Summer Reading Standouts (Bring on the Science Fiction!)

Photo by Nicolas Raymond via CC (BY) license

Photo by Nicolas Raymond via CC (BY) license

Between work projects and prepping for my podcast, Curious Minds, I read a lot of non-fiction. It scratches that itch I have to know what’s coming or, even better, “becoming” (a terrific Kevin Kelly word from his book, The Inevitable).

I try to read things that teach me something new or that compel me to see with fresh eyes what’s become so familiar I no longer see it at all. And I feel like I’ve won the lottery when something I read transforms how I think.

But sometimes my brain needs a break. And while in the past, I’d have picked up a novel, now I find myself craving science fiction. In particular, I’m hooked on anything that smacks of future tech. I’m sure part of it is all the non-fiction I’m reading on automation, robotics, augmentation, and psychology.

I’m bored by the arguments about whether or not robots are coming (they are), and much more interested in what it’ll be like when they’re even more fully integrated into our lives. I’m equally interested in human augmentation and how that’ll play out culturally and politically, especially if society grows more unequal.

Ramez Naam is a science fiction author who’s wrestling with these ideas. I highly recommend his three books, Nexus, Apex, and Crux. Naam is a computer scientist who’s worked on artificial intelligence. He’s also the winner of the H.G. Wells Award for his non-fiction book, More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement (haven’t read it yet). His domain knowledge is what makes his books so compelling. He’s painting an incredible picture of what our world may become.

Another author I’d recommend is Eliot Peper. He’s a tech startup guy, and his book, Cumulus, helps us see a bit further out from where we are while pushing us to think about the impact of tech in a world of growing inequality, especially in places like the Bay Area. Peper’s written a more recent book, Neon Fever Dream, that I’m planning to read.

Another author I read much earlier this year is Ann Leckie. Like Naam, she’s written a trilogy that kicks off with Ancillary Justice. While I haven’t yet read the two books that follow, I am still thinking about this first one and how she plays with augmentation and gender.

I’ve also heard great things about the thriller, Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch and am saving it for upcoming travel.

If you have any science fiction recommendations, especially more recent books, let me know.



  1. Jon on August 23, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Hi Gayle!

    I have the same itch for reading non-fiction, mostly Sci Fi/Fantasy and always audio books. In the mornings, on the way to work, I listen to Curious Minds. On the way home, I listen to my Sci Fi audio book.

    I just finished the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown and it was a lot of fun. All three books are #1 New York Times Bestsellers and the narrator is excellent.

    The Nexus trilogy looks epic! I appreciate your recommendation and will definitely check out the audiobook!

  2. Gayle on August 23, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Jon, I’m thrilled to hear that you commute with Curious Minds. Hope you’re enjoying what guests are sharing! Wow! Thank you for the trilogy recommendation. I can’t wait to check these books out. And keep the recommendations coming!

  3. Jon on August 23, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Actually, I AM thoroughly enjoying what guests are sharing! In conversations with colleagues and friends, I draw connections to the topics discussed on Curious Minds. It makes for more stimulating conversations and deeper personal connection! Thank you Gayle for such a fantastic podcast!

  4. Gayle on August 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    So glad to hear that, Jon! Thank you.

  5. Amit on August 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    great list Gayle. Few recommendations if you haven’t read these:
    1) Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi
    2) Post Singular, Rudy Rucker
    3) Accelererando, Charles Stross

  6. Gayle on August 23, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing these, Amit. Will add them to my list. Can’t wait!