the Guardian | the Top 10 Books: to help you survive the digital age

publication: the Guardian
section: Culture
dept.: Books

story: the Top 10 Books • to help you survive the digital age
author: by Julian Gough
date: May 30, 2018

— introduction —

From Philip K Dick’s obtuse robots to Mark O’Connell’s guide to transhumanism, novelist Julian Gough picks essential reading for a helter skelter world.


the Top 10 Books • to help you survive the digital age
by Julian Gough

— part 1 —

I’m an Irish writer whose new novel is set in the digital, high-tech future. Which makes it unusual. If traditional Irish literature was a car, it would have a wide selection of reverse gears, 30 or 40 rear-view mirrors and no headlights. I admire much of Ireland’s brilliant, backward-looking, past-obsessed canon. But other literary traditions use the future:

Brave New World,1985
Nineteen Eighty-Four
The Sirens of Titan
A Clockwork Orange
Oryx and Crake
Accelerando
The Power

Irish literature has only recently begun to do this, in books such as:

by Mike McCormack: Notes from a Coma
by Kevin Barry: City of Bohane
by Sarah Davis-Goff: Last Ones Left Alive

Maybe Ireland needed to escape its own stifling past first, referendum by painful referendum. And so, in 2012, possessed perhaps by the zeitgeist, I began writing Connect. In it, biologist Naomi Chiang, disturbed by the implications of her research, refuses to publish. Her home-schooled, troubled son Colt hides from the world inside a virtual reality headset. But Colt secretly sends his mother’s work out into the world. The military, and Colt’s father, come hunting them — and Naomi and Colt must finally engage with their digitised, militarised, technological times.

Connect is essentially a novel of ideas, hidden inside a family drama, and disguised as a techno-thriller. To write it — over what turned out to be 7 years of accelerating global change — I needed to understand where the modern technological world came from, and where it might be headed. James Joyce, bless him, wasn’t going to help me there.

Here are 10 of the books that did help me: they might also help you understand and survive our complicated, stressful, digital age.


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