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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Like To Read? 647

badeMan writes "I will be traveling a third of the way around the world this Christmas, and that means a lot of time on a plane. I have decided I am not going to do any coding or technical reading during the flight. Outside the realm of technology and all things related to work, what do you find interesting to read? What books, genres, and authors do you enjoy?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Like To Read?

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  • I enjoy Science Fiction and Alternate history. Or a combination of both. I tried to get into Reamde, But it just was either too long or tried to explain too much to the reader.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:13PM (#38443856)

      Definitely Science Fiction. Peter F. Hamilton's "Nights Dawn" Trilogy, Pandoras Star & sequel Judas Unchained. I also like Alastair Reynolds. Right now I'm reading "Century Rain" by him.

      • by agm ( 467017 )

        Pandora's Star and the books that follow (including the "Void" books) are in my opinion the most enjoyable Sci-Fi books I have read. That title used to be held by the Homecoming series by Orson Scott Card.

    • by SadButTrue ( 848439 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:27AM (#38444436) Homepage

      It isn't just you. Neal Stephenson has gotten VERY long winded. His early works were much better, and very good, in my opinion.

      I also really liked Stephen R. Donaldson's "Gap Series". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_R._Donaldson#The_Gap_Cycle [wikipedia.org]
      Also a bit long winded but I enjoyed them a great deal.

    • by tixxit ( 1107127 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @01:40AM (#38444866)

      I'd highly recommend Peter Watts. Blindsight is a good start, as it is self contained. The Rifters' Trilogy is fantastic, but then you are committing to 3 books.

      I also recently read a short story, Wool, by Hugh Howey that I thought was fantastic. Sometimes I just feel like short and sweet, and it delivered.

      I've also been reading a bunch of non-fiction lately. So, some non-technical books recently that I liked:

      • Paranormality (Richard Wiseman): it goes over the actual scientific reasons for many common paranormal experiences (near death experiences, mind reading, ghosts, telekinesis, etc.).
      • Ghost in the Wires (Kevin Mitnick): This is Kevin Mitnick's autobiography and it is actually quite a nail biter. I stayed up late finishing this book in 1 day, as I couldn't put it down.
      • The Design of Everyday Things (Donald Norman): Just a fantastic book about the design of everyday things. You'll never look at a door the same way again!
  • Mmmmmm... Porn... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:10PM (#38443834)

    I like to read Science Fiction Erotica. Some call it porn. Porn meets Steampunk.

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:11PM (#38443836) Homepage Journal

    Two books I am reading right now (in a homeopathic doses):

    1. Tafsir ibn Kathir - exegesis of Holy Qur'an
    2. History of Western Philosophy by Russell

    Chapter on romantics is hilarious.

  • by pinkj ( 521155 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:11PM (#38443838)
    I've been reading a bunch of Philip K Dick on the iPad through Kindle.
    • Was pleased to see his contribution to The Adjustment Bureau. Could have been a better movie - and I expect that some of the concepts would have been better explored in a book.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 )

      PKD has been in every movie everywhere. Perhaps that was an exaggeration, but read him. If you don't, I will find you and kick you in the balls. Not because I get a royalty check, or because I think you have balls, but because I read my roommate's PKD collection. And it is awesome. The movies he inspired are incredible.

      I will KHITBASH if needed. But please read PKD. One book from the public library should convince you to buy everything, ever. If not, the library got another rental, BFD.

  • haruki murakami (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:11PM (#38443842)

    Wind up bird chronicles (and any other of his books)

  • Neal Stephenson (Score:5, Informative)

    by xpwlq ( 2222992 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:13PM (#38443854)
    Neal Stephenson is a great author for Slashdot readers. Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash are great titles to start with.
    • by sci-ku ( 2526824 )
      Agree. Cryptonomicon is my favorite novel. I recently finished The Baroque Cycle, which is more than this trip might allow for, but Stephenson is always gold.

      Non-nerd favorite is Shogun. Amazing.

      And, I highly recommend the Kindle. More/longer books makes no impact and the battery lasts literally for weeks.

