Supercool Ultrafun Summertime Reading List from Hell! … not really

Written by Shawn Funk

You are doing great if you can read one book a month during your summer break! If you can read two a month, even better. But please, don’t be inspired by the nitwit from Microsoft, who tells everyone he reads 100 books a year; this is impractical. Reading is as much about thinking and imagining as it is about reading the words on the page. Don’t get caught up in quantity. Don’t read a book just to get to the end. Enjoy it as it unfolds in your mind. Passively skimming a book won’t activate your imagination in any meaningful way unless you are a genius like Bill. I digress; dare to add one of the following books to your reading list this summer. Enjoy!    

Fight Club (1996)—Chuck Palahniuk

People who rant about this book will often tell you that it glorifies toxic masculinity; others who rant back say it’s a critique of fascism. If only there were a system we could implement to get everyone to come to the same conclusions on matters of order and consciousness. Oh wait, there is; it’s called authoritarianism. Many countries are doing it, and it seems to keep the citizens thinking in unison. Join the party! Joking aside, Fight Club is a tragedy, not a glorification. It outlines the conditions for authoritarianism to take hold and the tragic outcomes for the individuals trapped in such a system. Don’t forget the first and second rule of Fight Club: don’t talk about Fight Club. We clear? Cristal—

Crime and Punishment (1865-6)—Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Russians are a very critical group, and they think, probably much deeper than us, about the conditions of humanity and the underlying concepts and theories that underpin our understanding of the world. You will find in Dostoyevsky’s work a very sensitive analysis of such themes as guilt, morality, justice, love, luck, and chance happenings that set in motion outrageous sequences of events from which there is no return.

Thinking, Fast and Slow (2013)—Daniel Kahneman

For every 100 books you read, there is always one that stands apart, that you return to throughout your life, that changes the way you think about the world and your relationship to it. For me, this book is Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, a culmination of his life’s work in human psychology, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. His research probes how we make decisions and the biases that betray the so-called rational foundations of our understanding. Indeed, he concludes that our minds are wired not for rationality but, instead, for expedience, leading to significant breakdowns in our judgments.

The Stand (1978)—Stephen King

Ever wondered what would happen if a deadly pandemic wiped out 99 percent of the population on Earth, leaving the survivors to fend for themselves for the necessities of life. This idea underpins Stephen Kings’ masterpiece The Stand. Indeed, the battle between good and evil rages across America in this post-apocalyptic thriller. Be sure to find the uncut version; it’s long but well worth the read—a real page-turner!    

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979)—Douglas Adams

Follow Arthur Dent as he hitches a ride across the galaxy with a manic-depressive A.I named Marvin, an alien (who used to be Dent’s neighbor) Ford Prefect, and a flamboyant shit-disturber called Zaphod Beeblebrox. This book will provide many laughs, and it is an early meditation on ‘the singularity,’ a concept that Ray Kurzweil posits in his book The Singularity is Near (2005) that suggests a point in time when artificially intelligent machines can create their super-intelligent devices, leading to an intelligence explosion. Don’t Panic!   

The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)—Ursula Le Guin

This list would be incomplete if I didn’t include one of my favorite sci-fi authors of all time, Ursula Le Guin. Her writing is intelligently informed by scholarship in anthropology, feminist theory, cultural studies, and sociology, forming the backdrop for a very imaginative series of books set in the Hainish universe. Among them, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) is hard to surpass. Not only did it win the Hugo Award for best novel of the year, but it also captured the Nebula Award in the same category, joining a short list of authors that have accomplished this feat. This novel is routinely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi novels of all time.

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