I encourage everyone to start at the beginning, and read – or at least skim – the 8 pages which gave birth to Bitcoin:
- Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System by Satoshi Nakamoto
To get a grasp on Bitcoin you will have to read a book or two. If you only want to read one book, you can’t do wrong with Saifedean’s The Bitcoin Standard. Bitcoin is money, so understanding The Ethics of Money Production is paramount to understanding what Bitcoin is about. If you need a crash-course in economics I recommend reading Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. All three books are also available as audiobooks.
If you prefer a shorter introduction, I recommend you read and listen to the following:
- The Bullish Case for Bitcoin by Vijay Boyapati (audio version)
- The Stories We Tell About Money by Andreas Antonopoulos
Thanks to Bitcoin, my list of books to read gets longer and longer, way quicker than I could ever read them. The books listed below are books I can personally recommend. If a particular book is not listed here, it is probably because I didn’t get around to read it yet. Although there is some overlap, the books are roughly grouped by topics as follows:
- Bitcoin (non-technical)
- Bitcoin (technical)
- Software and Programming
- Computation and Complexity Theory
I hope to update this list continually as my reading progresses.
Bitcoin (non-technical) #
Books about Bitcoin which can be read by anyone, no special background knowledge or education required. As mentioned above, I consider The Bitcoin Standard required reading for anyone interested in Bitcoin.
Even though Bitcoin Money is a children’s book, it drives home the value proposition of Bitcoin in a succinct way, making it valuable for readers of all ages.
The Internet of Money books are a collection of talks by Andreas Antonopoulos, most of which are available for free on YouTube.
Bitcoin (technical) #
If you would like to dig deeper or get your hands dirty with programming, these books are for you. Technical knowledge and skills in computer science, programming, and/or mathematics are beneficial.
Mastering Bitcoin is available for free on GitHub. Programming Bitcoin includes plenty of programming exercises, which are available for free on GitHub as well. Grokking Bitcoin will be open-sourced soon; in the meanwhile, there is a liveBook version available.
Bitcoin is capable of being the new base layer of our economy, which is why understanding economics is essential in understanding Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s monetary policy is aligned with the Austrian School of economic thought, which is why reading the works of Austrian’s such as Hayek, Hazlitt, Hoppe, Menger, Mises, Rothbard (and others) is recommended by those who take Bitcoin’s value proposition seriously.
Human Action, Mises’ magnum opus, is freely available as both an ebook and an audiobook.
In stark contrast to our current economic system, Bitcoin does not offer the possibility of inflating the monetary base. Understanding money - and especially sound money - is paramount to understanding the value proposition and ultimate impact of Bitcoin.
All of the above are available for free at the Mises Institute.
Banking is a mystery to most, and central banking doubly so. Bitcoin isn’t necessarily an enemy of the former, but, if successful, it will abolish and replace the latter.
Software and Programming #
Bitcoin is free, libre open-source software. It is free as in freedom, free as in free speech. What this means, why free software exists, and what the implications of free (vs proprietary) software are, is important to understand the unstoppability of Bitcoin. I would argue that the ethos of GNU and UNIX programming are important cornerstones for Bitcoin as well.
Computation and Complexity Theory #
While Bitcoin is in the business of verification and not computation, knowing the limits of what computers can do and what future computers might be able to do can be beneficial to better understand some parts of Bitcoin. I highly recommend Gödel, Escher, Bach because it is a deeply fascinating and beautiful book.
Quantum Computing Since Democritus is quite dense, but it is also quite entertaining at times. The lecture notes which this book is based upon are freely available online. Note that the first couple of chapters stay in the non-quantum world of computing and might help to understand why breaking Bitcoin’s security is so hard. A New Kind of Science is certainly not for everyone, but it beautifully shows how simple rules can lead to complex systems.
Decentralized networks like Bitcoin, and the internet before it, change the way people interact and work with each other. People who work on or create content for Bitcoin are located all over the world, thus regular approaches to work might not produce the best results. I found the following books to hit a certain nerve, speaking as someone who has stepped outside of the regular way of working on things. If you think about working on Bitcoin or other open-source projects, these books are for you.
Many amazing articles have been written about Bitcoin. I am aware that trying to link to all of them is futile, but I want to make an effort and at least highlight some of them. I highly recommend the literature listed at the Nakamoto Institute, the selection of articles read by Guy Swann, and the writings collected by Adam Taché.
One of the best articles to read if you are new to Bitcoin is The Bullish Case for Bitcoin, which outlines why there are very good reasons to be optimistic about Bitcoin’s future.
