If you want to learn how Bitcoin works on a technical level, then read Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies. If you’re a nerd, you’ll love it. Princeton University hosts the book’s web page, which provides links to video lectures for each chapter. From that web page, you can also download Java programming assignments and a free pre-publication version of the book. Coursera has an online course (currently free) that’s based on the book.
A team of six geeks (that’s a compliment) wrote the book and gave the video lectures. That team included several faculty members from Princeton and other universities. Their expertise was apparent, and they did an excellent job presenting the subject matter both in writing and as lectures.
I read a chapter each day and then watched the corresponding video lecture the next day. After two weeks, I now know how Bitcoin works, I’m familiar with the history of cryptocurrencies, and I’m at least aware of some advanced topics related to Bitcoin.
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies has the following chapters:
- Introduction to Cryptography and Cryptocurrencies
- How Bitcoin Achieves Decentralization
- Mechanics of Bitcoin
- How to Store and Use Bitcoins
- Bitcoin Mining
- Bitcoin and Anonymity
- Community, Politics, and Regulation
- Alternative Mining Puzzles
- Bitcoin as a Platform
- Altcoins and the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem
- Decentralized Institutions: The Future of Bitcoin?
Each chapter is about 25 pages long, which is a perfect length for me to absorb in one sitting. There’s also a 27-page forward entitled The Long Road to Bitcoin, which discusses the history of digital money.
So if you want to understand how Bitcoin works, and you don’t mind following along with a lot of diagrams showing hash pointers and Merkle Trees, then I highly recommend this book. If not, then you can check out other less technical books about Bitcoin and related topics. I recommend Blockchain Revolution (my review here) by Don and Alex Tapscott and Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper.