I realize I write a lot of stuff criticizing what technology does to culture. Here’s something it’s actually awesome at: books.
Occasionally I’ll post asking for book suggestions, or look up authors I like and see what they recommend. Kindle samples are free and have such a low barrier to entry, so there’s no reason not to download a sample of every suggestion you ever hear just to read a chapter and see if you like it.
I read more. I read books I may not have discovered otherwise.
Here’s a short list of recommendations that might be worth your time. All are fiction. If you have the mental energy for big ponderous monstrosities on the weekend, you do you. Most of these are wildly addictive and fly right by.
Binge-reading is a thing, right?
A Dirty Job
Christopher Moore is a serious comedy writer. A Dirty Job one involves a dude who, by accident, of course, gets a new job as the Grim Reaper collecting the souls of the departed and sending them to wherever they need to go. Read all his stuff, and ask questions later.
Mule is a lightning fast saga about a family who finds a way to survive the great recession by selling drugs, until the situation escalates wildly out of control.
The Hike 🦀
Drew Magarie’s bizarre, fantastical horror beach read is a modern fairy tail wrapped in the kind of horror novel you read shaking with the lights on. The Hike stalks Ben, a emphatically ordinary family man as his short walk in the woods is interrupted by a killer in a rottweiler mask. He escapes down The Path but finds himself lost in a surreal world populated by talking crabs and demons manifested from his childhood imagination.
There’s no escape from The Path, for Ben or the reader. I kept stopping to ask “why?” Where was this going? What was the point?
There’s an answer to that question. And it still rattles me a year later.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Mr. Penumbra is a happy little book about words, typography, technology, and secret societies. Robin Sloan has a talent for telling compelling stories that don’t take themselves to seriously, and at the same time making us care about a font.
I’m bored of science fiction. I gave up on the Hunger Games because I’d read the same story many times before. The bar is high. Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is wildfire that doesn’t follow rules. It grabs you by the throat and pulls you into a riveting, immersive odyssey through all that might have been, and all you might have been.
If you like this, you might also like All Our Wrong Todays, which has similar themes about who you might be given other circumstances, but is quirky and funny instead of absolutely terrifying.
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is about a dude named Ron Currie drinking and getting into trouble on an island while avoiding the woman who long ago rejected him. The author, also Ron Currie, never actually did all this. Or did he? Does it matter either way?
The book is a grand experiment in the meaning of literal versus deeper truth. It’s a book for our time, as much much of Currie’s work is.
Suppose there’s a secret society that studies persuasion, and their understanding of it is so good it borders on mind control. Max Barry’s Lexicon dives into a conspiracy of psychological trickery and bare words. It’s fun.
I’ll finish the list with a Stephen King novel. He went back to ask “what happened to Danny after The Shining” and goes from there, a generation later. King’s modern day writing is drastically different than it was in The Shining or Salem’s Lot. The monsters that go bump in the night were always a vehicle to explore characters, but now now than ever. Doctor Sleep, by revisiting a man who’s been haunted for a long time, is once again a book about a family, just not the one we were expecting.
And of course, if you have something that kept you up at night and would like to share, email me. I’m always looking for suggestions.