Below are the books I have been reading during the fall and winter of 2019. This group has just about everything in it, including historical fiction, science fiction, comedy, and well-researched subjects.
Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash
: If you like science fiction, this novel published in 1992 predicts a dystopian Los Angeles that is no longer a part of the United States. A worldwide economic collapse has left the world divided into various sovereign “burbclaves.” Stephenson imagines an internet that has a virtual reality “Metaverse” and it is between here and reality that our characters divide their time. All of this is a vehicle to get to his real topic of interest, which is his view that languages are essentially codes. The novel is about a hero’s (Hiro Protagonist) attempt to avert a linguistic virus that destroys our independence and creativity. If you like sci-fi, this is a fun read. If you have no interest in what a futuristic technological dystopia looked like over 20 years ago, then this is not for you. In short, Stephenson’s book doesn’t age as well as The Handmaid’s Tale
Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman is in Trouble
: A popular book this past summer, this novel came with solid reviews. A bit too much for me, but if the topic of a marriage unraveling and a mid-life crisis are of interest, then this book might be just the book for you. My rating: there are other books I would read ahead of it.
David Epstein’s Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.
Epstein challenges the notion that specialization is the path to getting ahead, that “grit” is always good, and that the 10,000-hour rule is essential to being successful. Epstein takes us through situation after situation where the generalist, because of the depth and breadth of their background and experiences, achieves more and has the advantage of solving a problem because they see solutions that escaped the “experts”. He cites evidence that most specialists are so narrow in their thinking that they are poor at predicting future events in their field. One reviewer had this to say: “I want to give Range
to any kid who is being forced to take violin lessons—but really wants to learn the drums; to any programmer who secretly dreams of becoming a psychologist; to everyone who wants humans to thrive in an age of robots. Range
is full of surprises and hope, a 21st-century survival guide.”
Robert Macfarlane: Underland, A Deep Time Journey
. Flat out one of the best books that I have read and one that I have found myself recommending again and again for others to read. Macfarlane has a real gift for prose and his adventurist spirit takes the reader underground throughout the globe. If you are claustrophobic, as I am, you will find some of the early passages that take you underground to be a bit troubling as the weight of the earth presses on those exploring it, but the adventure is worth the discomfort. As one reviewer noted, this is a book “of great beauty and deep concerns…a book that offers a new perspective on the human impact on our planet.” I highly recommend this book – and would make a great gift if you are still in need of one.
Erik Larsen: In the Garden of Beasts, Love and Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
. I was first introduced to Larsen when I read his entertaining book, Devil in the White City
, about some events in Chicago that take place during its world’s fair. The time and the place in which it takes place are incredibly interesting. Perhaps Larsen’s interest and over-reliance on primary sources take a bit of the energy out of the prose. If you love history, then I would highly recommend this book to you. If you like an entertaining story that builds on a narrative scope, you may want to pick up something else.
To see past reading suggestions click here