I like reading books by authors I haven’t read before. Every author has their own writing style, and each has their own perspective of reality. Reading a new author can be like seeing the world through another set of eyes.
The problem I have is that I can easily fall into a rut reading books by authors I like. The Amazon recommendation engine, my arch nemesis, doesn’t help either. Because it knows what I buy and what I read, it feeds me a steady diet of books by authors I’m familiar with.
Fortunately, there are a few ways I have of discovering new authors. One is the Amazon First Reads program where they offer up free books to Prime members. Most of the featured authors are ones that I’m not familiar with, but it can be difficult to find titles in my preferred genres. The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne was one such book that appeared on the list. It wasn’t in my preferred genre, but I decided to take a risk anyway and add it to my reading list.
Growing up, I remember marking the calendar and patiently waiting for new movies to open in theaters. I remember waiting every fall for new seasons of my favorite television shows like Seinfeld and Cheers. Never in a million years did I think I would eagerly wait for the availability of a book. Yes, a book. Those things you read.
Well, it’s happened. I’ve become one of “those people.”
I’ve been a big fan of Blake Crouch’s writing since reading the Wayward Pines trilogy. I’ve read Dark Matter, Recursion, and short stories he’s written. I like his style, the pace of his books, and how he often weaves plausible technology and hard science fiction concepts into his stories.
So yes, I had the date circled on my calendar for the release of his latest novel, Upgrade.
The more science fiction I read, the more I find myself drawn to certain authors. Whether it’s their style of writing, their storytelling ability, or their imagination of what’s possible, there is something about their work that speaks to me.
One such author who I particularly enjoy reading is Andy Weir. I’ve read Artemis, Randomize (a short story from Amazon’s Forward Series), and The Martian, which is still one of my favorite books of all time.
So when Andy Weir’s latest book, Project Hail Mary, hit the shelves, it was a no-brainer to add it to my reading list, and to make sure that it ended up near the top of it.
To be successful, it’s imperative that you have lofty expectations and set at least one big, audacious goal. Having such a goal can be overwhelming. It begs the question, how do you go about achieving it?
The simple answer is that it’s like eating an elephant. It’s too big to eat all at once. It needs to be broken down into smaller pieces. You have to do it one small bite at a time. Still, it requires a process. That’s where Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg can help.
Outside of entertainment and learning, one of the things I enjoy most about reading is discussing and sharing books with others. I especially like it when people share book recommendations with me. Nearly all my most interesting reads have come from recommendations. And while I might not get to all of my recommendations right away, eventually I manage to get to them. I know my daughter Courtney can relate.
Anyway, both Courtney and Amanda read The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides last year. They both liked it, a lot. Since they both highly recommended it, I made it a point to put it at the top of my 2022 reading list even though it isn’t in my primary reading genre of science fiction. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into, but I figured I’d give it a shot.
My final morning read for 2021 was Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. In case you don’t know who Ed Catmull is, which I didn’t before reading the book, he was one of the co-founders and CEO of Pixar. Yes, that Pixar. The one that made movies such as the Toy Story franchise, A Bug’s Life, Up, Cars, Monsters, Inc., and more.
There’s an interesting story behind how I learned about the book, and it’s one I’m going to share. Why? Because it’s what I do. It’s who I am.
There are pros and cons to Amazon’s recommendation engine. On the one hand, it’s uncovered books that I would have otherwise never found on my own. On the other hand, it can lead you into some really deep rabbit holes. Once you read a couple of books around a similar topic or theme, it recommends more of the same.
After I finished reading The Fold, I thought I’d exhausted the books about time travel on my reading list. Apparently, I didn’t. Next up on my reading list was All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai.
Daniel Suarez has been near or at the top of my favorite authors ever since I read Daemon and Freedom. I enjoy how he combines action and suspense with believable near-term science fiction concepts.
In his latest novel, Delta-v, Suarez explores the topic of space exploration and the various options that are currently under evaluation such as colonizing Mars, asteroid mining, and space hotels. Around this backdrop, he creates a techno-thriller around the first team that is selected and sent to space to mine an asteroid in hopes of providing a method to sustain the human race.
In case you haven’t noticed, the big tech companies continue to grow in power. That growth is allowing them to not only generate massive amounts of wealth for investors but also shape society. When I say big tech, I’m not just referring to the public companies that make up what is known as the FAANG group of stocks that includes Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and of which I would also include Microsoft. My definition of big tech also includes privately held companies known as “unicorns”, companies that have rapidly went from zero to $1,000,000,000 valuations such as Nextdoor, Udemy, Instacart, SpaceX, Stripe, and the like.
As someone who works in technology, it’s great to see companies in this space have success. However, that success has not come without controversy. The more we learn about how these companies operate, how they make money, and how they exploit their users, the more we should be concerned about the impact they have on the world around us. It’s a multi-faceted problem that Maëlle Gavet explores in her book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem And How To Fix It.
One of my primary reading genres is books about health and nutrition. I feel it’s vitally important that we’re aware of what we’re feeding our bodies. I typically make it a point to read at least one book from this group every year, although I wouldn’t mind reading more. Unfortunately, I’d gotten away from reading in this area over the last year or two with the last good book I read about nutrition being The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung back in in 2019 (which I would highly recommend, by the way).
One of the challenges with reading health and nutrition books is identifying books based on solid science. There are so many books on the subject that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Depending on the quality of the book, suggestions can be life changing for the better, or, if not researched properly and supported by quality data, they can have negative effects on one’s health, potentially even hazardous outcomes in the extreme.
Fortunately, one of my favorite blogs, A Learning a Day, made a strong recommendation for a nutrition book, The Diet Myth by Tim Spector. Given the good experiences I’ve had with previous recommendations from the blog, I added it to my (lengthy) reading list and finally got around to reading it.