Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas Antonopoulos [Book Review]

Yes, this is a Bitcoin article. Yes, I know it’s super hot and perhaps cliché to write a blog post on this, especially at this time. As CNBC put it, $550 billion in cryptocurrency has just been wiped off the market since the record highs last month. Everyone’s talking about it. Everyone (i.e. 25 million people) has/have bought (and probably by now, a lot have sold) Bitcoin. I hear people talking about cryptocurrencies everywhere. The other day, on the bus, I was pleased to hear someone explaining Bitcoin “mining” to his (obviously bored, and uninterested) friend- I was pleased because he actually explained it right! Maybe this guy read Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas Antonopoulous?

I wanted to write up a quick post about this fabulous book. I mentioned it in my post in October, called Bitcoin, What’s the Math?, since it was so great for really helping me learn about what Bitcoin is, what it’s for, and most importantly, what it isn’t. All I want to say is, if you’re really serious about Bitcoin, go and get a copy of this book. I’ll lend you mine. You can probably find the ebook online, at your local library, or from a friend. You can even read it for free as noted in the Github repo, but “convenience costs money.”

This book is really the Bible of Bitcoin, and there are many lessons learned in this book that apply to cryptocurrencies in general. Of course Bitcoin isn’t perfect, but it was the first major cryptocurrency that got things going, so it’s great to start here. Those who are adventurous can try to get a hands on Mastering Ethereum, which, if it’s anything like Mastering Bitcoin, will be another masterpiece by Andreas!

A few main takeaways from the book that stick with me to this day:

1. Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency in general) is meant to be distributed, not centralized. This is an interesting point because cryptocurrency is so hot right now, as is artificial intelligence. With AI, though, the idea is to have a massive amount of centralized data to work with. Cryptocurrency is the opposite. If you keep your coins on an exchange such as Coinbase or Coinsquare (as many of my lovely Canadian friends do), then this pretty much defeats the purpose. Keep your coins off the exchange, ideally in a hardware wallet. Don’t let anyone else control your assets. (Disclaimer: I am guilty of keeping some cryptocurrency on an exchange for way too long. Don’t be lazy like me!)

2. The purpose of mining is not to make new Bitcoin. It’s to verify transactions. As I wrote in my article in October, “Mining allows a decentralized network-wide consensus of the state of the blockchain, which is what makes this technology so special. The issuance of new currency is the incentive.” Good job, past me!

3. Having a Bitcoin (or cryptocurrency wallet) does not mean you hold your Bitcoin in said wallet. It means you have the keys that point to a transaction output on the public ledger (blockchain). You’re saying “Hey, I have the private keys that correspond to this transaction on the blockchain, so I can ‘spend’ this amount.”

The real main takeaway: if you’re serious about Bitcoin and crytopcurrency, read this book!

Rating for Mastering Bitcoin: 5/5. It’s great.

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