Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer


Jeff O'Neal

CEO and co-founder

Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

Beat the Algorithm….in which we pit bloggers against Amazon’s algorithm for recommendation supremacy.

So far, we’ve trounced the algorithm in recommending books for people who loved Game of Thrones and Matterhorn, but we’re calling in a relief pitcher to help us with this week’s challenge: Jenn of Jenn’s Bookshelves.

Here’s reader Erin Smith on here last great read, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline:

I loved this book for many reasons – but probably the biggest one is that I am a true geek at heart and this book was written for geeks like me. The entire book pays homage to the 80’s decade with references to video games, music, TV, and movies. Cline deftly works his narrative around these subjects with a quest-style adventure plot that depicts a modern-day hero fighting at first for a prize, but ultimately for his life. It has been awhile since I’ve felt compelled to read a book all in one sitting – but this was one I just could not put down. Just ask my husband. 🙂

Up first, Amazon’s recommendation: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson:

In the not-too-distant future, robots have made our lives a lot easier: they help clean our kitchens, drive our cars, and fight our wars–until they are turned into efficient murderers by a sentient artificial intelligence buried miles below the surface of Alaska. Robopocalypse is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that makes a strong case that mindless fun can also be wildly inventive. The war is told as an oral history, assembled from interviews, security camera footage, and first- and secondhand testimonies, similar to Max Brook’s zombie epic World War Z. The book isn’t shy about admitting to its influences, but author Daniel H. Wilson certainly owes more to Terminator than he does to Asimov. (A film adaptation is already in pre-production, with Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair and a release date slated for 2013.) Robopocalypse may not be the most unique tale about the war between man and machine, but it’s certainly one of the most fun.

And now, Jenn’s recommendation: Embassytown by China Mieville.

Ready Player One is, without a doubt, one of my favorite books of 2011. The plot was unique, making a recommendation for what Erin should read next a bit challenging. There is no other book, at least that I could think of, that had a similar story, combined with the pop culture that Erin and I both loved and appreciated. Therefore, I delved a bit deeper into Erin’s statement about why she liked Ready Player One: the quest-style adventure plot. I racked my brain…and my recommendation: Embassytown by China Mieville.

In the very distant future, humans have colonized a planet. The residents of this planet, sentient beings called Ariekei, speak a language completely unique to their species. Only a few select paired individuals, genetically-altered for this role, can communicate for and with the Ariekei. They are trained to empathically read their partner, thereby producing the language via two mouths speaking simultaneously. In turn, Ariekei use these Ambassadors to communicate; without humans they have no language or form of communicating with other entities. The relationship between humans and the Ariekei is relatively cordial; they each remain on their own turf, respectful of one another’s existence.

Avice is a colonist who has returned to Embassytown years after taking part in deep-space exploration. Accompanying her is her husband, a man intrigued by the culture of Embassytown. When a new Ambassador comes to the planet, introducing a new means of communication, chaos is introduced to this seemingly peaceful colony. The human population’s survival is at risk. Avice must go on her own adventure of sorts, choosing between a man she doesn’t love, ideals and a society she doesn’t really believe in, her own life, and the life of others.

Embassytown reminds me of the “old-school” science fiction I used to read as a teen. The characters aren’t rich or especially deep; the reader is meant to focus on the theme of language and it’s importance. Language is integral to this novel; the pacing may seem slow but it is imperative to focus on the writing, the language. Mieville unveils the story bit by bit, the reader discovering what transpires just as the characters do. This method is imperative to the impact of this novel; it is key that the reader not know any more than the characters, allowing the impact results what transpires to be even more tremendous. I decided to recommend this book in particular because, like Ready Player OneEmbassytown is a completely brilliant, unique and innovative novel. Like Ready Player One it touches on science fiction, but not in such a way that will alienate readers that do not have a fondness for this particular genre.

Alright, we turn the judging over to Erin, who will let us know which book she picked later this week.