Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemakers War, 1941-1945
by Leo Marks Codes.
For code enthusiasts. At the age of 8, Leo Marks discovered the great game of code-making and -breaking in his father's London bookshop, thanks to a first edition of Poe's The Gold-Bug. During WWII, Marks was sent to the Special Operations Executive Department. Their mandate was, in Churchill's stirring phrase, to "Set Europe Ablaze," and Marks's was to monitor code security so that agents could report back as safely as possible. His solution? WOKs (worked-out keys) printed on silk. An operative would use one key, send the message, and immediately tear off the strip. Marks had a hard time proving that swaths of silk would save his people from swallowing their "optional extra," a cyanide pill. His efforts were dead serious, but often landed him in comic terrain when dealing with his superiors. The author never lost sight of the importance of his vocation. Marks knew when to cut the laugh track, particularly as his book becomes a despairing record of agents blown--lost to torture, prison, the camps, and execution. Readers will never forget the valor of Violette Szabo, Noor Inayat Kahn, and the White Rabbit himself, Flight Lieutenant Yeo-Thomas. Also interesting is the insider's account of the in-fighting between the various factions - SOE vs. C (intelligence), de Gaulle's Free French vs. the other French groups, friction between the country sections within SOE, etc. Marks was a natural storyteller who brilliantly linked the highly technical issue of codes and ciphers to the fates of individual agents.. A great read! (Sorry to report, Mr. Marks passed away in 2001).
Breaking the Maya Code
by Michael D. Coe
A fluent, engaging and informative account of the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphics. What is established, Coe writes, is that the Maya writing system is a mix of logograms and syllabic signs, with the latter, they could and often did write words purely phonetically.
Code Book:The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
by Simon Singh
How codes and ciphers have played a vital role in warfare, politics, and royal intrigue. The major theme of The Code Book is what Singh calls "the ongoing evolutionary battle between codemakers and codebreakers," never more clear than in the chapters devoted to World War II. Cryptography came of age during that conflict, as secret communications became critical to both sides' success.
Adversity is one of the foundations of successful codebreaking. In wartime, confronted with the prospect of defeat, the Allied cryptanalysts had worked night and day to penetrate German ciphers. It would appear that fear is the main driving force. In the information age, the fear that drives cryptographic improvements is both capitalistic and libertarian. Corporations need encryption to ensure that their secrets don't fall into the hands of competitors and regulators Ordinary people need encryption to keep their everyday communications private in a free society. Similarly, the battles for greater decryption power come from said competitors and governments wary of insurrection. The Code Book is an excellent primer for those wishing to understand how the human need for privacy has manifested itself through cryptography. Singh's accessible style and clear explanations of complex algorithms cut through the arcane mathematical details without oversimplifying.
The Code Breakers; The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet
by David Kahn
This book is a must-read for the serious code enthusiast. Any aspiring tech guru, hacker, cryptologist, security agent (FBI, NSA, etc.), and the list goes on, will love this book. It is not intended to teach the reader how to design or crypto-analyze codes and ciphers; it is a history book, and a really great one. Buy it, read it, enjoy it, re-read it again because it is so interesting you will rush through it to see what's next and not pick up on many of the details the first time through. However, the reader should be aware of a couple of things that may not be apparent.
First, the 1996 "revised edition" differs from the 1967 first edition only in the addition of a final chapter to cover what Kahn didn't know (or didn't choose to include) in the 1967 edition. The first 26 of 27 chapters, and the references and bibliography associated with them, are essentially identical to those of the 1967 edition. This means that a number of statements and passages in the first 26 chapters, although correct in 1967, may be misleading if one assumes they were written in 1996. I recommend that the reader skim Chapter 27 quickly before reading the rest of the book, so as not to misunderstand any of what's in earlier chapters.
Second, keep in mind that in 1967 Kahn was essentially an outsider so far as the intelligence community was concerned, but by 1996 he was definitely regarded as an insider. Hence, the new final chapter is written with complete respect for the sensitivities of the intelligence community, which the original book was not. I was surprised to see one particular statement in the last chapter until I realized that NSA wants to correct a misapprehension widely held outside the community. Much more important, Kahn now knows a great deal that he has chosen to omit from the last chapter, including much that's unclassified but still regarded by somebody as sensitive for one reason or another. He even omits certain material that he made publicly available some years ago in his written testimony to a Congressional subcommittee. So the reader should understand that this book says less than it might about various aspects of the recent history of cryptology and its impact dating back to World War II. Whether this is good or bad depends on where one sits; if one is concerned about the sensitivities of various governments, it's good; if one wants to know as much as one can about the history of cryptology since 1940 that's not still classified, it's bad.
However, there is new information on techniques used to break machine and computer ciphers, as well as the speculation of scientists on how messages from outer space might be solved and a study of the use of codes during the Vietnam War. If you do want more on ULTRA and the others, there are a number of excellent books on both cryptography and SIGINT operations published since. And after all crytography is just a game unless the results can be applied in real time to affect events.
Codes, Puzzles And Conspiracy
by Dennis Shasha
For code enthusiasts. A new mathematical thriller from Dr. Eco... A fictional mathematical detective story. Dr. Eco is an omniheurist, a universal problem-solver. This book asks the reader to help Dr. Eco escape from the misguided Baskerhound and thwart a nasty coup. The puzzles draw their inspiration from zero-knowledge proofs, parallel computation, geometrical design, and plain old logic. If you like puzzles, this book will drive you crazy.
by Neal Stevenson
Vintage Stevenson from start to finish: short on plot but long on detail so precise that it's exhausting. Every page has a math problem, a quotable in-joke, an amazing idea, or a bit of sharp prose. The book is packed with truly weird characters, funky tech, and crypto plus all the computer jargon of the moment. Over 900 pages of science fiction.
by Clifford Pickover
For code enthusiasts. A gem for teachers across the curriculum. The book explores the structure of the English language in a way that both math and English teachers can appreciate and use in their classrooms. Code breaking is an adventurous way to teach symbolic problem solving. The core of the book is a series of 100 quotations or expressions encoded via a substitution cipher. While some are challenging, after you do a few, many become rather easy. An unencrypted, explanatory message appears with most of them, and in the case of quotations, the message reveals who the author is. Since that person's name is coded at the bottom, once you know the name and how the attribution appears, the problem is half solved. Converting the given characters into the English alphabet before attempting to solve the problem helps. There is also a chapter containing seventeen puzzles that together can be used to make up a contest.
Discoveries: Signs,Symbols & Cyphers
by Claude Moatti
To communicate, people have always used signs and symbols: marks, gestures, and words that represent abstract ideas and concrete objects. Over time, these have multiplied into an immense and complex network of images, figures, emblems. We use signs to measure such difficult concepts as number, danger, value, distances in time and space, and even love. How does a sign represent the thing for which it substitutes? How do we come to understand the meaning of a written symbol? What happens when a sign crosses international borders of language and culture? Chapter by chapter, Georges Jean conducts us through the fascinating realm of maps, pictograms, logographs, letterforms, patterns, signals, codes, and facial expressions. An excellent member of the Abrams Discovery series for those interested in the subject. Full color illustrations throughout.