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You Should Read These Books

After stirring up a bit of a hornet's nest yesterday (who knew people felt strongly about piracy?), I think I'll go back to a safe topic. Like reading.

Gaming is by no means the only hobby available to us. There's plenty of other ways to entertain yourself without ever picking up a controller. Hell, there's even this thing called going outside. No, I don't do it either.

I do read, though. As a kid I loved picking up books and pouring over the pages. Even if it was only basic stuff like Animorphs ('90s throwback, anyone?), I read as much as possible. The only real downside to this constant habit was that after a while, the normal books that most people recommend... those books start to get boring. When you've read every generic spy novel there is, eventually the tropes become a little annoying.

That's why I do my best to find interesting things to read. Thankfully, I did find some good stuff. Think of this as a summer reading list, except it's actually interesting, unlike the lists they give you in school. Those are boring. Here are some genuine, geek-essential books that I would recommend to anyone on GIO in a heartbeat.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I know my blogs have mentioned this book before. Bear with me, it's cool novel. The Road is like nothing you have ever read. You know how the first page or so of most books is dedicated to describing the surroundings of the main characters? Usually within those first pages, the author might touch on the poetic qualities of the trees or nature. That's about seventy percent of The Road.

Pictured from the movie version of The Road.

The story is about a father and son who wander across post-apocalyptic America. There is no government, no society, no civilization, and above all no hope. The book is profoundly depressing at times (and occasionally very graphic), but the whole package is one of the most singularly unique books I've ever had the pleasure to read.

It took two days to cross that ashen scabland. The road beyond fell away on every side. It's snowing, the boy said. He looked at the sky. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of christendom.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I really debated whether or not to put Atlas Shrugged on this list. On one hand, it's considered one of the most important works of American fiction ever written. On the other hand, the book is long, somewhat dull, and very offensive. Remember Andrew Ryan from Bioshock and how crazy he was? His insane ideology came from Atlas Shrugged.

Pictured from the Atlas Shrugged movie.

Ayn Rand's signature novel might be interesting to fans of Bioshock. Everyone else will probably be put off by the stock characters, a political message as subtle as a brick to the face, and the ridiculous length. Rand's prose occasionally shines, but most of the time reading Atlas Shrugged feels like a chore. Pick up at your own discretion.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made - before it can be looted or mooched - made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced."

America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart

It's a little dated by now, but The Daily Show's book is absolutely hilarious. It reads like a civics textbook strung out on heroin. Really, this thing comes with discussion questions and everything. Anyone who has sat through an American government class will find this book humorous. The jokes about the 2004 presidential election are pretty out of date, but timeless activities like matching naked Supreme Court justices to the correct robes are still funny even in 2012.

1300 BC: God gives Ten Commandments to Israelites, making them His Chosen People and granting them eternal protection under Divine Law. Nothing bad ever happens to Jews again.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

Your brain is not your own. You might think that you can control your "mind," but David Eagleman delights in explaining just how much of your own mind is outside your control. From the simple idea of a "subconscious," Eagleman builds a fascinating book that will turn your perception of the brain upside down. The best part is that he does it in a lively, interesting manner than anyone can understand. You don't need a degree in neuroscience to read Incognito, just a willingness to reconsider everything you believe about the brain.

It turns out your conscious mind - the part you think of as you - is really the smallest part of what's happening in your brain, and usually the last one in line to find out any information.

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Out of all the books on this list, Watchmen is the closest to being required reading for geeks. I'm not a "comic book person," but even I love Alan Moore's magnum opus. Watchmen isn't just the best comic book ever written, it's one of the best books of the twentieth century. Alan Moore takes every classic super hero trope and cliché and turns them inside out. By the end of the book, the fictional world and your perception of it are totally changed.

Pictured from the Watchmen movie. Don't watch this until after reading the comic.

What makes Watchmen really special, though, is its complexity. It's one of those rare books that actually gets better the more you think about it. The subtleties and details that emerge from the plot of Watchmen are numerous and profound. I've read the book several times now, and each time I catch a new bit of meaning or pick up on some hidden symbolism. It takes an extraordinary book to do that.

Soon there will be war. Millions will burn. Millions will perish in sickness and misery. Why does one death matter against so many? Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this.

That's it for me. What have you been reading?