graphic non-fiction shelf ends

On Rediscovering Fiction

In the last nine months, I’ve read more fiction books than I collectively have for the previous five years. How did this happen? I blame one little app.

“I’m not really a ‘fiction reader’,” I remember telling Susannah and Niree, the two women who built Connu. I explained why I would not be their target market: “I’m mostly into nerdy programming books & reading stuff I can apply, like business non-fiction.” But we were friends and shared an office, so I installed the app to dutifully test it out.

Connu is a short fiction mobile app, designed to deliver “commute-length” stories to you, in written and audio format, a few times a week. The authors are mostly new or unknown but recommended by other successful writers like David Sedaris.

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With my 20 minute train ride from Cole Valley to SOMA every day, I usually used the time to go through my RSS feeds. One morning I hadn’t synched Reeder, so I launched Connu instead.

“Take Me Home” by Amy Silverberg was the story of the day. I gasped as I finished the story, and it haunted me the rest of the day. Over the next few weeks I flew through the entire collection. I felt nostalgic for Hilmar, met baby-attacking rattlesnakes, pondered working side-by-side with a full-size chinchilla. The stories were sometimes serious, sometimes fanciful, sometimes romantic or sad, but always interesting and engaging. They made me think differently about things, a bit like yoga for my overactive, analytical mind.

Choice versus Curation

What I loved most was the lack of choice. Every time I opened the app, it had something that fit my timeframe, was curated for me, and began immediately. I was suprised at how comforting it was to not have to choose.

Having gotten through most of the Connu collection, I rediscovered the joy of a great book. When you mostly read non-fiction, there isn’t that “pause, wonder what happens next, what would I do” feeling for most of them. I love non-fiction, but fiction does a different thing to your head & your heart. I found that while perhaps I need advice and learning from my non-fiction books, opening my mind to fiction, fantasy and science fiction is equally useful for my business by improving and expanding creativity.

Fiction Recommendations

Since installing Connu, I have read some fantastic books. I still read business and computer books, but because this blog post is about fiction, here are the very best fiction books I’ve read in the last few months. Some old, some new, but hopefully if you’re looking for a new read, you’ll find something interesting here.

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (read a bunch of other Bradbury stuff too – I also highly recommend the 1966 film, so great!)
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • The Radio Wall Chronicles by Susannah Luthi (http://theradiowall.tumblr.com/)

Any other suggestions? I’m reading Homeland and The Martian now, but looking for any other good recommendations, too!