      Happy travels.
      • ...except for the sex scenes. I'm concerned some prepubescent person might read Stephenson tryst scene and opt to be neutered to completely avoid any possibility of sexual congress later in life.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by WetSpot ( 874382 )
      Agree -- If you've ALOT of reading time I'd suggest his Baroque Cycle. If not, as a slashdotter I'm confident you'd enjoy Anathem, too. You can't go wrong with a Stephenson
      • by rwv ( 1636355 )

        as a slashdotter I'm confident you'd enjoy Anathem

        This is the only Stephenson I've read. The ideas in the story are good, but he spent way too much time developing the plot. Plus, any story which makes a statement in the authors note that "This is another world and apple doesn't really mean apple" shouldn't then go invent stupid idiotic terms for man, woman, and cell phone. As a 400 page book, Anathem would have been great. At 900 pages it's too dry and overly-complicated for my tastes.

  • 1.) philosophy. currently reading "existentialism: from dostoevsky to sartre". Very good, if you can commit to it. The Karl Jaspers excerpts really encapsulate my favored view of existentialism.
    2.) Hemingway.
    3.) Isaac Asimov.
    4.) John K. Galbraith

  • 1984 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward


    It's your guide to the future!^Wpresent!^Wpast!

  • Umberto Eco (Score:3, Informative)

    by vaccum pony ( 721932 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:15PM (#38443876)
    The Name of the Rose, Baudolino, The Island of the Day Before, Foucault's Pendulum. All good books.
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:16PM (#38443878) Journal
    While flying, I find it most enjoyable to practice my jive and maybe read something light, like a leaflet on Famous Jewish Sports Legends,. . . I also like to read books and watch movies about gladiators.
  • Jim Butcher (Score:5, Informative)

    by phrostie ( 121428 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:18PM (#38443900)

    either Dresden Files or Codex Alera

    • Re:Jim Butcher (Score:4, Informative)

      by Coldeagle ( 624205 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:31PM (#38444008)
      I heartily agree...Come to the Dresden Side because:

      a) Harry Dresden has an....adverse affect on technology as he says, "I can take out a Xerox copier at 50 paces"
      b) Harry Dresden follows the tao of Peter Parker
      c) Dresden gets messed up worse than John McClain on his very worse day
      d) Lines like this:

      “Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.” - Harry Dresden


      Murphy: “I've been fighting this computer all day long. I swear, if you blow out my hard drive again, I'm taking it out of your ass.”
      Harry: “Why would your hard drive be in my ass?” -Harry

      So as I said..come to the Dresden side you'll laugh your ass off :)
  • Check out the Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, et.all) and some Heinlein - Stranger in a Strang Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers.

  • Go retro.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by red crab ( 1044734 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:20PM (#38443910)
    If you have a penchant for classics, try short stories from Twain, Saki, English translations of Maupassant and Kafka, HG Wells, O Henry and Oscar Wilde. A short story winds up in typically 15-30 mins and provides good reading satisfaction. And all works from these authors are in public domain, so those can be accessed freely online.
    • Those are good, I'd definitely recommend Mark Twain's autobiography even though it's not yet public domain. Quite readable and really interesting look at the latter half of the 19th century as far as history goes.

  • by kiwimate ( 458274 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:22PM (#38443930) Journal

    I do a lot of traveling for business, and am in the fortunate position of being able to read pretty much anything I like. By that I mean I can read what I enjoy, rather than what someone says I have to read (for school, business development, or what have you).

    I think you will get a lot of votes for classic science fiction, so I won't go there (mainly because I don't read it. Nothing wrong with it, just not my style.)

    My personal favorites:

    Russian classics

    I love Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. "Anna Karenina" is a perpetual favorite of mine. If you want a long read, then go for "War and Peace". It really is riveting, and very easy to get into. "Crime and Punishment" is another favorite of mine, even over "The Idiot".

    Political histories

    By which I mean not only biographies (Thatcher, for instance), but also periods or themes such as "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". That is a classic.


    Okay, this one is probably a very geek-friendly vote, but it is a seriously fantastic book. "The History of the Making of the Atomic Bomb", by Richard Rhodes. If memory serves, he won a Pulitzer for it. Lots of high level physics, lots of sociological and political examinations, just a fabulous read all around.

    "The Forsyte Saga" is also quite engrossing. John Galsworthy, I think, but you'll find it pretty easily.

    For a lighter read, "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister". Not sure how well those translate to someone who didn't grow up in one of the British Empire countries, but I think they're hilarious (although fairly dated by now).

