Where science and tech meet creativity.

N.B. This series has nothing to do with astronomy, but the future of science requires a nation with the capacity and the will to support science and nurture a highly educated populace.

This year, 2024, is a presidential election year here in the United States. There are no perfect candidates, but this year’s choices are – to judge by current primary results – particularly unappealing. For the first time in my adult life, we’re seeing “None of these candidates” picking up traction.

Like Diogenes looking for one honest man, modern political parties are struggling to come up with ideal candidates; people young enough that “death by natural causes” isn’t a concern, people who put country before self, and who act with honor and integrity. I believe these people do exist, but in our 24-hour news cycle, where attacks on character are food for jokes by late-night comedians, these people likely keep their heads down and serve in other ways than as elected officials.

But what happens to a nation when good people turn silent?

This particular question is explored in countless novels. The best example of what can happen when the populace disengages may be Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” (that’s an Amazon affiliate link – so are other links in this post). This 1953 novel imagines a future where all media is made to hold onto your attention while saying nothing. All pleasures are allowed and the only rule seems to be “No books allowed.” Why? Because then people just might think independently and recognize the horrors going on around them. This cautionary tale is a must-read in our world where book banning is again on the rise.

This novel, while more than 70 years old, is still under copyright here in the United States. If it was out of copyright, I’d be getting ready to record this book on YouTube in hopes that I can get more people to hear its words.

Sadly, many of the classic cautionary tales that I feel are must-reads for modern society – books like George Orwell’s “1984“, Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower“, Marget Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale“, and pretty much anything by Phillip K Dick – are all still locked away by copyright.

But there are amazing books out there waiting to be read that are available for free. And I want to read them with you.

My Election Year, Public Domain, Booklist (Project Gutenberg links)

  • Anthem” by Ayn Rand (1938)
    This novella looks at a world where individuality is removed and technology is carefully guarded, lest anyone go one step too far in their scientific research.
  • My Bondage and My Freedom” by Frederick Douglas (1855)
    This is Douglas’ 2nd autobiography and is written 17 years after his escape from slavery. This book reflects on is abolitionist efforts and his hope for equity among all Americans.
  • Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville
    See what democracy should be through the eyes of French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville. You just might fall in love with the idea of America all over again (or for the first time.
  • Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine
    In a series of articles and pamphlets, Revolutionary War leader Thomas Paine discusses his ideals for democracy. These are the words that motivated the founding of a nation.
  • Metropolis” by Thea von Harbou
    In this early science fiction novel, Thea von Harbou sees through to its ultimate end the consequences of capitalism on society.
  • The Metropolis” by Upton Sinclair
    What do you do when you realize the people paying to protect the poor are the same people benefitting from the labor of the poor? This book examines that question through the eyes of a lawyer facing the realities of the turn of the last century in New York City.
  • We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)
    We live in a world of the rising popularity of totalitarian leaders. In this Russian novel, we see the reality of end-stage totalitarianism, where conformity is the rule, and harmony is enforced.
  • Babbitt” by Sinclair Lewis
    This satire on the American middle class feels like an inspiration for the Step Ford Wives, Pleasantville, and so many other modern stories that call out how easily one can gro disillisioned by the American Dream.

Over the coming months, I’m going to work my way through these books and I invite you to come with me. I’m going to start tonight, Monday, March 4, with “Anthem”. I’ll be reading aloud on Twitch and posting the videos on YouTube. You are invited to join me as we read, think, and try and dream of a future where good humans once again seek to lead.