Re: Recommend some books

If you haven't read them, I'd definitely recommend the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I decided to read them after becoming deeply enthralled with the BBC series, they're quite good.

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Re: Recommend some books

Sakai definitely has his distinct art style.  His is one of those books like Love and Rockets or Strangers in Paradise thats just been running forever and as long as the creators are alive, it will have a fanbase.

Eddie Doty

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Re: Recommend some books

And he hasn't gone insane like Dave Sims, always a plus!

(a thread about creators, in all art forms, who have gone over the edge might be interesting)

I write stories! With words!

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Re: Recommend some books

Teague wrote:

Snow Crash.

Also, Snow Crash.

Not the best book ever, but my favorite. The one I go back to the most.

At the beginning of the novel, the main character, Hiro Protagonist, discovers the name of a new pseudo-narcotic, "Snow Crash", being offered at an exclusive Metaverse [internet, this was published in 1992] nightclub. Hiro's friend and fellow hacker falls victim to Snow Crash's effects, which are apparently unique in that they are experienced in the Metaverse and also in the physical world. Hiro uses his computer hacking, sharp cognitive skills, and sword-fighting to uncover the mystery of "Snow Crash"; his pursuit takes the reader on a tour of the Sumerian culture, a fully instantiated anarcho-capitalist society, and a virtual meta-society patronized by financial, social, and intellectual elites.

I started listening to the audiobook today during work. I'm not that far in, but I'm really digging it so far.

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Re: Recommend some books

I just finished my second Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash Guy) book- Cryptonomicon. 1,100+ pages of WW2 cyptology and undersea cable installation insanity. I enjoyed it, but it made me appreciate Snow Crash all the more. This is a guy who can write narratives that read like encyclopedias, just toning it back and having fun. Like the worst babysitter who was cajoled into teling a some hyperactive kids a bedtime story.

On a different note, 'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith, has some of the most incredible and richest characters I've ever read (the fact that she wrote it when she was 24 makes me... sad). The plot itself isn't all that much to talk about, but it almost would have been distracting if it were.  I guess that's not a glowing-sounding recommendation, but it's a pretty incredible book.

This is actually a super great thread. I've finally started reading again, and was just in a bookstore this afternoon thinking, "I wish I had some recommendations". Neil Gaiman is my new happy place, so I think I'll have to snag 'Good Omens' tomorrow smile

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Re: Recommend some books

Ian wrote:

On a different note, 'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith, has some of the most incredible and richest characters I've ever read (the fact that she wrote it when she was 24 makes me... sad).

What's the Tom Lehrer line?
"It's people like that who make you realize how little you've accomplished. For example, it's a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years."

I write stories! With words!

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Re: Recommend some books

Anything by Ray Bradbury, but Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes in particular.

Re: Recommend some books

I really enjoyed The Ascent of Money. It's basically a survey course on the history of cash. You might already know some of it, but I learned more than I expected and it was a fun read. … 1594201927

Everybody, get up. It's time to slam now. We got a real jam going down. Welcome to the Space Jam. Here's your chance. Do your dance. At the Space Jam. Alright?

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Re: Recommend some books

Currently re-reading The Tipping Point, the book that put Malcolm Gladwell on the map (it's fine, not as good as Blink, not as interesting as Outliers) and Anonymous, the book about - uh - Anonymous.

If you've never read Gladwell, you're missing a part of our modern culture you want to be exposed to, and Anonymous is the most thrilling non-fiction book I've ever read. Recommendation for all of the books heretofore mentioned.

(Outliers first.)

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Recommend some books

Teague wrote:

Currently re-reading The Tipping Point, the book that put Malcolm Gladwell on the map (it's fine, not as good as Blink, not as interesting as Outliers) and Anonymous, the book about - uh - Anonymous.

If you've never read Gladwell, you're missing a part of our modern culture you want to be exposed to, and Anonymous is the most thrilling non-fiction book I've ever read. Recommendation for all of the books heretofore mentioned.

(Outliers first.) … -people-go

He has a lovely singing voice.

Everybody, get up. It's time to slam now. We got a real jam going down. Welcome to the Space Jam. Here's your chance. Do your dance. At the Space Jam. Alright?

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Re: Recommend some books

That was...

