3 book recommendations for January, 2022
Instead of resolutions, I like to celebrate the new year by sending thank you notes to people I’m grateful for, and that includes each and every one of you who directly support this newsletter and the work it documents.
So thanks to the paid subscribers and Book Club members who invest in my writing so I can do more of it. You are contributing to weaving stories, ideas, and thoughtful curation into the fabric of the internet.
And thanks to all of you who pay it forward however you can. So many amazing people helped me get to where I am today. By believing in me, they gave me the faith to believe in myself. So do a favor for a stranger. Share notes with fellow travelers. Lend a helping hand to someone in need. Be generous, especially when you don't have to.
Y’all are the best.
And now, books I love that you might too:
The Salvage Crew by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne follows a ragtag crew of outcasts dispatched to salvage whatever they profitably can from the remains of a colony ship that mysteriously crashed on a remote planet. Narrated by their poetry-composing AI overseer, this story riffs memorably on sci-fi standards, piling on subversive twists and big ideas.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard offers a profound and arresting glimpse inside the mind and heart of a master of the craft. Dillard wields language with a precision that reveals the beauty lurking always and everywhere in the world, just waiting for us to notice. She brings the same generous attention to writing about writing.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman weaves the adventures depicted in the beloved movie, the narrator’s tale-within-a-tale, how the film was made, and how the book itself was published into a singular nesting-doll narrative that seamlessly blends fact with fiction and will challenge you to reimagine how different forms of media can come together to bring a story to life.
Bonus recommendation: More refinement cycles is what distinguishes Pixar's story development process. Here's a wonderful breakdown of how they developed the story for Toy Story 3.
Things worth sharing:
I interviewed Monica Byrne about writing The Actual Star, an epic tale of self-discovery that spans millennia and questions the very meaning of civilization. We discussed her creative process, big ideas, and the power of speculative fiction: "Imaginative fiction—mythic, speculative, genre, fantastical, or science fiction, whatever you want to call it—is the prism through which we aim the white light of our current 'reality' and see the full array of colorful possibilities projected on the wall."
Line from my work-in-progress: "People seeking the meaning of life got it backward. You didn’t ask life for an answer. Life asked you."
New blog post: What Writers Do.
The Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative interviewed me about Veil. Most interviewers ask about my bio and creative process, which is fun! But it was a special treat talk to folks who spend all day working on the question Veil extrapolates: how will geoengineering shape our climate future?
This made me smile.
Play is underrated. My best work is the result of spending an inordinate amount of time messing around with ideas—iteratively tinkering and remixing in a fun, low-stakes way until something unexpectedly starts to generate its own momentum. Share on Twitter.
More than 129,864,880 books have been published since humans started publishing books.
Narrative as Crowbar: “The more long-tail blog posts, niche newsletters, and scientific papers I read, the more I realize how desperately we need more stories that bridge important ideas into the larger culture. Humanity has so much profound understanding locked inside expert silos, and narrative is a crowbar that can pry them open for the rest of us.”
To understand an idea, put it into your own words. Share on Twitter.
Upon graduation from 8th grade, my middle school principal gave each student a book of their choice. I chose William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and remain very proud of my 14 year old self.
Surprising correlation: the highest profile people I know are also the most responsive on email.
Cool to see Neal Stephenson mention both Veil and The Ministry for the Future in this interview about Termination Shock. Read all three novels to explore divergent but complementary near-futures shaped by geoengineering.
There's a culture of obsession with note-taking, mind-mapping, memory-enhancement, and other ways of trying to codify and capture every idea you encounter. But forgetting is a superpower. It sifts signal from noise. It liberates you from everything that doesn't really matter. Share on Twitter.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoy my writing and want to support it, invest in my creative process so I can do more of it. Oh, and tell your friends. We all find our next favorite book because someone we trust recommends it. Culture is a collective project in which we all have a stake and a voice.
Eliot Peper is the author of Veil, Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Neon Fever Dream, Cumulus, Exit Strategy, Power Play, and Version 1.0. He publishes a blog, tweets more than he probably should, and lives in Oakland, CA.
“The Analog series from Eliot Peper is simply terrific science fiction from the (very) near future—I loved all three.”
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