The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman.
The subtitle of the book is “A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century”, and it lives up to its title. Although the book centers on economics, as a programmer, I found the first chapters very enlightening. Friedman goes into great detail explaining how various technological inventions coincided with economical and political events to create the global economy we live in now.
For instance, Friedman talks about how India opened up its economy to the Western world in the last several decades. However, had it not been for the dot com boom, the Pacific would not be laid with the thousands of miles of fiber optic cable that enable the high speed phone and data connections that have allowed India to become such a hub for outsourcing. So, although the dot com bust seemed like a major step backwards for the U.S., it actually had world-changing tangential effects.
Friedman also goes into great detail talking about things like the advent of the Apache server and XML and the Open Source movement. As a programmer who lived through the growth and development of many of these technologies, it was on the one hand nostalgic to hear about how these things came about, but also slightly tedious to hear detailed explanations of things I take for granted on a daily basis. However, if you have friends or family members who wonder about the significance of what you do, Friedman gives a great layman’s introduction to these concepts and why they’re important.
I have heard that this book is now required reading for the Business program at my alma mater, Calvin College, and after reading it I can see why. For a helpful history of technology and economics in this century, and an optimistic (and often over-optimistic) view of the future, I highly recommend reading this book for what’s left of your summer reading.