The future as told by books

I read a lot of books. I read because it inspires me and shows me paths that I could never imagine. Sometimes those paths are horrible and sad and sometimes they are hopeful and amazing. Not always are they paths to the future and sometimes the paths are actually about the past, but make sense when applied to the future. Books are amazing.

The other day I was thinking about books that have inspired me to think about the future critically. Books that have challenged my optimism and my pessimism. I have a small list that I would recommend, but I was interested in what my peers would suggest.

I did what anyone does in this situation and I asked:

The responses were great. I was worried at first. I thought that maybe the SUPER boring responses would prevail. People being “clever.” But luckily a lot of people took the question seriously.

The results were not altogether surprising. A lot of the suggested books are ones that I would expect and there were a few surprises.

The results

Where possible I have included links to wikipedia or the publishers page

Books mentioned multiple times

These books were mentioned in multiple tweets

Books I had never heard of

I had never heard of these books. This is exciting!

Books mentioned that are on my list

These books were mentioned and also on my list of future facing books

Other books mentioned

Books that were not mentioned that I recommend

Books that were not mentioned, but I always include in my list of future looking books (even though some are not at all future looking ;))

Authors represented

The final list of authors represented

Isaac Asimov, Janet Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Antony Beevor, John Brunner, David Bussell, William S. Burroughs, Monica Byrne, Karel Čapek, bigot Orson Scott Card, Gerald Celente, Arthur C. Clarke, Ernest Cline, James S. A. Corey, James Dale Davidson, Alexandre Dumas, Warren Ellis, Martin Ford, William R. Forstchen, Al Gore, Béla Hamvas, James L. Halperin, Teri Hall, Frank Herbert, Aldous Huxley, George Jewsbury, Elizabeth Kolbert, Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, Ray Kurzweil, Chang-Rae Lee, Matthew Mather, Walter M. Miller, Jr, Miyamoto Musashi, Vladimir Nabokov, George Orwell, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Walter B Pitkin, Daniel Quinn, William Rees-Mogg, J.K. Rowling, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Jake Saunders, John Scalzi, Robert Sheckley, Masamune Shirow, Shel Silverstein, Olaf Stapledon, Neal Stephenson, John Steinbeck, Clifford Stoll, Charles Stross, Daniel Suarez, Dr. Suess, Sun Tzu, Jules Verne, Vernor Vinge, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Howard Waldrop, H.G. Wells,

Takeaways

DYSTOPIA!!

No really. Apparently we are totally fucked. Most of the recommended books are based on dystopian futures. Very few of the books are about positive futures. I imagine this is not unusual. A story of “OMG everything is wonderful and everyone is living in harmony” is probably not super exciting. I would love recommendations for positive futuristic books if you have them.

The other thing I noticed was the general lack of history books. There were only a couple.

There were a handful of books that were written a while ago. This is great. I love books that stand the test of time.

Finally

Books have literally powered most of my life. Whether as a stress reflief when doing hard things or as vacation fodder: they are a constant and important part of my life.

When I look for new books, I often struggle to find things that challenge and entertain me. This has caused me to spend a number of cycles thinking about where I can get the serendipitous book discovery experience that we had in physical book stores. Since going to a physical book store is obviously out of the question (sigh), I have found that the most reliable experience is twitter.

Some of my favorite recent reads have come from friends mentioning books on twitter. For example:

My plea/suggestion/thought here is that I need you all to share your read books more publicly. I am not talking about goodreads or whatever. I mean a tweet thatsimply says “This book is awesome.” It helps.

Thanks for participating on twitter

These are the awesome people who jumped in with suggestions:

@AndrewNebus, @Arkmashton, @Asher_Wolf, @Bar_Code, @BragHQ, @DireCab, @GNU_Ninja, @Iteration23, @JessaBahr, @Joe_Wegner, @JoeyGo23, @KapuraMax, @KimMoldofsky, @MAPstr, @MadcapOcelot, @Pathh1, @RickWebb, @StartupTheory, @Vwampage, @_cz, @_mikesand, @angelcolberg, @bestvpnservice, @brain_the, @cdibona, @cjoh, @crazybob, @dantoffey, @dbentley, @devinhalladay, @ethank, @garethgreenaway, @golovashkina, @hmason, @humanprovince, @hunterwalk, @iOluLawal, @isightdr, @jacobdehart, @jazzychad, @jheltzer, @jstogdill, @kalamahina, @kohlhofer, @lanec, @liposuctor, @marinkodanic, @mattcutts, @melissaWashin, @micah, @milesward, @mlrlf, @mouseferatu, @mrspete, @niftynei, @om, @pelletk, @prisonrodeo, @rgyatso, @rossgstanley, @ryan_a_lane, @senorfrio, @sephcoster, @shadalicious, @superfungo, @thejohnmarc, @therealfitz, @tolar, @weems, @zedshaw, @zfurnas, and @zoink.

A+++ Would tweet for books again!!!!!

As always, if you want to see what I am currently reading — check out my book site: harperreed.com/books

Crossposted to my “blog” here: http://harperreed.com/writing/2015/09/16/the-future-as-told-by-books/