...truly adorable.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Recommend some books

Teague, if you want a thrilling hacker culture non-fiction book, I highly, highly recommend Underground: … ground.pdf

Julian Assange is lead researcher on the nonfiction book, which basically chronicles the early days of underground hacker culture in the late 80s, and quickly spirals into a paranoia/conspiracy thriller with
basically young hacker kids stumbling on top-secret government plans, as well as millions of dollars in
debit card accounts and going on the run from the police, feds, and beyond.

The story is absolutely nuts and some of the most engrossing non-fiction I've ever read. I recommend jumping to chapter 3 if you want to get to the coolest stuff, though it can be a bit overwhelming.

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Re: Recommend some books

I just finished the Hellhound of Wall Street. This book is amazing. I'm going to re-read it this weekend. It's perfect if you want to understand more modern regulation issues or the S.E.C in general. But I need some light reading now, so I'mma check out Underground tonight. … 1594202729

Everybody, get up. It's time to slam now. We got a real jam going down. Welcome to the Space Jam. Here's your chance. Do your dance. At the Space Jam. Alright?

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Re: Recommend some books

Five-year bump!

I read way more than I watch movies (though I’m catching up in that regard), so I figured I’d dump some books in here that y’all might appreciate. Fiction section leans toward SF/F as I know my audience, but there’s some other stuff in there too. Nonfiction is a mix.


VALIS, Philip K. Dick
In the early 1970s, Philip K. Dick encountered what he believed to be the voice of God speaking to him through a pink laser. The experience shattered his psyche and he spent the rest of his life trying to piece it back together. Thus VALIS—a novel in which Dick himself is not one but two characters (the narrator, SF author Phil Dick, and his best friend and sufferer of divine visions Horselover Fat). Part autobiographical confession, part paranoid theological/conspiratorial ramblings, and part satire on its author’s previous body of work, this is an absolutely monumental book that I’ve read and re-read more times than I can count. It’s a profoundly sad and often hilarious quest for stability and belief. When I first read it—as I was leaving the church at seventeen—I connected to it on an indescribable level, and in the five years since that first read it’s consistently offered up new readings and interpretations of itself every time I go back.

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare, G. K. Chesterton
To paraphrase a Goodreads review for this one, it’s as if P. G. Wodehouse wrote a PKD plot while on a Nyquil blender. 180 pages of pure Victorian-era thrills—mistaken identity, nested secret organizations, duels at high noon, carriage chases—mixed with metaphysical comedy and Alice in Wonderland-style surrealism. Like VALIS, one of the other three or four books that constantly wrestle for the title of my favorite.

Infoquake, David Louis Edelman
The book that got me permanently hooked on SF at the age of thirteen. It’s a transhumanist cyberpunk business thriller filled with sociopathic protagonists, rich worldbuilding, and sales pitches that are more edge-of-your-seat in nature than most suspense novels. The closest comparison I can think of is Snow Crash, but it’s far less flippant and much more focused, to its benefit.

The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
Every single one of Ishiguro’s novels is a crystal of pain and regret and humanity. My favorite is The Unconsoled, a Kafkaesque epic of slipping reality, but the best starting point is probably this one, the understated memoirs of an aging English butler who, near the end of his life, is starting to wonder how many bad decisions he might have made in his long career. Sparse and utterly heartbreaking.

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
Transplant The Sting to Victorian England. Turn the protagonist into a lesbian pickpocket and con-woman. Let it rip for 500 pages. God, this thing is indescribably fun and clever, while at the same time serving as an absolutely horrific look at how much it sucked to be a working-class woman in the 19th century.

Wittgenstein’s Mistress, David Markson
The last woman on earth delivers a continuous monologue to herself, struggling to keep a grasp on a reality she can’t begin to define. Best read in one sitting, this is haunting and unsettling and disquieting and fourth adjective suggesting deep existential discomfort.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente
The initial volume of the best children’s fantasy series since Potter, which features a daring protagonist named September, prose that’s like drinking from a fountain of velvet, and a creature who’s half wyvern and half library.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (trans. Robin Buss)
This is an absolute brick of a novel—1,300 pages unabridged—but it moves live a damn freight train some 200 years later. You’ve got conspiracies, chases, escapes, miracles, sword fights, espionage, 19th-century lesbians, weed-smoking, revenge. I love Les Miserables, the other classic French doorstop from the period, but it often feels like work—this one never stops being a total blast. Make sure to get the Penguin Classics edition translated by Robin Buss, which is the only proper contemporary English translation of the full text.

