Continuing my suggestions of books to read this summer I share with you the novels of Max Barry.
I'm always fascinated by people in creative fields that are adamant to the idea of reading fiction. There you are having a casual conversation, you suggest a novel you think they will find interesting and they strongly oppose the idea. They don't read fiction (often they also say they never watch tv or attend any live performances.)
And while I can see why anyone would think that somehow things like reading fiction are just entertainment and could not possibly lend themselves to teach us anything, what kind of creative work could they be creating when they deprive themselves of the enjoyment (and education) of watching someone manipulate language to convey messages in ways that are often profound and revealing.
Besides, the more we study the brain, they more we learn how important fiction can be in neurological development.
This is why I am recommending the novels of Max Barry. He is an astute observer of life and has tackled subjects dear to me (and this blog) in his novels. From marketing, advertising and branding to management, leadership and productivity to, in his latest novel, released today, poetry, language and influence. Each written with clear insights and full of enjoyable surprises. If you are interested in those areas there is much to be learned from his novels, while having a great deal of fun.
At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”: adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.
Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell—who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.
Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.
As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. Max Barry’s most spellbinding and ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love—whatever the cost.
Scientist Charles Neumann loses a leg in an industrial accident. It's not a tragedy. It's an opportunity. Charlie always thought his body could be better. He begins to explore a few ideas. To build parts. Better parts.
Prosthetist Lola Shanks loves a good artificial limb. In Charlie, she sees a man on his way to becoming artificial everything. But others see a madman. Or a product. Or a weapon.
A story for the age of pervasive technology, Machine Man is a gruesomely funny unraveling of one man's quest for ultimate self-improvement.
Stephen Jones is a shiny new hire at Zephyr Holdings. From the outside, Zephyr is just another bland corporate monolith, but behind its glass doors business is far from usual: the beautiful receptionist is paid twice as much as anybody else to do nothing, the sales reps use self help books as manuals, no one has seen the CEO, no one knows exactly what they are selling, and missing donuts are the cause of office intrigue. While Jones originally wanted to climb the corporate ladder, he now finds himself descending deeper into the irrational rationality of company policy. What he finds is hilarious, shocking, and utterly telling.
Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for. It's a brave new corporate world, but you don't want to be caught without a platinum credit card--as lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike is about to find out. Trapped into building street cred for a new line of $2500 sneakers by shooting customers, Hack attracts the barcode-tattooed eye of the legendary Jennifer Government. A stressed-out single mom, corporate watchdog, and government agent who has to rustle up funding before she's allowed to fight crime, Jennifer Government is holding a closing down sale--and everything must go.
A wickedly satirical and outrageous thriller about globalization and marketing hype, Jennifer Government is the best novel in the world ever.
When Scat comes up with the idea for the hottest new soda ever, he's sure he'll retire the next rich, savvy marketing success story. But in the treacherous waters of corporate America there are no sure things--and suddenly Scat has to save not only his idea but his yet-to-be-realized career. With the help of the scarily beautiful and brainy 6, he sets out on a mission to reclaim the fame and fortune that, time and again, eludes him. This brilliantly scathing debut is a hilarious send-up of celebrity, sexual politics, corporate America, and the fleeting status that comes with getting to the table first--before the other guy has you for lunch.
“THE FILM before THE FILM” is a short documentary that traces the evolution of title design through the history of film. This short film was a research project at the BTK (Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule) that takes a look at pioneers like Saul Bass, Maurice Binder and Kyle Cooper by showing the transitions from early film credits to the inclusion of digital techniques, a resurgence of old-school style, and filmmakers' love of typography in space.
"I worry that too many of us . . . are certain that if only we can get 1993 to come back again, we'll clean up. That if we hold our breath and close our eyes and guard the gates with bigger and more dangerous weapons, time will turn backwards and it will be yesterday again. And we all knew what the rules were yesterday. The rules of publishing were simple. Authors, agents, books, incredibly long lunches--that was publishing. Not any more."
I've been an avid reader my whole life. Growing up in Puerto Rico my parents used to say that I was a "come libros," literally a book eater. The only thing I would consume more was music. You could see me with headphones from a brand new walkman or a book in hand, sometimes foolishly reading while walking. While my schoolmates grumbled at having to read Cervantes, Quijote was my hero.
Nothing has changed, I still devour books and music. Sometimes listening to music while simultaneously reading on the same device. Well, something has changed, I now have a deep understanding of what it takes to both write and produce a book.
And then there is digital. I've spent most of the past month tumbling through the wild frontier of editing, programming and packaging digital books in EPUB format. I find all of it challenging, frustrating and terribly exhilarating. I feel that to honor all those books I've read and that in many ways have consumed me, that I too have to do my part in figuring out the future of books.
The internet has given birth to yet another new medium: webcomics. Moving beyond the restrictions of print, webcomic artists interact directly with audiences who share their own unique worldview, and create stories that are often embedded in innovative formats only possible online. Sometimes funny, sometimes personal, and almost always weird, web comic creators have taken the comic strip form to new, mature, and artistic heights.
Much attention has been paid to 3D Printing lately, with new companies developing cheaper and more efficient consumer models that have wowed the tech community. They herald 3D Printing as a revolutionary and disruptive technology, but how will these printers truly affect our society? Beyond an initial novelty, 3D Printing could have a game-changing impact on consumer culture, copyright and patent law, and even the very concept of scarcity on which our economy is based. From at-home repairs to new businesses, from medical to ecological developments, 3D Printing has an undeniably wide range of possibilities which could profoundly change our world.
Illustrators articulate what a photograph cannot. Using an array of techniques and styles, illustrators evoke stories and meaning in a variety of mediums, from editorial illustration in magazines and newspapers, to comics books, to activist media. And as their tasks over the years have become less informational and more expressive, their individual voice as artists becomes all the more critical and beautiful, revealing an exciting and awe-inspiring age of illustration.
As games have increased in sophistication, they have become a stage for ever higher displays of human skill and brilliance. The result is a tier of the gaming world filled with startling disciplined, talented, and highly competitive players. Born out of arcade tournaments and LAN parties, the world of competitive gaming is now entering a mature phase, featuring major global events attended by thousands and watched by millions online. With valuable sponsorship and prize money of increasing value, competitive gaming is claiming a space similar to that of traditional sports. This new industry is still in its early stages, developing broadcasting models and negotiating the culture of its widening audience. But whether it's fighting games or MOBAs, the players and spectators are passionate, and individuals and leagues are working hard to elevate e-sports into the highest echelons of human achievement.