In this biography of Stewart Brand, New York Times reporter John Markoff returns to a strain of his seminal work, What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (2005). That book documented the connection between the Bay Area counterculture and the emergent industry that transformed global communication and commerce. Markoff’s new book narrows the focus to one man, but in many ways, it builds on his earlier work and connects its major themes to other notable movements and innovations.

Markoff tells Brand’s story deftly. Born in 1938, Brand grew up comfortably in the upper Midwest. Impatient, quirky, and cerebral, he was known to friends and family as Screwy Stewy. He attended Exeter and Stanford, where he studied biology, and his youthful outlook reflected that time and place. Brand relished the work of Ayn Rand, but his libertarian streak was tempered by the teachings of Paul...

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