    Quick and easy

    I like the "Agent Pendergast" books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They're quick reads, so don't expect to just pick up one of them and have it sustain you for longer than a few hours. But I do tend to take one of those when I'm traveling and read it depending on my mood - sometimes I just don't feel like reading Dostoevsky.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I love Dostoevsky, Tolstoy,

      Those are serious books meant to be read on an almost daily regular basis, and not an "everytime you step on a plane" basis. My copies of Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov, and War and Peace clock in at 472, 658, 717, and 1393 pages respectively. The latter two have 1 or 2 pages listing all of the characters and brief descriptions to aid in plot juggling.

      For smaller reads, I recommend Tom Wolfe's Hooking up, which meanders from the birth of the semiconductor industry to gay-bashing

  • Math Books (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) <thecosm3@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:23PM (#38443932)
    Total math fanatic here. Run buy a corner bookstore; to hell with amazon and barnes and noble and walden and all those places. Find 'ya a local book re-seller. You can get extremely cool books from all genres, usually have bargain racks with stuff under 25 cents (yes you can really buy stuff for change on a dollar these days).

    I am working through Churchill's Operational Mathematics right now, classic from decades ago, picked it up for under 5 dollars. I swear you can get a masters deg. worth of education from pure bookstores alone if you have the dedication.

    Also if your a fan of the free and don't have any serious moral qualms, just use google to pick up some free pdf e-books. Use queries like "The Complete Calculus site:mediafire.com" and you can hit jackpots of pdfs on the free. :) And pay the publisher if they are still around by purchasing a real copy/licensed copy if the book ends up being worth your time and effort!
  • John McPhee (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WinkyN ( 263806 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:26PM (#38443956) Homepage

    I love John McPhee's work. A long time contributor to The New Yorker, McPhee's writing is so concise it's hard to see how he could make a single sentence more informative. His writings cover a broad range of subjects, including geology, oranges, tennis, nuclear energy, Soviet dissident art, the merchant marine and fishing.

    I strongly recommend reading "Levels of the Game", as it's one of the finest examples of sports writing you will find. McPhee covers the 1968 U.S. Open semifinal between Arthur Ashe and Lynn Graebner, and he uses the tennis match as a biographical frame of each player. It's extraordinary.

    If you like reading about nuclear weapons (i.e., you've read both "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" and "Dark Sun" by Richard Rhodes), then "The Curve of Binding Energy" is a must read. McPhee interviews Ted Taylor, who helped develop smaller versions of nuclear weapons for the U.S., and discusses how hard it would be for a terrorist group to create a nuclear weapon. Even this book was written in the early 1990s, it still has a lot of relevance today.

    My favorite piece by McPhee is "Coming into the Country", which are three separate stories about Alaska. The first story recounts as Alaskan backcountry canoe trip he took with state and federal park employees, and the second is about the state's efforts in the 1970s to build a city and make it the new state capital. But the best story by far is the last piece about the people of Eagle, Alaska, which is a small trading post along the Yukon River near Canada. The profiles he writes about those who run the city and those who live on the periphery is some of the best storytelling you'll find. It's simply a phenomenal book.

    • by WinkyN ( 263806 )

      One correction. "The Curve of Binding Energy" was written in the mid 1970s, not early 1990s. My apologies for the error.

  • by rueger ( 210566 ) * on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:28PM (#38443978) Homepage
    By. Neal Stephenson. Nuff Sed - excellent, and at 1000+ pages, will gobble up a fair bit fo your flight in a very entertaining fashion. http://www.amazon.ca/Reamde-Novel-Neal-Stephenson/dp/0061977969 [amazon.ca] As well, William Gibson has new non-fiction collection out which I expect will be dandy. http://www.amazon.ca/Distrust-Particular-Flavor-William-Gibson/dp/039915843X [amazon.ca]
  • Douglas Adams. HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy...interesting, funny and lightweight reading (if you are a geek, that is)
  • Kind of nerdy, I know, but I find it interesting to read about individuals such as Newton, Feynman, or Darwin. It gives a humbling perspective on one's life to read about people who truly have pushed out the boundaries of human knowledge in a major way.

