NASA’s amazing “travel posters”

The role of reading

A lot of people have asked me why I started a podcast about sci-fi books and “poking around in the world.” It’s because I want the essence of sci-fi, not the novel. I find books “solving” four problems.

1. Escapism 💣

Reading to spend time away from where (or who) we are.

The typical book is crime/spy/whodunnit. We are captured by the story. As most of us aren’t steeped in a world of murder or being hunted, we aren’t touched but only kept away from our current state.

2. Making us comfortable 🎠

Reading to be familiar and comforted.

Some people reread our favorite books when we are sad. Or you’ve felt it starting a book by our favorite author and within a page being “back in their world”. It is a comforting feeling, being in that familiar feeling of belonging.

Some genres can be very archetypical to quickly create that, most often romance or fantasy, with already known roles and narratives. (That doesn’t mean these are “simpler books”, as many great works use these genres as backdrops for a much more complex story.)

I found Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, and for me, Haruki Murakami to be great books in this category.

3. Exploring and understanding emotions 😲

Reading to be set in an (uncomfortable) emotional state.

I got into reading as a child because I wanted to understand (and maybe be, back to #1) other people. It takes a lifetime to develop into one, and many fates or situations are unattainable. Reading can give us Points of View we need — what is life as a young, ambitious woman, someone loving art more than their life, as one in a secret (or even taboo) relationship, or as a truly evil person? In a time of tribalism, transporting your mind and PoV is the most healthy thing you can do for the world.

These books force us to look at each other and ourselves with new eyes. They make us understand other people and become more humble and vulnerable.

I found A Little Life, Middlesex, The Seamstress, The Goldfinch, The Golem and the Jinni, and Pachinko to be great books in this category.

4. Giving us a blank sheet 🤖

Reading to see the world in a new way.

Some books help us wake up anew. They give us “colored glasses” that we now can apply and see the structures and patterns that were already all around us, hiding in clear sight.

Here sci-fi can play a significant role. When you open a sci-fi book, you have no idea how the world works. It forces you to open your mind, explore, discover, and stay curious. Perhaps the book tells you that money is an invented social structure, maybe that asks you what you would do if you never had to work, or if there is a big, collective purpose that humanity should put their whole weight behind.

Sci-fi helps us because we admit that we don’t know. They force us to look at our world as structures we could change.

I found The Three Body Problem series, The Ancillary Justice series, Bobiverse, the Fifth Season series, and The Quantum Theif series to be great books in this category.

The podcast is trying looking at our world through the lens of another one. And, by omitting the story and just looking at the framework, I want to show the differences. That is why the podcast is with sci-fi authors.