Five Books to Shield You From the World
At Trouble we encourage such radical behaviour as reading, so we’ve assembled a short list of suggested reads. It’s print. It’s secure, but it’s powerful.
As Trouble is rather amorphous, we haven’t gone for a specific theme. After all we live in unpredictable times so we don’t want to get to narrow. Be curious, polymaths need a comeback. So here’s our list of five books you might want to read as a reminder that even though the holiday is over — books are not.
(Illustration via: GIPHY)
To Be a Machine
We included it in our curation for Mayday and we are recommending it again. It’s just that good. The full title Mark O’Connell chose for his book, that is To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, accurately conveys its contents, albeit in a long winded way. In it O’Connell visits, profiles and reflects on various transhumanists. While not agreeing with transhumanism, O’Connell brings to his subjects a simple sympathy that makes their views compelling. Best of all is that everything is explained in an engaging way perfect to pass a slow summer’s day.
To Be a Machine (256 pages)
Published by Doubleday, 2017
↳ Get it here
The Attention Merchants
Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants is a favourite of ours at Trouble. However, considering that it explores the history and techniques of the industries that harvest our attention, that’s not surprising. From printed advertisements and sponsored programming to internet adblockers, Wu paints a world created to attract our attention. It’s a world of detailed anecdotes and well-drawn figures that controls our thoughts and interactions. It is not a book that you can blast through in a single day at the beach, but it’s one to accompany you on a few visits to the beach or park. And, considering the subject matter, perhaps it should.
The Attention Merchants (416 pages)
Published by Knopf, 2016
↳ Find a way to get it here
There’s always that book you act like you’ve read because its referenced everywhere in popular culture. Our pick for this category is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The bonds of hatred between the mad scientist and his creation — but sadly no Igor — have scarred our imagination. The book tells the archetypal story of the innovator and captures the potential consequences of excessive innovation. While it is rather unlikely that someone will instil life into an assemblage of corpses, it does sound like something someone would try. After all, the Roman Mazurenko app exists. Explaining the plot though is somewhat pointless as it has spread throughout our popular culture. That said, it’s always worth revisiting the source of our references to understand them better. Now may be a good time to do so.
Frankenstein (352 pages)
Published by Penguin Classics, 2003 (1818)
↳ Get it here
Kelly and Zach Weinersmith
Like To Be a Machine, the best way to understand Soonish is to read its full title, Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. From space travel to augmented reality researcher Kelly Weinersmith and cartoonist Zach Weinersmith investigate into why these technologies haven’t come yet and how if they do it could be disastrous. They also look at potentially positive outcomes for these technologies, but that’s rarely as inspiring as armageddon. Despite its fantastical topic, the book bases itself off of pure fact with plenty of information and interviews with experts. Reading it you do learn a lot, so if that’s what you want to do with your day off, try Soonish.
Soonish (368 pages)
Published by Particular Books, 2017
↳ Get it here
Marcus Didius Falco series/Albia Series
Sometimes we just want to read for the sake of reading, legens gratia legentis and all that. So these two series, which occupy the same universe, are the traditional summer flick throughs of our list. Set in Ancient Rome during the reigns of Vespasian and Domitian, the series follows the informer Falco, and later his adopted daughter Albia. Lindsey Davis deploys her research to give their world a substance beyond ‘Oh, this is vaguely Imperial Rome.’ It also helps that there is plenty of travel, intrigue and humour in each volume. As for starting, each book is its own story, though over the course of the series changes do occur. So pick up one that catches your eye and have fun.