100 books like Player Piano

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Here are 100 books that Player Piano fans have personally recommended if you like Player Piano. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Three-Body Problem

Matthew O. Jackson Author Of The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors

From my list on fiction driven by rich historical context.

Who am I?

As a lover of both fiction and nonfiction, I find that the ultimate pleasure in reading is when the author combines the two without short-changing either. These are books that provide accurate and deep historical background, but also tell stories shaped by that context. These are also books that have intricate, unusual, and effective narrative structures.   

Matthew's book list on fiction driven by rich historical context

Matthew O. Jackson Why did Matthew love this book?

This book is set in motion in the cultural revolution in Chinaa background that profoundly shapes the main characters’ choices and destinies.

A young scientist who has witnessed her father’s persecution ends up at a science center looking for radio-wave evidence of extra-terrestrial life. Not only does she find it, but she figures out how to communicate with it.

Couple the scientist’s views of humanity with those of a disillusioned heir to an oil fortune, and the stage is set for an epic novel with a unique take on first contact. This book—the first of a trilogyprovides frightening insights into how history can shape humanity’s future.   

By Cixin Liu, Ken Liu (translator),

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Three-Body Problem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the award-winning, critically acclaimed, multi-million-copy-selling science-fiction phenomenon - soon to be a Netflix Original Series from the creators of Game of Thrones.

1967: Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during China's Cultural Revolution. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind.

Four decades later, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal of scientists after a spate of inexplicable suicides. Wang's investigation will lead him to a mysterious online game and immerse him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable…


Book cover of Infomocracy

Lavanya Lakshminarayan Author Of The Ten Percent Thief

From my list on science fiction novels exploring the near future.

Who am I?

I’m a novelist and game designer from Bangalore. I’ve been a lifelong reader of science fiction and fantasy. Growing up, I almost never encountered futures that included people like me—brown women, from a country that isn’t the UK/ US, and yet, who are in sync with the rapidly changing global village we belong to. Over the last decade, though, I've found increasing joy in more recent science fiction, in which the future belongs to everyone. The Ten Percent Thief is an expression of my experiences living in dynamic urban India, and represents one of our many possible futures. 

Lavanya's book list on science fiction novels exploring the near future

Lavanya Lakshminarayan Why did Lavanya love this book?

I’m fascinated by the possibilities presented by post-nation futures. Infomocracy looks at a future where ‘centenals’—groups of 100,000 people without historic nationalist borders—elect an international corporate-affiliated body to govern the world.

High-stakes political intrigue fuels the biggest election in a century as multiple factions battle it out to seize power through the vehicle of futuristic democracy. To me, the highlight of this novel is its exploration of democracy—it’s peppered with paradoxical and intense arguments that are rewarding to engage with, and enhance the richness of its world. 

By Malka Older,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global microdemocracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line. With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information…


Book cover of Agency

P.W. Singer and August Cole Author Of Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution

From my list on best novels for a post-pandemic world.

Who are we?

Peter Warren Singer is a strategist at New America, a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, and a Principal at Useful Fiction LLC. No author, living or dead, has more books on the professional US military readings lists. August Cole is an author exploring the future of conflict through fiction and other forms of “FICINT” [Fictional Intelligence] storytelling. His talks, short stories, and workshops have taken him from speaking at the Nobel Institute in Oslo to presenting on future warfare at SXSW Interactive to lecturing at West Point.


P.W.'s book list on best novels for a post-pandemic world

P.W. Singer and August Cole Why did P.W. love this book?

William Gibson’s latest novel Agency is as prophetic as his establishment of cyberspace and cyberpunk culture in the 80s and 90s. His latest novel chronicles reality-busting skirmishes among gangsterish multi-generational families based in a glitzy post-apocalyptic 22nd century London. In this future, nano-machines conjure luxuries from nothing while sky-high scrubbers struggle to restore a ravaged atmosphere after the jackpot, a global environmental catastrophe. Agency tells a heist-type story about the emergence of Eunice, a sentient AI born in our stub out of American special operations research. Leading a cross-dimensional band of techies, publicists, hipsters, and hackers, ace software designer Verity fights to introduce Eunice to her world in order to save it. Yet Gibson is telling us about today's ecological and technological forces. He writes of pre-jackpot life in our era: “‘Did we ever come to terms with the sheer cluelessness of it?’

