We asked a range of authors and creative types to recommend books that bring solace or understanding in this age of cultural and political rancor. More than two dozen responded. Here are selections from the pioneering science-fiction novelist William Gibson.
Latest book: The Peripheral
Also known for: Neuromancer
Reading recommendations: Essential reading for the era of Trump: Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior, by Hilary Evans and Robert Bartholomew. At 784 pages, a literal encyclopedia of the workings of rumor, fear, and the madness of crowds. As the back cover has it, “This Encyclopedia is an authoritative reference on a broad range of topics: collective behavior, deviance, social and perceptual psychology, sociology, history, folklore, religious studies, political science, social anthropology, gender studies, critical thinking, and mental health. Never before have so many sources been brought together on the mesmerizing topic of collective behavior.”
The election of Donald Trump is best understood in terms of collective behavior. Familiarity with the weird and terrifying things we’ve done before, as a species, is essential to understanding what many of us, driven by fear and uncertainty, are doing now. Baffled by Trump’s popularity (such as it is)? Read Evans and Bartholomew on lycanthropy and laughing epidemics. Seriously.
Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt
Master photo by Michael O’Shea
The complete series: Daniel Alarcón, Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Ana Castillo, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Michael Eric Dyson, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, William Gibson, Mohsin Hamid, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Alex Kotlowitz, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Peggy Orenstein, Wendy C. Ortiz, Darryl Pinckney, Joe Romm, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Tracy K. Smith, Ayelet Waldman, Jesmyn Ward, and Gene Luen Yang.