A Brief, Personal Reading List – Fiction September 2016

Y the Last ManI recently shared this reading list with thesalesblog author and sales guru Anthony Iannarino. Anthony’s extremely well read but admitted he didn’t read much fiction. Here’s what I wrote him:

I grew up on science fiction and have read a lot of it and admit it’s inspired my career. But I’ve also read a lot of magical realism, international fiction, juvenile/middle grades (thank you kids!), binge-read mysteries and have a soft spot in my heart for trashy novels (like those of Lee Childs, Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susanne).

Mostly, I like books that explore an idea, but the books that I’ve read and reread the most times are:

pedro_paramo

Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo, a very short, very Mexican book that has blown me away and inspired me every single time I’ve read it. At this point, I’ve probably read it dozens of times. It’s considered to the book that defined the magical realism genre and  inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez to write One Hundred Years of Solitude. The book was so influential on Marquez that he could recite long sections of it from memory.

The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. It’s his shortest novel but you can get most of his themes and big ideas there: paranoia, consumerism, American exceptionalism, and layers upon layers of mystery. Pynchon is probably most famous for Gravity’s Rainbow, written in the 1960s. It’s been couple of decades since I read that monster tome but parts have stuck with me. I haven’t gotten to his newer work but have been looking forward to reading Inherent Vice for a long while.
Neuromancer
Neuromancer by William Gibson. That’s the one where cyberspace is defined and first explored. It’s a fast-moving thriller/mystery. Been a while since I reread but it’s an old friend. I’m also partial to his Pattern Recognition, which is about marketing (just reread this summer) and Idoru (which you might enjoy since a rock star marrying an AI is part of the story). His last book, The Peripheral was a thought-provoking look at our not-so-pleasant near-future.

Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, a 1960s SF novel.

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Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard. I’ve read most of his novels — there’s too many to list — and this one’s about a pair of 1960s drop outs trying to pull one big job. If you’re a movie fan, Out of Sight with Clooney and J. Lo is the best adaptation of Leonard novel. It’s also J. Lo’s only great movie role, though John Travolta is great in Get Shorty, and you can see Leonard in most of Tarantino’s films.
Y the Last Man
 Y! The Last Man, which is a series of graphic novels about a plague that kills all but one man. He has to deal with women who have to deal with rebuilding the world. It’s awesome.
All The Birds in the Sky
Most recently, I read All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupo — highly recommend those. Earlier in the year, I was blown away by Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. I’ve also been rereading Octavia Butler.
I track what I read on a couple of Pinterest boards. This one shows books I’ve read and reread, you’ll notice a fair amount of J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, and Kurt Vonnegut. I can steer you to the best of those if you’re interested.
Ballard, Burroughs, Dick, and Vonnegut were huge influences on my thinking when I was writing fiction. Ballard and Burroughs were masters of description and people making their ways through unreal situations. Dick was one of the most prolific SF writers (Blade Runner, Minority Report were based on his books) and his influence is wide. Vonnegut’s view of the American condition is among the most critical and hilarious.

Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Review is a geektastic nerdgasmIt’s 2044, the world’s a dystopian mess and people escape to, learn, live and work in a virtual world called OASIS (the followup to William Gibson’s cyberspace and Neal Stephenson’s metaverse).

At the start of the book, videogame designer James Halliday, the ultimate 1980s geek, leaves his vast fortune to the person who can find three magical keys (Easter eggs) hidden in the vast OASIS.

Enter one Wade Watts, an 18-year old living in the Oklahoma City “stacks” of trailers upon trailers left behind by people migrating to the cities. Compared to the other egg hunters (“gunters”), the poverty-born Wade is at a disadvantage and can’t travel OASIS. But what he lacks in finances he more than makes up in his knowledge of 1980s pop culture, and videogames skills. As a result, he finds the first key and starts the race that will continue until all three keys are discovered.

The quest is a blast. There are allies and enemies, a romance and an overload of 1980s nostalgia. I read it laughing aloud along the way, handed it to my son Alejandro, who enjoyed it, then I reread it. It’s a total blast.

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