I'm traveling to Nigeria next week to belatedly celebrate my dad's seventieth birthday and I'm looking for suggestions on what I should read on the trip. It usually takes about 24 hours of traveling for me to get back home; 8 hours flying to London, 10 hour lay over and another 6 hours to Abuja. I usually go through 2 or 3 of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books on my trip but that often isn't enough. The last time I was back home, I also read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and the time before that I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Both books were interesting and I'm considering reading their sequels (i.e. Blink and Anansi Boys) on this trip.

However I recently stumbled on a list of the 50 most significant Science Fiction and Fantasy works of the last fifty years and I'm considering getting one or two books from that list. Oh yeah, and then there's Jeff Atwood's recommended reading list of books about software development which has a few entries that caught my eye as well.

Given that you now know my taste in in-flight reading material, what books would you recommend gentle reader?


Wednesday, March 28, 2007 3:49:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
If you haven't read it yet, I highly, HIGHLY recommend Ray Kursweil's "The Cingularity is Near".

Watch this 60min 1999 interview for an introduction:

Bob Mui
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 3:52:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I would suggest The Best of Technology Writing 2006 (digitalculturebooks) by Brendan I. Koerner (Editor): available on Amazon.com

One of my fav. bloggers and tech writers Koranteng Ofosu Amaah is featured in the above book.
His blog weaves tech, lit, music, humour, and history in a brilliant way.

Have a safe trip to Naija.

PS: Terry Pratchett Rocks!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 4:14:30 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Looked at the list, and not sure how suitable some of them are: some of them were classics at the time but are heavily dated; some of them are good but a bit too intense or heacy to read solidly for an 8 hour flight.

If you like SF and want sheer length, Peter F. Hamilton is worth a look, especially the "Night's Dawn" trilogy (beginning "The Reality Dysfunction") and the Commonwealth Saga (beginning "Pandora's Star"). He's an absolutely terrible prose stylist, writes your basic space opera, but it's the kind of thing you can keep reading for hours without a break, and the books are very thick. Better in quality, but worse in thickness: "Marrow" and the sequel "The Well of Stars" by Robert Reed; "Revelation Space" and its sequels by Alastair Reynolds.

Fantasy: the biggest and best series of the last decade or two I think is George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire". Lots of blood, lots of intrugue, complicated plots much better than the normal Quest for the Magic Whatever. Starts with "A Game of Thrones". Very thick, very good.

Other fantasy that's worth a look: Charles Stross's Merchant Princes series starting with "The Family Trade". Unusual in taking a economics-focused look at parallel worlds. If you like Terry Pratchett, the Thraxas series of fantasy-detective books is pretty entertaining.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 4:20:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Catch 22! Hilarious, dark and almost true! You won't realize how time will fly.
Kirti Deshpande
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 4:38:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I"ll second the Night's Dawn trilogy - 6 books, but engaging (total space opera).

I was unhappy with the George R. R. Martin's books - I got bored after the 1st one.

I just started reading Naomi Novik's His Magisty's Dragon - it's kinda like Hornblower with dragons (vaguely). Ms. Novik used to work for Bioware as a content creator for Neverwinter Nights, fwiw.

Her stuff is intense, but Robin Hobbs writes amazing stuff - she used to write as Megan Lindholm if that helps - she has a 9 book series starting with the Apprentice Assassin series, and she's started a trilogy called the forest mage.

For sheer Clive Cussler style mindless action, I recently discovered Matthew Reilly, his stuff is 100% fluff - high body count, lots of action, very little story. But fun.

If you haven't read it yet, David Eddings "The Belgariad" (6 books) is WELL worth reading.

If you're into detective fiction, Robert Crais "Elvis Cole" books are good.

For non fiction, the best book I've read in a while is Salt.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 5:09:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Bring a few copies of just about anything by Elmore Leonard. He wrote the book that the movie "Get Shorty" was based on as well as a few other movies ("Out of Sight") and TV shows ("Karen Sisco"). He's considered to be the master of dialog. Just about everything I've read by him has kept me entertained and engaged for the entire book.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 5:25:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I'd highly recommend any of Orson Scott Card's books, given the things you've listed as liking (many of which echo my tastes). Ender's Game (and the sequel, Speaker for the Dead) are classics, but his other series are quite good as well. He's an excellent storyteller. (You can find them very inexpesnively at most used bookstores, too--try Third Place!)

If you like Gladwell's books, there's a good chance you'll also like Steven Johnson's books--hist most recent two are Everything Bad is Good For You and The Ghost Map.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 6:16:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I read each of the following three books in more or less a single sitting -

Joseph Finder - Paranoia - hi tech corporate/industrial espionage thriller. A real page turner that will see you through the first leg.

Iain Banks - Walking on Glass - mildly mind bending tale of three very different characters who's lives collide in a somewhat unexpected way.

Haruki Murakami - Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World - Japan's answer to early Iain Banks.

