Tag Archives: Philip K. Dick

Ten Best Fiction Books I Read in 2021

Note: The books on this list, with links to purchase, are available at my Bookshop.org page.

1) Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1986) and Grimscribe (1991) by Thomas Ligotti (2015)

I was looking forward to reading this double collection of horror short stories after hearing Ligotti be recommended by so many other writers I admire. And I can see why there was so much hype. I was immensely impressed, and Ligotti has become my favorite living horror writer and probably the best writer of weird fiction since Lovecraft. Ligotti is like the Ted Chiang of horror—not in terms of theme or content, but in the fact that they only write short stories and their stories are all fantastic and deep philosophically. Ligotti’s brand of horror is highly cerebral. He is a master of prose style, which is similar to Lovecraft’s in its verbosity and poetic beauty. Ligotti is also similar to Lovecraft in his content and themes—primarily extreme nihilism. His nonfiction book, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which I read last year, lays out his antinatalist worldview—a worldview I do not share—though I enjoy reading about those dark themes in fiction. After all, what could be more horrific than the idea that human life doesn’t matter and it would be better if we did not exist?

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Top 10 Movies (at Least 10 Years Old) I Saw in 2021

It is time for my sixth annual list of the best movies at least ten years old that I arbitrarily watched this past year. There isn’t much of a method to the movies I choose to watch, some of which are re-watches and others I’m seeing for the first time. The common themes that emerged from this year’s list are psychological horror, literary adaptations, twist endings, plus a lot of Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves.

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Do Artists Get Less Creative Over Time?

Picasso’s paintings grew more creative over time

Have you ever noticed that most artists tend to get less creative when they get older? A band’s first album is often their best—or maybe their second or third album is better—but rarely does a band record their most creative music on their twelfth album. Sure, some artists like The Rolling Stones continue to perform well into their 70s, but they are only rehashing the creativity of their 20s and 30s. They are not recording new songs, or if they are, those new songs are nowhere near as beloved or creative as their earlier work. That is the normal life cycle of most musical artists: they release creative music when young, get popular, then “play the hits” for the rest of their career.

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Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2020

According to my Goodreads stats (which I use to track every book I read), I read 95 books in 2020, which is down slightly from last year (114). Though that includes comic books, which are shorter and quicker to read, plus audiobooks, and I read less comics, so more full-books in all. My increased reading was not due to being stuck at home during quarantine as that didn’t affect my lifestyle much—it’s primarily because I severely cut down on reading Twitter and other online news. I previously wrote about the futility of following the daily news closely, but I still clung to Twitter—a little too much—sometimes a lot too much. I will expand upon how I broke my Twitter addiction in a future post, but suffice it to say, these days I check Twitter just once a day (at night after getting my work done) for only a couple minutes—if at all. This immediately reduced my stress levels and gave me much more time to read more valuable things that will stand the test of time, such as the following books.

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Best Fiction Books I Read in 2020

1. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)

I first read this book about ten years ago when I started reading science fiction novels. I repeatedly saw Snow Crash on many “greatest sci-fi books” lists and it was considered the best in the cyberpunk genre (along with William Gibson’s Neuromancer). When I first read Snow Crash, (and Neuromancer for that matter) I liked parts of it, but most of the book went over my head. I was looking for cyberpunk action (such as the computer hacking and futuristic skateboarding) and became bored by the ancient religious and evolution of language aspects, which I did not fully understand. I didn’t recognize it as being a portrayal of an anarcho-capitalist society the first time around, as I did not know what that was. Ten years older and wiser, I now find the philosophical aspects of the book the most fascinating, and the hacking, action, and skateboarding parts are like gravy on top. Snow Crash is like all my varied interests (technology, futurism, virtual reality, hacking, skateboarding, pizza delivery, punk rock, samurai swords, economics, history, philosophy, libertarianism, ancient religion, language, and the evolution of consciousness) all rolled into one book. It doesn’t seem like there can be that many different ideas in one novel but there are and it all somehow fits together.

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Top 10 Movies (at Least 10 Years Old) I Saw in 2020

Finding older movies is surprisingly difficult in the age of online streaming. Netflix has severely cut down on their movie catalogue, focusing on their own original television series, and most other streaming services do the same. Amazon has a decent collection of movies, as does the new HBO Max, and I’ve also found some rare gems on Vudu and Tubi, streaming services that are free with ads. JustWatch has become essential in figuring out where and how to watch any given movie. I wish the streaming services would focus more on making original movies rather than television series, but it’s in their economic interest to create addictive TV series that will keep you watching longer. Just as it is in the Hollywood movie studios’ interest to make $100+ million tentpole blockbusters based on pre-existing material. 

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Philip K. Dick on the Loneliness of Being a Writer

In The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writing, PKD wrote about his struggles with loneliness during his career as an author. In the following quotes, he explains how writing and loneliness are and aren’t related.

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Science Fiction Books vs. Movies

bladerunner-book-movie

It’s ironic that I write science fiction books as an adult considering I didn’t even read science fiction books as a child. Actually, I didn’t read any books at all, other than those assigned in school—which, aside from Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, were never science fiction. I loved sci-fi movies as a child and was captivated by space exploration and future technology, but I struggled with books about those same topics. It wasn’t until later in life, post-college, that I really started to enjoy reading (books in general and science fiction in particular). Continue reading

Best Fiction Books I Read in 2018

2018-fiction

The big theme of this year’s list is short stories and short story collections. I’ve recently been drawn to shorter fiction, both as a reader and a writer. I love being able to finish a story in one sitting. The best part of any story is the ending—it makes or breaks the story—which is why I’m not so much a fan of long-running multi-book series (ortelevision shows). There’s only so much time in the day, and while some series are worth the length (like Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle), I can’t afford to read too many series. I prefer standalone novels or something even shorter, like novellas, novelettes, and short stories. By reading short fiction, I’m able to get a complete story with a (hopefully) satisfying ending, plus read a wider selection of different authors and genres. Continue reading

Best Fiction Books I Read in 2017

novels2017

I often feel overwhelmed by the number of great books I want to read and my lack of time to do so. Even if all I did was read for the rest of my life and I lived to 100, I wouldn’t have enough time read every book I’d like to. But as I wrote about here, we often fail to realize how much we actually get done. I catalog every book I read on Goodreads, so at the end of the year, I can look back and be surprised at just how many books I read. The total was 115 this year, including novels, non-fiction, comics, and audiobooks. I already went through my favorite comic books. Next up is are my favorite fiction books I read in 2017. Continue reading