Vacation books?

Okay, I’m looking for fun, light reading for my vacation. I don’t want search stuff, I don’t want heavy reading, I don’t want geopolitics or history.

Things like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Or Terry Pratchett. Or early William Gibson. Cheesy cyberpunk if they don’t get the computer stuff too wrong. Neil Gaiman. Transmetropolitan.

Lazyweb, I invoke you! What should I read on vacation?

147 Responses to Vacation books? (Leave a comment)

  1. Input nature and people and leave the books behind. One man’s opinion.:)

  2. I heard about this great paper by a couple of dudes from Stanford that would probably be light reading for ‘ya … πŸ˜‰

    Another more serious suggestion that I recently found was an entertaining easy read was:

  3. If you haven’t read it yet, the Da Vinci Code is an easy quick read. We just got back from a trip and it’s what my wife read. You don’t have to think too much about it, the reading level is relatively low, all very pulpy. Its good though, if you like action/adventure/mystery. Even if you know the general plot in advance I still found it entertaining.

    I’m always a fan of reading the book before seeing the movie… so if you plan on seeing the movie time certainly is running out.

  4. Hhmmm. 10 friends on a road trip from Utah to LA? When exactly are you planning on reading??! It was a ‘novel’ idea though…lol.

  5. The Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

  6. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I read it back in college, and again last year.

  7. Whenever someone asks for a book recommendation, the first one that always comes to my mind is The Minds of Billy Milligan. You aske for “light reading”, which this really isn’t, but it’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read.

    You might also try The Map that Changed the World (sorry, this one is a bit historical…I’m not swinging for average here). Interesting story about the birth of modern geology and how the dude who gave birth to it was screwed over time and time again (by aristocrats and his own mistakes). Good luck…let us know what you choose.

  8. Whatever you do, don’t read “End of Oil” by Paul Roberts. I did this on my summer vacation two years ago and it was bad. My wife and I are now eco-environmental terrors (no one invites us to parties anymore, but we would probably walk rather than drive either of our two Priuses).

    Two fun non-fiction books I like are “Freakonomics” in which an economist debunks economics and manages to get in some good licks elsewhere while he’s at it, and “Fooled by Randomness” in which a former stock market trader reveals how bad humans are at accurately identifying actual patterns from data. Since you look for patterns every day in your work, I think you would find this a cathartic and refreshing way to start your vacation.

    Have a good one!

    Amazon ASINs:
    End of Oil: 0618562117
    Freakonomics: 006073132X
    Fooled By Randomness: 0812975219

  9. Yup, that’s good stuff. All of Dan Brown was fun for me.

  10. Barry Eisler’s John Rain books are good and fun. Rain Fall, the first, esp.

  11. Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars
    by Dennis Coffey


    Explorer’s Guide to the Semantic Web
    by Thomas B Passin


    Awakening Beauty: An Illustrated Look at Mankind’s Love and Hatred of Beauty
    by Anthony Napoleon


    World’s Greatest Practical Jokes
    by Dian G Smith’s+Greatest+Practical+Jokes&sig=rVhvX10xotlLob0pQDTN8LnmK50

  12. A heavy book, from a historical politician, perhaps? πŸ˜›

    My favourite book for a quick pickup – Complete Essays – Michel de Montaigne

    Except the language and all the great roman references, you’d swear this guy just died. His insight and modern-day understanding is second to none.

    The reason I recommend it, is that many of his “assays” are but 3-5 pages long, and cover topics from simple to complex (you don’t start at the beginning necessarily). He rambles, admits he’s lazy, unfocused, and just not that smart. He also tells many many stories to illustrate his points, from a time long gone. I always feel great after reading any part of this book.

  13. Depends what type of vacation, but I recommend Travels with Charley, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or some Richard Brautigan.

  14. I know you probably want to get away from work, but if you haven’t already read ‘Are you Dave Gorman’ and ‘Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure’ I reckon you’d love them. Definitely light reading, but damn funny…

  15. “Victorian Internet” describes how the invention of the telegraph “changed the world”, and all its amazing parallels to the internet today. Technically history, but definitely a short, light read with interesting anecdotes.

    “Understanding Comics”. The art of comics explained with comics.

  16. The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces by Ray Vukcevich, about a PI with multiple personality disorder, was way too much fun.

    I’d also recommend any of the Dortmunder novels by Donald Westlake. Lots of laughs, all the way through.

  17. Perfume : The Story of a Murderer from Patrick Suskind, and some lighter note Rome, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the First Multinational Corporation by Stanley Bing (I know you dont want history, but this one is funny and not your every day history book)

    cheers and have fun…

  18. I’ve read the following in the past few months a big amount of cyberpunk. I do suggest all the William Gibson and Neal Stephenson I have listed here. But if you’re bored of cyberpunkesqe stuff the things at the end of the list are very interesting too.

    Burning Chrome – William Gibson
    Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson
    Neuromancer – William Gibson
    Count Zero – William Gibson
    Pattern Recognition – William GibsonBest definition of jetlag I’ve ever heard.
    Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson My favorite cyberpunk novel.
    The Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson Another great, very interesting idea.
    Zodiac – Neal Stephenson An “eco-thriller,” not his best, but fun.
    The Big U – Neal Stephenson
    Interface – Neal Stephenson Written with him and his uncle, along with Cobweb
    Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson Too long, stopped reading it 300 pages in when I was bored to tears.
    Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
    Good Omens – Terry Prachett
    Hitchhikers Trilogy – Douglas Adams
    The Code Book – Simon SinghReally interesting book that delves into cryptology over the ages. Very interesting!
    Microserfs – Douglas CouplandWorking for the man, try a startup instead?
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Philip K. DickBasis for Blade Runner.
    In the Beginning . . . was the Command Prompt – Neal Stephenson

    These probably meet your don’t-want-to-read-qualifications, but they’re good anyways.

    1984 – George Orwell
    Animal Farm – George Orwell
    Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    The World is Flat – Thomas L. Friedman
    Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut
    Freakonomics – Steven Levitt
    Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
    Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
    Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
    Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
    Player Piano – Kurt Vonnegut

  19. The Tipping Point
    by Malcolm Gladwell

  20. Matt,
    If you likes Terry Pratchett then you should probably check up on Robert Rankin as well (Terry Pratchett once said he was the only guy who made him laugh). For light reading that requires no acitve use of brain cells I would suggest Clive Cussler who writes books similar to Indiana Jones with modern day technology.

  21. Neal Stephensons Snow Crash series and Cryptonomicon are also very nice.

  22. Im reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and I vote for Vernon God Little by D. B. C. Pierre

    …very funny little book, in the league of The Catcher in the Rye. He’s got a new book out haven’t picked that up.

  23. Fiction:
    Anything by James Morrow.
    The heechee saga by Fred Pohl.
    Red Mars, K.S. Robinson.
    Anything by Richard Rhodes
    “Why Buildings Stand up” “Why Buildings Fall down” by Salvadori
    Jennifer Government, I’ll drop “company” off at your cube tomorrow.

  24. Matt —

    How about either two AIRWEB papers or three AIRWEB papers? πŸ˜‰


  25. Seriously, if you want something interestingly like early William Gibson, but different, try _Light_ by M. John Harrison. British author not that well known in the U.S., but an amazing writer of prose…..

    Or if you haven’t yet, check out Vernor Vinge (one of those proto-cyberpunk guys — is to cyberpunk what Iggy Pop is to punk πŸ™‚ ). I recently read both A Deepness in the Sky and A Fire Upon the Deep recently, and liked them a lot. This is after a long period of not reading any SF.

  26. Matt, as you seem to have pretty much the same taste in books as I do, I recomend that you pick up anything by Douglas Coupland. Especially Microserfs and Girlfriend in a Coma. I haven’t read jPod yet, but it sounds promising and I really look forward to reading it.

  27. I highly recommend “Zod Wallop” by William Browning Spencer. It’s a lot like a book Neil Gaiman might have written after reading far too much Lovecraft – atmospheric, spooky, and gripping.

  28. I’d give The Speed Of Dark by Elizabeth Moon a try. Should fit nicely into the dog in the nightime mindset and then some…

    (and I’d second Tim’s recommendation for Light – very very good novel)

  29. loved Bill Brysons ‘A Short History Of Nearly Everything’ – or anything by him and my all time favourites, although not novels, the Far Side collections by Gary Larson make me laugh out loud.

  30. Matt, if you haven’t yet read them, those books for kids, truckers, diggers and wings, by pratchett are great fun. Classic Pratchett, and I for one am sad I left it so wrong to read them.

    I tend to bounce between Pratchett and Dean Koontz, but maybe Koontz is a little heavy for you on vacation. So if your looking for light reading with no strings, then Going Postal is a good un.

    Have a good holiday vacation!

  31. Personal recommendations only work if you know the recommender. StoryCode will help you, in a Web 2.0, wisdom of crowds kind of way. It has readability and age ratings, so you should be able to find plenty that hits your light-reading requirement:

    Put in Curious Incident and get recommendations based on stories with a structure and characterisations etc:

    Neil Gaiman’s American Gods gives you these recommendations:

    Transmetropolitan hasn’t made it into the data yet.

    Have fun.


  32. I like reading PJ O’Rourke, always good for a laugh. Not being American I can’t be sure if his right-wingedness is a put on or not, but his sarcastic and rude sense of humour is sometimes too unbelievable to be true. I really like his style of writing, very easy to digest (especially on holiday!)

  33. Matt

    Have you read Good Omens – Gets two of your authors with one stone – Good light read too.

    As said above some of the books Pratchett wrote for kids are good fun too – add to the list The Carpet People.



  34. “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” by Douglas Adams, it’s quite different from the Hitchhiker series, but still a very nice read.

    “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks

    “quite ugly one morning” by Cristopher Brookmyre

  35. I second the suggestion of all of Dave Gorman’s books – his co-writer Danny Wallace does some great stuff too, including: – Yes Man – Join Me

    Also good: – A Year in the Merde – In the Merde for Love (called Merde Actually in the UK) – Anything by Michael Palin

    I’m sure I’ll think of more.

  36. Not sure if you’re much of a ‘thriller’ reader, but I’ve never been able to put down the PJ Tracy books. Slick (with a bit of tech). Have a flick through Monekeewrench – you might be impressed!