The Dinner, Herman Koch
I devoured this in one sitting. It’s a lean, nasty, blackly comic tale of privilege gone wrong as a family dinner assembled for unknown reasons spirals out of control into a web of deceit and violence. Rides the European-thriller wave kickstarted by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but about a hundred times better than that slog.

Academic Exercises, K. J. Parker
Unfortunately out of print, but the ebook is easily obtainable. Parker’s short fiction and novellas are bleak, cynical, and fun as hell—all are set in the same fantasy world, but it’s “fantasy” in the loosest sense—magic pops up rarely. Instead, two court composers reenact Amadeus in the Middle Ages; a group of con men invent a new religion only to discover that their prophecies seem to be coming true; politicians backstab, scholars fabricate, brigands fuck things up. Don’t want to give much away, as the twists and turns are among the best parts.

Paradise Lost, John Milton
I won’t pretend this one is an easy read but please give it a chance, because it contains some of the most stirring images ever committed to English as well as perhaps the best villain in history. The early description of the newly fallen demon horde thrusting fiery swords into the black void of hell and hurling defiance at heaven still takes my breath away. Get the Modern Library edition; it adds quotation marks to the dialogue, which helps readability a ton.

The October Country, Ray Bradbury
I own every single Ray Bradbury book currently in print and most that are out of print (some 40ish titles off the top of my head). Outside the obvious jumping-in points—his four great novels, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes—this is the best entry point into his work. It’s a short fiction collection best read at night with autumn leaves outside and spooky sounds filtering in through the window, full of Twilight Zone-esque ghosts and monsters that are delightful as they are creepy.

Red Dragon, Thomas Harris
Before Hannibal Lecter was a household name, there was this, the book that basically every single police procedural since has aped. The homoerotic Gothic surreality of the Hannibal TV series remains my favorite interpretation of Harris’ universe, but the novel that started it all remains a monolith of pop-fiction, engaging and suspenseful and incredibly well-written for its genre.

Apathy and Other Small Victories, Paul Neilan
No books has ever made me laugh harder. It’s got a lot in common with Archer—populated with absolutely despicable characters whose horrifying remarks you can’t stop howling at.

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
Danielewski’s subsequent books have plunged into masturbatory hackwork, but his debut remains one of the best horror experiments in literature. A book about a book about a book about a film about a house (one that’s just a few inches longer on the inside than it is on the outside), it exploits its nested narratives and the typographical properties of printed text to form a literal labyrinth of words, one that at points must be held up to mirrors in order to proceed. Not only does its maze of letters augment its themes, it directly involves the reader to an extent that’s seriously paranoia-inducing.

The Terror, Dan Simmons
The real-life story of the HMS Terror, a ship that vanished while searching for the Northwest Passage, is already fascinating. Throw in a mysterious creature terrorizing the stranded ship’s crew as they sit trapped amidst an infinity of ice, and you’ve got a period horror yarn that’s almost literally un-put-downable. Simmons’ attention to detail is a treat for the history buff, but it never gets in the way of the suspense.

The Regeneration Trilogy, Pat Barker
For my money the best piece of World War I literature ever published, and almost none of it takes place on the battlefield. Barker instead chooses to devote 900 pages to soldiers suffering from PTSD (“shell shock” at the time) and the psychologists who endeavor to treat them. Perfectly folding in real-life figures such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon with her own characters, Barker spins an epic of empathy and trauma that’s just as harrowing as trench warfare.


The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror, Thomas Ligotti
Ligotti, primarily a reclusive horror fiction writer, turns here to philosophy, systematically tearing down every single positive assumption about existence humanity has made since consciousness arose. Being alive, he posits, is fundamentally not alright—we are ghosts in the machine, meat puppets who are aware of our own fundamental powerlessness, and the sentience that has granted us this awareness of our own futility is an evolutionary mistake of unspeakable perversity. Written with all the anhedonic panache of Ligotti’s fiction, this is a hoarse shriek into the void that I wish I didn’t agree with as much as I do.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Dillard won the Pulitzer Prize for this when she was only 29, a fact which will forever be demoralizing to me and any other aspiring artists out there. It’s a Walden for the modern age, a transcendent hymn to life, a cosmic horror story, a rewrite of the Book of Job, and/or an absolutely fascinating examination of the majestic cruelty and terrible beauty of the natural world, depending on what you’re looking for.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes
Either absolutely batshit or right on the money, or, more probably, a mix of both. What if, Jaynes posits, humankind, which has existed for at least 100,000 years, wasn’t actually conscious until roughly 3,000 years ago? Using the Iliad as his starting point, he conducts an interdisciplinary creation myth that draws from science, psychology, history, and literature to paint a picture of a humanity that could build civilizations and write epic poetry but could not actually think for itself. Chilling, outrageous, insightful, and completely brilliant as often as it’s completely bonkers.

