The best books on a future worth living in

Who am I?

I come from a reservation town in Wisconsin, and make my livelihood as a horticulturist in the water-strapped state of Colorado. I’m mix-race and LGBT. These influences have shaped what I look for in stories. I write and seek to read about communities in which the person creating medicine and the person growing food is just as important as the fighter, because let me tell you: if you don’t have the means to make food and heal wounds, all the guns in the world won’t save you. I particularly appreciate stories that explore ecology, agriculture, and plant science in innovative ways. These make my little horticulture-geek heart sing.


I wrote...

The Hands We're Given

By O. E. Tearmann,

Book cover of The Hands We're Given

What is my book about?

It's 2155, and seven corporations call the shots on the land that was the United States of America. Democracy is dead. The Corporations run the City Grids for a profit and own their worker's bodies and souls.

But there are people fighting for a change. There’s a unit in the resistance, nicknamed the Wildcards. Officially Democratic State Force Base 1407, the Wildcards are fighters in the war to bring democracy back. They're everything the Corporations despise: dreamers and fighters, punks and freaks and geeks who won't be told what to be or who to love. They've come up every walk of life to become the best unit the Democratic State Force has and the family every one of them needs. And they are taking the Corps down, one day at a time. Strap in for a series that's been called 'Firefly for the cyberpunk genre'. Hang on tight.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want

O. E. Tearmann Why did I love this book?

Most nonfiction books on social issues begin—in fact, some go on for about half the book—on the theme of what’s so bad about the problem being addressed. Most authors want you good and scared before they start talking about the good stuff. This book doesn’t do that. It opens, in fact, with a short story set in The World That Turned Out Okay.

And then it backs it up with real-world examples. Transition Town Totnes. Transition Streets. All sorts of projects, from all around the world. And throughout the books, it asks the same question again and again: why is it so hard to imagine a better future? How can we work on that? And then it answers it. The book is a toolbox of research, ideas, and techniques at both the personal and community level. Narrated first-person by the author, reading it is like chatting with a very clever, very committed friend. And right now, I really need that.

By Rob Hopkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From What Is to What If as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Big ideas that just might save the world. the Guardian

A serious book on an important subject. Without imagination, where are we? Sir Quentin Blake

What if we took play seriously? What if we considered imagination vital to our health? What if we followed nature's lead? What if school nurtured young imaginations?

What if things turned out okay?

Rob Hopkins asks the most important question that society has somehow forgotten - What If? Hopkins explores what we must do to revive and replenish our collective imagination. If we can rekindle that precious creative spark, whole societies and cultures can change…


Book cover of The Ministry for the Future

O. E. Tearmann Why did I love this book?

I added a physical copy of this one to my own shelf. That, from me, is the highest praise I can give. What I’ve always liked about Robinson’s worldbuilding is the reality of it. If the hopeful future genre—solarpunk, hope punk, give it what name you like—has a flaw, it’s in imagining gorgeous future worlds of soaring stained glass and gardens, with a vague comment about ‘oh, the transition out of the Old World was really messy’.

We do need those stories, but for those of us living in the very messy now, they can be frustrating. We can’t see how to jump from the current clusterfuck to that gorgeous future. There’s no clear path forward. Robinson has set Ministry right in the middle of that transition, and he’s done it beautifully. The transition out of our current destructive practices is, in his description, messy. And it’s complicated. There’s bloodshed. There’s frustration. And there’s a tangible possibility.

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Ministry for the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” —Jonathan Lethem
 
"If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future." —Ezra Klein (Vox)

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite…


Book cover of A People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers

O. E. Tearmann Why did I love this book?

By turns uplifting, bloody strange, heartbreaking, and joyful, this story collection touches on so many things: gender relations, race, hope, the need to feel safe, and the need to feel dignity among them. There are versions of America in this series that I dread, and versions of America that I long for. This is a book we need right now: a collection of dire warnings and beautiful dreams, hopes, and fears. We’re at a crossroads in history. This book reminds us that we can take a turn into the dark or the light. And wherever we go, we’ll be taking our whole selves and all our facets along for the ride: good and bad, kind and cruel, genetic and historical.

Strap in.

