Applied Cryptography by Schneier
For anyone who wants to study cryptography, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by getting Schneier’s book. From the simple Caesar cipher to RSA and beyond, there is nothing the book doesn’t at least touch on. Protocols, techniques, algorithms, and even source code are included. A “Real World” section looks both at specific implementations and at the politics of encryption.
Schneier notes that his work is *not* a mathematical text. It is difficult to say how much of a shortcoming this is for any given reader, but a safe bet is “not much”. For those who do need more rigorous treatments of specific topics, the bibliography lists almost a thousand references, all of which are described and cited within the book text at some point.
He also states that the encyclopedic nature of the book detracts from its readability. Not so. The work is both encyclopedic *and* readable. Schneier has done marvelously well with what is normally a dead and dry topic. His examples are ludicrously absurd–and therefore lucid and memorable. (He even uses Monty Python’s immortal phrase, “My hovercraft is full of eels” in one illustration.)
As course text, research basis or just a (serious) hobbyist’s reference, this work is highly recommended.