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Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  4,808 ratings  ·  448 reviews
A New York Times technology and business reporter charts the dramatic rise of Bitcoin and the fascinating personalities who are striving to create a new global money for the Internet age.

Digital Gold is New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper’s brilliant and engrossing history of Bitcoin, the landmark digital money and financial technology that has spawned a global social
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Harper
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Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, technology
Hacking the Central Banks

If there is only time to read one book about Bitcoin, this should be the one.

Bitcoin is not just a practical technology, it is also a philosophy and an economic ideology. Popper gives a reasonable nod to all three (Arguably it is the last which has proven essential in its initial successes but which has now run out of steam). But like all philosophies it has a problem.

As a self contained system Bitcoin is a masterwork of self-verifying logic. This logic is an ingenious
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Popper delivers a whirlwind tour of almost all dramatis personae in the rise of Bitcoin over the past 5 years. He seems to have gotten access to and interviewed everyone, from the early coders to especially all the late-entering business and entrepreneur types and the incestuous Silicon Valley VC community. (He didn't get access to Ulbricht, for obvious reasons - even the NYT name can't open all doors - but the evidence filings make up for it.) Even I, someone who's watched the space in detail f ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, technology
Hacking the Central Banks

If there is only time to read one book about Bitcoin, this should be the one.

Bitcoin is not just a practical technology, it is also a philosophy and an economic ideology. Popper gives a reasonable nod to all three (Arguably it is the last which has proven essential in its initial successes but which has now run out of steam). But like all philosophies it has a problem.

As a self contained system Bitcoin is a masterwork of self-verifying logic. This logic is an ingenious
TS Chan
I picked up this book after seeking recommendations on what to read to gain a better understanding of bitcoin and how it works. I didn't expect it to be a blow-by-blow account and history on the invention of bitcoin by the still mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto and the numerous personalities (and quite a few oddballs amongst them) behind the success story of cryptocurrency. To be fair, even though the book did not meet my expectations of what I am looking for, this is a very thorough and well-researc ...more
Mal Warwick
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
If you’ve ever thought much about money, you may have wondered what gives it its value, especially if you’re aware that Richard Nixon took the dollar off the Gold Standard more than forty years ago. And if you’re at all involved in the world of finance and investment, you know perfectly well that very little money is tangible in any way: it’s almost all electrons, whizzing around the Internet at unspeakable speeds — and the ways in which we store and transfer money (bank accounts, credit and deb ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
When innovation proves disruptive, money follows. This book is revealing how capital shapes the recognition of digital currency. Definitely a good read!
"Digital Gold" by Nathaniel Popper is a excellent introduction to the development of Bitcoin and digital currencies up to the year 2015. And it is a fun story to read with a number of interesting people. This book would make a great movie!

I recommend this book to anyone who would like a good introduction to Bitcoin.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Narrated by: Robert Fass
Length: 10 hours and 49 minutes 
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date: 2015-05-19
Publisher: HarperAudio
Katie/Doing Dewey
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you’re like me before reading this book, you’ve heard of the digital money called Bitcoin only when it’s gotten negative press. Honestly, after hearing about many people losing the money they’d invested in Bitcoins, I thought this experiment was dead. I was still fascinated to learn about it though and especially about the people behind Bitcoin. As the subtitle indicates, this group included a wide variety of people, from millionaires to social revolutionaries, from hackers to drug dealers. L ...more
Maru Kun
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great book for understanding the history of bitcoin, technical aspects and the history of its development.

It helps one appreciate why the currency is so popular in countries with experience of populist politicians undermining the stability of a country's currency with their insane political or economic ideas, such as Argentina, Ukraine and the UK (from March 2019).

However, as far as I recall, even this book didn't talk too much about what might well be an important limiting factor - electricit
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was worried that the book would already be outdated, but it was just an origin story and a stellar one at that. However, I would really love an update given the insanity that is the bitcoin and ICO market today. A lot of the book was coverage of silk road stuff, which I had already read in Kingpin (an excellent read) and I have been following the industry for years so I knew about most of the major events. However, Popper was so even-handed about the potential and shortfalls of bitcoin and blo ...more
Austin Larson
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Interesting piece of contemporary history tracing the development of Bitcoin. Engagingly written with detailed biographical information on important figures that have impacted Bitcoin in the past six years. Tells the story of the libertarian idealogues that created Bitcoin and then how it has developed wider acceptance but has simultaneously lost some of its allure to the libertarian movement as the financial system and the government have begun to force it to adapt to their precepts.
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating walkthrough of Bitcoin and Bitcoin-related startups. He manages to capture the doe-eyed optimism of the ideologically-motivated players, the sleaze of the criminal elements that popularized many of its applications, and the pragmatism of businesses as they integrate it into common tasks and explore some of the more advanced features.