By William Gibson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Agency as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“ONE OF THE MOST VISIONARY, ORIGINAL, AND QUIETLY INFLUENTIAL WRITERS CURRENTLY WORKING”* returns with a sharply imagined follow-up to the New York Times bestselling The Peripheral.
 
William Gibson has trained his eye on the future for decades, ever since coining the term “cyberspace” and then popularizing it in his classic speculative novel Neuromancer in the early 1980s. Cory Doctorow raved that The Peripheral is “spectacular, a piece of trenchant, far-future speculation that features all the eyeball kicks of Neuromancer.” Now Gibson is back with Agency—a science fiction thriller heavily influenced by our most current…


The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

By Nicholas Ponticello,

Book cover of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

Nicholas Ponticello Author Of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Writer Teacher Reader Lego builder Musical connoisseur

Nicholas' 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Vanderough University prepares its graduates for life on Mars. Herbert Hoover Palminteri enrolls at VU with the hope of joining the Martian colony in 2044 as a member of its esteemed engineer corps. But then Herbert is tapped to join a notorious secret society: the Order of the Scepter and Gavel. As a new pledge, Herbert has to prove himself in a series of dangerous initiation rites, even if it means risking his life and the lives of his friends.

Many years later, when Herbert thinks the scandals of his youth are finally dead and buried, a murder occurs in the Martian colony, and Herbert starts to suspect it is linked to the secret Order of the Scepter and Gavel of his past.

Book cover of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Damon P. Coppola Author Of Introduction to International Disaster Management

From my list on expanding your thinking on disaster risk management.

Who am I?

As a professional emergency and risk management practitioner, I’ve spent my career supporting and shaping emergency management policy and practice in every context from the village to global levels. What I’ve found to be most rewarding are those opportunities where I’ve been able to translate this knowledge and practice into training the next generation of emergency managers. The textbooks I’ve written, which include the first comprehensive book on emergency management (Introduction to Emergency Management, currently in its 7th edition) and the first book on homeland security in the United States (Introduction to Homeland Security, currently in its 6th Edition), are currently in use at hundreds of universities worldwide.

Damon's book list on expanding your thinking on disaster risk management

Damon P. Coppola Why did Damon love this book?

The ‘zombie apocalypse’ scenario has been used for years by risk management professionals to make the examination of possible societal breakdowns more fun and/or interesting.

By focusing on a hazard people know, like hurricanes or wildfires, audiences come to the discussion with pre-existing biases and, in many cases, first-hand experience. This forces the communicator to counter such bias before getting to key messages.

There’s never been an actual zombie apocalypse (nor is there likely to ever be one…), which means the zombie scenario adequately ‘levels the field’. It forces audiences to think beyond their go-to assumptions and introduces levels of uncertainty and unknown that are typical of major disasters.

This book, written without obvious heroes and heroines, in a documentary style, makes a perfect proxy for a disaster exercise scenario. I also believe it does a great job illustrating how different forms of governance result in different response strategies, which…

By Max Brooks,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked World War Z as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginning of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse.

Faced with a future of mindless man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the ten-year fight against the horde, World War Z brings the finest traditions of journalism to bear on what is…


Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Guy Morpuss Author Of Black Lake Manor

From my list on speculative crime.

Who am I?

I grew up reading the crime and thriller books on my parents’ bookshelves. As a teenager I got into science fiction, reading everything I could. Speculative crime fiction mixes the best of both genres. You twist one aspect of the real world, add a dead body, and play with the consequences. I have written two novels that do this: in my first, I imagined a world in which five people share a body, and one of them is trying to kill the others; in my second, a killer who can turn back time. I love books that toy with reality in this way, and read all that I can.

Guy's book list on speculative crime

Guy Morpuss Why did Guy love this book?

For me speculative fiction is about twisting one aspect of the real world, and then playing with the consequences. I love the way that Philip K Dick does this.

Some of his ideas seem absurd, but as a reader you quickly buy into them. This is not a traditional crime novel in any sense, but is about a bounty hunter tracking down escaped androids. As he confronts questions about his own humanity, it raises ethical issues for the reader as to what it is to be human.

Like all Dick’s works it is clever, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…


Book cover of The Windup Girl

Mal Warwick Author Of Hell on Earth: What we can learn from dystopian fiction

From my list on dystopian since “Brave New World” and “1984”.

Who am I?