  • Anything Hemingway, Dickens, etc. Confederacy of Dunces was great. Some sports books/novels like Marathon Man. Not into SciFi or Fantasy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:37PM (#38444058)

    It's an old one and definitely a classic... but I have only just started reading and must admit it's a great one if you haven't read it yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Time_Ngler ( 564671 )

      Please, God, no

    • I second the Ayn Rand hate, but it's still a classic in the sense that it is extraordinarily influential. Just please, please, don't like it.
  • I find nonfiction more engaging these days. Zero, The Biography of a Dangerous Idea was outstanding both times I've read it. Not Even Wrong shows promise as does The Trouble with Physics. This is Your Brain on Music has sat unopened on my bookshelf for far too long. If you prefer fiction look at Twain and Dickens. They're widely available and you can get the Cliff's notes. If you want something unusual get Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (Cliff's Notes are required for most anything this old to hel
  • 1. Lee Child - Jack Reacher series

    2. John Sandford - Lucas Davenport series

    3. William Kent Krueger - Cork O'Connor series


    There are others but I really like those three, particularly the first two. However #2 and #3 are both Minnesota based, where I currently reside, and thus have some local appeal as well.

  • by Gorobei ( 127755 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:41PM (#38444108)

    1. Go for books with strong imagery over dense plot (e.g. Stross's Jennifer Morgue, Gaiman's Neverwhere, Lewis's Blind Side.) You get interrupted so much on planes that a 40 page idea is hard to enjoy: go for simple ideas done vividly.
    2. Pack three unstarted paperbacks in carry-on. Don't be afraid to switch books if the current one isn't gripping you.
    3. If all else fails, drink and then sleep.
    4. Be in the first-class cabin.

  • If you haven't already read Lolita, Pnin, or Pale Fire from Nabokov, I would highly reccomend them. Pnin is my personal favorite; it puts a nice twist on a rather tragic story. I'm sure you are acquainted with Lolita. And if you want to read something confusing and highly original: Pale Fire. Pozdravlyayu s nastupayushchimi proznikami brat!
  • ...for the articles.
  • I do like all sorts. I have the Zombie books (World War Z, Feed, and the Trilogy of short stories from Eden Studios; All Flesh Must Be Eaten). I have Harry Turtledove and his Alternate History series. I have most of Terry Pratchett's books and especially like the Wee Free Men books; Crivens! HP Lovecraft's complete works although I have to pick through a little to get to the ones I like best (not a fan of the more other-worldly stuff). I have the Tom Clancy books for something thicker and in lots of detail.

  • Bring along a nice fat copy of Illumanatus! By Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. If you finish that one, you can also pick up the... sequel? Schrodinger's Cat. Pretty much anything by Timothy Leary would probably be pretty amusing too. I remember this one time when Leary or Wilson (I forget which one now) wrote, in an article in Magical Blend, that Bush Sr. was probably the way he was because he had a dirty asshole. He then went on at length about how he'd just had a bidet installed at his house, and tha
  • Classics (Score:4, Informative)

    by Scarred Intellect ( 1648867 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:46PM (#38444150) Homepage Journal

    I just got done with Don Quixote which I found highly amusing and funny, if difficult to follow at times. Very verbose, but extremely interesting. Unlike many story-telling media these days where we wind up with repetitive stories (Dan Brown's novels all share very similar plotlines/main characters/rising action/falling action/plot twist; other better examples exist), Don Quixote never seemed repetitive. I enjoyed it greatly.

    My next is Dante's Divine Comedy, Inferno. I don't care much for poetry but I'm giving it a shot.

    After that I'm tackling the Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist papers, and some Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Machiavelli, and The Social Contract (I have minor political ambitions, mostly just want to be able to affect lawmaking)

    I'd recommend grabbing something you normally don't read, that's what I did with Don Quixote; I grabbed it because it's the first "modern novel" and I wanted to see what that was all about.

    If you want something else fun, might I recommend Lolita. It's interesting. I've had several friends that have read Atlas Shrugged with mixed reviews. Battlefield Earth is one of my favorites, despite the movie and author's religions nutcrackery (that should totally be a word!).

    I've had my share of fantasy, from "Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan, to "Sword of Truth" by Terry Goodkind, and Elantris and "Mistborn" trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Of those my favorite were everything AFTER "Wheel of Time" (mostly because they have been finished).

    Band of Brothers and Generation Kill were also very good books. If you want any kind of insight into what Marines faced in Iraq, definitely read Generation Kill, it's the best I've found that captures the experience of being an infantry Marine in a combat zone.

    I also read Neil Strauss' Emergency and based on his writing style picked up and read The Game. Those were interesting in themselves...

    The Gunslinger series by Stephen King is also fantastic. Definitely THE best series I've read, though I disliked the part where he brought himself into the books, I felt he overdid that a bit. The ending will piss you off, though.

