's announcement in May that it had started to allocate the last blocks of IPv4 addresses, it's getting harder to ignore IPv6. If you feel it's time to finally learn about IPv6 or need help as your organization plans a migration, this book should help. The third edition of "IPv6 Essentials: Integrating IPv6 Into Your IPv4 Network," by Silvia Hagen provides details on IPv6 features, such as neighbor discovery, provides security best practices, and offers planning tips.

  • Troubleshoot with Wireshark

    If you want some help figuring out what's wrong with your network, check out "Troubleshooting With Wireshark" by Laura Chappell. The book offers tips and details techniques for identifying root causes of network performance problems using the popular Wireshark network protocol analyzer. Topics include path delays, connection refusals, packet loss and service refusals. Chappell, a self-described "packet geek," is the founder of Wireshark University and according to her bio, goes by the nickname "Glenda, the Good Witch." The book also includes hands-on labs.

  • Tips for working with the virtualization team

    With virtualization sweeping through the enterprise and knocking down traditional boundaries, networking pros may find themselves in a position where they need to work with virtualization administrators. There's a book that can help: "Networking For VMware Administrators" by Chris Wahl and Steve Pantol. While this book is designed to help VMware pros understand core networking concepts and apply them virtualized networking environments, network engineer and Network Computing blogger Amy Arnold said it can also help networking pros who need to communicate with virtualization folks.

  • Delve into the origins of the Internet

    "Where Wizards Stay Up Late" by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon recounts how a group of engineers and researchers led by J.C.R. Licklider developed the Internet's precursor, Arpanet, in the 1960s. Licklider, a psychoacoustician from MIT, saw the potential for computers to be communications devices and the rest is history. The book is far from new -- it was published in 1998 -- but Bob McCouch, a networking consultant and Network Computing contributor, said he read it on a recent summer vacation and it's one of his favorites. "It's a pleasure read in my opinion -- not a lot of deep technical knowledge -- but engaging, historically relevant, and fairly light reading for a summer vacation," he said.

  • The people behind the PC revolution

    Another historical book IT types will enjoy is "When Computing Got Personal: A History of the Desktop Computer" by Matt Nicholson. This book tells the story of the students, computer nerds, entrepreneurs and financiers who made computers household items. With chapters like "The rise of the nerds," "IBM strikes back," and "Revenge of the clones," who could resist reading?

  • Peek into future possibilities

    Renowned futurist and bestselling author Ray Kurzweil followed up his 2006 "The Singularity Is Near" with "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed," which was published last summer. In it, he explores a particularly provocative theme: reverse-engineering the human brain in order to glean knowledge to create more intelligent machines.