3 book recommendations for September, 2021
Thanks to all the readers out there who email authors about how much you loved a book. No asks. No caveats. Just sharing what the story meant to you and why.
Y'all are the best.
And now, books I love that you might too:
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is a beautiful, haunting tale about how we strive to understand the worlds in which we find ourselves, and what it means to slip between them. The story is perfectly balanced, masterfully told, and brimming with melancholy and wonder—I adored it.
Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli takes you on a wide-ranging journey through the frontiers of theoretical physics, weaving mind-bending insights into the nature of reality into stories that bring these counterintuitive ideas to life, rendering them surprisingly accessible and compelling. Rovelli will stoke your curiosity and challenge you to ask ever deeper questions.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles follows a young woman building a life for herself in New York City in 1938. Towles is an extraordinarily sensitive observer of the human condition, which his prose illuminates with uncommon clarity. Vicariously experiencing the joy and confusion and pain of the protagonist’s growth will give you a new perspective on your own.
Bonus recommendation: Not one, but two subscribers to this humble newsletter released their debut science-fiction novels this month. J.W. Galliger’s The Terminal Code is a murder mystery set in a future where the world has largely migrated to virtual reality, and Shawn C. Butler’s Run Lab Rat Run is a techno-thriller exploring the implications of genetic engineering. I’m so excited for and inspired by J.W. and Shawn. Honestly, it’s hard to to wrap my head around how many brilliant creative people receive these monthly missives. Kudos, everyone.
In other news:
Over in Future, a16z asked me about unlocking expertise through storytelling: “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.”
When you’re making something, it’s tempting to merely do what’s required, but beauty stems from investing an unreasonable amount of care into your creation, not to perfect it, but to transform it into a gift that will take the right people by surprise and set their hearts aflame. Share on Twitter.
At 6:30PM PT tonight, Hollis Robbins will interview me live for Science Fiction Talk on Clubhouse. Join us.
Line from my work-in-progress: “What would you do if you found yourself in my shoes? Maybe you would feel that ineffable something that your own life can’t seem to muster. Daydream all you want, dear reader, but never forget: the power is inextricable from the terror.”
ICYMI, over in OneZero, I wrote about imagining new institutions for the internet age: “In a world awash in information, the curator is king.”
Novels are printed and bound out-of-body experiences. That’s why great stories are described as “immersive” and “transportive”: they take you beyond yourself. I like to think of book covers as travel posters promising inner territories ripe for exploration. Share on Twitter.
I continue to be astounded by how this article about why business leaders should read more science fiction makes the rounds. It's been translated into numerous languages, reprinted in various venues, cited in outlets like the Economist, and led to talks at places like SXSW. As I was writing it, I never would have guessed it would be shared so widely.
History isn't a guide to the future, though it can be a great guide to human nature. Unprecedented things happen all the time. Perhaps history's most salient lesson is that life will continue to surprise us, so we should be skeptical of confident predictions. Share on Twitter.
From my conversation with Nick Harkaway about writing Gnomon: “Our societies are defined by the technologies that enable them. Humans without tools are not magically pure; they’re just unvaccinated, cold, and wet.”
There's a special quality to summer fog rolling in off the Pacific, streaming through clefts, pooling in hollows, the leading edge feathering away in the chill, steady breeze: a sense of living inside a vast enigma that we rarely glimpse, and even then, indirectly.
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.
"Relentlessly readable. Be warned, if you start, you probably won't stop."
-San Francisco Magazine on Version 1.0
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