This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark
The book that most enthralled me -- or at least first enthralled me on the level you're talking about -- was Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I was in college, on my way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to direct my friend Walter Kirn's play "Soft White Kids in Leather," loosely based on Warhol's Factory. Although I had read up on a lot of the New York scene of that era, it wasn't until I found Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (in the mass-market paperback edition in one of those used book bins) that I realized I had finally found someone who could not only express the experience of the group trip, but could also articulate the dynamics and ideology of the psychedelic commune. (Yes, Kesey and the Dead were the West Coast, tie-dyed counterpart to the black turtleneck culture of Warhol and Leary. But the sense of commitment to higher ideals and convenient forgetting of more day-to-day ethics were common to both scenes.)
Anyway, once I started this one I couldn't stop. This was back when taking a trip to Europe was still a really really big thing, so I had planned to travel from Italy to England to Scotland over a slow week of touring before starting rehearsals in Edinburgh. But I spent most of my time in hotel rooms and cafes just reading this book. Twice.
I don't think anything Wolfe has written really comes close, except maybe some of the essays. The book was my model for Cyberia - a similar foray into a psychedelic culture, where some fictionalizing was required to convey deeper non-fiction truths. I hope there's another psychedelic renaissance of this magnitude in my lifetime, just so I have the chance to write or even just read about it one more time.
Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths’ Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions is pitched as a combination of personal advice and business book grounded in the lessons of computer science, but it’s better than that: while much of the computer science they explain is useful in personal and management contexts, the book is also a beautifully accessible primer on algorithms and computer science themselves, and a kind of philosophical treatise on what the authors call “computational kindness” and “computational stoicism.”
AJ Hartley’s new YA series opens with Steeplejack, a
whodunnit whose unlikely and welcome hard-boiled detective is a young
woman who has to beat class and race discrimination as well as the bad
Seanan McGuire is one of science fiction’s most passionate voices, no matter whether she’s writing under her Mira Grant pseudonym or her own name, you always know that you’re going to be reading a story that moves and inflames, illuminating the cause of the underdog and the overlooked with stories that are firmly adventures first and allegories second, the best kind of political fiction, and now, with her new novella Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire shows us that she can weaponize that talent and use it as a skewer to pin the reader, right through the heart.
Some truths are universal. For one, your phone will always run out of power when you most need it. For another, the charging cords that come packaged with your Apple device will fray, split, and rip faster than Usain Bolt in a game of tag.Instead, pick up a charging cord that anyone would have a tough […]
Some people say magic tricks are nerdy and best left to your 12-year-old asthmatic cousin. But others see value in perfecting the slight of hand and showmanship associated with a perfectly executed routine. We’re firmly in the latter camp. And now, we’re giving you the ability to put a few parlor tricks up your sleeve with the Penguin […]
Bluetooth speakers may be convenient to use, but many of them just aren’t that powerful. Sure, it may be fine if you’re seated in front of the speaker. But move across the room, and you may strain to hear what’s coming from those tiny drivers.There’s a reason why the G-BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Boombox (now $79.99 in the Boing […]