Eliot Peper's Reading Recommendations

Reading is a superpower that we too often take for granted. It is telepathy. It is a time machine. It is a magic door into countless new worlds, hearts, and minds.

Every month or so, I send a simple personal email sharing books that explore the intersection of technology and culture. Reading is an integral part of my creative process and I often find gems in unlikely places. The goal of the newsletter is to recommend books, fiction and nonfiction, that crackle and fizz with big ideas, keep us turning pages deep into the night, challenge our assumptions, entertain with wild abandon, and help us find meaning in a changing world.

I also share insights into my creative process and updates on the new books and projects I’m working on. I will never spam you or share your email with anyone, ever, because I’m not a total douchebag.

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Here are a few sample recommendations to get you started:

The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly is the most interesting nonfiction book I’ve read about the future in a long time. I constantly found myself rereading passages and marking pages to come back to later. Kevin has been an enthusiastic observer of both the human condition and the state of technology for decades as a cofounder of Wired, and his insights are deep, provocative, and wide ranging. In his own words, “When answers become cheap, good questions become more difficult and therefore more valuable.” The Inevitable raises many important questions that will shape the next few decades. I interviewed Kelly about The Inevitable here.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is tortured maze of plot twists through a bleak future Bangkok where Monsanto-esque agribusinesses rule a world of scarcity. Packed with political intrigue and grit, this book will make you question where we're all headed. It deserves its Hugo and Nebula awards.

Reading Central Station by Lavie Tidhar feels like falling into someone else’s dream. Using a far future Tel Aviv as his canvas, Tidhar weaves an emotionally driven tale that interrogates the human impact of digital technology. The story is complicated, touching, and multifaceted. It left me with a not unpleasant sense of melancholy, as if I were leaving behind close friends who I wouldn’t be seeing for a long time. Fans of science fiction and fantasy will relish the many hidden references to genre tropes and classics. Tidhar won the British Science Fiction Award, World Fantasy Award, and Central Station has been praised by heavy hitters like Alastair Reynolds, Ken Liu, and NPR. I interviewed Tidhar about Central Station here.

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott was originally published in 1884 and is proof that great stories survive the test of time. It's a mind-bending adventure starring a protagonist that lives in a two-dimensional world. The story is filled with humor, romance, and satire. Flatland is a captivating and delightful invitation to free our thinking from the artificial constraints we constantly impose on it.

Future Crimes by Marc Goodman is a compelling, accessible, sophisticated look at how the ever-accelerating pace of technological change is making us exponentially more vulnerable. Nail-biting case studies, in-depth analysis, and data-driven arguments make this a must read for... pretty much any human with a smart phone.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a lyrical, moving tale that follows a Shakespearean troupe traversing post apocalyptic Canada. The character-driven drama will tease at the edges of your dreams. The richly-imagined, disease-ravaged future will haunt you with the perfect dose of surreality.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an acerbic, thought-provoking book about things that gain from disorder and volatility. Taleb mixes refreshing pragmatism with profound skepticism and is ruthless in his arguments against the fundamental inconsistencies baked into everything from financial speculation to medical research. Antifragile is jam packed with ideas. Although I disagreed with some of them, the overall package is stimulating and not-to-be-missed.




Eliot Peper is the author of BandwidthCumulus, True BlueNeon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. He's helped build technology businesses, survived dengue fever, translated Virgil's Aeneid from the original Latin, worked as an entrepreneur-in-residence at a venture capital firm, and explored the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Mustang. His books have been praised by the VergePopular Science, Businessweek, TechCrunch, io9, and Ars Technica, and he has been a speaker at places like Google, Qualcomm, and Future in Review.