Which books on ciphers / codes are good for beginners?

Like a good geek girl, I’ve been surfing Wikipedia for hours on end lately, and I’ve really enjoyed reading about various codes and ciphers and puzzles–the substitution cipher, the Vigenere cipher, things like the Voynich manuscript.

Are there any really good books on this kind of thing, with more information, for beginners like myself?

The classic text is Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier. It starts off with very simple ciphers and builds upon that to discuss the more advanced stuff, including public key cryptography, digital signatures, trust systems, etc. If you’re interested in the programming aspect, that book also has lots of code.

The Code Book by Simon Singh is a great book and steps through the development of codes, ciphers, and code-breaking over several centuries.

It sounds like it covers much of the same material you mention reading about already, so it may be somewhat redundant for you, but it is a great book.

I`second this recommendation. It’s not a textbook like Applied Cryptography, but Singh’s book is the best book on this topic for the interested layman that I’ve ever read.