  • Scifi or Fantasy? (Score:4, Informative)

    by penguinbroker ( 1000903 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:50PM (#38444174)
    If you're into Scifi or Fantasy check out this link:
    http://www.npr.org/2011/08/11/139085843/your-picks-top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-books [npr.org]

    Having trouble choosing a book from the list? Try this:
    http://www.box.com/shared/static/a6omcl2la0ivlxsn3o8m.jpg [box.com]
  • I love 19th century literature. And the litrature sparked my interest in the Victorian Age in England. What makes that extra fun is that there were people back then who just described the common things in London especially, such as the police force, the work houses, the prisons you went to when you couldn't pay your debts anymore, etc. There's a lot to be found on Gutenberg.

  • I really enjoyed Daemon and FreedomTM by Daniel Suarez. They're kind of a present-day sci-fi thriller, in case you haven't heard of them. William Gibson's three trilogies are good too. The Sprawl trilogy is especially fun, now that you can see all the things it has influenced since it was first published.

  • I'm thinking he should read "War and Peace", or perhaps the Old Testament.

  • Airframe by Crichton, Snakes on a Plane: printed edition, Airport'77 paperback, :D.

  • I recently read Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. I particularly enjoy the section at the end where she explains her reasoning behind much of the 'fill in the gap' speculation, or why she chose one historian's version over another where they contradict, and even explains her outright embellishments. I can always respect a work where the author put in an immense amount of research.

  • by mojo-raisin ( 223411 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @11:56PM (#38444226)

    WoT is a short little series you should be able to finish on the flight.

    • Then on to the Foundation [wikipedia.org] series by Isaac Asimov...
    • WoT is a short little series you should be able to finish on the flight.

      Back when I was a teenager, a 'friend' of mine gave me the first three books of WoT.

      "Read this," sez he, "It's a great trilogy, I love the way it wraps up so quickly in the last book, so much better than other fantasies that don't really finish the story"


    • by Lorens ( 597774 )

      WoT is a short little series you should be able to finish on the flight.

      Only if his flight takes a year or so and he can get the last book delivered to his seat!
      For those who don't know, the first Wheel of Time book was released in 1990 and number 14 (which should be the last one) is currently predicted for late 2012.

  • The world's best author. Her words flow like video for me, they're so descriptive.

    C. J. Cherryh's website [cherryh.com]

  • I enjoy classical mystery novels, namely Agatha Christie's work, you can't beat it.

  • Dragonlance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jsse ( 254124 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:06AM (#38444282) Homepage Journal
    You have enough time to finish (first part of) the Dragonlance Chronicles:

    Dragons of Autumn Twilight (April 1984), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, (ISBN 0-88038-173-6)
    Dragons of Winter Night (April 1985), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, (ISBN 0-394-73975-2)
    Dragons of Spring Dawning (September 1985), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, (ISBN 0-88038-175-2)

    Also, the most famous Legend of the series:

    Time of the Twins (February 1986), by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, (ISBN 0-7869-1804-7)
    War of the Twins (May 1986), by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, (ISBN 0-7869-1805-5)
    Test of the Twins (August 1986), by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, (ISBN 0-7869-1806-3)

    Must read for leisure and pleasure, if you like LoTR style fictions.
  • Cryptonomicon!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by rbphilip ( 530254 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:10AM (#38444306)
    A nice long airplane book!
  • ... tea leaves.

  • by Bemopolis ( 698691 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:16AM (#38444364)
    Vonnegut's fun, and any random Mark Twain is great (especially Huck Finn), but man do I love me some Umberto Eco. His novels establish themselves in the period of their setting and just drill down deep into the minutiae, so his books are great if that's your bag. The first I read was The Name Of The Rose, largely as a way to hate-fuck that awful, awful movie adaptation (don't watch it by the way, it's awful. And by "it" I mean Christian Slater.) I have no qualms recommending it, nor Foucault's Pendulum, which is like The Da Vinci Code for people not confused by fractions. The Island Of The Day Before is also a cracking read. I cannot speak to the merits of Baudolino, but it sits on my shelf, taunting me. He also has collected essays, which are fine for what they are. But the novels have the advantage that they are so damn long and dense you'll only need one book for the whole break.

