see also Sci-fi short stories
- The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks
Excellent plot, excellent worldbuilding, set in a socialist future. Apparently Elon likes this one.
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Robert Heinlein
If the moon was a penal colony. Libertarian and anarcho-capitalist.
- Neuromancer - William Gibson
This book effectively invented the cyberpunk genre.
- Dune - Frank Herbert
“Because we cannot imagine a thing, that does not exclude it from reality…”
see also Calvin and Muad’Dib for some laughs
- I, Robot - Asimov
Collection of short stories about the Three Laws of Robotics. Very thought-provoking.
# Other Fiction
- Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
Wistful and weird. Don’t read it if you’re sad already.
- Ignition - John D. Clark
Excellent overview of the development of modern rocket propellants. Really funny.
“As I had suffered from mercury poisoning on two previous occasions and didn’t care to take a chance on doing it again, I thought that it would be an excellent idea to have somebody else make the compound…”
- The Emperor of All Maladies - Siddhartha Mukherjee
An exposition of cancer: history, treatments, and science. Indispensable. The author is a powerful writer.
- The Gene - Siddhartha Mukherjee
A thorough exploration of the central idea of 20th-century biology.
- Last Chance to See - Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams wrote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- but less well-known is “Last Chance to See”, in which Adams travels to the remote habitats of endangered animals in order to raise public awareness and promote conservation. I really, really love this book, both for the information about these unusual animals and for Adams’ wonderful writing style.
- Harry Glicken was a volcanologist assigned to observe Mount St. Helens, but he had a meeting the day it erupted and had to ask his mentor, David Johnston, to cover his shift. Johnston died in the pyroclastic flow. Glicken was so consumed by guilt that he spent ten years mapping the the debris field. Most of the scientific understanding of those sorts of debris avalanches are due to his meticulous work. Glicken died on Mt. Unzen in Japan in the 90s. I recommend reading his wikipedia page and his obituary.
- I love everything that Feynman has written. He’s my role model. I keep rereading “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” and “What Do You Care What Other People Think” in the hope that I can find some secret to seeing the world the way he did.
- Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
A narrative of the 1996 Everest disaster from Krakauer, who was actually a member of one of the expeditions. Powerful and tragic.
- Touching the Void - Joe Simpson
Joe fell hundreds of feet into a crevasse in a remote glacier in Peru and crawled out over three excruciating days.