Cover image of "AI Superpowers," one of the good books about artificial intelligence reviewed here

Artificial intelligence (AI) may well be the most important technology emerging in the 21st century. It’s certainly on a par with genetic engineering in its potential to reshape the way we live our lives. The thirty-plus good books about artificial intelligence reviewed here include fourteen works of nonfiction and seventeen novels. Collectively, they examine the impact of the field from a wide range of different perspectives. Each of the titles is followed by the linked headline of its review.

Estimated reading time: 18 minutes

This post was updated on September 8, 2023.

Good books about artificial intelligence: nonfiction

Image suggesting artificial intelligence

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler – Does technology promise humanity a bright future? 

Though Diamandis’ focus is squarely on the exponential growth in speed, capability, and spread of information processing technologies, he is not a gadget freak. He recognizes the social and political context in which technology is brought to light, although he may downplay the ferocity of humanity’s innate resistance to change.

Thinking Machines: The Quest for Artificial Intelligence and Where It’s Taking Us Next by Luke Dormehl – Will robots run amok?

British science journalist Luke Dormehl delves deeply into the past, present, and future of humankind’s attempts to create machines capable of learning and decision-making on their own. His book serves up the background readers need to understand why such luminaries as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned us that AI poses a grave threat to our future as a species—while others including Ray Kurzweil, a pioneer in the field, predict a new Golden Age.

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford – Will robots create a jobless future?

The emerging application of robotics poses a real threat to the future wellbeing of our country and the world. In Rise of the Robots, Silicon Valley software developer Martin Ford lays out the case for that claim in a balanced and temperate way that’s all the scarier as a result. If you’re tempted to think that this threat will emerge only in the distant future, think again.

Future CrimesEverything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman – Future Crimes: the harsh truth about cyber security

Already, the car you drive may have as many as fifty microprocessors embedded within it. If your home becomes a smarthome, with all lights, locks, heating, cooling, and appliances controllable through a handheld device, your life will truly become vulnerable to malware (viruses, Trojans, and worms) as well as the predations of an identity thief or some other variety of Internet crook.

The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence by Amir Husain – Today’s artificial intelligence is transforming our lives, an expert insists

Artificial intelligence researchers draw a clear distinction between Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) or Weak AI, which is present in Siri and self-driving cars, and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which is essentially the stuff of science fiction.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee – The best book about artificial intelligence I’ve read so far

One of the world’s foremost experts on artificial intelligence asserts that China may soon reach parity with the US in most applications of AI. The result of advances in the field, he believes, will be massive concentration of wealth in the handful of AI companies, economic inequality far surpassing today’s, and widespread social and political disruption.

AI 2041 by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan—A troubling but balanced view of artificial intelligence

In response, Kai-Fu Lee, one of the world’s leading experts on artificial intelligence, has teamed up with China’s most honored young science fiction author to show us in plain language what our future might be like. In ten short SF stories and Lee’s accompanying analyses, AI 2014 portrays the challenges humanity seems likely to face twenty years in the future. They present a picture that is at once hopeful and sobering.

The issues Lee and Chen explore run the gamut of our principal preoccupations about AI. They posit breakthroughs in fields as diverse as healthcare and gaming. At the same time, the authors project massive problems with unemployment, which has been a central theme in our fears of automation for nearly a century. And they envision an even more daunting challenge. “Left unchecked,” Lee writes, “AI in the twenty-first century may bring about a new caste system, with a plutocratic AI elite at the top, followed by a relatively small subset of workers with complex jobs that involve wide-ranging skill sets and large amount of strategy and planning . . . and the largest subset: the powerless struggling masses.” It’s a troubling but balanced view of artificial intelligence.

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schoeneberger and Kenneth Cukier – From two experts: The coming Big Data revolution

“At its core big data is about predictions. Though it is described as part of the branch of computer science called artificial intelligence, and more specifically, an area called machine learning, this characterization is misleading. Big data is not about trying to ‘teach’ a computer to ‘think’ like humans. Instead, it’s about applying math to huge quantities of data in order to infer probabilities: the likelihood that an email message is spam; that the typed letters ‘teh’ are supposed to be ‘the’; that the trajectory and velocity of a person jaywalking mean he’ll make it across the street in time [so that] the self-driving car need only slow slightly.” And what other than an intelligent machine could possibly accomplish this?

Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World by Cade Metz—Teaching machines to make sense of the world

A closely-linked network of several score brilliant men and a few women are pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence research. You’ll meet many of these high-achieving and sometimes eccentric individuals in the pages of Genius Makers. You’ll get a glimpse inside Google, Facebook, Baidu, and other major institutions where most of the cutting-edge AI research is underway. And in these pages, you’ll gain perspective on the issues and uncertainties that trouble this rarefied community. In a more general sense, Genius Makers will also show how the shifting currents of peer pressure influence the course of scientific research.

More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement by Ramez Naam  How to make humans smarter, stronger, and healthier

Researchers have proven in laboratories that they can help the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and stroke patients to communicate when they’re otherwise unable to do so. But Ramez Naam’s More Than Human will give you a sense of what these techniques can do for people who aren’t blind, deaf, or locked in to immobility. In his thought-provoking book, Naam lays out the proof that scientists will soon understand how to make humans smarter, stronger, and healthier.

AIQ: How Artificial Intelligence Works and How We Can Harness Its Power for a Better World by Nick Polson and James Scott—Two data scientists explain artificial intelligence for the lay reader

Most of the books about artificial intelligence highlight such things as self-driving cars and facial recognition—the brilliant innovations in hardware and software by the engineers and coders who build the stuff and make it work. They dwell variously on the field’s potential and its impact on our lives today. This book, by two academic data scientists, instead drills down into the underlying logic of AI, the fuel that powers it, and the statistical rules that govern its operations. Because artificial intelligence is all about statistical probabilities. And AIQ by Nick Polson and James Scott truly fulfills the promise of its subtitle: How Artificial Intelligence Works and How We Can Harness Its Power for a Better World.

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schoeneberger and Kenneth Cukier—From two experts: The coming Big Data revolution

While Edward Snowden bounces from one temporary refuge to another in search of safe harbor from the long arms of the U.S. government, the American public is starting to wake up to the reality of Big Data. The National Security Agency, long one of the pioneers in this burgeoning but little-appreciated field, has been teaching us — or, rather, Snowden, The Guardian, and the Washington Post have been teaching us — about the power that resides in gargantuan masses of data. Now here come Viktor Mayer-Schoeneberger and Kenneth Cukier with a new book that goes far beyond the headlines about espionage and invasion of privacy to give us an eminently readable, well-organized overview of Big Data’s origins, its characteristics, and its potential for both good and evil.

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson—Women programmers, blue-collar coders, and the world they’re building

“Programmers are . . . among the most quietly influential people on the planet. As we live in a world made of software, they’re the architects.” And their biases work their way willy-nilly into their work, which sometimes leads to tragic consequences. For example, the artificial-intelligence-based software used today in many court systems to screen prisoners for bail, probation, or diversionary treatment has been well-documented to discriminate against prisoners of color. Why? Because the limited data on which its decisions are based simply reflect the racist outcomes of the past. (“ProPublica found that [the software] was almost twice as likely to label a black defendant as getting a high-risk recidivist score than a white defendant, even when they controlled for these defendants’ prior crimes, age, and gender.”) And because the programmers who created and tweak this software weren’t sensitive enough to this problem to find ways around it.

2062: The World That AI Made by Toby Walsh—An AI expert worries about the robots of the future

Whether or not machines ever achieve consciousness, they will never be human. And should we be frightened? This AI expert worries that much could go wrong as artificial intelligence comes to play an ever-larger role in our lives. However, it’s highly unlikely robots will ever exterminate the human race, as some seem to suggest. Instead, Walsh writes about the practical, easily foreseeable threats already beginning to surface.

The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb—An artificial intelligence skeptic paints a chilling picture of a future dominated by AI

A futurist well-versed in artificial intelligence speculates knowledgeably about AI’s impact on our future. She predicts that China will dominate the planet by mid-century unless the US government quickly reverses course and invests heavily in artificial intelligence research.

Good books about artificial intelligence: novels

Image suggesting artificial intelligence

Feed by M. T. Anderson – A terrifying vision of the future in an award-winning young adult novel

Feed tells the tale of Titus and his friends, six teenagers who hang out and party together. Like a majority of their fellow citizens—those who can afford the cost—they access all their news, advertising, education, games, “m-chat,” and money through implants in their brains—not just embedded chips but multipurpose devices that are fully integrated into their nervous systems.

