Matthew's Book List
Matthew was born and raised in southern Missouri. His love of books was kindled by his elementary school librarian. Since those days he is rarely out of arm's reach of a good book. Though most at home in the pages of cosmic horror, cyberpunk, or a new collection of poetry, Matthew loves books of any stripe. Whether he is doing a deep dive into something cerebral and thought-provoking or relaxing in the pages of a comfort book, Matthew loves to hear and share new suggestions for the next great read.
While not the first cyberpunk book, Gibson’s Neuromancer is one that set the standard for many. While the novel inspired countless other stories, including the digital world of The Matrix, the true joy of Gibson’s work isn’t in the fantastic and often accurate predictions of our digital futures. It is in the basic questions of what it means to be intelligent and alive. Whether a digital imprint of a mind is less human than the person who left it. Whether who we are is confined to our bodies. And if something that never had a body can still be alive after all.
There is little that can prepare a reader for John Dies at the End. A new drug called “soy sauce” is tearing at the fabric of reality and time. As reality wears thin, unthinkable monsters become reality and at the heart of it all is a being beyond comprehension and two “heroes” who have to make sense of it all; David Wong and John Cheese (not their real names). Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by way of Lovecraft; JDatE is a hilarious and frightening adventure that will have you trying to understand the awful truth of the universe; assuming you do not go utterly mad in the attempt.
Already at the top of numerous book lists, there is a reason that The Name of the Wind is a favorite of book lovers across the world. A brilliant take on High Fantasy that doesn’t feel out of reach; Rothfuss creates a world that is fantastic but relatable. In many fantasy worlds there are men and women of legends, but in Rothfuss’s hands we don’t see a chosen one with undeniable power. Instead, the hero Kvothe is no stranger to hardship or homelessness. Though talented he pushes beyond those natural gifts through hard work and dedication and, in the end, we see the effort it takes to become a hero.
While it is difficult to find a book by Gaiman that isn’t enjoyable, Stardust holds a unique spot. Fairytales and their magic have always been a part of Gaiman’s works, but here he crafts a true modern fairytale. While the story itself is one of adventure, beautiful romance, and the strange; it is Gaiman’s fairytale logic that truly sparkles. The rules that govern the land are ones that resonate with everyone who yearned for adventure as a child or ran through a garden hoping to come out in a fantastic world on the other side. But just as our childhood fairytales are filled with delight, there is also a darkness there. Because without darkness Stardust would never have a chance to glow.
A book that inspired horror masters such as H.P. Lovecraft and popular culture like HBO’s True Detective. The King in Yellow is a series of stories about the lost, forgotten, and cursed city of Carcosa. A little bit of real life history adds an even larger sense of foreboding to this title as the first mention of Carcosa was in the work of Ambrose Bierce’s “An Inhabitant of Carcosa”. Who is the King in Yellow, what is Carcosa, and why has it gained such a hold over horror writers and fans alike?
There are certainly no poor choices when it comes to starting in on the adventures of Bertram Wooster and his Valet, Jeeves. However, this is a great choice for those who wish to start at the beginning. Wodehouse created one of the most perfect comedy pairs between the often buffoonish Bertie and the wise Jeeves. Through Bertie Wodehouse is able to introduce a delightful cast of characters that often seem just a little out of touch and more often in need of the singular mind of the gentleman’s gentleman, Jeeves.
If Gibson’s Neuromancer codified cyberpunk then Stephenson made it iconic. Written as a satirical take on what the genre had become, Snow Crash has become a favorite novel for many who revel in its extremes. Starting off with literatures most high steaks pizza delivery, the book is such well written satire that if elevated the thing which it was lampooning. Every aspect of cyberpunk is taken to an extreme and, despite all reason, this makes one of the most compelling and spectacular entries in the genre.
The natural progression from Stephenson’s Snow Crash that is much more than cyberpunk genre-fiction. Building off a love of 1980s sub-culture, Ready Player One is the DaVinci-Code dipped in New Wave music and D&D. A heist movie coated in Buckaroo Banzi and Commedore 64. It is Hunger Games by way of Back to the Future 2 and the Matrix.