Columbine, Dave Cullen
As thorough and human an account of the shooting as will probably ever be written. Cullen humanizes the shooters without excusing or fetishizing them, shapes his narration of their plan with nail-biting tension without ever allowing himself to become manipulative of the reader, and zeroes in on their individuality without sacrificing the scope needed to tell the full story of the tragedy.

The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr
Mary Karr had a pretty fucked-up childhood—living in poverty and possessed of a mother who tried to kill her at least once—but her retelling of it is a remarkable tonal balancing act. It’s a memoir that, rather than sinking into self-pity or going for shock value, is full of tenderness and humor, fed to the reader with such seemingly effortless flair it’s as though Karr were simply spinning a yarn to us over a beer.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
Deservedly the Bible of the modern American civil rights movement.

The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It), Thom Stark
One of the books that was indispensable to me as I was leaving my faith, but it’s fascinating for believers and nonbelievers alike. Stark, a liberal Christian, explores the history and internal consistency of Biblical texts to tear the evangelical concepts of literalism and inerrancy to shreds, condemning them as doctrines that are fundamentally disingenuous, untenable, and unbiblical. As a crash course on such topics as Jewish polytheism and the historicity of the Exodus, it’s insanely interesting; to someone who grew up believing firmly in the absolute perfection of the Bible, it’s mind-blowing.

Decline and Fall/Dark Age America, John Michael Greer
We’re not gonna get better, so we may as well pontificate about how exactly things are gonna slide into “permanently fucked” mode before they happen. These two volumes, which cover democratic decay, catastrophic climate change, and technological catastrophe, are oddly reassuring in their promise that yes, things are going to get much worse from here.

God: A Biography, Jack Miles
Miles decides to treat the God of the Old Testament as a unified character (knowingly disregarding most respectable scholarship to do so), tracing His journey through the books of the Hebrew Bible and examining how His contact with humanity shapes and alters Him. It’s a profoundly weird and frequently moving conceit, one that often exposes the Old Testament Yahweh for the petulant being He is but also leaves the reader with a curious empathy for Him.

The Prince of This World, Adam Kotsko
A political history of the devil and hell. Examines with great brilliance the fatal shift of the early church—its turn from identifying God with the marginalized and Satan with the powerful to the inverse, embedding God at the top of a hierarchy and placing Satan among the outcasts.

Finishing the Hat/Look, I Made a Hat!, Stephen Sondheim
Sondheim is the best lyricist in American history, and these, his collected musings and critiques of his own work, are indispensable for anyone interested in musical theatre.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright
You know what they say about cults. They ain’t great.

Last edited by DarthPraxus (2018-01-12 15:32:20)

Re: Recommend some books

1. I love this thread.

2. I'm gonna reply in kind.

3. God damn you, this is gonna take forever.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Recommend some books

Robert Heinlein's corpus is a mixed bag, and on a shelf near Ayn Rand in terms of some of their fanbase, but...

I cannot recommend, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, enough.
In which the moon was used as a penal colony, and has since become a source of farmed goods to the earth. Plot-wise, it tells of the activities and fate of several members of a political independence movement. Linked to the Wiki page for the more curious.

(UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada)

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Re: Recommend some books

drewjmore wrote:

I cannot recommend, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, enough.

Oh Heinlein's best by far!

Extended Edition - 140 Solo: A Star Wars Story!
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Re: Recommend some books

I had to start somewhere, so I collated a 'lil rundown of what I remember reading from the past couple of years and narrowed it down; unfortunately, this also means I know which books I'm withholding from active recommendation, and it's bumming me out 'cuz I wouldn't have finished them if I hadn't enjoyed them.

So, let's hear it for the runners-up!

(Just so you know, I had to make the list itself, but the formatting I'm handling as a batch action in Sheets.)

