HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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The Soul of A New Machine

Tracy Kidder

4.6 on Amazon

177 HN comments

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series)

Christopher Alexander , Sara Ishikawa , et al.

4.7 on Amazon

176 HN comments

Meditations: A New Translation

Marcus Aurelius and Gregory Hays

4.8 on Amazon

172 HN comments

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

Clayton M. Christensen, L.J. Ganser, et al.

4.5 on Amazon

168 HN comments

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy

Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

4.6 on Amazon

166 HN comments

Infinite Jest: Part I With a Foreword by Dave Eggers

Sean Pratt, David Foster Wallace, et al.

4.3 on Amazon

166 HN comments

The Elements of Style: Annotated Edition

William Strunk Jr. and James McGill

4.7 on Amazon

155 HN comments

Outliers: The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell

4.7 on Amazon

152 HN comments

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine

4.6 on Amazon

151 HN comments

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Neil Postman and Andrew Postman

4.6 on Amazon

151 HN comments

Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein, Christopher Hurt, et al.

4.4 on Amazon

151 HN comments

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Joe Ochman, et al.

4.5 on Amazon

150 HN comments

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg, Mike Chamberlain, et al.

4.6 on Amazon

149 HN comments

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Jonathan Haidt and Gildan Media, LLC

4.6 on Amazon

144 HN comments

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Roger Fisher , William L. Ury, et al.

4.6 on Amazon

143 HN comments

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SamBamonSep 13, 2020

Ok, but was Infinite Jest ever an "unknown" book? I'm pretty sure it was one of the most hyped books in the world the year it was written. And I'm pretty sure it's always been in the 4.x's on Goodreads.

singsonJan 5, 2020

Gravity’s Rainbow was one of the toughest reads I’ve slogged through, but the depth and scale of it are nicely counterpoised with some downright hilarious scenes.

I didn’t find Infinite Jest nearly as difficult.

mellowdreamonSep 17, 2020

Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest discusses this, only it's a film.

JoBradonOct 19, 2016

The only book of his that I can recall reading was 'Infinite Jest'. My opinion lines up with your's, based on that book.

However, his commencement speech 'This is water' is amazing, and I highly recommend it.


scott_sonJuly 5, 2016

I'm only about 20% through it, but this essay is brilliant. I may now read Infinite Jest so I can get more of David Foster Wallace's writing.

lomnakkusonFeb 7, 2016

Just listened to that and... wow. I'm soooo stoked to be about to read Infinite Jest now.

cmyronOct 19, 2016

Infinite Jest is a very compelling argument for the use of e-readers.

janvdbergonDec 16, 2019

I own more books than I can read: https://books.j11g.com/

I'm currently plowing through David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest (which is enjoyable but taxing!) should be finished in 2020!

Wonnk13onDec 28, 2013

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Took me about five months and I already want to reread it. Brilliant masterpiece. Read it right after my friend's suicide and help me think about my own addiction to success.

rfergieonSep 7, 2016

I've been trying to decide whether to bother with Infinite Jest or not. I've heard very good things about it, but also that it is a pretty tough read.

I think your comparison with Snow Crash has swung it for me; IJ is definitely on my reading list now

keiferskionMay 16, 2013

Infinite Jest is a great book to tackle over a summer. Highly recommended.

rurponJan 6, 2020

Wow, you summed up my thoughts on DFW better than I could have. I really tried to like Infinite Jest but it felt so... indulgent on the part of the author. Many parts felt like a real slog, with the only payoff being some weird joke the author found funny.

sevaghonMay 10, 2018

I recently read Despair and Bend Sinister, both by Vladimir Nabokov, and enjoyed both greatly.

David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest also deals with existentialism.

dill_dayonAug 2, 2010

I just finished Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

It's a 1000-page kind of experimental fiction about entertainment/addiction.

It took me a while to read, but is something I'd recommend, anyway.

platzonOct 19, 2016

On the other hand, DFW was against the cute, post-modernist self-references in things like Danielewski's "House Of Leaves".

Infinite Jest was acclaimed academically because it was a fresh return to un-ironic content and narrative.

I think IJ is more layers than recursive loops.

samiur1204onMar 19, 2013

Reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It's an incredible novel, but very dense and over 1000 pages. It's a trek, but has been so worth it so far.

janvdbergonJuly 21, 2020

I do! And I did implement it like this :)

Compare Infinite Jest (a big book) with other smaller books on my site. Looks pretty cool!

andrewfromxonMay 30, 2017

show of hands, how many HN readers have tried to read Infinite Jest and never made it all the way thru?

michelledepeilonDec 23, 2018

I read Infinite Jest for the first time this year, and it's incredible. I recognise at the same time it's not for everyone, but the story, writing style, humor and sheer specific knowledge on so many subjects employed in this book are incredible.

hnaaonDec 16, 2019

Most of Infinite Jest is highly indebted to Wittgenstein's Mistress. Markson's is the better novel.

strebloonJan 1, 2010

I just finished reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It's really long and a little digressive (1079 pages, took me 3 months to finish), but was one of the most entertaining and brilliant books I've ever read. I highly recommend it.

idlewordsonDec 20, 2015

I think Infinite Jest is a giant novel only in the most literal sense. Otherwise it's just terrible (though I know you and some other people I respect disagree strongly).

