Best Artificial Intelligence Books to Read in 2020


The future is here. The year is 2020, a year that science fiction used to point to as a time so far in the future that our lives and technology would be completely different than it was in the 20th century. The world is very different and much more technologically advanced than just a few decades ago. We don’t have flying cars yet or a city on Mars but we are globally connected through the internet and all carry around tiny supercomputers in our pockets. The most futuristic thing about 2020 though might be artificial intelligence (AI).


In 2020, we have apps that know where the traffic is and helps us get around it. We have virtual assistants in our home that answer our questions and we are very close to fully automated, self-driving cars. All this and much more is possible because of AI technology. It is the wave of the future that is here today and it presents endless possibilities. That is why there are so many books on the subject available today.


Like most subjects, there are two basic kinds of books about artificial intelligence, fiction, and nonfiction. On this subject, both are worth reading. This AI technology is one of if not, the most important developments and will have an effect on all of our lives. Reading about AI to understand more about its roots and how it works in modern life is very important.


Here are the best fiction and non-fiction artificial intelligence books to read in 2020.


What We Cover In This Article


Works of fiction about artificial intelligence are great reads. Not only do they tell great stories about what people thought the future would be like, but they also allow you to compare and contrast what people thought AI technology could do versus what it does today. These novels can also suggest what the possibilities of the technology are, both for better or worse. Here are X great works of fiction about artificial intelligence.



1. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov – 1950 

I, Robot

One of the earliest works of fiction published about robotics and AI, I, Robot is a classic novel about the possibility and the possible issues with humans creating artificial intelligence. This book is a collection of short stories about robots that were created by humans but, as their AI developed, they became much more human than ever expected. These are stories of robots that get out of control, that can read humans’ minds, that have a sense of humor, and that secretly control the world.


Although this book was published 70 years ago, many of the themes are still very relevant today. In this book, along with his subsequent books on the subject, Asimov ponders the possible outcomes that could come from creating robots that leaned on their own. While we are not there yet with AI, it is incredibly interesting to consider what humans playing God with technology could ultimately result in.

Buy I, Robot on Amazon here.



2. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke – 1968

2001: A Space Odyssey

We are now almost 2 decades past the fictional future described in this classic book and the equally popular Stanley Kubrick film. In the late 1960s, Clarke and Kubrick created a story of David Bowman and the Discovery One space crew that set out to explore Saturn and beyond. The ship is controlled by the HAL 9000 supercomputer which interacts with the crew and is known simply as “Hal”. As the story unfolds, Hal’s capabilities and purpose become much bigger than the crew can imagine.


It is not hard to make the connection from Hal to Siri and Alexa today. Verbally interacting with a computer seemed like science fiction 50-plus years ago but is commonplace with virtual assistants today. This book is not only a classic but also a very interesting dive into the interaction with the virtual personalities we create and our relationship to the entities that created them.

Buy 2001: A Space Odyssey on Amazon here.



3. Erewhon – Samuel Butler – 1872  


If you are interested in reading about the very first time AI was ever conceived in literature, you have to go back almost 150 years and read Samuel Butler’s Erewhon. Based on Butler’s trips to New Zealand, the book is a satire of Victorian society that describes the fictional country of Erewhon (nowhere spelled backward). What seems at first like a utopia, quickly turns into something else.


Within the book, there is a three-chapter section known as the Book of Machines where Butler theorizes that someday, machines may be able to develop consciousness through evolution. While he wasn’t exactly right, it is amazing to read a book so far ahead of its time. While most readers thought this section was a joke, Butler himself would come out and say that he was not attempting to joke at all, that this was a real possibility based on his understanding of Darwin’s theories.

Buy Erewhon on Amazon here.



4. The Sprawl Trilogy – William Gibson – 1984 – 1988  

The Sprawl Trilogy

This may be cheating a little because The Sprawl Trilogy is actually 3 books, but they are all worth reading if you are interested in AI. William Gibson’s trilogy of Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). These books, and their author, were revolutionary and created things like the concept of the matrix, the term “cyberspace”, and the cyberpunk genre.


These 3 books have won just about every science fiction award out there and are considered classics of the genre. The themes are classic too and all too real in today’s world. The biggest through-line from these books to today is the possibility of corporations using technology to control humankind. While we aren’t quite living in the matrix yet, AI, technology, and social media are creating a world where this seems less and less like science fiction all the time.

Buy The Sprawl Trilogy Boxset on Amazon here.



