Books, Reads, Winter Break, Relax, Knowledge

Great reads for your winter break: Six futuristic books

Do you love to read? Do you love a good dose of futurism? Do you find technology interesting? Do you have a winter break? Then fill your days with good books, warm coffee, and relax with these great reads. 

I absolutely love to make good use of the cold weather and curl up in my snuggie with a good coffee and a good book. These days, most Danes are taking a winter break from work. And even though I’m not, I have prioritized to take more time to read this year.

I have always been a big fan of books, reading from an early age, writing too. I may be writing about tech and innovation for the most part, but I’m old school when it comes to reading. I love newspapers. Magazines. I like my books physical and not on a Kindle, iPad or the like. I mean, it is clever and all, but mostly if you’re traveling. At home, I like to feel the turn of the pages, smell the binding, and put my old bookmarks from my childhood trips to the library to use.

I don’t go to the library as often as I used to but I still go to the bookstore and almost never without buying a stack of books. I just can’t help myself. A couple of days ago I bought seven new books and luckily for me I have set aside time to read these weeks where most people including some of my clients are on holiday.

Here are a couple of recommendations for your winter break. I have tons of suggestions so to narrow it down, I have focused on books where the plot has something to do with technology or the future:

The Circle

/Dave Eggers

This book is an easy read, but a damn interesting one. Set in California, we follow Mae Holland who is hired to work for the world’s most powerful company the Circle. A tech close-to-monopoly that eerily resemble today’s big companies like Facebook or Amazon.

It is an honor to work at the Circle, a position that comes with many perks but slowly Mae’s job becomes more intertwined with her private life – that is not that private anymore.

Things start to unravel, and Mae’s family and friends are drawn into the all-seeing Circle with huge consequences.
The book is just short of 500 pages long but the type is large and the language easily flowing. It’s a fascinating idea not far from reality, and it makes one think; is the hunt for likes and connection worth the price in the deconstruction of our privacy and democracy?

Really, avoid the movie. Stick to the book.

Ready Player One

/Ernest Cline

In 2045 the world as we know it has come to an end. We have depleted the natural resources and destroyed the environment. Cities are overrun with crime and poverty, and people live in stacks; towers of RVs, mobile homes, and containers. In one of these stacks lives our narrator Wade Watts.

Wade has fled reality for years through the virtual reality world, OASIS. An immersive experience where everyone has an avatar that can live, fight, date, hang out, and go to school. But when James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, dies, the hunt for his Easter Egg begins, and the one who finds it will receive Halliday’s fortune and total control over the OASIS.

This books will soon become a motion picture, and judging from the poster it is going to be rather awesome with 80’s nostalgia and dystopian futurism.

When you first have gotten acquainted with the voice of our 18-year-old hero the book is entertaining and Black Mirror-like – though I’d love to know more about the real world and the OASIS and less about our hero’s lovesickness.

Sapiens

/Yuval Noah Harari

A brief history of humankind. A story not so much about tech and innovation as a biography of homo sapiens. Yuval spans our history from the first humans walked the earth until the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. It is a harder book to go through – especially when on vacation – but our ancestor’s story is super interesting, relevant, and should be general knowledge.

How did our species succeed when so many others succumbed?
How did the inventions and revolutions shape our path? What part has religion played? And which roles have the different -isms, laws, and nations taken in the creation of society today?

So when you have the time, which you do on vacation, read the whole thing through. Afterwards, you can embark on the follow-up, Homo Deus, A brief history of Tomorrow, about humanity’s future and our ultimate goal of being Gods.

The Dark Tower

/Stephen King

One of my all-time favorite book series. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, read the book, don’t just watch the movie!
Roland, the gunslinger, is chasing the Man in Black through a desolate world called Mid-World. A parallel universe, where humanity has almost erased itself in a nuclear-like-explosion.

The world has traces of the world we know today, with technological and social systems and societies, but Mid-World is also magical. Some of the magic is disappearing, time is not a straight line anymore, and cities have vanished. The Dark Tower, the nexus of all worlds, are falling. If it falls, the whole universe will come down with it.

Roland Deschain is the last of his kind from the kingdom of Gilead. He must try to stop the Man in Black from destroying the Dark Tower.

The Dark Tower-series is Stephen King’s Magnum Opus and incorporates many genres and elements from King’s other works. The entire series is more than 4250 pages long split into eight books, so what can I say. Just get started.

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Purity

/Jonathan Franzen

At first, I didn’t know what I thought of this book. It’s a gigantic thing to get started with, and it takes a couple of chapters to get going, part one and part two are very different, too. But the language, the setting, the calling out on our inner emptiness and need to fill our lives with technology and social media is both very Jonathan Franzen and very enticing.

Our lead, Pip, full name Purity Tyler is hard to love but still relatable. Pip is struggling with her origin. She doesn’t know her father, and her relationship with her mother is, well, complicated. She is squatting in a house in Oakland, with 130.000 dollars in student debt. Parallel to Pip’s story, we have the Germans.

They get entangled when Pip gets an internship in South America with the Sunlight Project, a Wikileaks-like organization, created by Andreas Wolf. Andreas is attracted to Pip, and the book’s pace accelerates with murder, suicide, Daddy issues, and investigative journalism.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

/Douglas Adams

I feel like everybody should know what this book is about by now, but not that many people have read the whole thing. Which is a shame really because both plot and style are excellent.
Our anti-hero Arthur Dent is plucked from Earth by his friend Ford Prefect seconds before our planet is devastated. Then things turn weird. It is a classic, a trilogy that you either love or have to put down because of it’s sheer size – both the book physically and the world that opens within. But Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a highly entertaining read with beautiful phrasings like:

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

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and this piece of inner dialogue:

“Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.

And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.

This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

Ah … ! What’s happening? it thought.

Er, excuse me, who am I?

Hello?

Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

What do I mean by who am I?

Calm down, get a grip now … oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my … my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.

Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what’s about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that … wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This … let’s call it a tail – yeah, tail. Hey! I can can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on. Now – have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?

No.

Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation …

Or is it the wind?

There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?

And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!

I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.”

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