The best books for ruining a good night’s sleep

Who am I?

I’ve spent a lot of time working with and fearing for young people. As a teacher, I slept very poorly on prom nights and usually chaperoned the school’s alcohol-free, all-night graduation parties and cruises. I introduced them to lockdown drills and showed them how to hide under their desks and turn out the lights in the face of an armed intruder. It grieves me that we, The Olders, have ensured that these kids’ futures will be pretty bleak and continue to be far too glib with their present days. We threw a lot of them into those illegal, Middle Eastern wars, and we didn’t do a great job helping them out when they came back.


I wrote...

Twenty-Five to Life

By R.W.W. Greene,

Book cover of Twenty-Five to Life

What is my book about?

Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother's thumb, and what does it matter? She's over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she's mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there's that.

When Julie's mother decides it's time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America.

The books I picked & why

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The Ministry for the Future

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of The Ministry for the Future

Why this book?

Something very bad and highly possible happens in the first chapter of this well-researched work of science fiction, and the year it ‘happens’ is a scant four years away. Climate change is not just a problem for the future, friends, and this tome puts it front and center, drawing on recent (2020) events, such as the Atlantic hurricane season and the Australian wildfires to make its case. But that’s not the part that will keep you up all night. The terrifying bit is the fact that the very bad thing that happens is still not enough to light a fire under the people who can actually save the human race. Shudder.

The Ministry for the Future

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

11 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…


The Road

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of The Road

Why this book?

A meteorite hits the Earth sometime before the book begins, and all that remains is gray with ash and burning. A father and son push a shopping cart across the devastated landscape looking for supplies and refuge, following the death by suicide of their wife/mother. Everything is horrible. There’s a baby on a spit, cannibals, a decided lack of community norms and support, and the gun Dad carries only has two bullets. The meteor, as it turns out, is not the worst that could happen. Hell is other people. Pick your neighbors carefully.

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle).

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if…


The Circle

By Dave Eggers,

Book cover of The Circle

Why this book?

Forget the crappy reality TV show on Netflix, I’m talking about the book in which an intelligent young woman is slowly indoctrinated by a cultish social-media company and becomes the spokeswoman and chief advocate of life in a voluntary panopticon (a prison wherein everything you do may or not be watched all day, all the time), destroying any concept of freedom and privacy. “Secrets are lies, sharing is caring, privacy is theft.” 

The Circle

By Dave Eggers,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Circle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - a dark, thrilling and unputdownable novel about our obsession with the internet

'Prepare to be addicted' Daily Mail

'A gripping and highly unsettling read' Sunday Times

'The Circle is 'Brave New World' for our brave new world... Fast, witty and troubling' Washington Post

When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users' personal emails,…


All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely,

Book cover of All American Boys

Why this book?

This is the first book in a long, long time to give me big, choking emotions. Sixteen-year-old Rashad Butler’s only crime is to be Black in the wrong place at the wrong time and nets a beatdown from a young, hard-assed beat cop. Rashad’s classmate, Quinn, is white, a witness, and one of the cop’s mentees and close family friends. The book is fiction, but things like this are happening even as you read this sentence. The thought that we have to do better than this kept me twisting in the sheets for weeks.

All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All American Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bag of chips. That's all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad's pleadings that he's stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad's every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn - a varsity basketball player and Rashad's classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan - and a video camera.…


Johnny Got His Gun

By Dalton Trumbo,

Book cover of Johnny Got His Gun

Why this book?

A novel by the dude who wrote the screenplay for Spartacus, among many other films. Blacklisted during the Red Scare of the Fifties, he was indeed a communist. ‘Johnny’ is about a young man, eager for war, who gets his wish. Then he gets his arms and legs blown off, his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth destroyed, in an artillery blast, and becomes a prisoner in his own body. When he does learn to communicate, he tells his CO that he wants to go on tour as a warning against war. What follows is pretty sickening. I gave my copy to a student who was considering enlistment. I wish I had more copies.

Johnny Got His Gun

By Dalton Trumbo,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Johnny Got His Gun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Trumbo sets this story down almost without pause or punctuation and with a fury accounting to eloquence.”—The New York Times

This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered—not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives. . . . This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and gruesome . . . but so is war.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, the United Nations, and technology?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, the United Nations, and technology.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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