5. Consider Phelbas – Iain Banks – 1987

Consider Phelbas

Consider Phelbas is the first in the series of 9 Iain Banks novels about The Culture. While many books about AI in the future paint an Ai-based society as a bleak dystopia, Banks’ version of an AI-run future is a utopia where the humans and AI beings work together to live in a great society and fight anyone who tries to disrupt their way of life.


This series about The Culture shows the good side of Ai in a society where all production is automated for the good of society and there is no centralized governmental power structure or corporate control because of this. All planning and administration of the world are done by The Minds, advanced AI that controls the world in a fair and efficient way. It is an interesting look at what Banks calls “space socialism” where AI runs the world better than fallible humans.

Buy Consider Phlebas on Amazon here.



6. Hyperion – Dan Simmons – 1989  


What happens when you take Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and set it in the 29th century? You get one of the best AI-related novels of all time, Hyperion. The first book in a series known as The Hyperion Cantos, this book interweaves six separate storylines into one tale about The Hegemony of Man group and their uneasy alliance with the TechnoCore, a civilization made up of AI beings.


The TechnoCore is a very interesting and influential group of AI beings that helped Simons develop the rich world of The Hyperion Cantos. The way they use humans to increase their processing power offers up an interesting question that we can ask today. That question deals with weather technology is serving us or if we are serving technology?

Buy Hyperion on Amazon here.



7. All Systems Red – Martha Wells – 2017 

All Systems Red

The most recent entry to the list, American author Martha Wells’ science fiction work about AI cyborgs set in the future. This 2018 winner of the Hugo Award is about a cyborg who is able to hack its own controls, gain sentience and change itself from a security guard into a murderous robot that kills humans and calls itself “Murderbot”.


This book tells the tale of corporations who race to produce technology at the lowest cost. In this world, safety is a secondary concern and that is what leads to the creation of Murderbot. While these other books written in the 1900s try and predict a future that we now live in, All Systems Red takes what is happening in AI today and projects what could happen if corporations prioritize cost and profit over safety and responsibility.

Buy All Systems Red on Amazon here.



The non-fiction books on this list will help give you a real understanding of this emerging AI technology. These books discuss a pertinent subject matter related to the technology including how it works, the practical applications are going forward, and the people, companies, and institutions behind the AI revolution.


1. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed – Ray Kurzweil – 2012

How to Create a Mind

Ray Kurzweil is a bestselling author and well known “futurist” whose comprehensive and sometimes controversial approach to the way he sees the future always creates great debate. He has written other books on the subject of machine learning, AI, and the human experience in the future such as, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever and The Age of Spiritual Machines.


In this book, instead of arguing for more human control over machines to avoid possible conflict and unexpected outcomes, Kurzweil argues we should actually be reverse-engineering the human brain to create even more intelligent and independent machines. He looks at how the brain works I regard to emotional and moral intelligence and how infusing that into AI could make the world a much better place. The more human brain-like we can make AI, he suggests, the better we will be able to use AI to solve the world’s problems.

Buy How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed on Amazon here.



2. Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era – James Barrat – 2013

Our Final Invention

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, the Boring Company, and general tech and AI visionary and entrepreneur singled out this book in an Esquire profile as one of the 5 books that every person should read about the future. In this book, James Barrat argues that we are possibly a decade (in 2013) away from AI achieving full, human-level intelligence. Once this happens, he argues, AI could develop a need for survival just like humans and be a threat to humanity as we know it.


As we get close to the decade mark the book was talking about, there are some things that are indeed closer to happening and some things that still could be ways away if they manifest at all. Either way, this is a very interesting and important read that examines whether humans could live with intelligent rival beings. Whether you agree with the premise or not, the book is a worthy read for its profiles of tech industry luminaries, industry watchdogs, and pioneering AI systems.

Buy Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era on Amazon here.



3. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies – Nick Bostrom – 2014


Another book on Musk’s top 5 books about the future, this book was written by Swedish philosopher and University of Oxford professor Nick Bostrom is a classic in the AI non-fiction field. The book ponders the age-old questions about AI raised in many fiction and non-fiction books alike. It asks the two fundamental questions, “what happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence?” and “will artificial agents save or destroy us?”


The book compares how the relationship between gorillas and humans could become similar to the relationship between humans to AI. It argues that as smart as gorillas are, a more intelligent species (humans) came along and now the survival of gorillas depends more on humans than their own kind. As AI develops and possibly becomes even more intelligent than its human creators, could the same fate await us as a species? It is a deep topic about AI that Bostrom digs into masterfully.

