Today (June 23) is Alan Turing’s birthday. Here I list and briefly discuss some books that feature him and that I have read.
Nonfiction about Alan Turing
Probably the single definitive book on Turing’s life, especially for non-specialists, is Alan Turing: The Enigma by Alan Hodges. The new edition has a foreward by Douglas Hofstadter. This biography covers both Turing’s life and work, in an admirably non-technical way, but without too much dumbing down.
If you want to understand Turing’s seminal paper “On Computable Numbers” are willing to work a bit, an excellent source is The Annotated Turing by Charles Petzold. This book goes through Turing’s paper line-by-line, explicating and explaining and simplifying the notation. It’s still not light reading, but it’s an excellent way to look at such a paper.
Another good general biography, perhaps a little more technical than Hodges’, is The Man who Knew Too Much by David Leavitt.
If you want to concentrate on Turing’s role in the developement of computers, you should read The Universal Computer by Martin Davis, which covers the development of the ideas behind the computer from Leibniz up to and including Turing.
Incompleteness by Rebecca Goldstein is a marvelous biography of Kurt Godel; Godel’s work is essentially tied to Turing’s, and Goldstein writes extremely well (she is also a poet).
Fiction about Alan Turing
Turing at the time of his election to Fellowship of the Royal Society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)