  37. You strike me as a guy who likes his choons, so I can heartily recommend the autobiography of John Peel
    A british dj who accidentaly shaped most of the underground youth movements of the past 40 years through an absolute passion for music. Think of Pink Floyd, T-Rex, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Undertones, The Jesus and Marychain, the White Stripes and you’re thinking of bands whose careers owe a huge amount to Peel.Even at 65 he was light years ahead of even the most avant garde kid. One minute he’d play the most full on European Gabba and then he’d follow it with some twee indie pop or maybe some reggae or dub. A really humble bloke with a love for football as well. (Football in the proper sense of the word! I believe you call it Soccer). Anyway, as a moody teen, this bloke made my life worth living. The Autobigraphy was half finished when he died suddenly. The UK went into mourning when the news broke. His wife finished the book off. It’s a great read full of wit and surprises (He was there when Kennedy got shot).

  38. I recommend A short history of tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewyca.

  39. first time commenter

    “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”, a great book about
    the revival of ancient magic in England of the 1800s.
    Very good read, with lots of fun, grief, greatness, and
    more than 1000 pages πŸ™‚ (no, I’m not affiliated πŸ˜‰

  40. I just finished reading Ann Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”

    It’s great classic fiction that’s still applies.

    Enjoy your time off.


  41. While perhaps not in the “fun” book category, “The Kite Runner” is a great story about human relationships and their complexities.

  42. Hi Matt,
    I’ve just finished reading one of the preludes to Dune: The Butlerian Jihad; it’s written by Brian Herbert (Frank’s kid).
    (The original Dune is of course also always on my recommendations list).
    …but if you’re not in the mode for sci-fi, Paul Auster is always a good call, methinks.

  43. The Zombie Survival Guide : Complete Protection from the Living Dead

    very usefull book. they could be everywhere!

  44. Hi Mat.

    You should read the Molvania travel guide and maybe pay a visit to Molvania ( Hope you enjoy it.

  45. Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. Wonderfully written science fiction in the mold of Canterbury Tales… really… and amazingly well done. If you don’t like one chapter, may as well read on to the next, as it’ll probably be in an entirely different subgenre.

  46. Assuming you’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Good Omens is indeed, as Stephen said, a light read, and pretty hilarious. You could also give Tom Holt a try; a Pratchett-esque writer. Look for the wildly imaginative book called “In Your Dreams”, about a guy (Paul Carpenter is his name, not Matt Cutts) working for a deeply sinister company πŸ˜‰

  47. hi matt –

    here are a few guilty pleasures that are fun sci-fi and/or cheesy fantasy:

    Ender’s Game (Card)
    (guessing you’ve read this if you’re an SF fan)

    Ringworld (Niven)
    (believable science / Dyson sphere, fun concepts on luck & genetics)

    Stainless Steel Rat / Rat series (Harry Harrison)
    (james bond meets hackers in outer space)

    Split Infinity / Apprentice Adept series (Piers Anthony)
    (excellent if you enjoy thinking about games & game theory)

    and here are 3 other favorites that sound serious, but actually aren’t at all — they’re all amazing books that tell compelling stories with unexpected twists on ‘conventional wisdom’ & human intuition:

    MoneyBall: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Lewis)
    (note: *not* just about baseball)

    Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion (Cialdini)
    (interesting stories on how basic verbal / visual cues subtly influence your behavior)

    Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Levitt/Dubner)
    (top 10 first names for children of poor white trash + what cheating habits sumo wrestlers & public school teachers have in common)

    hope you enjoy one or more of them πŸ™‚

    – dave mcclure

  48. Matt, try something from the Wilt series by Tom Sharpe.

    This reviewer made me laugh, too.
    “The funniest book of all time! I was in hospital with a severe throat infection when I read it. It was agony to swallow or talk, let alone laugh. But after less than 20 pages the nurses has to take it off me as I was waking up the whole ward. Next day, I fell out of bed when I came to the bit about the greenhouse – the drip torn out of my arm. I was released from hospital 2 days later.”


  49. Matt, if you’re into fantasy I can definitely recommend Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini. Great books! :o)

  50. On a sort of CP theme

    Mery Gentle: Cronicles of ASH and Grunts (if you like black humor)
    SRD (Samuel Delany) babel17 and Nova
    Walter John Wilaims – Hardwired (though you migt have read this)
    Ian M Banks – any of the culture novels or Against A dark Background
    Cl More – Fury (1940s GrandMother of CP)
    Cordwainer Smith (all of his works)

  51. oh

    Pohl And Kornbluth – Gladiator at Law

  52. i just breezed through sex, drugs & cocoa puffs by chuck klosterman. pop culture madman who used to write for SPIN. i think you’d dig it

  53. Chuck Klosterman’s book: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs was a quick and easy read. Quite funny, although irelevant at times – it’s dubbed the Gen X Manifesto.
    “One caveat, be prepared to have Klosterman’s fantastic wit probably skewer something you hold near and dear. But if you’re ready to roll with the occasional jab to the things you like you realize that Klosterman is punching away with kid gloves–I mean the man admits his love for the TV classic “Saved by the Bell” (and rightly so!)–so how mean can he really be?”