A Brilliant Solution Inventing the American Constitution
Affairs of Honor National Politics in the New Republic
Alexander Hamilton
Chronicle of Old Los Angeles Exploring the Develish History of the City of the Angels
Do Not Sell At Any Price The Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records
Drift The Unmooring of American Military Power
Empire of Liberty A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
Fall of the Double Eagle The Battle for Galicia and the Demise of Austria-Hungary
Grunt The Curious Science of Humans at War
Horse Soldiers The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan
How Music Works
Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990
On Tyranny Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776
Road to Huetgen Forest in Hell
Rubberhead Sex, Drugs, and Special FX
Russia's Dead End An Insider's Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin
Steel From Mine to Mill, The Metal That Made America
Stuff Matters Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World
The Art of Creature and Character Design
The Art of Hand Lettering
The Bill of Rights The Fight to Secure America's Liberties
The Butchering Art Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine
The Elegant Universe Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
The Fourth Turning What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny
The Glorious Cause The American Revolution, 1763-1789
The Mutter Museum
The Mythology of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Ancient Greece
The Path Between the Seas The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
The Pentagon's Brain An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency
The Red Baron The Life and Legacy of Manfred von Richtofen
Thing Explainer Complicated Stuff in Simple Words
Washington: A Life
What to Listen For in Music
Whirlwind The American Revolution and the War That Won It
You Are What You Speak Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity

Now for the recommendations. To indicate length, I'mma use Harry Potter thicknesses for comparison.

April 1865 (Jay Winik) The Month That Saved America

This draws a wonderful little sketch of the circumstances surrounding the end of the American Civil War — the fall of Richmond (jesus, that scene in this book), the surrender at Appomattox, the assassination of Lincoln, the beginnings of Reconstruction fuckwithery by President Shitlord von Impeachedsoonafter, etc. — and while I tend to like my history books long and boring, this one is a fairly breezy Chamber of Secrets.

A People's Tragedy (Orlando Figes) The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924

Okay, right off the bat, we're talkin' Order of the Phoenix plus The Prizoner of Azkaban — this is one of those books you can stop a mugging with — but god damn is it eye-opening. This book is responsible for the much deeper dive I ended up taking into Russian history and ideology, but all on its own, it's the bible for learning about Russia's fall from tzarism to provisional government to Lenin's totalitarianism. Not all big fat history books earn 'weighty tome' status — *side-eyes David McCullough* — but this runs you through the full gamut of the social hierarchy as it existed under fucking serfdom and tzars, and through the period of failed popular revolutions leading to 'Bloody Sunday' of 1905, through the abdication of the tzar and reconstruction, through the camps. It's just the whole damned story. Thick and dense, but readable. Strap in.

A River In Darkness (Masaji Ishikawa) One Man's Escape From North Korea

This book leaves a mark. It's the autobiography of a Japanese kid who was brought to North Korea against his will in the early sixties, who survives thirty years of unspeakable horror and miraculously — mir-ac-u-lous-ly — gets out alive and ultimately writes this book about it. There are two books about North Korea on this list, I highly recommend you read both of them. If you're going to, read the other one first, so the North Korean reality expressed in this one may act as a punchline to the North Korean ideals expressed in the other. This is also among the most readable books on the whole list; you will be sucked into it, and you will be queasy.

In the ballpark of a nightmarish Philosopher's Stone.

Leaves. A. Mark.

An Ocean of Air (Gabrielle Walker) Why the Wind Blows and Other Mysteries of the Atmosphere

Hey, look, something that isn't edge-of-your-seat intense! This lovely little buddy of yours explains the atmosphere with a chronological history of humanity's atmospheric breakthroughs. If you like thematic books where each new chapter tells the story of a broader scientific vision taking shape — and I do; see also E=mc², The Butchering Art, How We Got To Now, The Path Between the Seas, etc. — then you'll have a great time with this one. Not much to it; sub-Philospher's Stone, I think.

American Lion (Jon Meacham) Andrew Jackson in the White House

This was one of the two presidential biographies I read explicitly in prepapration for Trump taking office — the other one being Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990, which is itself very good, but you only care about the Watergate stuff and this book goes far beyond that, so, not an active recommendation (although the Watergate coverage is great) — and I'm very glad I did, because the similarities are uncanny repeatedly. (Same with Nixon; both do differ from Trump [Nixon more than Jackson], but there's also no-shit pathological similarities at work in each case. Same for Jefferson, actually, but boo-hiss-people-throw-things, so.) American Lion is fairly enlightening and engaging as a biography of the man, but it also makes for a good entry into that historical moment between the-Revolution-through-1812 and Civil-War-stuff-etc., which is a period most Americans are particularly rusty on. As one such American who has since gone to the trouble of getting up to speed on it, I'm here to tell you: that period is the Empire Strikes Back of that trilogy.