Or....you could try Philip Pullmans 'His Dark Materials' Trilogy...knocks the socks off of that twee Harry Potter rubbish.

Or...for a gratuitous sci-fi space opera - Alastair Reynolds - Revelation Space...or any of the Iain M. Banks 'Culture' novels - Consider Phlebas, Player of Games etc.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007 6:40:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
If you want to stretch a bit outside SciFi and fantasy, try reading some historical fiction. I've been working my way through Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin cycle (about British naval life during the Napoleonic Wars), and it's like brain heroin, especially for a techy -- in the books, at least, managing a square-rigged sailing vessel seems to have many similarities to keeping a web site running, including hundreds of technical details, sudden demand spikes, and ugly and elegant hacks to avert disaster. You can probably buy the first five (starting with Master and Commander) in a boxed set.

Have a great flight, and a good visit with your dad!
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 7:13:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
If you haven't read it before, I'd recommend Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 'Fooled By Randomness'.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 7:55:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I second the suggestion to read Enders Game. If you haven't read that, or Orson Scott Card's other related series (the "bean" series) starting from Enders Shadow, I suggest you read them. They are all excellent.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 10:02:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Radical Evolution


Crazy stuff.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 10:29:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I read Gaiman's Stardust based on Kathy Sierra's recommendation. I loved it! It's short and very sweet. It will be worth about 5 -7 hours of your life.

You can thank me later.

Let us know what you pick and a short, pithy review.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 10:33:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I highly recommend everything Neal Stephenson has ever written. Start with Cryptonomicon, and if you like that, the Baroque Cycle sextet is wonderful.

Also, if you haven't read the Herbert's Dune series, Asimov's Foundation series, Card's Ender series, or Robinson's Mars series, those are all classic and all worth reading.

That said, on my last flight I downloaded and read the Practical Common Lisp book. Not much of a plot, but the author has knack for clever parenthetical asides!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 11:02:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I would recommend Paladin of Souls, it is Fantasy, same genre as American Gods.
Amit C
Thursday, March 29, 2007 1:08:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Everything by Vernor Vinge (ex Computer Science professor turned Hugo winning SciFi author). Given your field, True Names (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Names) (from 1981!!!) is a quick read and available online.

But "A Fire Upon the Deep" and "A Deepness in the Sky" are wonderful books (and they are long books, too).

Richard Morgan is damn good, and I suspect that people who like Gaiman would like him, too (although his books are very different to Gaiman's).

Charlie Stross (another ex-Software developer) has already been mentioned. I haven't read his fantasy stuff, but his SciFi is pretty good.

Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" is mentioned on that list and is a wonderful book. I'd tend to agree that some of the sequels don't reach the same high standard, though.

For some reason I'm not sure if you'd like "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell", but I enjoyed it, and it does have the advantage of being pretty long. It's also fairly likely you could buy it in an airport bookshop, so if you run out of stuff it might be a good backup.

Looking at some of the other recommendations: I didn't particularly enjoy the Dune series, I liked the Foundation books (although I read them a long time ago) and I mostly liked the Mars series, but found them a bit slow and never read the last book. I enjoyed the "Master and Commander" books.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Novel is a good list, too.
Thursday, March 29, 2007 2:22:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
If you are looking for something intriguing "The undercover economist" is great.

If you want fantasy check on Stephen Donaldson's 1st (and 2nd) Chronicals of Thomas Covenant the unbeliever. (#23 on that list)

Thursday, March 29, 2007 3:41:39 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I would suggest reading Freakonomics over Blink. Quick, fun read with interesting cause and effect analysis.
Thursday, March 29, 2007 6:36:47 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Since you mentioned both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimain, you would probably like a book they co-authored (assuming you haven't already): Good Omens.
Zachary Hartley
Thursday, March 29, 2007 9:16:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Agree with commenters above - definitely Iain M. Banks - The 'Culture' novels - Consider Phlebas, Player of Games etc. (although some of his later ones are a bit more patchy)
Iain Banks 'Crow Road' or 'Wasp Factory'.

Going through London so you should be able to buy them there.

As has been said above Peter F. Hamilton - especially the "Night's Dawn" trilogy (beginning "The Reality Dysfunction") and the Commonwealth Saga (beginning "Pandora's Star") - are well worth it although may exceed you baggage allocation.

Finally, in SF, Natural History by Justina Robson is a great read...

If a quick light read is what you want Florida based author Carl Hiaasen is a real page turner and a good laugh.
Friday, March 30, 2007 4:27:36 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Mapping Human History by Steve Olson - Genetics (very interesting and rich), Linguistics, Archaeology, all woven into a "flow chart" of humans on Earth over the last 100,000 years. The genetic research he summarizes, combined with more traditional archaeological and linguistics data create a very interesting read. A good airplanebook because you can open it up anywhere and by backing up a few pages you can learn something interesting. Being an African, you'll probably find it particularly interesting, too!
Bob Denny
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