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.
- 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.
- The Summit - Pat Falvey & Pemba Gyalje Sherpa
The story of the 2008 K2 disaster.
- 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…”
- Superintelligence - Nick Bostrom
Absurdly tedious book. I managed to finish it after two months of reading a few pages each day. It’s on this list because being aware of the AI safety terminology helps one sound intelligent during disagreements.
- 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
Adams’ lesser-known book about his travels to remote areas in search of endangered animals. Written in his characteristic humorous style. Very moving.