By Charlie Jane Anders, Charles Yu, Lesley Nneka Arimah

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A People's Future of the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A glittering landscape of twenty-five speculative stories that challenge oppression and envision new futures for America—from N. K. Jemisin, Charles Yu, Jamie Ford, G. Willow Wilson, Charlie Jane Anders, Hugh Howey, and more.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

In these tumultuous times, in our deeply divided country, many people are angry, frightened, and hurting. Knowing that imagining a brighter tomorrow has always been an act of resistance, editors Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams invited an extraordinarily talented group of writers to share stories that explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice.…


Book cover of A Psalm for the Wild-Built

O. E. Tearmann Why did I love this book?

This book is the most wholesomely indulgent thing I’ve read all summer. It’s both an escape to somewhere better, and a promise OF somewhere better existing. A world where our needs are met, we take care of each other, and where you can go looking for the songs of crickets to soothe your soul. I’ll give you a taste with one quote.

“Do you not find consciousness alone to be the most exhilarating thing? Here we are, in this incomprehensibly large universe, on this one tiny moon, around this one incidental planet, and in all the time this entire scenario has existed, every component has been recycled over and over and over again into infinitely incredible configurations, and sometimes, those configurations are special enough to be able to see the world around them. You and I—we’re just atoms that arranged themselves the right way, and we can understand that about ourselves. Is that not amazing?”

By Becky Chambers,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked A Psalm for the Wild-Built as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honour the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of 'what do people need?' is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They're going to need to ask it a lot.


Book cover of Space Opera

O. E. Tearmann Why did I love this book?

Oh. My. Flipping gods turning cartwheels. This is my book.

Oookay, now I got that out of my system, the world. Or rather, the universe. All of it. In this universe, all intelligent life very nearly wiped itself out. In the smoking rubble of the universe, everyone decided that the best way to answer the question 'who is people, and who is meat?' with music. In this universe, teeth and claws and big, big guns aren't the only answer to survival. Sometimes, being unbearably cute and fragile and setting off every maternal instinct in every species is the answer. Or being made out of stuff so inedible that nobody bothers is. Or, in the case of humanity, being very, very odd is.

And we are odd. And beautiful. And stupid. And so is the universe.

The plot is direct: sing, or die. But in that simple arc is packed a poem, a buzz ballad, and a dream. I'm not going to try to explain it to you. Go read it. But I am going to tell you that, strange as it is, it absolutely works.

By Catherynne M. Valente,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Space Opera as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FINALIST FOR HUGO AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL 2019
FINALIST FOR LOCUS AWARD FOR BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL 2019

IN SPACE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU SING

A century ago, intelligent space-faring life was nearly destroyed during the Sentience Wars. To bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity and understanding, the Metagalactic Grand Prix was created. Part concert, part contest, all extravaganza, species far and wide gather to compete in feats of song, dance and/or whatever facsimile of these can be performed by various creatures who may or may not possess, in the traditional sense, feet, mouths, larynxes…


You might also like...

Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

By Michael Ruse,

Book cover of Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

Michael Ruse Author Of Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Teacher (professor) Author Darwin specialist Charles Dickens fanatic

Michael's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Why We Hate asks why a social animal like Homo sapiens shows such hostility to fellow species members. The invasion of the Ukraine by Russia? The antisemitism found on US campuses in the last year? The answer and solution lies in the Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection.

Being social is biology’s way of ensuring survival and reproduction. With the coming of agriculture 10,000 years ago, new conditions – primarily much-increased population numbers – meant that sociality broke down as we battled for our share of much-reduced resources. But, as cultural change brought about our troubles, so culture offers prospects of a future where our social natures can emerge and thrive again.

Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

By Michael Ruse,

What is this book about?

An insightful and probing exploration of the contradiction between humans' enormous capacity for hatred and their evolutionary development as a social species

Why We Hate tackles a pressing issue of both longstanding interest and fresh relevance: why a social species like Homo sapiens should nevertheless be so hateful to itself. We go to war and are prejudiced against our fellow human beings. We discriminate on the basis of nationality, class, race, sexual orientation, religion, and gender. Why are humans at once so social and so hateful to each other? In this book, prominent philosopher Michael Ruse looks at scientific
understandings…


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