I like short stories. Done well, it’s a great format that engages you, tantalizes you, and presents a big enough idea and/or leaves enough open ends to keep you thinking about the story well after you finish it.
My typical rhythm is to read a short story (or two) between the typical books I read for entertainment. Since most of my entertainment books are built around science fiction, it’s a bonus when I can find a good collection of sci-fi shorts.
One such collection that appeared in my recommendations was Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi which is, of course, by John Scalzi. Scalzi is a prolific writer. I normally see a lot of his long-form novels in my recommendation feed, so I figured reading some of his short stories would be a good way to see if I liked his writing enough to read some of his longer format works.
What do the books Infinite, Interference, Bandwidth, and Constance have in common?
Give up? It’s not obvious.
They’re all books that I discovered through Amazon’s First Reads program. If you’re an Amazon Prime member and like to read, I highly recommend this program. It’s a great way to find new authors and build out your reading list, which is why I like it so much. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve discovered my share of great books (and authors) through it.
Oh, and the other thing these books have in common is that they’re all science fiction books based on hard science fiction. In the case of Constance by Matthew Fitzsimmons, the plot of the story is built around cloning, specifically mind uploading and replication into another human body.
Looking to fill-in the gaps in your reading list for 2024? Out of the 35-plus books I read in the past year, these are the books that I enjoyed the most.
I’ve broken the recommendations into 3 categories – general recommendations (fiction, mostly from the sci-fi genre), personal development, and business. I’ve also included a list of “bonus reads” at the end. These are the books that I enjoyed a lot but wouldn’t say that you have to add to your 2024 list. These are entertaining reads that you can use to fill in any holes in your list.
For some reason, I’ve read more than my share of sci-fi books built around the quantum physics multiverse, many worlds theory. OK, I know a couple of the reasons why. Once you’ve read a couple of novels in this genre, the Amazon recommendation engine that I have a love-hate relationship with kicks in to suggest more. On top of that, my favorite sci-fi authors like to use this theory, or variations of it, in their books.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised when A.G. Riddle’s book Lost in Time showed up as one of my Amazon recommendations. A.G. Riddle is also one of my favorite sci-fi authors. I try to have at least one his novels on my reading list every year, and this one was the title I choose for this year.
I enjoy William Gibson’s science fiction novels. He has a knack for projecting technologies into the future. For example, I was fascinated by how he envisioned cyberspace and the concept of virtual worlds in Neuromancer, which was published in 1984, well before the popularity of the internet.
Ever since reading Neuromancer and Count Zero, I’d been wanting to read more of Gibson’s work. The Peripheral kept showing up in my reading recommendations. So when I saw that Amazon was turning the book into a television series, I decided to prioritize it on my reading list so I could read it before watching it. I always find it interesting to see how directors take an author’s work and convert it to a visual form.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, I’d strongly recommend signing up for their First Reads program. Every month you have the opportunity to get early access to an editor’s pick. What’s the catch? Well, for starters, it’s free. On top of that, sometimes you get to pick not just one but two books. It’s one of the rare occasions when something that sounds too good to be true really is good.
I’ve read some interesting books and discovered a couple of new authors through the service. Examples include Interference by Brad Parks, The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne, and Bandwidth by Eliot Peper. My latest discovery was Infinite by Brian Freeman.
To shape the future, one must study history. How we got here. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann is one such history lesson worth studying. The book chronicles the lives of two men whom you have likely never heard of that played a very influential part in shaping the trajectory of modern society around the world.
There are books on my reading list that have languished there for years. I’ve been trying to do a better job prioritizing these older books over the latest, shiny new object. However, there are times when a book looks to good to bury on my list. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but I add those books and put them at or near the top of the list. Usually, the book is either highly recommended by friends, by an author I like, or getting really good reviews.
Such was the case with Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. I kept seeing the book near the top of the charts on Goodreads, and it was continually appearing in my Amazon recommendations. Plus, it was a little outside the types of books I normally read, and I figured it would be worth stretching my boundaries a bit.
Between the books on my usual reading list, I like to include short stories. I find it a good way to experience new authors to see if I may be interested in exploring their longer form works. Short stories can also be an interesting format. Writers have a limited amount of space to explore an idea, expand a plot, and develop characters. I like seeing how an author creatively utilizes the short story form.
For my latest short story reading, I choose The Wandering Earth. Rather than a single story, it is a collection ten short stories by science fiction author Cixin Liu.
If an extra-terrestrial being were to arrive on our planet, what would they think of humans? What would be their reaction to what we eat, what we drink, what we wear, the music we listen to, the concept of love, and how we interact with our pets? Would they embrace the way we live, or would they be repulsed by it.
It’s an interesting thought experiment, and one that author Matt Haig explores in his book The Humans: A Novel.