It's been a deeply disturbing week but perhaps this missive can offer a brief respite in the form of escapist literature. Fiction sometimes offers insights that aid us in times of desperate need. Plus, Tolkien assures us that, "The only people who inveigh against escape are jailers."

I'm excited to share that the audiobook of my latest novel, Neon Fever Dream, is now available. Narrated by the estimable Jennifer O'Donnell and produced at Brick Shop Audio in Brooklyn, I couldn't be more delighted with the results. Led by a diverse cast, Neon Fever Dream is a fast-paced, deeply-researched thriller about a dark secret hidden at Burning Man. It's earned praise from Popular ScienceTechCrunch, NYT bestselling author DJ Molles, and Hugo/Nebula award winner David Brin. You can start listening right here.

The area of craft I'm currently focused on improving is character development, creating compelling casts that feel like real people. So I was moved when a reviewer wrote, "Neon Fever Dream gave me everything I wanted in a thriller—surprises, quick pacing, great characters, and a colorful setting—while opening my eyes to a larger world. I also deeply appreciated how Asha was more than the sum of her parts. She had incredible agency and bravery. If I had daughters, I’d want them to turn out exactly like her." If you've read it, don't forget to leave a review or recommend it to a friend. It makes a big difference.

And now, books I love that you might too:

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein is a mind-bending short story collection that uses science fiction to illustrate what tomorrow might look like. Akin to a literary Black Mirror, each story powerfully illustrates how technology impacts our lives and forces us to confront what it means to be human. In dissecting the future, Weinstein reveals hidden truths about the present.

The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos is a fascinating and accessible deep dive into artificial intelligence written by a giant in the field. It explains the history, functionality, limitations, promise, and implications of a technology that is reshaping nearly every industry. The first and last chapter are particularly important as they provide the conceptual framework for making sense of the machine learning universe. If you want to understand where computing is headed, this is required reading.

Oranges by John McPhee combines the unabashed geekiness of Wait But Why with polished New Yorker prose to yield a unique and compelling meditation on, of all things, citrus. If you've ever wondered why the Dutch royal family is referred to as the House of Orange, or what Floridian fruit barons do in their spare time, or when lemonade was invented, or how concentrate is manufactured, or even what the "golden apples" of Greek mythology really were, then read this delightful little book. You'll never drink OJ the same way again.

Bonus recommendation: Maria Popova captures shining nuggets of wisdom from Ursula K. Le Guin in this essay exploring how we can use storytelling and imagination to fight injustice and oppression. Nothing could be more timely.

In other news, I'll be speaking at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headquarters in San Francisco tomorrow. EFF fights to protect our civil rights online and we need them now more than ever. I'm extremely proud to have donated 25% of the first six months of Cumulus proceeds to them (another 25% went to literacy nonprofit, Chapter 510). I just passed the 45k word mark on the rough draft of a new novel, The Feed (working title), that wrestles with the role algorithms play in mediating our digital lives. BBC/NPR interviewed me about the future of self-driving cars and you can listen to the clip here. I interviewed NYT bestselling thriller writer Barry Eisler about his disturbing new novel Livia Lone for the Chicago Review of Books (I recommended Livia Lone in a previous edition of this newsletter). I interviewed GroundMetrics CEO George Eiskamp about how he financed his hard science tech startup by raising money from angel investors (I've been an adviser to George since 2011). The Geekiverse ran a really nice review of Cumulus and the Novel Approach ran a really nice review of Neon Fever Dream.

If you enjoy this newsletter and want to support it, forward this email to a friend. I love sharing amazing stories that explore the intersection of technology and culture. The goal of this newsletter is to recommend books, both fiction and nonfiction, that crackle and fizz with big ideas, keep us turning pages deep into the night, challenge our assumptions, help us find meaning in a changing world, and make us think, feel, and ask hard questions. In an age of digital abundance, quality is the new scarcity. The right book at the right time can change your life.

I also pull back the curtain on my creative process. When I'm not reading books, I'm writing them. If you're interested, you can find my books right here. They've been praised by BusinessweekPopular ScienceTechCrunchio9, and Ars Technica. I'd love to hear what you think if you give them a read.

Cheers, Eliot

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