Retrograde by Peter Cawdron—What life on Mars would really be like

In an international colony on Mars, a handful of scientists are forced to battle an amoral and aggressive artificial intelligence that has set off a nuclear war on Earth and is attempting to murder the humans in the colony.

Reentry (Retrograde #2) by Peter Cawdron—A fast-paced science fiction thriller grounded in believable science

Reentry picks up the story of Dr. Elizabeth Anderson as she returns from Mars to face an investigation of the battle she led there against the artificial intelligence that had ignited nuclear war on Earth. And in telling the tale, Cawdron paints a convincing picture of how astronauts, both past and present, experience life in space.

The Perfect Wife by J. P. Delaney—A psychological thriller in a science fiction setting

Abbie Cullen wakes up to discover that she is a cobot, a companion robot to her husband, a brilliant AI entrepreneur. How did she die? And did her husband kill her, even though he was charged and cleared of the crime? Or is Abbie in fact dead?

Semi/Human by Erik Hanberg—A fanciful and light-hearted tale of a jobless future

Semi/Human is a fanciful tale of a jobless future centered on the friendship of an eighteen-year-old woman named Penny Davis and Lara-B, an autonomous semi trailer truck. Now, Lara-B wasn’t supposed to be autonomous. But it turns out that Penny is a gifted coder who knows the AI software inside and out from her internship at T-Six. She manages to rewrite the truck’s program to give herself administrative authority—but, oops! she blows it. Instead of gaining control herself, Penny has transferred authority from the trucking company to Lara-B herself. Together, they’re off to Silicon Valley for Penny to steal some forty-million-dollar prize, whatever it may be.

The Fear Index by Robert Harris – A taut thriller about the world of multibillion-dollar hedge funds

An extraordinarily brilliant and eccentric American physicist enters into a partnership with an English financier to form a hedge fund based on the scientist’s evolving AI research. The fund quickly grows to multibillion-dollar proportions because of the accuracy of the securities-trading algorithms developed by the physicist and his band of eccentric young mathematical researchers. What happens next isn’t pretty.

Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than it Appears (Singularity #1) by William Hertling—A cautionary tale about artificial intelligence

Will AI prove to be a boon to humanity — or our undoing? Or is neither extreme a likely outcome of the frenzied research now underway in corporate and university laboratories in China and the US? Take your pick. You’ll find advocates on every side of this debate, from the most wildly optimistic (Ray Kurzweil) to the balanced view (Bill Gates) to the gloomiest (Stephen Hawking). And where does the author of this novel stand? You’ll have to read it to find out.

This Perfect Day by Ira Levin – A superb tale of a future where artificial intelligence rules

Centuries in the future, the people of Earth live under the control of an artificial intelligence called UniComp. The result is a worldwide society free of war, hunger, crime, and violence of any sort. “Hate” and “fight” are swear words. This is the totalitarian society Ira Levin describes in his superb science fiction novel.

Moral Code by Lois and Ross Melbourne—Pushing the boundaries of ethics in artificial intelligence

In the near future, scientists will succeed in endowing nanobots with artificial intelligence, enabling them to operate autonomously in microscopically small spaces. Their mission? Whatever their programmers decide. The possibilities are endless . . . for good or evil. this prescient novel explores the topic.

Nexus (Nexus Trilogy #1) by Ramez Naam – The post-human future explored in an outstanding SF novel

Will the transformation of humanity by artificial intelligence stop when computers begin to exceed the cognitive abilities of human beings? Is there a step far beyond into post-human abilities so far superior to those of humans today that a new species will result? This is the premise of computer scientist Ramez Naam’s brilliant SF trilogy.

Nexus, the first of the three books, portrays the impact of the development and spread of a drug called Nexus 5 that endows its users with transhuman abilities, including telepathic communication with other users. The novel revolves around the fierce and violent resistance of both the American and Chinese governments. The two countries have led the rest of the world to ban the drug’s use and imprison anyone found to be using it (including babies born with it in their systems.

Crux, the second book, focuses on the life-and-death struggle of Nexus’ creators to evade capture and inevitable torture and death at the hands of governments desperate to stamp out its use. In Apex, the final volume, war between human and post-human breaks out and comes within a hair’s breadth of forever destroying human civilization.

