3 book recommendations for July, 2021
Every once in a while I see a random spike in book sales and send silent thanks to whoever recommended one of my novels on some podcast, newsletter, or subreddit.
Stories run on word-of-mouth. Authors may write books, but their success depends on readers, and you are the best readers any writer could hope for.
And now, books I love that you might too:
The Price You Pay by Aidan Truhen takes you on a breakneck ride through a criminal underworld populated by assassins, drug runners, money launderers, and other denizens of the dark net. Smart. Exciting. Subversive. Hilarious. Philosophical. Every sentence demands you read the next one. I haven’t had so much fun reading a thriller in a long time.
Working in Public by Nadia Eghbal is an illuminating field guide to open-source software: why it matters, who builds and maintains it, how it’s changing, and what underlying forces are shaping its future. In addition to sharing the story of a tight-knit community of developers on which so much of our digital infrastructure depends, Eghbal distills insights that apply to writers, artists, podcasters, streamers, and anyone else making things on the internet.
The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons is a science-fiction epic of astounding scope and surprising depth that follows the collapse of a galactic civilization through the interlocking stories of a diverse cast whose choices will determine what comes next. Brimming with ideas about humanity’s evolving relationship with machines and itself, Simmons’ prose channels a tremendous amount of energy at any scale, from the concrete to the abstract.
Bonus recommendation: This interview with David Deutsch on the limitless potential of human knowledge is the most thought-provoking podcast episode I've listened to in years. Highly recommended.
In other news:
I just embarked on the rough draft of a new novel.
If you want to generate more, better ideas, read more books, and read more widely—you’ll collect dots that your mind can’t help but connect. Share on Twitter.
Loosen the straps: “When water leaks into your SCUBA mask, beginners tighten the straps. But this warps the seal, letting in more water. Experienced divers loosen the straps because they know that the ocean provides all the pressure you need and the straps are just there to keep the mask in place.”
Oliver Morton offered this advice to aspiring science journalists in our conversation about writing The Moon: "You are not a window between the reader and the source; you are drawing a picture of the source for the reader, and it is your picture."
Never turn down an opportunity to work with someone you deeply admire. The intrinsic joy and inspiration you'll glean from the experience far outweighs whatever opportunity cost you're trying to hedge.
Seth Godin gave the Analog series a shout-out on Louis Grenier’s podcast.
Speaking of, the “feed” in the Analog novels emerged from imagining what it might be like if the ways in which my friends and I used the internet became ubiquitous. The trilogy's fictional future wasn’t the product of prediction, but of generalizing specific observations of the present.
I’m far less concerned about the dangers of artificial intelligence than the dangers of human shortsightedness. In fact, the scariest thing about the former is it being commandeered by the latter. From Bandwidth: “In an age of acceleration, contemplation is power.”
The more 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. Share on Twitter.
Really enjoyed doing this interview with Rick Liebling for the Adjacent Possible: “When I was a kid, I’d hide in bookstore and library stacks so my parents couldn’t find me to take me home. Every shelf, every spine was a portal into a new world full of promise and adventure. Sometimes I knew exactly what I wanted. Sometimes I was paralyzed by the abundance of uncharted territories waiting to be explored.”
The more complex the world becomes, the less useful thinking is. Your finite mental map shrinks relative to the expanding territory. On the other hand, experimentation, close observation, and fast error correction become increasingly useful. Don't plan ahead, play ahead. Share on Twitter.
If you enjoy this newsletter and want to support it, become a paid subscriber and tell your friends. Every month, I recommend books, both fiction and nonfiction, that crackle and fizz with big ideas, keep us turning pages deep into the night, challenge our assumptions, help us find meaning in a changing world, and make us think, feel, and grow. In an age of digital abundance, quality is the new scarcity. The right book at the right time can change your life.
When I'm not reading books, I'm writing them. If you savor the promise and peril of new worlds opening up, if you prefer hard questions to easy answers, if you seek adventures that will transport you and leave you changed, then you're the kind of person I write for. You can find my novels right here. Bon voyage, fellow traveler.
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.
“Science fiction at its best, a work that treads the fine line between imagination and reality. Come for the sexy geopolitics; stay for the character work and important themes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go read this dude’s entire library.”
-Peter Corrigan on Bandwidth
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