- The Bullish Case for Bitcoin by Vijay Boyapati
The Difficulty of Understanding Bitcoin #
Bitcoin isn’t exactly easy to understand. Some of the reasons for this phenomenon are explored in the following articles:
- Why It’s Hard to “Get” Bitcoin by Dhruv Bansal
- Why Blockchain is Hard by Jimmy Song
- Nobody Understands Bitcoin (And That’s OK) by Jameson Lopp
I explore the multi-disciplinary nature of Bitcoin at 21lessons.com.
Bitcoin’s Uniqueness #
Why Bitcoin, and not something else? Because Bitcoin matters, Bitcoin is unique, Bitcoin is fair, and Bitcoin is way better than you think.
- Why Bitcoin is Different by Jimmy Song
- Why Bitcoin Matters by Aleksandar Svetski
- Bitcoin is Worse is Better by Gwern
- Bitcoin’s distribution was fair by Dan Held
- There is no Bitcoin 2.0 by Pete Dushenski
If you aren’t ready yet to read books on money, these articles are a great entry point to start learning about the purpose and history of money.
- Shelling Out: The Origins of Money by Nick Szabo
- Money, blockchains, and social scalability by Nick Szabo
In my opinion, proof-of-work is one of the most misunderstood parts of the Bitcoin puzzle. It solves multiple problems, making it one of the most integral parts of the system. The following articles explore proof-of-work in more detail:
- The Anatomy of Proof-of-Work by Hugo Nguyen
- Work is Timeless, Stake is Not by Hugo Nguyen
- Bitcoin Doesn’t Waste Electricity by Beautyon
- Nothing is Cheaper than Proof of Work by Paul Sztorc
- Blockchain Proof-of-Work Is a Decentralized Clock by Gregory Trubetskoy
I wrote about how I changed my view on proof of work in Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption: A shift in perspective and in Lesson 17.
Bitcoin’s Identity #
What is Bitcoin? This question is surprisingly difficult to answer. It is a network (Bitcoin), money (bitcoin), software (various implementations), an idea (the white paper), an immutable record of ownership (Bitcoin’s ledger, aka the “block chain”), a movement, a monetary revolution, and more.
- Bitcoin’s Existential Crisis (original title: What is it like to be a Bitcoin?) by Nic Carter
- The Many Faces of Bitcoin by Murad Mahmudov and Adam Taché
- Bitcoin: Past and Future by Murad Mahmudov and Adam Taché
- Bitcoin is. And that is enough. by Beautyon
- That’s not Bitcoin, this is Bitcoin by StopAndDecrypt
- That’s not Bitcoin, that’s BCash by StopAndDecrypt
I explored Bitcoin’s identity in Lesson 4.
Who Controls Bitcoin? #
One of the first responses of people learning about Bitcoin is “Yeah yeah I get it… but who controls it?” The question of control is not an easy one to answer, because you have to understand the whole system on a pretty deep level to answer it. The following articles might help.
- Bitcoin Governance by Pierre Rochard
- Unpacking Bitcoin’s Social Contract by Hasu
- Bitcoin Miners Beware: Invalid Blocks Need Not Apply by StopAndDecrypt
- Why America Can’t Regulate Bitcoin by Beautyon
Bitcoin as a Living Organism #
Ralph Merkle famously called Bitcoin “the first example of a new form of life.”. Others developed this idea further, which is - in my opinion - one of the most useful analogies to understand Bitcoin.
- Foreword to The Bitcoin Standard by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Bitcoin is a Decentralized Organism by Brandon Quittem
- Bitcoin is a Social Creature by Brandon Quittem
Bitcoin is cypherpunk technology. Made by a cypherpunk, based on cypherpunk ideas. I consider exposure to the ideas and ideals of cypherpunk culture essential.
- A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto by Eric Hughes
- The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto by Timothy C. May
- The Cyphernomicon by Timothy C. May
The following are what I consider excellent articles that didn’t fit into one of my arbitrarily chosen categories above.
- The God Protocols by Nick Szabo
- Trusted Third Parties Are Security Holes by Nick Szabo
- The Bitcoin Halving and Monetary Competition by Saifedean Ammous
- Everyone’s a Scammer by Michael Goldstein
- Guess My Bitcoin Private Key by Michael Kerbleski
- Stage n: Bitcoin exists by Mircea Popescu
- An Open Letter to Banks about Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies by Peter McCormack
One of the best ways to educate yourself on Bitcoin is by listening to the smartest people in the space. Luckily, we are living in the golden age of podcasts, and many great conversations are “open source” so to speak. Disclosure: I was a guest on some of these podcasts. Links to those specific episodes can be found here.
