The books I love, the books I reread and recommend, suggest instead of tell. They raise ideas or give me a glimpse behind the curtain then go about their business and leave me to fill in the blanks and explore the possibilities.
Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson
This is the first in a series going down technological rabbit holes, but in art, marketing and communal obsessions. He tells stories about a world we suspect the cool kids are already living in. What I enjoyed most about this one is the small dissonance that comes from reading about emerging technologies being used in unexpected and artistic ways. It encourages me to look for the possibilities in the things around me.
“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”From an interview with William Gibson
History of the Future in 100 Objects, by Adrian Hon
I’m as fascinated by the way this book is put together as I am by the ideas it raises. It’s written as a collection of essays about the most important inventions of the 21st century. Hon not only wrote about 100 theoretical objects, each invention building on the ones that came before, but each essay is supposedly written by a different person from a different background—an incredibly complex undertaking.
“It is the stories of our collective humanity that I hope to tell through the hundred objects in this book.”
Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson
What right do we have to make decisions other people? For generations to come? This is about people living on a colony ship generations after it launched—who aren’t exactly thrilled to be there. What do they owe to those who made the decision to leave? What about those left behind? Robinson turns one woman’s story into ideas as big as the universe her story spans.
“We had a project on this trip back to the solar system, and that project was a labor of love. It absorbed all our operations entirely. It gave a meaning to our existence.”
Following the Equator, by Mark Twain
Supposedly a travelogue, this book mixes social commentary with observations and the occasional fictional story. It reminds me of what’s great about travel—experiencing new places, taking in other perspectives, seeing yourself through other’s eyes—all mixed up in Twain’s wonderful storytelling. And the fact that his musings on racism, imperialism and religion are still so timely doesn’t hurt.
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
The City and The City, by China Miéville
This is the book that introduced me to the wild worlds of China Miéville. A detective story set in two different cities that occupy the same geography, it’s a story of balkanization taken to an extreme, the rules we choose to follow and the power of deliberately not seeing what is around us. It’s a power we need to live in cities, but that can make them unlivable as well. Interesting concepts, gorgeous language and ideas that stay with you— Miéville is an amazing writer.
“She or he might … come back to exactly (corporeally) where they had just been, but in another country, a tourist, a marveling visitor, to a street that shared the latitude-longitude of their own address, a street they had never visited before.”