It may not be entirely obvious yet, but virtual currencies are changing the world and have a lot of gas left in the tank.
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Digital Gold does two things very well - it explains how Bitcoin works and it does so in entertaining fashion. I particularly liked the technical appendix the author referenced throughout the book.

Popper begins with the earlier iterations of digital currency and takes us through the origins of Bitcoin. The Bitcoin pioneers were tech savvy idealists and interesting characters. Things get a little less interesting when the who's who of Silicon Valley elbow their way into the Bitcoin arena when it
May 09, 2015 added it
I usually don't put books I read for work on my Goodreads page (and for that reason, I don't feel comfortable rating this), but in this case, I would have read the book anyway, plus I just wanted to post this review for my freshman year college friends who are also Goodreads friends. A prominent character in the book is Bobby Lee, who, because of his role in Bitcoin in China may someday eclipse Marissa Mayer as the most successful/famous member of our class. He has my favorite quote in the book: ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Extremely entertaining history of the digital currency Bitcoin. The author does an exceptional job of showing the motivations and history of the people involved in Bitcoin's creation and attempts to make it mainstream.
The technological aspects of the currency (commodity?) were not as easy to understand from the book and I had to research the specifics on my own to feel like I had a grasp of the basics.
All the same, the subject matter alone is worthy of 5 stars. Highly recommended.
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful primer on bitcoin. The explanation of the mechanics of the cryptocurrency was relatively brief; in fact, I’d recommend that you seek other resources for the bitcoin technical.
Instead, it was a chronical survey of bitcoin’s early development between 2010 and 2014. It told the stories concerning the major players during the period, including the inventor Satoshi Nakamoto whose identity has never been confirmed, online drug dealer Ross Ulbricht and the founder of a bitcoin exch
Brendan Monroe
Dec 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Bitcoin has been in the news a lot recently. As someone who likes to keep up on current events but didn't have a firm grasp on what Bitcoin actually was, I picked up Popper's book to get something of a primer on this cryptocurrency. The end result left me with mixed feelings.

This is an easily digestible book, written more like a novel with its cast of many characters. As such it's not the most informative book on Bitcoin itself, more an occasionally intriguing look at the people involved with it
Manoj M J
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly engrossing account of the worlds most famous cryptocurrency - Bitcoin.
By all means, a great book - starts right from how bitcoin came into being and goes through both the professional and personal lives of people associated the bitcoin community who helped bitcoin grow in value (and in some cases, crash).
Popper's writing is top notch and a joy to read. He writes about the technological intricacies of bitcoin in such spectacular fashion. I particularly liked the parts about the (in)fa
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Much of this book reads like a cheap celebrity magazine, concentrating on irrelevant details of the private lives of the people who 'made' Bitcoin. It makes up some ground later; at its best succeeding in narrating the story of the development of a new technology through its initial incubation of an idea amongst a group of mathematicians and passionate, naive ideologues and its later appropriate by big business and government.

Indubitably, Bitcoin will play an important role in the near future.
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book reminded me a lot of Hatching Twitter, which I loved. What a story! Mystery, murder, intrigue, and cooperation v Machiavellian strategy as each person associated with Bitcoin did their part to try to create a new global currency. What more could you want?