  54. Matt,

    I would suggest “Death in the Long Grass” by Peter H. Capstick just replace the people on the safari with Spammers and you’ve got a very enjoyable book. Once you start reading this book you won’t be able to put it down!


  55. I agree with Sean, “The Kite Runner” was a favorite of mine. I primarily read “girly books” when I don’t want to think much, but I doubt “Confessions of a Shopoholic” will be much fun for you. You might also try “Middlesex”, that was one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.

    “Marley and Me” is something I just got done with, a great read if you like dogs. Will have you laughing off your butt and crying all at the same time.

    Enjoy the vacation!

  56. How about?

    American Gods – Neil Gaiman
    Spin – Robert Charles Wilson
    Cyberiad – Stanislaw Lem

    and I second the Good Omens nomination, but you’ve probably already read it.

  57. I agree with Sean Carlos. “The Kite Runner” is superb! πŸ˜‰

  58. Matt,
    I don’t recall ever chiming in before, but you might want to look at Dave Barry as an author. He’s a pulitzer prize winning humor columnist from Miami. His books are friggin’ hilarious. He’s got “real life” type humor books about parenting and whatnot, but the real gems are the fiction. “Big Trouble” is a good one (since made into a movie starring Tim Allen.) It may not be as heavy as some other authors people are mentioning, but they’re light, hilarious reads.

  59. If you’re into marketing, try Brand Hijack

    For the techie, read ray kurzweil’s the age of spirtual machines. Best book ever

    If you’re into philosophy try the stranger, no exit (free play online), or the fun ones like “the simpsons and philosophy” which uses all simpsons examples to explain philsophical arguments.

    History try The Rogue State, or Lies my Teacher Told Me

    Gambling try American Roulette

    also, anything orwell is good too, but you’re probably already read all of those.

    Then there’s “classics” like death of a salesman, to kill a mockingbird, cat on a hot tin roof, great gatsby, tuesdays with morrie, hitchiker’s guide to the galaxy, and all the harry potters

  60. My two suggestions are:

    Bill Bryson
    The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America


    Mark Helprin
    Refiner’s Fire: The Life and Adventures of Marshall Pearl, a Foundling

    Both of them lite reading and have the added benefit of opening your mind a little.

  61. Chuck Palahniuk’s books – Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Survivor, Choke, Lullaby, and Haunted.

  62. Ooops, forgot 1 more by Chuck – Diary.

    They are all in trade paperback now as well.

  63. Tsk, tsk, tsk – did you read your assignments yet? πŸ˜‰

  64. Since I took your advice and read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, here’s some suggestions back:

    Lying by Lauren Slater –
    Memoir of girl with epilepsy (or is she faking it?)

    How about Pop-Philosophy- Anything by Alain Botton- but I recommend
    Status Anxiety:
    The Consolations of Philosophy

    For quick and mindless reading
    anything by Harlan Coben


    Carl Hiassen

  65. Matt,

    For some reason this was posted in your index timeline post – sorry about that.

    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is one of my favourite cyber-punk books, you could also try Mr Nice by Howard Marks.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  66. Dave Barry – Big Trouble

    Great book from a hilarious writer. Movie was ok, but was doomed after 9/11 (at one point the story pokes fun at lax airport security).

  67. History, but also fun and absorbing: The Oxford Book of Exploration
    “The compiler of this volume, himself an explorer, author, and world traveler, has put together a sampler of some of the best of the vast literature of exploration from around the world. It consists of carefully selected brief excerpts from the writings of Chinese foot and camel travelers of c.300 A.D. to 20th-century explorers on polar expeditions by balloon and airplane.”

    I also love everything by Alexander McCall Smith, though his books are bit short for travelling – you need to bring a few.

    Iain Banks always rocks, both his sci-fi and regular fiction. For sci-fi my fave is Feersum Endjinn (a tricky read but worth it), for regular fiction I’d maybe start with Whit, Complicity, or Crow Road.

    And of course you have to read the new William Gibson, I loved it.

  68. Douglas Adams every time! H2G2 is a great series.

  69. Freakonomics, it’s a completely upside down way of looking at things. Oilman turned me onto it, and I recommended it to stuntdubl. It’s thought provoking and is written in decent chunk size put-downable chapters.

  70. Here are three books that you may want to read. They are all very good and easy to read.

    1) Boyhood, J.M. Coetzee
    2) Blindness, Jose Saramago
    3) Popular Music from Vittula, Mikael Niemi

  71. I can highly recommend Orson Scott Card as an auther – great stuff. First and third books if it’s a long flight πŸ™‚

  72. You seem to like British writers, so why not try some Nick Hornby. High Fidelity is a good, amusing light read if you like indie music (and list making).

    As you are in doubt about what to read, you might want to try John Carey’s “The Intellectuals and the Masses”. He lambasts modernists like T.S. Eliot for making their books too hard to read, and for wanting to gas the masses. It’s a fairly intellectual book against intellectuals, but if you want to be stretched and amused it’s a great read.

  73. Being a somewhat techincal person I would suggest:

    “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” or “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” by Richard P Feynman. While most people think physicists are really boring people (which may be true in many cases), that is not the case with Feynman. Lot’s of fun short stories with physics mixed in.

  74. Early Gibson, definitely. Read Neuromancer, then look inside the cover to find out when it was first printed. Freaked me out.

    Got to second the Robert Rankin thing too. Different flavour to Pratchett, funnier too, IMO (but I love Pratchett too. He’s probably the better writer). He also has a fixation with rotary machine guns, like the Blaine had in Predator πŸ˜€

    >> Neil Gaiman

    Read “Good Omens”, which is a collaboration with Terry Pratchett. Hilarious

    >> you could also try Mr Nice by Howard Marks.

    Another excellent book

  75. Outside of the scifi genre, some of the best vacation reads I’ve had are Patricia Highsmith‘s Ripley books, as well as Alex Garland’s The Beach. The books are far superior to the movies in both cases.

    They’re not light and fluffy, but travel is central to their plots, and this always makes me feel good while off travelling myself.

  76. If you liked “Curious Incident” (which I did) I would try “The Pleasure of My Company” by Steve Martin. (He also wrote “Shopgirl”). It is similar to “Incident” that it is first person narrator inside the mind of an obsessive-compulsive, and also is short and easy to read. As an aside, there is some interesting stuff about magic squares in there as well.

  77. I’m enjoying Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. At 528 pages it is not exactly light. And it starts out with a 19th century sailing diary that is a little thick.But stick through the rocky start. You’ll quickly catch on to the quirky language changes that span generations into a bleak future. Really a fun read.

  78. Charles Stross’s short story collection based around his futuristic ‘free enterprise broker’ character Manfred Macx is a very fun, mindbending read:

    Kage Baker’s ‘Company’ series, if you like time travel & human drama – one good one is
    The Children of the Company:

  79. Graywolf, i read freakonomics too. Very enlightening read.

  80. The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Blue Bear by Walter Moers. Long, but funny as hell, and cute illustrations to boot! As a huge Gaiman/Pratchett fan, I think this is amusing in the same sort of way.

    Lamb by Christopher Moore is hilarious and in good company with Good Omens. Anything else by him is a fantastic read also.

    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood is a bit slow to start, but good in the hmm-makes-you-think vein of Brave New World.

    Freakanomics, Blink, and Author Unkown are all interesting non-fiction reads.

  81. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is a good vacation read. A good compilation of Philip Dick short stories is always fun too. Enjoy.

  82. Try “What Should I Do With My Life?” by Po Bronson.

    Just don’t leave Google when you return. πŸ™‚

  83. I’ve just read the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime – it’d been on the shelf since last year – nice short read and definately an unusual story.
    I’ve got a wonderful book of Edgar Allan Poe mysteries I keep meaning to read too.
    However you should take a classic with you, something by Pratchett and Gaimen – Good Omens. You should also take something completely new like a book on how to play golf or cook Greek Food.
    Another idea is the guide book for where you’re going on holiday – even if you’re staying at home!

  84. I’d recommend Freakonomics also. It is fun, light reading, but it will also get you thinking.

    Another light reading, but enlightening one, is John Stossel’s (ABC’s 20-20) Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity.

  85. Neil Strauss – The Game

  86. I’m also a Gibson and Pratchett fan (as well as some other authors as well), so…

    Must reads (imo) If you haven’t read them

    Dan Simmons: “Hyperion” + “Fall of Hyperion”. pure genius

    I second Orson Scott Card – but surely you must have read “Ender’s Game” ?

    I don’t know anyone who hasn’t loved these books (except perhaps people who won’t approach anything with a SF tag on it)

  87. Matt,
    As you mention Gibson I would like to point out what I consider his two best works: his first novel “Neuromancer” and probably the best short story I ever read “New Rose Hotel”.

    Gibson lives off two things: his prose and his genius in making up concepts and ideas. What I love is that he makes up a hypothetical not-too-distant future, populates it with references to problems caused by futuristic technology and then casually talks about these as if they were every day issues to you and me without ever mentioning the causes themselves.

    The edge, monomolecular filaments, Ono-Sendai mergers are all tossed at the reader and then let go in favour of a new metaphor or a new concept.

    Neuromancer starts with one of the most visual incipit I’ve ever read: “The sky was the colour of TV tuned to a dead channel”. The rest of the book follows.

    New Rose Hotel is instead the story of a covert mission gone bad. The main character is hidden in the New Rose Hotel and tells how he was helping a scientist switch sides – and here comes Gibson’s true genius – not in a banal east-west type-cast, but in a world where trans-nationals have become the new superpowers and switching jobs is now like jumping the wall in communist Berlin.
    Without giving away the ending the story has you hooked on believing you know where it’s leading you, but in one final twist flips over all your certainties.

    Happy reading πŸ™‚

  88. The Hypochondriac’s Pocket Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have's+guide+to+horrible+diseases&num=50&hl=en&lr=&sa=X&oi=froogle&ct=title


  89. Glad to hear you are going to relax, though it is too bad you will not be in Seattle Friday.

    I will second Good Omens (pure fun) and Cryptonomicon (a very long read, though not difficult).

    If you want something lighter you could read Stranger in a StrangeLand, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, by Robert A. Heinlein. It’s fund to go back to the days before you were born and read how writers imangined what the future would look like.

  90. “The Counterlife” – Philip Roth. A literary masterpiece, and a sick f’ing series of plot twists that’ll mess with your head

    “A Whole New Mind” – Dan Pink. More business-lite. Lots of good nuggets there.

    “The Way We Eat” by Pete Singer – an interesting take on the ethical choices we make while eating. Thought-provoking without being heavy-handed.

    “Mightnight’s Children” by Salmon Rushdie – a mindblowing novel.

  91. A Bible ;-))

    Its free in Hotelrooms. πŸ™‚

  92. Hi Matt
    The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    ISBN 03491133467

    It’s all about the ‘tipping point’ when ideas or fashions reacha certain stage and tip over into the mainstream and spread like wildfire.

    It’s not a heavy read but it’s still a “Thinker”. Very insightful.

  93. Matt,
    I forgot to mention
    The Gun Seller – Hugh Laurie
    White Merc with Fins and Rancid Aluminium – James Hawes

    All three light, funny and James Hawes brings in a hint of Tarantino style.

    Good reads

  94. I’ll second the person who suggested Vernor Vinge. Only read “A Fire Upon the Deep” so far, but it was worth the read.

  95. Vinge is very good. He’s an ex-CS professor and he gets the computer stuff right to the point that it’s non-programmers who think it is wrong. His recent stuff (β€œA Fire Upon the Deep”, etc) is simply brilliant – especially for someone interested in computers. He wrote “True Names” ( in 1981. It’s a short story, and there are copies around on the net. It is far better than Neuromancer. It’s also influential enough to have 18 cites on Google Scholar (

    Accelerando by Charlie Stoss (See is very good. He’s an old Perl programmer, so he gets the comptuer stuff right.

    Richard Morgan is an excellent author, if somewhat dark.

  96. Southern Fried Divorce by Judy Conner
    Lots of New Orleans lore.
    Funnier, more informative, (with touching ending) than her sister’s famous Sweet Potato Queen books.

  97. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress or Starship Troopers by Heinlein. You don’t go wrong with the classics.

    OK, The Reality Disfunction by Peter Hamilton and the two following books in that trilogy. Or anything by Peter Hamilton.

    Cyberpunk, try anything by Richard Morgan.

    Or I second Chris, go for Red Mars (and Green and Blue).

    Hmm, well none of those are particularly light reading — but you won’t put them down. You could try Illegal Alien by Robert J Sawyer — a real alien from space put on trial after a murder in LA.

    John Varley, Red Thunder? Great fast read!

  98. “or some Richard Brautigan.”

    Really *stong* second for Brautigan .. especially

    “A Confederate General in Big Sur”

    I wish I had all his works.

  99. Lazyweb, I invoke you! What should I read on vacation?

    Elaine Dickinson: “How about this leaflet, Famous Jewish Sports Legends?”


  100. Jerusalem should have died… There is no justice in the TransMet world

  101. The Bible

  102. Sean: I’m not sure if your comment was in response to mine, but I was being very tongue-in-cheek (and quoting from the movie Airplane!, as I’m wont to do from time to time.) Anyway, if it was, I hope you’re joking because I am too.

  103. Another vote for Good Omens! Mmmm…well-worn copy of Good Omens is like a best friend. Otherwise, The Running Man – Richard Bachman/Stephen King is always a favorite. Get a copy of the Bachman Books on Amazon as it’s out of print.

    For a light, snippet-like, bloggy read, get New Rules by Bill Maher. It takes all of his “New Rules” segments from Real Time with Bill Maher and puts them into one hilarious book. The End of Faith – Sam Harris, is also engaging.

  104. Yeah, engine is right. Everything from the Henry Wilt Series of Tom Sharp. Beside Terry Pratchett heΒ΄s one of the funniest Writers iΒ΄ve ever seen.

  105. Robert Church

    Hi Matt,

    To second a few suggestions already given:

    Dan Simmons – Hyperion (and Fall of Hyperion if you want some closure). Very well written sci-fi

    Elizabeth Moon – Speed of Dark. Like curious incident but better πŸ™‚

  106. I’ll second the Chuck Palahniuk recommendations. Choke is my personal favorite.

    Right now I am reading “The Game” by Neil Strauss. Great read so far.

    I don’t think you can go wrong with anything by Pat Conroy for light vacation reading.

  107. Wow. These are great! Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I’m going to spend the next half hour looking for stuff that I can order before the vacation starts. πŸ™‚

  108. Rakesh, I enjoyed The Life of Pi.

    Joe LaPenna, I’ve read almost all the cyberpunk and most of the other books you mention. I can’t decide if that’s sad or not. πŸ™‚

    Tim Converse, yes, I’ll read the three AIRWeb papers. Good timing. Grrrr. πŸ˜‰ BTW, Tim if you liked Light like I did, you might try Einstein’s Dreams. It’s a few years old, but great.

    Steve Johnston, thanks for the link!

    Henry Elliss, I’d wandered from Gorman and ordered Yes Man and then saw your recommendation. Cool..

    Thomas Boutell, I’ve got to agree on Hyperion. That’s right up there with A Canticle for Leibowitz for me.

    Dave, thanks! I’d read most of that sci-fi. I think we’ve got Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion hanging around the house somewhere, but I haven’t read it yet. And Freakonomics/Tipping Point/Blink stuff is always fun.

    Tamara, I liked Eragon and Eldest. Waiting for the third one, which should be 234345 pages if the pattern holds from his 1st book to his 2nd book.

    Jason, the only problem with Stanislaw Lem is that I read a ton of his stuff when I was younger, and now I can’t remember which of his books I’ve read. I hate picking up a book and getting 15-20 pages in when you ask yourself “Haven’t I read this one before?” πŸ™‚

    Keith Ort, Chuck Palahniuk is awesome except for the “spelling his last name” part. I normally just start coughing halfway through. “Hey, do you have any Chuck Pala *cough mumble mumble*?”

    Rae, I can’t get past all the names! I’m trying, I’m trying..

    Chrispcritters, Feynmann books are awesome. I knew about Tuvalu before it was a TLD. πŸ™‚

    Andrew Goodman, yup. I think I’ve read all of Po. πŸ™‚

    Adrien, couldn’t agree more. I think I’ve done all of Gibson, too.

    Danny, if you like Robert J Sawyer, you might enjoy Truth Machine by James Halperin. In fact, I’d recommend that for anyone. Strangely enough, a Googler just dropped off Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. If I like it, I feel a deep crawl of Morgan coming on. πŸ™‚

    SΓ©an, I have to admit that I like the world better with the option of Jerusalem coming back.

    Well that worked out perfectly, because I ordered a ton of stuff from Amazon, and some of it to be delivered in time for starting vacation tomorrow. πŸ™‚

  109. Matt, just ask for books by the guy who wrote Fight Club. Let the bookstore working fumble through the name. πŸ™‚

  110. Ditto Blink/ Tipping Point, and why not take some Alan Moore comics.

  111. Wow — I thought you asked for light reading!

    I recommend Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore to anyone looking for a great read. It’s intelligent, funny, and really entertaining!

  112. Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy! DON’T PANIC!

    Quick short read, but such a great laugh. The rest of the trilogy (made up of 5 books) is just as great!

    “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” – preface

  113. Matt,

    I think you’d dig the Rule Of Four.

    Also good books for travel are Different Seasons and Everythings Eventual by Stephen King – excellent short stories πŸ™‚

  114. Oh and “A Short History of Nearly Everything” is also a decent read too.

  115. You seem to have read everything

    How about:

    “Cod, a biography of the fish that changed the world” by Mark Kurlansky or try his “Salt.”

    “Master and Commander” by Patrick O’Brien (much better than the movie and funny)

    Henry Petroski’s “The Pencil: a history of design and circumstance” It’s even shaped like a pencil.

    “Dead Souls” by Gogol. It’s not a bunch of Russians sitting around a samovar saying, “Oh, my soul. It is dead.” Rather, it is a story of a con man going around buying dead serfs (who have not yet been taken off the tax rolls) to build an tangible yet imaginary fortune. Shades of Silicon Valley

  116. Matt you may want to try the New Testament Bible. The NIV version is a pretty good translation. If you aren’t up to reading the whole thing the Gospel of John, the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the first letter of Apostle John, and the book of Revelations will give you a good cross section.

    Other than than here are a few good spiritual books you may want to take a look at.

    Spiritual Letters by FΓ©nelon
    A Plain Account of Christian Perfection by John Wesley
    The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Γ  Kempis

  117. Thought of a book that’s good and twisted:

    Tietam Brown, by Mick Foley (yeah, the wrestler, but it’s a good book.)

  118. And if all else fails, there is always penthouse or hustler πŸ™‚

  119. How about reading: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

    You may get more info at

  120. What a Maroon

    Calvin and Hobbs

  121. Have you readThe road less travelled – M Scott Peck?

    An interesting perspective on life, psychology and religion from a guy who had made one or 2 interesting observations

    Worth a look.

  122. Niall, Rule of Four was pretty good. If you liked that, you might enjoy Umberto Eco’s book Foucault’s Pendulum. That’s the real deal.

  123. For a real cotton candy book experience try Carpe Demon It is hilarious and requires less than a handful of firing neurons.

  124. Matt:

    An oldie but a goodie is Hard Wired by Walter Jon Williams, Tor Books 1986.

    Cyberpunk at it’s best.
    (Don’t know if the Computer stuff holds up though. Read it in another life as a book sales slug.)

  125. Get The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on tape it is really good. I commuted with it for a few days and the journey flew by.

    Another good one on tape are the Just William stories, especially the ones read by Kenneth Williams.

    The Wind in the Willows is great too on tape.

    Anything by Kurt Vonnegut, but I’m sure you’ve read him before.

  126. Matt,

    I would recommend China Mieville. He is often classifed as forming the “New Weird” genre.

    First novel was King Rat. It was interesting but I don’t think as good as the Perdido Street Station.

    He followed up with three novels (he calls it an anti-trilogy) all set in or around the city of New Crobuzon but have different characters. The world is very unique as are Mieville’s characters, creatures and settings.

    Perdido Street Station
    The Scar
    Iron Council

    Not easy reads as Mieville is heavy-handed with his prose, but very enjoyable if you like cyber-punk, fantasty, etc.


  127. Have you read:

    “Make Easy Money with Google:
    Using the AdSense Advertising Program
    An AdSense Book for Non-Techies” by Eric Giguere

    A 10th nomination for Good Omens here, and

    The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell (if you liked Contact with Jodie Foster).

    A book a day? Can you remember them at that speed, is it speed reading or Derren Brown trickery?

  128. the end of all evil seems to be exactly what you’re looking for πŸ˜‰

  129. Hi Matt

    I know your back from vacation now, but I suddenly thought of a book I think you might get a chuckle from. It’s an old book, out of print now actually so you’d have to hunt around to find a copy (or I can send you mine). It’s “The Unexpurgated Code” by J P Donleavy.

    Very much light reading – and so many brilliant one liners for every social event and situation. There’s even an entire chapter on flatulence – the recognisable chuffs and their names, plus the best quip to use should one attempt to spoil your day or the other occupants of the elevator.

    It’s a manual for social climbing I suppose, providing you want to have a laugh all the way to the top.

    Hugely enjoy your Blog by the way – appreciate all your effort.


  130. I recommend my 3 favourite books of all time:

    The Time Traveller’s Wife, Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (then his Baroque Cycle trilogy if you have time for 3000 pages), Atonement

    All moving, in their own way.

  131. Terry Prachet is wicked. The books i most enjoyed was the Jonny Maxwell triolgy. Reminds me of my days at skool.

  132. I recommend Silverlock, by John Myers Myers.

    Silverlock is an epic fantasy romp in which a dreary young cynic named A. Clarence Shandon is shipwrecked on the shores of the living land of all human imagination, where every character of myth and fiction great enough to be remembered for generations — is.

    Guided by all the world’s bards rolled up in one rowdy little archetype named Golias, Shandon (quickly nicknamed “Silverlock”) journeys through encounters from Robin Hood to Faust, with romance and battle, grief and a lot of bawdy songs liberally mixed in, and his spirit is brought to life.

    The story is thickly woven with mythic, literary and historical reference — so many that, no matter how well-read you are, you’ll end up being turned on to something new.

    Also, see:

  133. I don’t like reading books. Only like reading magazine and new stuffs. It’s only a man opinion……

  134. Like to read popular mechanics magazine rather than books.

  135. Being that this is an old Blog, chances are the original vacation has come and gone, but for the next one you should seriously think about reading:

    The Great Controversy

    Written in the early 1900’s it is by far, in my opinion of course, the best book covering the history of the Christian church from around the time of the destruction of Jeruselem, through time. It even gets into the unarguable prophetic fulfillment of history.

    A ‘Great’ read, email me for details if you like.


  136. How about the classic “Rich daddy poor daddy” ?

  137. Games People Play, by Eric Berne, is a perfect book for your next vacation. I just read it and it’s remarkably readable, along with being quite educational.

    Terry Pratchett is also a good choice, as you mentioned.

  138. “Pedaling to Hawaii” by Stevie Smith is a fantastic book, and one which I read on vacation, its certainly worth a read and opens your mind up to great exploration on holiday.

  139. I can’t think of any other fun book to read other than a Terry Pratchett, Try “Going Postal” – its just brilliant. i can’t decide which ones i like the best but this one cracks me up everytime i read it.

  140. Robert Sullivan

    I know I’m probably late with my suggestion, but here goes anyway. I think you should read “Seaworthy: Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting”

    If you want to take a break from tech, then read the true story about a man (who at 60, in the 1950’s) rafts a homemade balsa craft across the Southern Pacific ocean, twice!! And yes, it is a true story. By the way, I also need to mention that he sails to Devil’s Island in the 1940’s to rescue a man from prison, and attempts crossing the Atlantic multiple times.

    And people think the Kon-Tiki was an adventure? Imagine doing it all alone? Excellent book.

  141. Needful Things by Stephen King…
    The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini…
    Angels & Demons by Dan Brown…

  142. Hi,

    I stumbled upon your site today and was quite impressed. I really liked the design. Did you make it yourself?

    I wanted to let you know about — a massive non-profit library similar to Bartleby — except its far better organized and user friendly. We’ve been using it extensively in school nowadays — it’s great for doing research since you can search within the books.

  143. You really can’t go too wrong with Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman, let’s be honest. Although Neil has disappointed me with some of his novels, he is certainly some of the best modern reading you’re going to get for your vacation. And, at least, Pratchett has a whole series you can get stuck into if you’re a fast reader. But Neil’s different books are definitely interesting enough?
    Otherwise, just grab the good ole’ Lord of the Rings again and enjoy. And, don’t get caught up in all the Robert Jordan hype. Wheel of Time gets quite boring eventually, and doesn’t seem to ever resolve.

  144. I’m off for my Christmas vacation two weeks from now too. And I’ve already bought a couple of books that will surely lighten up my trip. I have one book that’s more like a transcription of an interview with a corporate person whose experience is somewhat similar to mine. And I have another coaching book that will guide me as I hunt for a potential date in my trip. Nice, right?

  145. When you get wealthy enough to quit your job and want motivation to go travel the world read this book:World Stompers