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I'm always sad that lists like this from tech people never contain any fiction.

I have often seen the sentiment that everything you read should have some kind of educational value or it's just a waste of time.

Does Bill Gates not read fiction? Perhaps he understands that he would be looked down on if he were to include some in his list.




If you look through past years, you'll see that Gates does indeed read and even occasionally recommend works of fiction.


I think part of it too is feeling qualified to (publicly & prominently) judge fiction, which doesn't come as naturally to as many folks as judging "ideas" on a nonfiction list like this may – & particularly with the extended write-ups Gates is doing.


Right. book lists like this are in service of political goals. Far fewer fiction books promot promote a clear polical vision.


They surely contain fiction, just the authors' don't admit it :-)

-from a fellow fiction lover


Here is one example of fiction: http://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/The-Rosie-Project


You show follow John Carmack[0] or Elon Musk[1] on twitter. They keep making my sci fi queue grow (John more so than Elon though).

[0] https://twitter.com/ID_AA_Carmack

[1] https://twitter.com/elonmusk


Speaking of science fiction, I've just been rereading Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution [0] series. Great stuff, and I totally agree with Kim Stanley Robinson's assessment: "He is writing revolutionary SF. A nova has appeared in our sky."

[0] The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, and The Sky Road.


Thanks! I just bought The Star Fraction purely on your recommendation... I find gambling like that pays off big, sometimes.

To return the favor, I recommend you try Blindsight and its sequel Echopraxia, by Peter Watts. Those were two of my favorite books of 2015 (the books are older, but I only found them this year).

Unusual, but awesome, SF.


I just read both of those earlier this year, based partially on recommendations on HN.

Speaking of book recommendations, try almost any book reviewed in Jo Walton's collection of essays: *What Makes This Book So Great?. I read and bought about the first half-dozen or so that I hadn't already read, and there was only one that I didn't enjoy thoroughly, and more because it was too much of an emotional downdraft than because it was badly written, which it wasn't at all.


In eras when speech carries risk, facts can be spun into fiction and fiction can be a safe carrier of dangerous facts.


This isn't a list from a tech person but a list from a ghostwriter for a retired billionaire businessman. Its going to have to be bland and vaguely uncontroversial. So it can't be fiction or biography and comedy is iffy.

Here let me try. On my non-fiction pile is Clojure for the Brave and True. Look how I'm signalling. I'm bland and inoffensive because its nonfiction. I'm playing the signalling game so you can play along with me. I'm quirky and interesting because its a semi exotic language and paradigm. I'm leading the pack because its new, or at least recently was kinda new, both the book and the language. I'm altruistic and all around nice guy (true story!) because buying the book basically funds the free website. Its a great book to signal because its common and popular enough that if I have to explain the book or its topic or its funding model to you, you probably don't belong on the site (nothing personal, of course, I'm just saying I donno how you'd be here without the common background). Its also a pretty good book. I like the author's writing style and I can signal my good taste to you all.

Now lets try some pseudonymous public declaration of biography. Two days ago I finished "Battle on the Loomba" which is pretty obscure so I'll explain it. This kid (literally a kid) gets drafted into the south african army in the late 80s, and participates in the craziest, most one sided, most dramatic, largest armor battle in Africa in half a century, second only to Rommel's actions in sheer size and intensity. And thats about it. I was slightly disappointed, as a biography of a kid it missed all the strategic / tactical goodness I like. I like wargames and hex based maps with chits all over them. Then again, as a short biography and memoir it was OK and interesting to compare his experiences to my own army service in the USA a couple years later. Now look how horrific the signalling is for this biography. First of all every race now hates me, because race was totally F'ed up in that conflict, so the S.A. govt he was fighting for is hated by the blacks and white progs for obvious reasons, yet the specific fight was to defend a neighboring black country against the Cuban invasion which on the surface appears dumb but the S.A. govt didn't want a failed communist state or civil war state right on their border, well anyway it was complicated and basically every race on the planet can cherry pick a side to hate and transfer that abstract hate of a historical event to me because I voluntarily read the book, which ironically almost never discusses race directly. Also I'm a warmongering bloodthirsty killer because I sometimes read military related books, which is about as stupid as claiming I'm a professional french chef because I've read a few cookbooks in my day, of course hatred and signalling are invariably irrational and illogical. Also its frankly only a so so book, I'd give it an honest 5/10 which means half the worlds books are worse, and that signalling makes me look like an idiot, people are only supposed to signal stuff they are 100% behind as fanatic supporters, so I'm some wishy washy lunatic with bad taste (may even be true!). All reviews "MUST" be either 10/10 or 0/10 rants, wtf can I even claim to be part of modern internet culture without applying that basic rule? Anyway the signalling sucks for biography and fiction, never ever discuss it in public. Ever. Even if you read it, or even if your ghostwriter thinks it would be interesting or great progressive signalling.

