It’s proven: reading keeps your brain fit
When asked about reading, the Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami said, “I go back to the reading room, where I sink down in the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fade out, the real world evaporates. I’m alone, inside the world of the story. My favorite feeling in the world”. That’s what I feel when I’m immersed in a book. I build up completely new universes, live the life of Gulliver underway or Alice running after the white rabbit. Reading stimulates my fantasy, appeases my thirst for knowledge and lets my imagination roam without borders.
Moreover, beyond my idealistic enthusiasm, it is scientifically proven that reading helps preserve the human cognitive capacity for a longer time. According to a study at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, mental stimulation like reading can help protect memory and thinking skills, especially with age. The authors of the study even suggest that reading every day can slow down a late-life cognitive decline, keeping the brain healthier and higher functioning for longer.
Thus, reading is not only a joyful activity for me, it also helps with my goal to live a long, mentally fit life up until my 90s. It’s a jackpot combination! If you also love reading, science fiction, and science as much as I do or just want to wake your brain from the winter-sleepy, half-hibernated state, grab the following books from the shelf!
A colony on the Moon, murderous clones and Back to the Future: the sci-fi section
1) Ernest Cline: Ready Player One
The best one-word description of this already classic science fiction bestseller was coined by another sci-fi writer, John Scalzi, who said “Ready Player One” was a nerdgasm. The story guides the reader into a future where virtual reality is much more sufferable than real life itself. Besides enumerating countless pop-culture references from the 80s and bringing back the era itself to the future (Back to the Future, got it?), the book raises fundamental issues and concerns about virtual reality, technology and how it impacts people’s lives. Impossible to put down – so make sure you’ll get enough days-off from your boss before you start. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was the best sci-fi book experience in my life.
2) Mur Lafferty: Six Wakes
American writer, Mur Lafferty’s thrilling book examines the ultimate questions of life in the frame of a chilling murder mystery. What does it mean to be human? What might it mean and how might that be altered in the future? Where are the boundaries of cloning and should humanity push those limits or not? If you clone a person from their own DNA and use a “backup” containing all their memories and experiences, will you get the same person? The story is set in the confines of a spaceship, but the imagination of the author is limitless, thus we get a truly fascinating oeuvre every geek should read. Six Wakes is a murder mystery story that involves deep space flights, artificial intelligence and mind hacking. Shall I say more? Don’t miss it!
3) Andy Weir: Artemis
The second novel of the writer of The Martian is set on the Moon and tells the tale of Jazz Bashara, who grows up in the only human colony of the planet, Artemis. Andy Weir chose to narrate the story of a 26-year-old woman, which leaves its marks on the book, but otherwise, it’s an entertaining book with picturesque descriptions of what would life be like on the Moon and how people would have to cope with the same problems as on Earth. For example, with wealth inequality: the difference between the haves and the have-nots are just as striking as nowadays on our own planet. It is also a warning to everyone: becoming an interplanetary species in the future does not mean we get to leave behind unsolved problems. They will come with us.
4) Annalee Newitz: Autonomous
The first novel of American journalist, Annalee Newitz is saturated with robots, artificial intelligence, biohacking, futuristic drug production – everything a great sci-fi book should contain considering how close we are to the real-life implementation of all these technologies. The writer creates a world where relationships are complex, characters are complicated and big businesses try to determine the life of the masses – just as in real life. Autonomous displays a tremendous knowledge of tech issues, asks and answers really interesting and relevant questions and entertains the reader on every page. What else do you want from a sci-fi book?
From spaceflight until the God in us: the non-fiction section
1) Yuval Noah Harari: Homo Deus
The latest work of the writer who created the international sensation, Sapiens detailing human history from its beginnings from a fresh angle with surprising findings and original reasoning. His current non-fiction, Homo Deus, is a proper sequel to Sapiens. The book has the same intelligent, witty and easy-to-read style as the former hit, and details a range of topics from history through sociology to futuristic studies just as his previous masterpiece. Harrari asks a very important question in Homo Deus: after beating famine, epidemics or war, what will be the next quest of humanity? What should or shouldn’t humans aim for in the 21st century?
2) Scott Kelly: Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery
Very few could experience life in space and even fewer what astronaut Scott Kelly lived through. He spent 11 continuous months on the International Space Station, orbited the Earth 5440 times and made three spacewalks. He and his twin brother were even the subjects of a truly unique research: how does space travel impact the human genetic composition. Researchers found that his telomeres elongated through space travel. After he retired in 2016, he wrote a book about his experiences. In an interview with The Guardian, he said that usually, people need 6-8 months to regenerate after a space travel not to speak about the psychological impacts. But the reader will know much more about spacewalking, ISS and life without gravity when reading his memoir itself.
3) Max Tegmark: Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
The author of this fascinating work on artificial intelligence is an MIT professor, who wrote more than 200 technical papers on topics from cosmology to artificial intelligence. As president of the Future of Life Institute, he worked with Elon Musk to launch the first-ever grants program for AI safety research. Tegmark uses his unique vantage point to guide the reader through a technology which has the most potential to transform our lives in the future. He asks all the relevant questions and touches upon every single concern regarding the topic, giving a captivating insight into A.I. research and into the cosmic debate on what means to be human.
There is no better pastime than being able to peek into the world of a writer and gain new experiences. So, take your time for some of these great reads this spring! And if you have any more suggestions, contact me on LinkedIn or Facebook. As it is difficult to find really good reads, I’m always happy to hear about new science-fiction or non-fiction books.