When I was twelve years old, my picture appeared in my hometown newspaper. I was holding a huge stack of books from the library, a week’s reading. All science fiction. I’ve read voraciously for the past seventy years—though much more widely as an adult. I’ve also had a life founding several small companies and writing twenty books. But I’ve continued to read science fiction, and, increasingly, dystopian novels. Why? Because, as a history buff, I think about the big trends that shape our lives. I see clearly that climate change, breakthroughs in technology, and unstable politics threaten our children’s future. I want to understand how these trends might play out—for better or for worse.

Mal's book list on dystopian since “Brave New World” and “1984”

Mal Warwick Why did Mal love this book?

Climate change aside, what scares me the most about technology today is the capacity for bioengineering to run amok.

What happens when scientists monkey around with deadly viruses—and one escapes from the lab? What if some rogue researcher creates an entirely new lifeform that proves toxic to humans? Or some experimental microbe—an effort to save the world’s butterflies, for instance—proves to kill off bees instead?

This novel, which won major awards, depicts a frightening future world wrought by bioengineering. And you wouldn’t want to live there anymore than I do. 

By Paolo Bacigalupi,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Windup Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE HUGO, NEBULA, LOCUS, JOHN W. CAMPBELL AND COMPTON CROOK AWARDS

The Windup Girl is the ground-breaking and visionary modern classic that swept the board for every major science fiction award it its year of publication.

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the windup girl - the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko - now abandoned to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of…


Book cover of More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave

Carroll Pursell Author Of The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology

From my list on technology interacting with American society.

Who am I?

I've been teaching and writing in the field of the history of technology for over six decades, and it's not too much to say that the field and my professional career grew up together. The Society for the History of Technology began in 1958, and its journal, Technology and Culture, first appeared the following year. I've watched, and helped encourage, a broadening of the subject from a rather internal concentration on machines and engineering to a widening interest in technology as a social activity with cultural and political, as well as economic, outcomes. In my classes I always assigned not only original documents and scholarly monographs but also memoirs, literature, and films.

Carroll's book list on technology interacting with American society

Carroll Pursell Why did Carroll love this book?

It is hardly news that housework is gendered. But in this classic study Cowan, by taking housewifery seriously as work and kitchen utensils and appliances seriously as technologies, opens up the whole panorama of production and consumption in a domestic setting. The influx of new appliances, and in a more convenient form old materials (such as powdered soap) in the early decades of the 20th century worked to, in a sense, “industrialize” the home. Unlike factory workers, however, housewives were unpaid, isolated, and unspecialized. Their managerial role shrank (hired help disappeared from most homes)  and rather than being drained of meaning, like the work of factory hands, theirs became burdened with portentous implications of love, devotion, and creativity. Finally, as housework became “easy,” standards rose. At one time changing the bed might have amounted to putting the bottom sheet in the wash and the top sheet on the bottom,…

By Ruth Schwartz Cowan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked More Work for Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic work of women's history (winner of the 1984 Dexter Prize from the Society for the History of Technology), Ruth Schwartz Cowan shows how and why modern women devote as much time to housework as did their colonial sisters. In lively and provocative prose, Cowan explains how the modern conveniences,washing machines, white flour, vacuums, commercial cotton,seemed at first to offer working-class women middle-class standards of comfort. Over time, however, it became clear that these gadgets and gizmos mainly replaced work previously conducted by men, children, and servants. Instead of living lives of leisure, middle-class women found themselves struggling…


Book cover of All Systems Red

Paige E. Ewing Author Of Precise Oaths

From my list on sci-fi that blow raspberries at hero stereotypes.

Who am I?

I’m a woman in a technology field dominated by men, a person with both mental and physical problems, and I’ve studied a dozen different martial arts. I’m a mean shot with a bow and love to hurl axes and spears. None of these things are contradictory. They’re just different aspects of me. Real people don’t fit in boxes and neither should good characters. My world is filled with my Hispanic grandkids, my bi daughter, my gay foster brother, my friends and family and people I love that don’t fit the Captain Awesome stereotype. Remember that we, too, can be heroes.

Paige's book list on sci-fi that blow raspberries at hero stereotypes

Paige E. Ewing Why did Paige love this book?

I fell in love with Murderbot in the first paragraph. Every book afterward in the series just made me love it more.

The hero of the Murderbot Diaries is part robot, part humanoid, and all done-with-everyone’s-crap. Everyone seemed to think that if a construct like it gained its freedom, it would rampage around killing everyone. Instead, it just wanted to be left alone to watch some good shows, and read a book or ten. Been there.

