Our Book of the Month choice for September

The SSL ‘Book of the Month’ feature highlights a book in our collection that has been chosen by one of our Subject Consultants. This may be a recent addition to our stock or an existing item that we would like to share with you.

Septembers’s Book of the Month was selected by Andy Kernot Subject Consultant for Geography, Social Policy & Intervention, Public Policy, and Internet Studies.


Understanding the Digital World: what you need to know about computers, the internet, privacy, and security

by Brian W. Kernighan

Princeton University Press, 2021

QA76.KER 2021 (library use only)



It was chosen because it is a must-read for all who want to know more about computers and communications. It explains, precisely and carefully, not only how they operate but also how they influence our daily lives, in terms anyone can understand, no matter what their experience and knowledge of technology.

Book Overview

Computers are everywhere. Some of them are highly visible, in laptops, tablets, cell phones, and smart watches. But most are invisible, like those in appliances, cars, medical equipment, transportation systems, power grids, and weapons. We never see the myriad computers that quietly collect, share, and sometimes leak vast amounts of personal data about us. Through computers, governments and companies increasingly monitor what we do. Social networks and advertisers know far more about us than we should be comfortable with, using information we freely give them. Criminals have all-too-easy access to our data. Do we truly understand the power of computers in our world? Understanding the Digital World explains how computer hardware, software, networks, and systems work. Topics include how computers are built and how they compute; what programming is and why it is difficult; how the Internet and the web operate; and how all of these affect our security, privacy, property, and other important social, political, and economic issues.


“This is the clearest and simplest explanation of the world we now all depend on–how it works and why it does what it does—from one of our best-known inventors. Everyone on Earth needs to read it.”

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc. and Google

“This book takes the mystery out of computers and the Internet, and everyone can learn from it. With a friendly and accessible style, Kernighan connects what is happening inside machines to the news of the day and developments about the digital world.”

Harry Lewis, coauthor of Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness after the Digital Explosion

“Kernighan tells us exactly what we need to know about computers and computer science, focusing on ideas that are useful and interesting for everyday computer users. He covers a fascinating range of topics, including fundamentals such as computer hardware, programming, algorithms, and networks, as well as politically charged issues related to government surveillance, privacy, and Internet neutrality.”

John MacCormick, Dickinson College

How can I access it?

We have one library use only copy of this book, which is currently located in our New Books Display Area (around the corner from our Issue Desk). Its shelfmark is QA76.KER 2021 (library use only). It is also available as an eLegal Deposit Book. The eBook can be accessed from a Bodleian Library computer only.

Image of an open book with the pages curled to form a love heartWhat would your SSL Book of the Month be? Do you have a favourite book in our collection? If so, we would love to know what it is. Add a comment below or email us.

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