    As for me, I'm spending the holidays plowing through the Lemony Snicket cycle.
  • I just traveled from North to South America and I had the same predicament. I read World War Z [wikipedia.org], and despite it being fiction, I loved the narrative. I love it, and as many of the worth while Zombie stories it has something to say beyond the brain eating ghouls.
  • Ender's Game (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zxeses ( 236430 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:19AM (#38444380)

    Since Ender's Game didnt come up in a quick search.. well there ya go, Ender's game is perhaps the best fiction you can read.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:29AM (#38444452) Homepage Journal

    The Sprawl trilogy is "classic cyberpunk", and if you haven't read it yet, it is dated but still fun.
    The Bridge trilogy kind of carries the Sprawl a bit farther forward, but I found the "spirituality" aspects less interesting than the first trilogy. YMMV.
    The Blue Ant trilogy has almost nothing to do with cyberpunk or his other books, and is set about 10 minutes in the future (or 30 minutes in the past, depending on what kinds of toys you play with.) I really enjoyed it.

    While he's often cited as a visionary writer, the thing I like best about Gibson is his writing by analogy style. He spares words by making an association of a setting, activity, or thing with a concept I'm already familiar with, but doesn't go into great detail. Future references around that thing will bring it up only obliquely with a simple associated word, and I find it enjoyable making these connections. Kind of an English Lit version of "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra", or "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel" or "All nerds watched Star Trek TNG."

  • You know, Sci-Fi, Science Fiction, occasional Fantasy. I just ordered the middle volume of a Walter Jon Williams trilogy I somehow previously missed called Dread Empire's Fall because I somehow came up with the outer two volumes, he's one of my favorite authors. Just finished a Vernor Vinge title I hadn't seen called Katja Grimm's World, not of the same caliber as some of his other stuff IMO but still worth two average books on the shelf.

    Speaking of Sci-Fi, are any of the Star Trek books any good? I read on

  • I'm a huuuuuuuuge fan of Terry Pratchett's work... you could really start anywhere in his Discworld series and be smiling in minutes. Vonnegut is another favorite of mine, as well as Douglas Adams. Oh, and Dave Barry has some incredible collections of laugh-inducing work, too... I'm a big fan of humorous works, if it isn't obvious. :) I also like Neil Gaiman (though I enjoyed his work in the Sandman comics the most), and I'm now starting in on Game of Thrones, which is looking like it will occupy a welcome
  • "Name of the Wind" series, first book is excellent, second book is good. Very well written fantasy.
  • Comedy (Score:4, Informative)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:39AM (#38444500)

    Confederacy of Dunces

  • by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @12:40AM (#38444512)

    The real economy is based on natural resource extraction and industrial production. As such, I find it important to read about commodities (petrol, natural gas, bananas, cereals, coal, iron ore, etc.) and how they've shaped civilizations through the ages. To this I add books about effective management of water, topsoil, rangeland, and forest resources.

    A short list of books related to these subjects:

    1) Nature's Metropolis by William Cronin

    Cronin tells the story of Chicago's development during the 19th century by tracking the flows of various commodities to and from the city, its hinterlands, and other urban centers. The chapters on how improvements in transportation networks and grain storage facilities led to futures trading are a must-read.

    2) The Economic Growth Engine: How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity by Robert Ayres and Ben Warr

    Ayres (a physicist and economist) has argued for decades that the real growth of the economy is strongly based on how effective civilizations can convert energy resources (especially from fossil fuels) into useful work. In this slightly esoteric work, Ayres and colleague Warr flesh out this idea (the "useful work growth theory") and challenge the Solow model of economic growth and its exogenous variable representing "technological progress" favored by many neoclassical economists. They also discuss topics such as how best to measure energy quality (net energy vs. exergy) and the interplay between thermodynamics and economics.

    3) The Rice Economies: Technology and Development in Asian Societies by Francesca Bray

    Rice is one of the most important cereals in the world; this book explains how its cultivation has shaped Asian societies. If you're interested in how Asian societies have managed soil fertility and high crop yields over the ages, I also recommend Farmers of Forty Centuries by American agronomist F.H. King.

    4) Merchants of Grain by Dan Morgan

    About the global grain trade and the titans who control it.

    5) Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed The World by Dan Koeppel

    Covers banana republics, banana cultivation methods, and the virtual extinction of the Big Mike varietal in the mid-twentieth century. The Big Mike was superior to today's Cavendish banana in taste and durability.

    6) A Forest Journey: The Story of Wood and Civilization by John Perlin

  • by FridayBob ( 619244 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @01:00AM (#38444634) Homepage
    How about trying one of these books?

