Hey, what’s up, guys? A couple of notes before we get started today. We hit that milestone on Tuesday of this week, and it’s just completely insane. I can’t really think of words to say right now. However, there will be a correct 100,000 subscriber bonus video coming. This is not it. The other thing I want to say is that I’m veering a little bit of course from my original planned schedule because in last week’s video on public speaking I said the next video will be on presentations.
Because I’ll be flying out to Vermont next Wednesday to give a presentation of my own, I haven’t had enough time to really put the quality and preparation into that video that I want and that I think you guys deserve. So I’m going to put that one off a little bit. I’m going to get through that presentation. Today I still desire to release something, so I thought it would be fun to go through 10 of my favorite fiction books.
This is ostensibly a top 10 list. I know the top three at least are my top three, and the rest of them are sort of maybe in dubious order. But these are things that I really enjoyed reading and I hope maybe you can find something that you’ll enjoy as well on this list. Now, a couple of ground rules before we get started. Number one, I have not included graphic novels, because I could probably fill an entire list with graphic novels on another day. And number two, no two books from the same series.
I’m not saying the same author is off-limits, but the same series is. Now, that being said, let’s get started with number 10, which is Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Just to let you know, I am very agnostic when it comes to the format of books I read. I like Kindle books. I like physical books. And I like audiobooks. So if I don’t own the physical edition, I’m just going to pop a picture up right here like this. Snow Crash is on the list because I absolutely love Stephenson’s writing and I love cyberpunk fiction.
This is the book that literally coined the term “avatar” in cyberspace terms. I really enjoyed it. There’s one other Stephenson book that I’ve read so far that I like more, which is coming up on the list, but I highly recommend this book if you like cyberpunk fiction at all. Number nine on my list is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Now, this is a book that didn’t really change my life or teach me any big lessons or anything, but I just absolutely enjoyed listening to it.
It’s a book about basically virtual reality, a kid who goes into a huge virtual reality world, and there are all these ’80s video games and movie and music references. Even though I wasn’t born in the ’80s, a lot of it was stuff I watched growing up as a kid. It was just super cool to fundamentally nerd out while listening to this book. I did listen to it. I will suggest the audiobook version of this book. While I usually like to create the character voices in my head and narrate my own way, I really liked Will Wheaton’s narration of this book.
Will Wheaton’s amazing in general and his narration of this book is great. Definitely check it out. Read it in any case, but I love the audiobook version. Book number eight is The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. You’re probably getting a little bit of a sci-fi vibe here, and yes, the seniority of my favorite fiction is sci-fi and fantasy. But I absolutely loved this book. It has a lot of themes about free will and actually made me think a lot. My friend Martin, who was actually my flatmate, recommended this book to me, and I believe it is his favorite book.
I didn’t really top the favorite list for me, but I did enjoy it a lot, so it makes this list. Book number seven is Ender’s Shadow, yes Shadow, not Game. I absolutely love Ender’s Game. It’s also one of my favorite books. However, I thought the shadow was a little bit more compelling because it tells the story from Bean’s perspective instead of Ender’s. There’s a little bit more grittiness to it. There’s a little bit more of the tactical, nitty-gritty details of how they win the battles, and I really liked seeing his perspective, and also that secondary perspective opened up a lot of new perspective on Ender’s thoughts.
So definitely check it out if you haven’t read it. But I would recommend reading Ender’s Game first. Book number six is the abandoned Spear by Peter Brett. Now this book is part of a series called The Demon Cycle, and there are presently four books out right now. I’ve read all four and I’ meagerly awaiting the fifth one, which I believe should be the conclusion of the series. Basically it’s a story about these demons who come up at night, and they’re basically invincible and unkillable to all the humans, until … Well, you’ll just have to read what happens. But it’s pretty darn cool. This is the one book on my list that I like better than the genuine start of the series.
I perfectly love the first one, which is called The Warded Man, or The Painted Man, depending on where you live. But The Desert Spear has a much more interesting setting, in my opinion, and some cooler relationships that are built along with its storyline. I definitely recommend the whole series, but the second one is my favorite so far. Book number five I actually own in print, and it is Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Now, I’m going to go on a limb here and say that the entire Mistborn series, at least the first three books, are my favorite in the number five category.
