Good Minds Suggest: Paulo Bacigalupi's Favorite Books About the Future

Posted by Goodreads on May 5, 2015

"Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice," but Paolo Bacigalupi is betting on water—as either our downfall or our salvation. His debut novel, The Windup Girl, imagined a partially submerged future, and his young adult novel, Ship Breaker, told the story of scavengers living above the ruins of an underwater New Orleans. But now the American science fiction writer is changing course. The Water Knife, his first novel for adults since the Hugo and Nebula award-winning The Windup Girl, is set in a world plagued by its lack of water. In this new vision of the future (which feels a bit too prescient for comfort), rich and poor alike fight over the Colorado River, desperate to survive a grim new era or drought. Bacigalupi shares his favorite books that dare to predict what's coming for civilization, the planet, and our species.

Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner
"When I think about the future, I think about the past as well. I look at how we got to our present moment and make guesses about where we might be headed. For The Water Knife, one of the starting points was Cadillac Desert. Here Reisner guides us through the era of massive subsidized water projects that harnessed the largest waterways of the West and fueled prosperity in the western states, providing homes to millions of people and irrigating vast swaths of agricultural land that would otherwise be dead and dry. Reisner's book reminds us that our greatest strengths are also weaknesses and that much of our engineered prosperity may be a mirage."

Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"When we look toward the future, it's sobering to realize that as predictors, we don't do a very good job. We fail to anticipate the changes that turn out to be tectonic in their importance, whether it's 9/11, the advent of the Internet, or the next financial collapse. In Black Swan Taleb helps explain why we're nearly always wrong about the future and how critical that can turn out to be. For me, as someone who thinks about where we're headed, the hunt for those black swans that are terribly real and terribly defining is almost an obsession. Taleb provides a language for describing the blindness of human nature as we anticipate what we'll wake up and face tomorrow."

Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health by David Michaels
"When thinking about the future and what might possibly go wrong (see Black Swan, above), it's interesting to look at how government and business intertwine and how short-term profit motives can undermine good policy and, with it, hope for a good future. While any technology has the potential to improve our lives, it takes robust oversight and informed regulations to make sure that a technology doesn't run amok. In Doubt Is Their Product, Michaels outlines how those safeguards are repeatedly undermined and how our understanding of science, and even our understanding of what is true, is manipulated for profit. If I'm cynical about our ability to solve large, complex, long-term problems, it's partly because of books like this, where people are willing to do almost anything to make another dollar."

Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
"Lately I've been a bit obsessed with biodiversity and extinction. I'm interested in the loss of species and the fragmentation of ecosystems, but Quammen does a lot more as he describes the history of our understanding of evolution while also going into detail about how species evolve to fill niches, how they go extinct, and how ecosystems simplify or flourish and diversify under different circumstances. For me, these ideas inform my fiction as I look at human systems as well—cultural, biological, social—and think about how we adapt, change, or simply disappear, depending on the pressures that come to bear upon us."

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
"A thriller that also turns out to be nonfiction about the 2008 financial collapse and the few outliers who saw it coming. I'm fascinated by people who go against prevailing wisdom and build a clearer understanding of the world than their peers. In The Big Short it's interesting to watch as a few investors begin to see the shape of the impending collapse and then ask themselves, "Why doesn't anyone else see this coming? Are they the suckers? Or are we?" When I think about the future, the winners and losers will be separated into those who can see reality, and plan for it, and those who live in denial, pretending that the party will never end."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Popular Postapocalyptic Books

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* The new book sounds interesting - as well as some of the non-fiction recommendations. Water as a weapon - hm. Completely plausible.

message 2: by Mike (last edited May 06, 2015 03:15PM) (new)

Mike S Great article, thanks. I look forward to reading his new books, as well as at least two of his recommendations.

message 3: by James (new)

James A great list. Can't wait for the new book - already pre-ordered it.

message 4: by Sandra (new)

Sandra I read the book, introduced to me by my grandson, and I liked it a lot. But I do like books about a distopian world.

message 5: by Roderick (new)

Roderick Vincent The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is the one to read if you are interested in why we continue to have financial collapses and why nothing has really changed.

message 6: by Mike (new)

Mike S Thanks Roderick, I just ordered it.

message 7: by John (new)

John Sounds to me like Paolo Bacigalupi is emulating Ballard..."The Burning World", "The Drowned World", "Drought"....learn from the best.

message 8: by Dimmie (new)

Dimmie Zeigler Another good novel with water scarcity in the desert southwest is "The Straw That Broke" by Gregory Zeigler.

message 9: by Roderick (new)

Roderick Vincent Enjoy Mike.

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