Most of my friends know me as a reader. It’s true that I love to read, and usually around this time of year a few people start coming by to ask me for book suggestions. With the start of a new year, people are inspired and energized to pursue goals both new and old. For many, myself included, their goal is to read more. I am honored to have someone willing to commit their time and mental bandwidth to a book I consider worthy, but I am also terrified of wasting their time, making the wrong recommendation and contributing to an early completion of their solution.
I’m also not the most well-read, so I don’t have a plethora of solid choices from various genres and authors to give me the best chance of suggesting the perfect book for every taste and inclination out there. I like to read what I like to read, but that may not fit with other people’s interests. I’ve recently realized that when it comes to recommendations, I’ve been playing it safe by sticking to the same short list of books for the past two years. They are three of my favorite books and covers spread across genres as far as I can manage. Each book is something different, something I found interesting or unique, but more importantly, each book is written by an author who I believe has more to offer than just one book. Each author’s expanded works make for excellent reading. So if someone ends up liking my recommendation, there is more to read like that they can easily find to keep that decision alive and continue to develop a reading habit.
“Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson
The year 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson, whose influence on the science fiction genre and the literary world still lingers. The term “metaverse” and “avatar” were in this book (in the context of representing a person in a virtual world) formulated. 30 years later, its originality and readability still remain. The book has an infectious energy that starts with the first page (with what I believe is the best hook or opening of any book I’ve ever read) and explodes through the rest.
The book follows its hero and protagonist, protagonist Hiro (named to say the least), in a fractured and highly militarized United States ruled by capitalist rulers. In this world, most people have replaced their preference for reality with the more attractive virtual metaverse (which Hiro was involved in creating). However, Hiro soon realizes that his creativity is in danger from a new “virtual drug”, a viral executable file called Snow Crash that not only endangers physical reality, but also puts him in grave danger. What Unfolds is a thrilling, frantic, action-packed story with just the right amount of irreverence and originality for a fun and imaginative page-turner.
Other works by Neil Stephenson include but are not limited to: “Cryptonomicon” (1999), “Anathem” (2008), “Seveneves” (2015), and “Termination Shock” (2021).
“How to Change Your Mind” Michael Pollan
I think it’s fair to say that nonfiction isn’t usually what people gravitate towards when looking for a book to read or to start a reading habit. Nonfiction books are often long and jarring, and if you’re anything like me, I can’t seem to remember more than a few fun facts and curiosities from the fictional stories I read. However, “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Psychology Teach Us About Consciousness, Death, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence” by Michael Pollan is a book I will always recommend.
Part history, part social science and part Mind Trip, the book covers the turbulent journey to the re-emergence of contemporary psychedelic research. It has always been narcotics Muharrampart of the counterculture in the United States, but as Pollan explains, there was something new Research In recent years in their ability to help treat a myriad of mental illnesses, from depression And addiction to human existential obsessions. Pollan writes with such sincerity, precision, and care in an accessible style that turns a voluminous non-fiction book into a page-turner. The book offers just what the title suggests—a way to change your mind with a complete shift in perspective on cultural taboos everywhere, and an insight into a growing and exciting field of scholarly research that holds powerful existential and spiritual potential.
Other works by Michael Pollan include but are not limited to: “The Plant of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World” (2001), “The Carnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” (2006) and “This Is Your Brain on Plants” (2021).
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
With its wisdom, inspiration, and spiritual guidance, Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” is a great classic. Short and sweet, a quick read like this will have you covered in no time. Through its simple prose and dreamy feel, this charming story of powerful simplicity provides great depth and meaning with interwoven themes of destiny, spirituality, love, kindness, and personal growth.
This story is about an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago and his journey to find a lost treasure. What begins as a search for material goods turns into a search for the treasure that lies within. “The Alchemist” keeps the big picture in mind and delivers a clear message that, regardless of religious motivations, will vary based on your beliefs, values, and upbringing–a feature that lends itself to nearly 40 years of relevance. Evocative and deeply human, no matter who you are or where you are in life, “The Alchemist” will speak to you in its own special way.
Other works by Paulo Coelho include but are not limited to: “Eleven Minutes” (2003), “Veronika Decides to Die” (2006) and “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept” (2006).
Arts Journal writer Noah Lusk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.