I just arbitrarily picked the first one, because I think I love all three equally. But the reason I like Mistborn so much is, number one, it’s just a great fantasy series. But number two, the magic system is so well thought out, and it’s actually got limitations and hard rules. I think that makes for more interesting character interactions and situations than more arbitrary just whiz-bang magic systems like more Tolkien-liquefaction will have. That’s why I love them. I note that there is a new series of Mistborn books called The Wax and Wayne Trilogy, which there are two of those out now, and those ones are usually shorter. I think they’re like half – each one is like half the length of a normal Mistborn book. But they’re also really great fun to read.
So I’d recommend basically everything in the Mistborn series and pretty much everything Brandon Sanderson has written is great. Book number four is TheDiamond Age by Neal Stephenson, and yes, this is the second recommendation from Neal Stephenson on this list. Over on my bookshelf right there I have pretty much every other book Neal Stephenson has written since then, except for Seven Eves, which is his best one. I have yet to get through those ones because, well, reading can be tough when you run a business. But I did get through two Snow Crash and Diamond Age. I think I liked The Diamond Age a little bit more, probably because of the character interactions, but also because of his mixture of the cyberpunk, ridiculous future nanotech setting, mixed with a resurgence of Victorian fashion and ideals, was just beautiful.
Everything Neal Stephenson dreams up in that head of his is just awesome cool to read about. Now, this was another one that I did in the audiobook format. I’have doubt if the audiobook version was as compelling as the Will Wheaton narration of Ready Player One, but I really did like it. So if you’re into audiobooks, I would suggest the audiobook version of this. Though if you’re not, reading it would be cool, too. Book number three on this list? Well, if you’ve been drawing conclusions about my taste based on the other books on this list, you’ve probably been wondering if this one’s going to come up, and yes, it is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
I absolutely love this book. This was recommended to me on a whim from my friend Carly. I read nothing about it going in. Honestly, I think that’s the best book-reading experience you can have. I like just taking things on a blind recommendation if they are good. I got lucky with this one because it is absolutely amazing. Like Mistborn, it has an incredibly well thought out magic system with physical properties and limitations. But also, I just like the characterization a little bit more than the characters in Mistborn, and that’s why this book gets a little bit higher spot on the list from me.
All right, moving on to the penultimate pick on this list, and this might be where any dislikes for this video comes from, because my pick for number two is Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which is a fanfiction, yes. Now, this fan fiction story was written by an artificial intelligence researcher named Eliezer Yudkowsky, who’s also written a lot on rationality and critical thinking. This book is basically his attempt at teaching rationality and critical thinking without you really realizing it. This book basically imagines a universe where Harry Potter, instead of just being a normal 11-year-old boy, is essentially a genius who thinks through everything rationally and like a scientist. What I love about this book is all the other characters are adjusted to match Harry. So it’s not like he’s just going through and having an easy time of everything.
All the other characters are much smarter. If you like things likeSherlock or Death Note, or more rational, cerebral pieces of fiction, then I think you’ll really enjoy this. I’m not going to say you’re going to enjoy it more than cannon. I personally do, but I don’t want to say that it’s better than canon, because obviously it builds upon the already excellent foundation of story and setting and characters thatJ.K. Rowling has built. I absolutely love the cannon. But for me, I think I enjoyed MOR a little bit more. Also, it got me into reading about rationality and reading about critical thinking skills, and heuristics, and biases, and things that have made me a better thinker.
This is one of those rare pieces of fiction that has made a tangible change in my life, and that’s why it gets such a high place on this list. But it’s not in the top pick, because that one is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, of course. Now, if you’ve read the About section on my YouTube channel or any of the pages on my website, you’ve probably noticed the references to this book, and it’s no secret that this is my complete favorite piece of fiction, which is why I have the faux leather cover bound edition of all five of the books. I absolutely love these books so much. They are ridiculously imaginative. I just love the dry British humor that Douglas Adams puts into them. Just read these novels no matter who you are. They are fantastic. They’re weird. If you watched the movie and didn’t like it, well, I absolutely loved the movie, so we’re kind of on opposite sides with that thing. But I will say that the book version is just so much better.
I grew up listening to the audiobook version of this book every night for years. There are actually multiple versions. There’s a version that is read by an entire cast, where every character has their own voice actor. That one’s pretty cool. Steven Fry has his own narration version, which I believe is the most popular. That one’s awesome. But the one I recommend, if you can find it, is the one that is read by Douglas Adams himself. His narration is just amazing.