I cracked up at the sarcasm, got pulled in by the action, and felt the compassion that drove Murderbot to jump into the mouth of a deadly creature to save a human’s life. I went through the angst of Murderbot learning how to connect with people without compromising itself, and identified all too well.

By Martha Wells,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked All Systems Red as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All Systems Red by Martha Wells begins The Murderbot Diaries, a new science fiction action and adventure series that tackles questions of the ethics of sentient robotics. It appeals to fans of Westworld, Ex Machina, Ann Leckie's Imperial Raadch series, or lain M. Banks' Culture novels. The main character is a deadly security droid that has bucked its restrictive programming and is balanced between contemplative self discovery and an idle instinct to kill all humans. In a corporate dominated s pa cef a ring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by…


Book cover of Chronic City

David Thurlow Author Of Piggyback to the End of the World

From my list on dystopian novels about the underdog.

Who am I?

I think of dystopian fiction as simulations writers conduct to see how things will go if we don’t wise up. Given that the nonsense of everyday life today leads to these future scenarios, we are inherently part of their stories. That makes them personal. Optimistic tales of future utopias don’t manage the same trick. There’s no part of life today that appears to be the seed for Star Fleet to form and dedicate itself to exploration and knowledge. We can hope for that, but any turning point towards it hasn’t happened. When I look at futures of ecological ruin or commodified genetic code, I feel connected because those seeds are being cultivated as we speak.

David's book list on dystopian novels about the underdog

David Thurlow Why did David love this book?

Jonathan Lethem’s language and story structure are wonderful just as their own experience. What I enjoy even more is that, while dystopian fiction almost inevitably leads to a parable, this book manages to lean into that while still insisting the characters live life as fully existing people. I felt welcomed to spend time with Chase Insteadman and his small circle of friends as they meandered through a harsh urban winter, confronting mortality in a world that doesn’t quite fit any of them. They were good company during a pandemic when actual friends couldn’t be while I was confronting mortality in a world that doesn’t quite fit me.

By Jonathan Lethem,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chronic City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chase Insteadman is a handsome, inoffensive former child-star, living a vague routine of dinner parties and glamorous engagements on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Meanwhile, his astronaut fiancee, trapped on the International Space Station, sends him rapturous love letters. Like Janice, Chase is adrift.

Into Chase's life enters Perkus Tooth, a wall-eyed free-range pop-critic, whose soaring conspiratorial riffs are fueled by high-grade marijuana, mammoth cheeseburgers and a desperate ache for meaning. Together, Chase and Perkus attempt to unearth the Truth - that rarest of artifacts on an island where everything can be bought.

At once beautiful and tawdry, poignant and funny,…


Book cover of The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America

Carroll Pursell Author Of The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology

From my list on technology interacting with American society.

Who am I?

I've been teaching and writing in the field of the history of technology for over six decades, and it's not too much to say that the field and my professional career grew up together. The Society for the History of Technology began in 1958, and its journal, Technology and Culture, first appeared the following year. I've watched, and helped encourage, a broadening of the subject from a rather internal concentration on machines and engineering to a widening interest in technology as a social activity with cultural and political, as well as economic, outcomes. In my classes I always assigned not only original documents and scholarly monographs but also memoirs, literature, and films.

Carroll's book list on technology interacting with American society

Carroll Pursell Why did Carroll love this book?

My admiration for this book is demonstrated by the way in which I quite shamelessly ripped off its title for my own. It has been said that America is the only nation that began perfect and hoped to improve. The engine of that improvement, from the earliest days of the Republic, had been new technologies but by the middle of the pre-Civil War period some Americans began to realize that the “improvement” they had unleashed was beginning to erode the very “perfection” that they had hoped to enshrine in the nation’s foundation. Writers, artists, and creative intellectuals in general are society’s canaries in the mine shaft, and the great names of the American Renaissance—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Washington Irving, Herman Melville, George Innes, Charles Sheeler, and their colleagues—attempted to describe, understand, and perhaps heal the destructive effects of the machine. As Marx concludes, “what was a grim possibility…

By Leo Marx,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Machine in the Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For over four decades, Leo Marx's work has focused on the relationship between technology and culture in 19th- and 20th-century America. His research helped to define-and continues to give depth to-the area of American studies concerned with the links between scientific and technological advances, and the way society and culture both determine these links. The Machine in the Garden fully examines the difference between the "pastoral" and "progressive"
ideals which characterized early 19th-century American culture, and which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental and nuclear debates of contemporary society.

This new edition is appearing in celebration…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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