Goblet of Fire, I guess.

Area 51 (Annie Jacobsen) An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base

I hate recommending this book to people, because it's the coolest fucking shit I've ever read and I want to keep it a secret forever. I'm not even going to pitch it to you. Don't read this book, please.

(But if you do, read Operation Paperclip first — same author, briefer book, stronger throughline, also gives you critical perspective which will greatly benefit your reading of Area 51, which has one of the greatest 'holy fucking shit' historical endings I've ever read and you'll only have one chance to feel its full impact hitting you at once.)

(Seriously, read Paperclip first.)

Area 51 is roughly Goblet of Fire; Paperclip is closer to Chamber of Secrets.

Consider the Lobster (David Foster Wallace)

Oh, you know, just some delightful essays. Fun reading. Fun writing. (Hunter S. Thompson's The Great Shark Hunt should have landed on one of these lists, too — and yes, it has the Fear and Loathing stuff.) Come for his 'Consider the Lobster,' but stay for the surreal, hilarious depection of life among John McCain's touring press pool during the 2000 election, and other highlights.

Philsopher's Stone, maybe less.

DEFCON 2 (Polmar and Gresham) Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the Cuban Missile Crisis

Having read two or three books about the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is my favorite; where others spend large portions of their time with one narrative or another, this one manages to paint the overall picture in a series of essays with overlapping jurisdictions, delivering an unusually thorough education in the process.

Chamber of Secrets-ish.

E=mc² (David Bordanis) A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

This is another one of those 'every stage in humanity's eventual discovery' books, explaining E=mc² by way of an explanation for every constituent realization along the way. I like these kinds of books for two reasons: 1) because I like understanding the topic, of course, and 2) skipping from scientist to scientist and period to period as these books do makes for a useful 'sampler pack' of knowledge every time, acting as first-bits-of-context for a whole slew of new names and events worth looking up. If I recall correctly, I actually liked this book more than An Ocean of Air, even though I have a harder time remembering the specifics. Fun read, breezy read; Philosopher's Stone.

Fire and Fury (Michael Wolff) Inside the Trump White House

It's only been out for about a week, but I've already read this twice, I'm embarrassed to admit. (Once for myself, once aloud with Cloe.)

I found it a fascinating read, but not a particularly great one. You'll find a lot of typos and first-draft grammar; also, if you're a snob about how sentences are written, you'll find many to snob at. Worth noting is the generally-trashy feeling it leaves you with, both as an up-close witness to Trumpian trashiness, and as a consumer of... well, gossip. What's very illuminating is a sense of the relationships between the players; this book clarified for me (in a way the news never quite did, I now realize) who all these people are to each other. How the factions started, what their goals were, who comprised them, which groups formed alliances, how they see themselves, etc.. I'd studied the trees up close, and pictured the forest from afar; this felt like walking through familiar woods for the first time.

Philosopher's. Honestly, it goes very fast.

How to Fight Presidents (Daniel O'Brien) Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country

I just keep coming back to this one; 'biographical comedy' is a severely under-tapped market. Philosopher's.

How We Got To Now (Steven Johnson) Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

This is my favorite member of the 'different scientists in every chapter' set; it's divided into six major categories of human invention which brought about modernity; things like 'time measurement,' for instance. It's been a while since I've read this one, so the specifics are fading (and I intend to re-read it), but I can comfortably assure you of my recommendation for it. Great read, lots of learnin.' Chamber of Secrets.

Mayflower (Nathaniel Philbrick) A Story of Courage, Community, and War

A year or so into my deep-dive on the American Revolution, I realized I should probably make at least one attempt to fill my chasm of ignorance for everything that came before it. (Guns, Germs and Steel is another fantastic, fantastic book in this category.) Mayflower does a solid job of bringing you up to speed on the social moment in England (and proximate Europe), and then follows the Mayflower to the shores of Massachusetts. Come for the pilgrims; stay for the Indians. The almost-coulda-workedness we're startled to see in their initial relations with the indians — like, blemishes aside, over a full generation's worth — makes its eventual collapse during King Phillip's War all the more heartbreaking. Azkaban-ish.

Operation Paperclip (A. Jacobsen) The Secret Intelligence Program To Bring Nazi Scientists to the U.S.

Buy this. Read this. No pitch. No Potter.