It is always the case that when new innovations come about, some people with less than good intentions will exploit the innovations to their advantage. I guess the trick is figuring out how to minimize that risk. I am sure we will figu
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this in hopes of better understanding bitcoin and blockchain, but this is not a Bitcoin For Dummies. It relays the relatively brief but colorful history of this technology and its misfit founders and fanatics. I have a better sense of the benefits, applications, and limitations of bitcoin now, but I was left wanting more technical detail. I thoroughly enjoyed the drama of these radical libertarian nerds' attempts to buck the System, replete with black market drug sales, murders-for-hire, ...more
Jacob McLaws
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you're at all interested in Bitcoin, this is a great place to start. Popper writes well and has gotten his hands on a lot of personal details which combined make for several compelling narratives that make up the yarn of how Bitcoin has gotten to where it is today. From mysterious Satoshi to the Silk Road's Dread Pirate Roberts this book on he history of a recently developed cryptocurrency is surprisingly enough a page turner.
Matt Heavner
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
An interesting look at a very interesting topic. For me, it was too much of a story of the various people (and too many people!) rather than a look at technology and policy. Still fun, but a quick, "celebrity" (of bitcoin) view.
Marsha Altman
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bitcoin
This is definitely the best - most readable and most comprehensive - book on the people behind the early stages of bitcoin, from Satoshi to Charlie Lee. It covers Mt. Gox, the bust of Silk Road, and everything up to 2014.
Sonya Dutta Choudhury
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first heard of Bitcoin, four years after Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious inventor founded the concept in 2008. This was when a 2012 episode of the CBS thriller 'The Good Wife' starred the cryptocurrency . Another episode , in 2014, followed Bitcoin's use in the underground internet market called Silk Road. In the years that have followed, Bitcoin has become the stuff of newspaper headlines and columns, with speculators, public prosecutors, regulators and biggies like J P Morgan's Jamie Dimon ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It seemed surreal that we had only Bitcoin with us for 10 years. But then Facebook had only been around for 15 years as well. Popper detailed the story of the invention of the first cryptocurrency called Bitcoin in a very readable manner.

There had always been libertarians and Cypherpunks who think the current form of money as controlled by governments is not right. A distributed technology of money that works independent of a central authority is the holy grail for them. That, plus the ability
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
Nathaniel Popper's Digital Gold narrates the evolution of Bitcoin and Nathaniel has interviewed all the major players from Bitcoin-Core Developers, Libertarians to Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist who helped BTC to gain popularity since its inception in 2009.

Fortunately for me, I was reading Master Bitcoin by Andrew Antonopoulos in parallel and it helped to gain a basic understanding on BTC concepts like Blockchain, proof of work, 51 percent attack, BTC Mining.

The Story takes off soon after Sa
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
[Note: most of this review is not directly related to the book. The book is good, and is mostly an impartial history of Bitcoin. This would be a great starting place for someone who doesn't know much about the subject. If you've been investing and researching for awhile, you've probably come across a lot of the history that this book talks about, but it is still very worth reading. My thoughts below are basically a stream of my consciousness about the whole crypto world. They have been significa ...more
Mia Bernad
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book over many cups of tea that eventually turned cold before I remembered to take another sip. Digital Gold is an incredibly well-organized timeline of events on Bitcoin's founding fathers and their pseudonymous friends. The story involves a complicated network of people made up of mostly libertarian males. Expect to read about 30 different names in the book, remember 5 of them, but come out with an understanding of how Bitcoin came to be the controversial currency, er, commodity it ...more
Dana Bagshaw
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
My son gave me this book for Christmas, and I gobbled it up. The first chapters on Bitcoin's innovative concept, implemented by an anonymous genius hooked me. The author explained the technology in a way I could understand, and the story unfolded like a mystery. I loved reading about the early believers and practitioners. I rejoiced in its triumphs, and agonized when it turned dark and nasty, and relieved with its recovery. When the millionaires stepped in I got a little weary of all the numbers ...more
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“Wences had first learned about Bitcoin in late 2011 from a friend back in Argentina who thought it might give Wences a quicker and cheaper way to send money back home. Wences’s background in financial technology gave him a natural appreciation for the concept. After quietly watching and playing with it for some time, Wences gave $100,000 of his own money to two high-level hackers he knew in eastern Europe and asked them to do their best to hack the Bitcoin protocol. He was especially curious about whether they could counterfeit Bitcoins or spend the coins held in other people’s wallets—the most damaging possible flaw. At the end of the summer, the hackers asked Wences for more time and money. Wences ended up giving them $150,000 more, sent in Bitcoins. In October they concluded that the basic Bitcoin protocol was unbreakable, even if some of the big companies holding Bitcoins were not. By” 1 likes
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