Book Review: Mastering Bitcoin – Andreas Antonopoulos

Book Review: Mastering Bitcoin – Andreas Antonopoulos

 

Mastering Bitcoin bookcover image

For those who are unfamiliar with Andreas Antonopoulos, simply take note that this guy right now is probably the world’s most important pedagogue in the cryptocurrency space. 

That is probably why, if you take a serious interest in cryptos, you need to read this book. On the other hand, if you do not have a reasonably solid background in programming, you will be unlikely to get maximum benefit from its contents.

At the same time, whilst Antonopoulos himself says that this book is not intended for non-technical people, there is still no other reading resource that I have come across that explains better the theoretical underpinnings of Bitcoin – Elliptic Curve Cryptography, the Byzantine General’s problem, Private Key Encryption, Merkle Trees, it’s all in there and made just about as clear as those subjects can be for those who take a general interest. 

True Pedagogue

The best way for me to learn Bitcoin,” Antonopoulos said, “was to set myself the goal of teaching it.” So, over a span of two years, he sat down and dug into Bitcoin’s inner workings. That can’t have been an easy task given how notoriously bad developers generally can be at both clearly documenting and explaining a simple concept.  

The end result is a book that gives the user a general overview of Bitcoin by introducing us to Alice and Bob who take us through wallets, keys, transactions and mining before getting to the heavy stuff. 

 

 

If you’re keen and have some programming behind you already, you can then follow through Antonopoulos’ gentle nudges to get your hands dirty by downloading a full bitcoin client and playing with the Command Line Interface to get a feel for how it works on the back-end. 

These days, downloading a full node of the Bitcoin Blockchain is no easy task – so you could be forgiven for leaving this aspect of the book aside and simply reading through it. 

The book remains, however, a masterclass for its explanatory approach and practical exercises, all presented in a structured, coherent manner where it becomes obvious that the author’s concern for making the subject clear was his highest priority when putting pen to paper. 

The second edition of the book was published in June of 2017, but it is likely the follow-up work Mastering Ethereum which will attract greater interest now, as the world leaves behind the novelty of Bitcoin and turns its head to the implementation of smart contracts. 

The publication date of Master Ethereum has been pushed back on two occasions now, and is currently slated for publication in June of 2018. Even if it were published tomorrow, it would still be a little overdue. When it does appear, however, expect a new wave of small-scale Dapps to emerge from a new generation of hobby application developers.