The NIJOT Reading List — Part 1 — Fiction

I’ve never been confident that the link in the Blogroll properly fed people to the GoodReads account I set up in connection with this project.

If you have been there, then this may be a bit redundant.  I’m starting with the fun stuff — fiction.


Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, & Sixty Days and Counting (Kim Stanley Robinson): This series has been called by one of my friends “Global Warming:  The Series!”  A tipping point in global warming has been reached and our heroes are scientists and politicians (mainly scientists) in Washington, DC trying to find a way to reverse the effects of global warming or at least mitigate the disasters it will cause.  I liked it because it didn’t fall into an Armageddon-like all-or-nothing solution.  Things changed, a lot, and people found themselves adjusting – sometimes badly – but still adjusting to the new normal.  I also think the politics of the later books reflected a lot of the climate campaigns happening now.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (Max Brooks):  Mel Brooks‘s son decided that he liked zombie movies and wrote a semi-serious guide for what to do if caught in a zombie outbreak.  He followed that up with World War Z, a much better book purporting to be the notes gathered by a journalist researching the aftermath of a global zombie apocalypse.  Yes, zombies aren’t real, but to paraphrase the guys at Zombie Squad, if you are ready to have your friends and neighbors come after you to eat your brains, you’re probably ready for most disasters.  Brooks makes a compelling case that the U.S. and the world is not prepared for disasters, large or small, that are likely to come our way.

Oil Storm – film (James Erskine, director):  Oil Storm was probably the most direct inspiration for NIJOT.  The movie was a fictional documentary on the effects of a cascade of events that cut-off much of the oil supply to the United States in the Fall of 2005.  The first event was a fictional Hurricane Julia striking the Louisiana oil hub at Port Fouchon.  The story proved scarily prescient when Hurricane Katrina just narrowly missed fulfilling Julia’s role.  The movie focused on both the high-level politics and the effects on everyday life that an oil crisis could cause.

Night Watch (Terry Pratchett):  Although this story is set in Pratchett’s ever-popular Discworld fantasy setting, this book has some very real and harrowing lessons about revolution, authoritarianism, and abuse of power.  Sam Vimes is Pratchett’s avatar of Rule of Law and this book shows why such a rule is so important.  An MIT acquaintance said that this is the best book on fascism ever written in the English language.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Robert Heinlein):  If you can get by the dated looks at technology and Heinlein’s inevitably strange sexual politics, this book is an entertaining primer on revolution and colonial independence movements.

1984 (George Orwell):  Welcome to the surveillance state.

It Can’t Happen Here (Sinclair Lewis):  I’m ashamed to admit that I have yet to get my hands on Lewis’s story of the fragility of democracy in America.  The 1930s are gone, but Lewis’s assertion that “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross” is still chillingly accurate.

Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III (Willliam Scott, Michael Coumatos, and William Birnes):  This one I’m a little ashamed to admit to having read.  The prose and characters are worse than the worst Dale Brown thriller.  That said, the plot is based off of actual war-gaming scenarios and shows just how vulnerable the new information economy is.

The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time and The War Within: One More Step at a Time (Gary Trudeau):  Tudeau maimed one of his characters that we had all known for so many years and then took his audience through the process of coming to grips with that injury and what it means to come back from war.

Into the Forest (Jean Hegland):  There’s never really an explanation of what is happening in the outside world as the two teenage girls in the center of this book are forced to make do on their own.  Things just slowly come apart until the very idea of security and home is being questioned.

World Made By Hand (James Kunstler):  The author of The Long Emergency takes his theories of where the world is headed and places it in the lap of a semi-autobiographical character living in a post-Peak Oil upstate New York.  Pompous and elitist as hell, but still a good read.


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