    * Christopher Hitchens -- God is not Great
    * Richard Dawkins -- The God Delusion
    * Daniel C. Dennett -- Breaking the Spell
    * Sam Harris -- The End of Faith

    These guys, sometimes collectively referred to as "The Four Horsemen," write even better than they sound in their many interviews, lectures and debates that can be found on YouTube and elsewhere. Whether you've already made up your mind about religion or not, these books don't just offer food for thought: they represent a banquet!
    • I haven't read Hitchens or Harris; but Dawkins consistently says things about Christianity that are simply not true; quotes straw-man arguments that you might hear as a kid in Sunday school, but which are not nearly as good or subtle as those used by real thinkers and philosophers; and makes arguments that are philosophically unsound and have been addressed or answered by Christian thinkers in abundance.

      I read about half of Dennet's book, and found it interesting and well-written. The thing about it thoug

  • Geeky must-reads (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DragonHawk ( 21256 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @01:34AM (#38444824) Homepage Journal

    So I've seen at least three Neal Stephenson threads, a Will Gibson, a Phil Dick, and Ender's Game. Some more recommendations on books I think most geeks should read:

    Vernor Vinge - Rainbows End. Seriously, every geek should read this book. It's the best fiction on near future augmented reality that I've seen myself. Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep is also outstanding, but much more "out there"; it's more entertaining than eye-opening. It does have one of the best alien perspectives I've read. Not just humans with bumpy foreheads, really *alien* aliens.

    Charles Stross - Just about anything, really. His "Laundry Files" fantasy read like a cross-between H.P. Lovecraft, Douglas Adams, and Ian Fleming ("James Bond"). I know that sounds really weird, but it works. They're a riot. More serious and sciency are the "Eschaton" books -- Singularity Sky and sequels. Some of his works are available online for free, legally. Scratch Monkey [antipope.org] for example.

    John Scalzi - Old Man's War. I just finished this myself. The finish was weak but the ideas are a blast. As one reviewer put it, it's like Starship Troopers without the lectures.

    Here's a few others I'm suspect will won't appeal as broadly, but I'll throw in 'cause I want to. It's my post.

    C.S. Friedman - This Alien Shore. Space SF. Protagonist is a girl with cooperative multiple personalities; this is fascinatingly portrayed. Very good speculation on how direct brain interfaces might be realized. Lots of diverse human cultures. The real winner, though, is a human culture that values emotional differences and has social customs to let people interact across such boundaries. Introverted geeks (INTJ) will love this. Friedman packs a very high density of ideas into her books.

    Corey Doctorow - Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [craphound.com]. Free content. An interesting take on a post-scarcity meritocracy. I think it's kind of nutty, but interesting. For the price, it's decent.

  • by danbuter ( 2019760 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @03:12AM (#38445376)
    I really like "The Deed of Paksennarrion" by Elizabeth Moon. It's about a paladin, and is easily the best fantasy book on a holy warrior. "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" series by Steven Erikson is fantastic. And the main series is finished, so there's no worry about it not getting done like certain other major fantasy series.
    • by Inda ( 580031 )

      This is why I hate fantasy books. After ten of those long made-up names I can no longer follow the story.
  • by MattBD ( 1157291 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @04:23PM (#38452532) Homepage

    As a first choice, I recommend getting an anthology of some kind. The problem with getting a novel of some kind is that if it turns out you don't like it, you're stuck with it regardless, whereas an anthology of short stories means that if a particular story is dull, it doesn't matter because you won't be reading it for long. I recommend The Mammoth Book of Best New SF, which is a collection of short stories that gets released each year in around August/September (most recent one is number 24), and is inexpensive, but also a very dense book, and the quality of the stories is consistently good. I also liked The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF from the same publisher (worth it just for Cory Doctorow's "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" and Alastair Reynolds' "Sleepover").

    Novel-wise, I'd recommend virtually anything by Ian McDonald, who largely specialises in SF with a third-world setting. His book River of Gods could be described as a kind of Gibson-esque cyberpunk set in India, although that really doesn't give it justice as this makes it sound derivative when it's anything but - he's also produced a great book of short stories in the same future India called Cyberabad Days. Adam Roberts is also an excellent author, and I'm very fond of the sci-fi work of Richard Morgan, particularly his Takeshi Kovacs novels. Charles Stross has also been mentioned elsewhere, and I'd recommend his work. If you're not put off by hard SF, Alastair Reynolds is an excellent author, especially House of Suns and the Revelation Space series.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie