Monk

Set in a universe in which a religious sect has discovered how to transfer a person's soul to a cybernetic monk so that the monk can perform penance for the soul's misdeeds, this story follows the efforts of one monk, whose soul has a particularly heavy penance to perform. It is an intriguing premise, and the story explores themes of the meaning of "self," sentience, and self-determination while also delivering an interesting and engaging plot.

Author: 

Gregg Vann

The Rescuers

Starting with the story of Varian Fry and his often overlooked work rescuing European intellectuals from the Nazis, this book leads the reader through a fascinating meditation on the motivations of rescuers, the morality of their decisions, and the limits of gratitude.

Author: 

Dara Horn

Bad Feminist

This collection of essays ranges from sexism and racism in our culture to an inside look at the world of competitive Scrabble. Some of the essays are laugh out loud funny and others are shatteringly heartbreaking, but they are all well-written and engaging. Gay has a way of cutting right to the heart of her topic, but doing it so effortlessly that you almost don't realize that you're absorbing new insights about the topic.

52 Blue

This book starts as the story of the discovery of an unusual whale song using technology originally intended for tracking Russian submarines. It morphs into a beautiful and thought-provoking meditation on loneliness, our human tendency to project our emotional needs onto the natural world, and how scientific discoveries can touch people's lives even when they are extrapolating far beyond what the science actually shows.

Author: 

Leslie Jamison

Read Together: The Evolving Self Edition

A while back, I offered up a “taster flight” of dystopic visions of our future. I still intend to post some more taster flights, but today I have something a little different, more akin to a wine and cheese pairing. I have two short ebooks to recommend, both good reads on their own, but that when read together make something even better.

The common theme of these two books is technology that connects directly to- and is directly controlled by- a human brain.

The Stir of Waters: Radiation, Risk, and the Radon Spa of Jachymov

I love non-fiction that pulls together information from disparate disciplines to give the reader a more complete picture, and this ebook does that well. It mixes scientific information on the effects of radiation and the assessment of the risk of exposure to low doses with historical information about a radon spa in eastern Europe, and the result is a short ebook that left me feeling like I'd really learned something.

Author: 

Paul Voosen

Reading for Understanding

One of the most disturbing things I have seen in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson was a Pew survey that indicated that only 37% of white people think that the shooting of Michael Brown raises issues of race. On one hand, I can’t comprehend what the other 63% are thinking. On the other hand, I understand all too well.

Murder on the Mekong

This is a gripping and well-told story about an incident in the Golden Triangle area of Thailand that turned out not to be what it seemed and sparked an international confrontation. It takes the reader to a part of Thailand that most tourists avoid, and shows us not just the mystery that unfolded there but also a little bit abou the people who live in the area, and what this incident did to their lives.

Author: 

Jeff Howe

The Electric Mind: One Woman's Battle Against Paralysis at the Frontiers of Science

This book intertwines the story of Cathy Hutchinson, a stroke patient who can only communicate by moving her eyes, and the story of research underway to try to allow her and other patients like her to control robotic limbs directly with their minds. The story is thoughtfully told, and left me impressed with both the research and the strength of the human spirit.

Author: 

Jessica Benko

AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Authors

This is a large and enjoyable collection of sci-fi short stories from African authors. The stories span the continent and the various sub-genres of sci-fi, presenting interesting and thought-provoking visions of the future from an African point of view. All are thoroughly readable and well-written, and some are truly wonderful.

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