Buy Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies  on Amazon here.



4. The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World – Pedro Domingos – 2015

The Master Algorithm

Written by preeminent computer scientist Pedro Domingos, The Master Algorithm looks at the possible mathematical formula of the same name and tells how it could create the most powerful AI technology humankind has dreamed of. Building on the AI already available today like Siri, self-driving cars, and Netflix recommendations, this algorithm could allow technology to take the next step and for AI to solve the world’s previously unsolvable problems.


Domingos relates his own search for the master algorithm and why finding it has become his life’s work. Finding the master algorithm would mean the “automation of discovery, a kind of scientific method on steroids”. It would be the biggest breakthrough in human history and finally allow computers to truly accomplish the things that science fiction authors have dreamed of for years.

Buy The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World  on Amazon here.



5. Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know – Jerry Kaplan – 2016

Artificial Intelligence

This is a great explainer book by a highly-skilled, successful author, Jerry Kaplan. Kaplan is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is most well-known for another book, Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure which won awards and acclaims from such well-regarded publications like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Bloomberg Businessweek. In this book, Kaplan explores the topic of artificial intelligence.


The book lays out the reasons why AI will change the way we work, interact, provide healthcare, wage war, educate people, find a mate, and more. Kaplan argues that what is beginning now will ultimately morph into something that changes society irrevocably as machines grow more powerful and become able to do things we, as their creators, never imagined. From there, Kaplan tries to ask and answer some of the most pertinent questions that will come as a result of AI that deals with societal, moral, and ethical issues.

Buy Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know on Amazon here.



6. Applied Artificial Intelligence: A Handbook For Business Leaders – Mariya Yao, Marlene Jia, and Adelyn Lao – 2017

Applied Artificial Intelligence

One of the most important and influential AI business books ever written, this book has won hosts of awards including CES 2018 Top Technology Book of the Year. The book doesn’t take sides as to whether AI will ultimately take over the world and render humans obsolete, fix all the world’s problems and create a utopia or land (most likely) somewhere in between. The authors’ goal in this book is to go on a deep dive through the corporate buzzword of “AI” and explain how it will affect the role of business leaders.


In the book, instead of getting lost in how the technology works and what the repercussions of it might be, they offer a practical guide to decision making and planning in a world where AI is already an unavoidable reality. They give advice on how to create AI experiments, building teams of AI experts, take advantage of AI opportunities, and do it all in a way that is responsible for your organization and society as a whole.

Buy Applied Artificial Intelligence: A Handbook For Business Leaders on Amazon here.



7. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Business: A No-Nonsense Guide to Data Driven Technologies – Steven Finlay – 2017

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Business

A big issue around understanding and learning more about AI and machine learning is all the technical jargon and hype that goes along with the field. This book by Steven Findlay is great because it cuts through all the noise and explains the how and why of AI without all the confusing, unnecessary extras that often surround the topic. As the title suggests, this truly is a “no-nonsense guide”.


The book is especially good for business people who are interested in the topic. The book explains what is so important about AI and how it is becoming a vital mainstream business tool. It talks about how the technology increases profits, reduces costs, and improves the client experience. It also has a focus for the uninitiated of how to implement the technology in a practical wat and the best way to work with the data scientists who create and run these technologies.

Buy Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Business: A No-Nonsense Guide to Data Driven Technologies on Amazon here.



8. Machine Learning: 4 Books in 1: A Complete Overview for Beginners to Master the Basics of Python Programming and Understand How to Build Artificial Intelligence Through Data Science – Samuel Hack – 2017

Machine Learning: 4 Books in 1

The name is a mouthful and the book itself is incredibly dense. As the title promises, the book is really four books in one and walks the reader through from a beginner with little to no knowledge of AI to someone who can actually create an AI machine by themselves. This is not for the faint of heart and, although it starts with beginners, you need to be into AI, advanced mathematics, and computer programming.


The first book explains all the basics of machine learning and how it creates AI. The second book digs into the foundational mathematics and algorithms of AI and the third book introduces Python, the computer coding language behind machine learning. The fourth and final book shows the reader how to use Python to create AI. At the end, if you make it that far, you will go from someone with a passing knowledge of AO to someone who is able to create AI and machine learning programs.

Buy Machine Learning: 4 Books in 1: A Complete Overview for Beginners to Master the Basics of Python Programming and Understand How to Build Artificial Intelligence Through Data Science on Amazon here.



9. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence – Max Tegmark – 2017 

Life 3.0

This is the third book on this list that Elon Musk recommends as his top 5 books about the future. The author describes in the book how AI will soon dictate nearly everything about human life including things like “crime, war, justice, jobs, society, and our very sense of being human”. When the book came out in 2017, Musk tweeted, “Worth reading Life 3.0 by @Tegmark. AI will be the best or worst thing ever for humanity, so let’s get it right.”


This book covers every important and even controversial conversation about AI and the future. It offers all sorts of viewpoints and deals with so many issues. There are discussions of how we get the best from AI as a technology and how we prevent it from causing harm. It talks about how we prepare our children for an Ai-heavy world and asks if AI will eventually replace humans in many aspects of life. It is an all-encompassing look at the AI debate.

Buy Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence on Amazon here.



10. AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order – Dr. Kai-Fu Lee – 2018 

AI Superpowers

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee was born in China, educated in America, and has worked at some of the biggest and best technology companies in the world including Google, Apple, and Microsoft. In this book, Dr. Lee talks about how the world’s two current superpowers – the U.S. and China – will create a “powerful duopoly” using AI and change the world as we know it.


The book puts forth the theory that AI will not just disrupt and ultimately take away blue-collar jobs like many predict, but that it will eventually take over white-collar jobs as well. When this unforeseen trend comes to fruition, Dr. Lee says, millions of people who lose their jobs will have to find new ways to live. This will also create an even bigger divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” which the governments of these superpowers will have to deal with.

Buy AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order on Amazon here.



11. Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI – Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson – 2018

Human + Machine

The premise of this book by authors Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson is that the future is here now. AI is no longer a futuristic concept but an invaluable workplace tool. The companies that accept and embrace this can harness the power of Ai to grow incredibly fast and reach lofty heights. The companies that do not will be left behind in this new, AI-dominate world.


The book acts as a “management playbook” for the new AI world and is based on the research of over 1,500 different organizations. The authors show how humans and AI technologies collaborating creates better workflow processes, personal productivity, and enhances the overall customer experience. It is an extremely detailed and well-researched book that leaders can use to help push their organizations into the 21st century and beyond.

Buy Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI on Amazon here.



12. The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect – Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie – 2018

The Book of Why

This book takes the old scientific saying, “correlation is not causation” and turns it on its head. Judea Pearl, a world-renowned computer scientist who has won the prestigious Turning Award explains how understanding causality has changed the way science looks at problems and has become the key to understanding and developing AI. Pearl posits that the scientific understanding of cause and effect has had a revolutionary effect on how we view technology.


The overall idea of this book is that cause and effect – and the scientific study of it – is the key to understanding human thought. Once scientists have a better understanding of human thought, they will be better able to create machines in which their Ai processes better replicate human thought and maybe even someday surpasses it. It takes the big data that AI creators rely on and conceptualizes it in a more humanistic way.

Buy The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect on Amazon here.



13. The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity – Amy Webb – 2019

The Big Nine

The Big Nine focuses on how little we truly know and understand about how the Big 9 tech companies that control modern AI technologies (Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Baidu Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Tencent) are using, and possibly exploiting the data we provide through our AI devices every day for free and for their financial gain.


The author, Amy Webb, argues that not only are these companies exploiting the public with the technology, but they are also creating machines that will soon begin to behave in ways that their creators never predicted or foresaw. Webb shares her plan for humans to work together and chart a new course where technology is used differently than in its current ways where the possibility of abuse for corporate profits and algorithm-based decision making is immense.

Buy The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity on Amazon here.



14. Data Science Job: How to Become a Data Scientist – Przemek Chojecki – 2020

Data Science Job

AI is the biggest thing in the world of technology in business so, as we enter the new decade where AI will be front and center, it stands to reason that the people who create and manage AI will be one of the biggest jobs of the 2020s and beyond. Data scientists will be at the forefront of this technology and will often be able to write their own ticket professionally as their profession becomes more and more in demand.


This book guides people through the process of becoming a data scientist. The author, Przemek Chojecki, draws on his experience of working as a project manager for several different companies over the course of his career as well as being a data science consultant, and a Chief Technology Officer. He has seen and been a part of the building of many data science teams and can relate the most important things to gain necessary skills, show during a job interview, and ultimately help land your first job as a data scientist.

Buy Data Science Job: How to Become a Data Scientist  on Amazon here.