Comedy is 50/50. XKCD from the link is safe, but if it was George Carlin or Bill Cosby the race baiters would be out in force. "Yeah Cosby was funny but you know what he, and now by extension, you, did to those young women?" etc etc.


I feel like I can get my fix of fiction via TV and movies which is probably close to one hundred hours per month, perhaps more. More fiction is not what I need right now. I suspect most people's media consumption follows mine. Books are great for learning while TV/movies are great for storytelling. Yes, I understand the benefits of the novel, but its value proposition for me from a time perspective is very poor, especially since the standard length of the novel is a lot of filler to meet commercial expectations (I'm not paying fifteen bucks for 120 pages!). Most fiction books I've read can easily be edited down to novella length and lose next to nothing of substance.

Conversely, My wife consumes nothing but fiction. I find that pretty sad honestly.


Movies are for short stories, but they remain superficial. I like reading fiction because it takes me on a journey through a world. It's always a bit sad when a great book ends, because it means saying goodbye to a world. Trying to read a good book faster is like trying to receive a backrub faster, it makes no sense. The whole point of a book is going slow.

I used to read a lot of non-fiction but mostly stopped when i realised a year down the line i retained very little, and i wasn't actually enjoying the read.


(Most) Books contain relatively little violence, sex, and especially sexualized violence in comparison to TV and movies. When study after study has shown that what you consume affects how you think, I find this a huge point in favor of books. The amount that people are (and the amount that i have been) desensitized to violence today is insane.

I would say they also leave more room for plot development and concise endings. Most shows today drag on for season after season and don't have satisfying culminations. I've also seen very few movies that can make me think like a work of fiction can. Seeing the world through another relatable person's eyes can be a very profound experience.

Ignoring fiction or non fiction is a tragedy in my opinion.


Every time is see a post like this I get the urge to pretentiously rant about the ongoing decline of appreciation for aesthetic values. Tech culture often seems completely tonedeaf on artistic issues. Talking about the "value proposition" of the novel is borderline comical. If the fiction books you've read could be edited down to novella length, you should read better fiction books.

I have no idea how we got to a place where the value of Tolstoy, Cervantes, Flaubert, etc. needs to be defended from Breaking Bad and cinema (not that there's anything wrong with Breaking Bad and cinema). But apparently most people currently seem to be at a point where if they read the first few pages of "Lectures on Literature" they'd just squint their eyes, cock their heads, and proceed to not understand one part of what it means to "remain a little aloof and take pleasure in this aloofness while at the same time we keenly enjoy—passionately enjoy, enjoy with tears and shivers—the inner weave of a given masterpiece"


At my age I've already read those authors and pretty much all the celebrated classics. I'm not sure why you think I haven't. Also, to be completely honest, many/some of those classics are fairly over-rated.

>Every time is see a post like this I get the urge to pretentiously rant about the ongoing decline of appreciation for aesthetic values.

Everytime I meet someone like you I poke into their true reading habits and its a lot of YA stuff, chick-lit, top 20 pop-culture junk, etc. Just because you read a classic once doesn't mean that the entire medium known as books gets free pass. Sturgeon's law applies to all art if we're being honest with ourselves.

The fact that fiction comes at the cost of reading non-fiction cannot be swept under the rug. Its a completely valid concern. Those in my peer group can tell me all about $popular_scifi and $popular_chicklit but not much else.

Its pretentious to think that fiction is magically superior to all other forms of communication. I think we'll look back at how incredibly overly-entertained we are today and wonder how we lived such shallow lives. That's a narrative no one talks about: how much fiction we're constantly consuming and the incredibly low quality of it all. Most people have the information consumption habits equal to eating junk food for every meal and yet they have the gumption to pretend they're mighty intellectuals on the mountain barking wisdom to us idiots below because they falsely assume consuming carefully crafted fiction designed to sell is some strange esoteric intellectual pursuit. No, its the kid reading some tech manual and building something original who's doing something intellectual and esoteric, not the girl downing Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent trilogies on the bus and giving snide looks to the "nerds" around her who don't get "literature." Then she goes from the bus to the boob/youtube and zones out for hours until bedtime then back to work/school. That's a sad life and if you're honest with yourself, you'd agree with me.




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