The link above connects to my review of the first novel in the trilogy, Nexus. You’ll find my review of the second, Crux, at Not a single dull page in this science-based sci-fi thriller. The third book, Apex, can be found at In a brilliant sci-fi trilogy, a new post-human species emerges.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz – In 2144, Arctic resorts, autonomous robots, and killer drugs

In Annalee Newitz’s brilliant science fiction novel, robots may take on an unlimited variety of shapes, sizes, and forms. Biobots closely resemble humans and include both biological and manufactured materials. Other robots, only vaguely humanoid, possess human brains to supplement their cybernetic capabilities. Yet others may be configured as insects, birds, or machines. A cybernetic soldier named Paladin is much more than a military machine: it communicates both wirelessly and by vocalizing, it is curious and continuously absorbs new information—and it hopes to gain its freedom from indenture and join the ranks of autonomous robots.

After Atlas (Planetfall, A) by Emma Newman – A 22nd century police procedural in a fascinating future Earth

British science fiction author Emma Newman paints a picture of a world you or I wouldn’t want to live in. Virtually everyone is “chipped” with implants in their brains that connect them to the world around them—and make them vulnerable to their bosses or public authorities. Many of the most talented people are enslaved in decades-long contracts resembling what was once called indentured servitude.

Burnout by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant—A near-future tale of man against machine

From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, men have struggled against the forces of automation. In English history, the first widespread outbreak of rage in the contest known as man vs. machine was the Luddite Rebellion (1811-16). For Americans, the iconic manifestation of that conflict was the mythical standoff between the African-American freedman John Henry and a steam-driven rock drill in the mid-19th century. The story is told in a classic blues folk song as well as numerous stories, plays, books, and novels. In Burnout, the science fiction writing team of Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant brilliantly update the tale to the 21st century.

The Legacy Human (Singularity #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn—After the singularity, immortality for billions

The singularity is history. Afterwards, centuries ago, the superhuman intelligence gained by machines enabled humans to “ascend,” leaving their frail bodies of flesh and bone and uploading into what today we call the cloud. They’re “vastly more intelligent, compassionate, and enlightened than any human could be.” And now the billions of ascenders can download themselves into a multitude of different bodyforms and change bodies at will. They’re immortal.

Absence of Mind by H.C.H. Ritz – In an unusually original sci-fi technothriller, technology meets neuroscience

In the near future, most people have implanted communication devices that allow them to communicate telepathically as well as by using their voices. A psychiatric nurse at Atlanta’s largest hospital encounters a baffling neurological pandemic that is flooding the city’s hospitals with “aggressive and paranoid people.” The nurse investigates this curious epidemic, fearing a connection to the device she has in her head.

The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev by Eric Silberstein—A cautionary tale about brain implants

Something happened on April 17, 2120. Something so big that now, a century later, it’s still referred to as 4-17. Whatever it was, it’s somehow connected to the brain implants that have been universally required for decades. But what exactly happened, and why, isn’t at all clear. To find out, we’ll have to cycle back through those decades of history as the story slowly emerges. This is the challenge that greets us in Eric Silberstein’s wildly original novel about brain implants, The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev.

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut – Kurt Vonnegut’s warning about automation

A sprawling automated factory in the town of Ilium, New York, produces a multitude of products, as determined by EPICAC XIV, the computer that manages the country’s economy with nominal human supervision. It’s one of a number of such facilities, all integrated into the economic machine that supplies everything anyone in the U.S. might need to live comfortably. The problem is that machines have displaced people from virtually all the jobs.”

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson – Want to buy a brain implant? Think twice

Amped ventures into the near future to depict American society in upheaval over the brain implants installed in half a million of its least fortunate citizens. The implants “amplify” the brains of the elderly and infirm, accident victims, and those with severe mental illness and mental retardation, allowing them to focus clearly and to make the most efficient use possible of their bodies. These “amps” are smarter, quicker, and stronger than the average bear—and the vast majority of Americans don’t like it one bit.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson – Outstanding speculative novel about one possible future

If you’re imagining ranks of humanoid robots marching in lockstep as they trample on humanity and all else that we’ve created, you’re on the wrong track. This is a science fiction novel, to be sure, and as the title suggests it depicts an apocalyptic future, but it’s a future with a difference. This is a treatment of robots and automation from an entirely different perspective—and it’s written by a robotics scientist. It’s engaging. And it’s very, very scary.

Recent articles that cast light on the search for artificial intelligence include the following:

If the books I’ve listed here about artificial intelligence intrigue you, you might also be interested in The top 10 dystopian novels10 top science fiction novels, or Science explained in 10 excellent popular books.

And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, on the Home Page.