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:

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a wildly imaginative novel that blends psychological thriller elements with quantum physics to create a non-stop rollercoaster that you'll never want to get off of. The story sucked me in after the first paragraph and only gained momentum along the way. In addition to being a compelling tale with great characters, it's a thought-experiment in paths not taken.

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges contains every short story ever written by the Argentinian master. Reading this collection was humbling, challenging, and inspiring all at once. Each tale contains enough story to be a novel, but distills it to just a few pages. Countless grand and subtle ideas are woven seamlessly into imaginative adventures filled with knife fights, mysterious labyrinths, deadly secrets, uncanny dreams, and mind-bending philosophy. Some of the metaphors that Borges employs contain more raw insight into how the internet is changing our lives than anything I've ever read, and he wrote them in the 1930s. I don't often re-read books, but this one will be a shining exception.

How Music Works by David Byrne is fascinating guide to every aspect of how we make and experience music. Byrne explores the creative impulses behind songwriting, the industry dynamics that shape the business of music, the impact of technology and cultural context on music's evolution, how music can help us access deep beauty and meaning, and much, much more. This book is stuffed to the gills with insights, wisdom, and fun facts that illuminate human creativity and ingenuity. I will never listen to music the same way again.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is a dark, weird, and profoundly moving literary fantasy about two characters wrestling with loneliness and the search for connection in a world where reality is fraying around the edges. The protagonists are so deeply human that they feel like close friends instead of fictional figments. Murakami has a unique ability to let the reader slip inside someone else's skin, illuminate the wonder and contradictions of human experience, and weave it all into a tale of conspiracy, magic, and redemption that is impossible to put down.

The Red Web by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan is compelling and comprehensive history of the internet in Russia. Soldatov and Borogan are veteran investigative journalists who map out the ongoing struggle between oligarchs, dissidents, entrepreneurs, hackers, and spooks for Russian digital domination. This book unveils the complex interplay of technology and geopolitics, raising critical questions about civil rights, governance, and surveillance in a networked world.

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.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid is a funny, incisive, and moving novel that tells a coming-of-age story even as it parodies a self-help book. Revealing difficult truths about social upheaval even as it illuminates the inner turmoil of its protagonist, this is writing of the highest caliber. Mohsin weaves a thrilling tale that sucked me in on page one and left me short of breath and pondering life's inherent contradictions.

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.

Infomocracy by Malka Older is a strikingly cool speculative novel about the future of digital democracy. The cyberpunk-ish world it describes is cast in shades of gray without slipping into dystopia and the plot races across continents with a veteran backpacker's facility. This blazingly smart adventure is a policy-wonk/science-fiction-nerd's pipe dream.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is packed with invaluable pieces of wisdom for anyone making anything. Whether you're an artist, entrepreneur, writer, or dreamer, Pressfield will immediately sway you with his all-too-true observations about the creative process, thoughtful perspective, and actionable advice for getting to the heart of what you do best. I found myself marking page after page to come back to later.

The Cartel by Don Winslow is a gritty epic set in the midst of the Mexican drug war. Traffickers, DEA agents, corrupt politicians, and everyday people are caught up in a deadly game with no true winners. Although the book is fiction, Winslow spent more than a decade researching the conflict and many of the scenes in the book are based on real-life events. It's a disturbing, ambitious, violent political thriller that's worth your time.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is a vibrant, sparkling science fiction story that's so damn smart it almost hurts. Palmer conjures a rich, multilayered vision of the future that feels all too plausible, inspires wonder and dread simultaneously, and wrestles with timeless philosophical questions. This is a world to get lost in, and one you won't forget.

Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan deconstructs the entire internet as humanity's most ambitious piece of art. Heffernan's analysis reframes the cultural conversation about every incarnation of digital media from design to entertainment. Thought-provoking and jam-packed with ideas, this book goes beyond facts to access the deeper layers of meaning hidden within the internet revolution.

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.

Magellan by Stefan Zweig is a compelling biography of the famous explorer who first circumnavigated the world. While some biographies get caught up in the details and drag on for far too long, this slim volume gets straight to the point and does a phenomenal job not just telling Magellan's story, but framing why that story is such an important one to tell. The book is packed with exciting anecdotes, surprising historical tidbits, and insights into the price of ambition.




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 New York Times Book Review, The VergePopular Science, Businessweek, TechCrunch, io9, and Ars Technica, and he has been a speaker at places like Google, Qualcomm, and Future in Review.