I consider the following podcasts the best in the space:
- Tales From The Crypt by Marty Bent with RHR co-host Matt Odell
- Noded by Pierre Rochard and Michael Goldstein
- Stephan Livera Podcast by Stephan Livera
- What Bitcoin Did by Peter McCormack
Although I try to listen to every Bitcoin podcast under the sun, it is simply an unsurmountable feat due to the sheer volume of content. The following podcasts are excellent as well:
- The Cryptoconomy by Guy Swann
- Bitcoin Echo Chamber by Heavily Armed Clown
- Citizen Bitcoin by Brady
- Crypto Voices by Matthew Mežinskis and Fernando Ulrich
- The Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast by Trace Mayer
- Contrarian Island by MD
- Crypto & Grill by CryptoDantes and StigofthePump
The line between the best and the rest is quite arbitrary, but I felt like one very long list might not be as useful as separate lists, however arbitrary the distinction. I enjoy or have enjoyed these podcasts as well:
- Let’s Talk Bitcoin with Adam B. Levine, Andreas Antonopoulos, Stephanie Murphy, and Jonathan Mohan
- Reckless Review by Udi Wertheimer and Lawrence Nahum
- Bitcoin and… by David Bennet
- Fun With Crypto by Coinicarus
- POV Crypto by David Hoffman and Christian Keroles
- Bottomshelf Bitcoin by Josh Humphrey
Selected Podcast Episodes #
Some “evergreen” episodes were recorded in the last couple of years. Again, this is a personal selection so it is biased towards certain guests and topics.
- 🎧 BTCDCA on Dollar Cost Averaging Bitcoin
BEC #20 hosted by Collin
- 🎧 Alex Gladstein on Bitcoin’s Role in the Fight for Human Rights
TFTC #76 hosted by Marty Bent
- 🎧 Giacomo Zucco on Bitcoin's Identity and Copycats
SLP #75 hosted by Stephan Livera
- 🎧 Tuur Demeester - Bitcoin 101
TIP #244 hosted by Preston Pysh and Stig Brodersen
- 🎧 Luke Dashjr on 300k Blocks and Full Nodes
WBD #109 hosted by Peter McCormack
- 🎧 Stephan Livera - Intro to Bitcoin Austrian thought
SLP #71 hosted by Stephan Livera
- 🎧 Ben Prentice on the Bitcoin Spectrum
BEC #14 hosted by Collin
- 🎧 Plan B on Modelling Bitcoin’s Scarcity through Stock-to-Flow Techniques
SLP #67 hosted by Stephan Livera
- 🎧 Misir Mahmudov on the Scarcity of Time and Bitcoin
TFTC #60 hosted by Marty Bent
- 🎧 BitcoinTina on Why he is Bullish on Bitcoin
TFTC #55 hosted by Marty Bent
- 🎧 Ansel Lindner on Why Ether is Bad Money
POV #22 hosted by Christian
- 🎧 Murad Mahmudov on The Ultimate Bitcoin Argument
OTC #25 hosted by Pomp
- 🎧 Murad Mahmudov on Bitcoin as the World Reserve Currency
TFTC #34 hosted by Marty Bent
- 🎧 Jameson Lopp on Freedom-Enabling Technologies like Bitcoin
TFTC #29 hosted by Marty Bent
I am still in the process of going through the archives, so this list will probably grow over time. If there is an episode missing that you consider one of the best, feel free to reach out to me and shill me said episode.
Further Resources #
Wikis and Guides #
There are many great articles written by contributors of the Bitcoin Wiki. If you want to know more about a specific topic, the Bitcoin Wiki is a great resource. The Libbitcoin Wiki has an amazing list of fallacies and some great explanations of Bitcoin’s properties and principles. If you want to start hacking on Bitcoin you might want to check out the Bitcoin Developer Guide.
- Bitcoin Wiki maintained by the Bitcoin community
- Libbitcoin Wiki by libbitcoin developers
- Bitcoin Developer Guide by bitcoin.org
Other Curations #
There are other, more complete curations of Bitcoin content and resources. If you are looking for longer, more varied lists, the following got you covered:
- Bitcoin Literature by the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute
- Learning Resources by Bitcoin-Only
- Bitcoin Information & Resources by Jameson Lopp
- Curated Bitcoin Articles by Guy Swann
- Bitcoin Survivor’s Book List by Guy Swann
- Bitcoin Archive by Max Hillebrand
- Bitcoin Rabbit Hole by Adam Taché
- Mises Library by The Mises Institute
- Unenumerated by Nick Szabo
About these Resources #
The resources listed above are but a small selection which was particularly influential in my thinking. A sincere thank you to all the people who shared their thoughts and insights, past and present. I have learned so much, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
Table of Contents #
- Further Resources
- About these Resources