Political Ideologies (Mostafa Rejai) A Comparative Approach

This is the sort of book most people would die in a fire not to read, which is why I'm recommending it — not only is it very illuminating and helpful as a 'here's what's going on' with all of the major political ideologies of the twentieth century, but it's also exactly the kind of high-level comparative analysis you never hear anywhere else.


Rare (Keith Veronese) The High-Stakes Race to Satisfy Our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth

This is another one of those 'it's been a while' books, and I can't remember the specifics very well — again, a sign I'll probably be re-perusing it at some point. I simply recall really enjoying it, and that's the info you came for.

Chamber of Secrets.

Resolute (Martin W. Sandler) The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage

This one belongs on a shelf with 'The Path Between the Seas,' for me; we'll label the shelf 'ginormous old-timey undertakings of engineering and perserverance, carried out by optimistic countries just-this-side of war.' (Two decades of high-pitch Northwest Passagery were muffled by the outbreak of the American Civil War; two decades of high-pitch Panama Canal-ery were muffled by WWI starting on the day the Canal was finished are you kidding me.) Anyway, Resolute is (by far) the more-recommendable book on that shelf; exciting, unbelievable, eye-opening, and intense. Plus, bonus history with the discovery of the North Pole and other Arctic-Circle-y stuff.

Chamber of Secrets.

The Art of Mixing (David Gibson)

If you have any interest at all in mixing audio, this book will completely flip your head and put it back where it belongs on your shoulders. The visual metaphor alone is worth paying the guy for.

(More of a reference book than anything else, so no Potter.)

The Cleanest Race (B. R. Myers) How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters

This is the North Korea book you should start with; it lays out the tone of the country in a way that no other book I've seen even attempts to do, and without understanding the tone, North Korea can sound like pretty much fucking anything. Once you understand their domestic propaganda — again, domestic; what they tell themselves that doesn't make it to the outside world, what we don't hear about, because totalitarian — everything else you hear about DPRK is suddenly cast in a new light, and the horror compounds. (Also the geopolitical dread.) Once you've read this, immediately read A River in Darkness, and experience the kind of one-two punch that can only be found in the world's most delusional fascist dynasty.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Edward R. Tufte)

Another illustrated reference book, but boy is it sexy. This is more or less 'the history of infographics,' from way before the term 'infographic' became a thing, returning to the earliest western info-drawings and tracing a route all the way back to now, highlighting the principles of good chart design we've discovered along the way.

The Wright Brothers (David McCullough)

Of the 'big name' history writers, I've never been much for McCullough — generally, I think his editor needs an editor needs an editor — but his torrent-of-detail approach pays off in this case. (Possibly due to the fact that all of these details tie back to a single family and a handful of characters.) There's so much to this story that I hadn't known, and the story itself is so exciting and inspirational, that it's pretty hard not to like this book.


Thomas Jefferson (Fawn M. Brodie) An Intimate History

You don't have to read this if you don't want to, but I would strongly recommend that you don't read any other Jefferson biographies. If you want to understand Jeff, this is the only book I've found that comes close — and, fun fact, this is the book that put an end to pure Jefferson hagiography by making the case, substantially for the first time, that house-slave Sally Hemings (and several children she had with Thomas) were part of his life story. (I should stress: Sally's whole history-shaking revelation is just five percent of the worthy insights to be found in this book.) I don't like saying 'tour de force,' but: tour de force.

Order of the Phoenix.

Venona (John Earl Haynes) Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

The Soviets didn't know it, but — surprise! — we actually broke a bunch of their WW2 cyphers in the years following the war in a highly-highly-highly classified project called VENONA, which filled in the gaps across a whole universe of espionage and foreign-policy-related mysteries, as well as opened the government's eyes to the realities of the American Communist Party. 'Imitation Game,' but with Americans instead of Brits, and Russians instead of Germans. Frankly, it's kind of a dry read at times, but it's a fascinating dry read for that.


Waking Up (Sam Harris) A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

This is the most profoundly sane book I've read in a long time. I have a hard time knowing how to pitch it to you — because your mileage may vary — but it's changed my life for the better, and given me practical braintools I still use on a daily basis, which legitimately help me control my thoughts and emotions.

Philosophper's, and deeply readable.

Huh. If I'm not mistaken, Candide is the only non-fiction book on this list.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Recommend some books

These all sound fantastic. Operation Paperclip has been Amazon'd (it's like six bucks on there right now, everyone gogogo).