The point is, don't feel sad and alone if you like Wallace's non-fiction and find yourself hating his novels.

andrewljohnsononMar 17, 2009

Man, I wish he would have written another epic work of fiction before he died. So sad. I loved Infinite Jest and Broom of the System.

PsyoniconNov 2, 2009

You realize that DFW was primarily a fiction writer, yes? Sure we all like A Supposedly Fun Thing I'd Never Do Again, but Infinite Jest was his Magnum Opus, and was fiction.

greatquuxonJan 5, 2020

Um sorry but I really liked Dhalgren and Gravity’s Rainbow and Infinite Jest. I may actually use this list to find some new books to read.

icpmacdoonFeb 7, 2016

For fellow people on HN, if your have not read Infinite Jest I very highly recommend the audiobook version of it. I was not able to get through it reading it as its such a large book but I found the audio version quite enjoyable.

ttobbaybbobonMar 29, 2020

“ But another possibility is that we engineer the perfect happiness drug, with no bad side effects, and no one wants to do anything but lay in bed and take this drug all day, sapping all ambition from the human race”

Someone has read Infinite Jest

achalshahonOct 2, 2014

House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski

Very similar style to Infinite Jest, but the story seems much more sinister.

blazamosonJuly 20, 2009

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (excellent; recently saw Food, Inc. as well)

The Next 100 Years by George Friedman (amusing; was given to me as a gag gift)

Currently reading: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

andbbergeronDec 16, 2019

Well that's just like your opinion man. Infinite Jest is a masterpiece imo.

My favorite book of all time and oddly prescient in many ways.

For instance, I'm aware of at least one startup developing the vid-chat masks Wallace wrote up with a straight face. See also snapchat filters.

FripplebubbyonMar 27, 2017

Infinite Jest destroyed me, in various places. It has picked up a stigma nowadays for being pretentious (well, sure, it is) and unfinishable, but it is if anything a work of genius, and if you give it a chance, it may destroy you as well. Have yet to find a piece of fiction to top it.

PeanutNoreonSep 13, 2018

It was at almost exactly the halfway point (~page 548 of 1080) of Infinite Jest that the plot coalesced into something coherent that really made me want to keep going to find out what happens. Prior to that point, it was only the strength of the prose itself that kept me reading.

fortybilliononApr 28, 2010

All I want is a good implementation of footnotes. Then I can read Infinite Jest without three bookmarks and a reclining lounger.

While I'm at it, I also want embeddable fonts.

What I do not want is animation or interactivity, at least not in my novels.

laxativesonDec 24, 2015

Forgot about Dancing Naked in the Mindfield -- similiar to Surely You Must Be Joking. the author is the inventor of PCR and has some pretty outlandish stories fueled by hallucinogens

Also going to read Infinite Jest while I'm traveling the next few weeks.

wldcordeiroonOct 20, 2016

Indeed, the Eschaton chapter in Infinite Jest had a large amount of them and I ended up having to read the book with this wiki to make sense of lots of these acronyms. http://infinitejest.wallacewiki.com/david-foster-wallace/ind...

pklausleronOct 19, 2016

Don't make the mistake of confusing the text in Infinite Jest with David Foster Wallace's actual understanding of the Mean Value Theorem. (Read Everything and More, his really awesome book on the mathematical history of calculus, if you need a demonstration.)

ericzawoonOct 19, 2016

I'm really trying to start and finish Infinite Jest but the sheer girth of the book is discouraging me from bringing it on my commute.

senkoraonJuly 28, 2020

Footnotes and endnotes are definitely much more usable on an e-reader. That's how I read Infinite Jest (and most other books) and I sympathize with anyone who tried to read that in physical form.

frlnBorgonMay 11, 2018

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
Metamorphosis by Kafka.
Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov.

trickyonMar 12, 2010

I just finished David Forrest Wallace's Infinite Jest and was surprised that is was sci-fi. DFW was such a literary golden boy, i think people don't mention that IJ was a sci-fi book to avoid belittling him. total crap, if you ask me.

ethanbondonAug 16, 2016

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace has a remarkable little snippet on this. I'll try to find it and respond back.

Edit: http://declineofscarcity.com/?page_id=2527

Published in 1996

redismanonMay 24, 2020

I will say that a book like Infinite Jest is a terrible choice for the usual, more casual bookclub.

lackeronMar 25, 2009

A great work of fiction is impossible to sum up in one page. You can recount the exact plot of Infinite Jest but it won't give you anywhere near the same experience.

BootvisonDec 13, 2020

I really like this idea but I think it would be nice to the recommendations to a specific language. After adding

- The Brothers Karamazov

- Infinite Jest

- Asterix the Gaul

I get a bunch recommendations for Spanish books (which I can't read).

Nimitz14onFeb 28, 2017

Two novels off the top of my head with far greater significance that anything GRRM or SK have or ever will write that took ~10 years to write: Dispatches (1968-1977) and Infinite Jest (1986-1996).

Feel free to think that a novel is something one cranks out as if it's just an object that carries no meaning, requiring no sacrifice from the author. But that's an opinion, and not fact.

prionassemblyonJune 24, 2021

The problem I have with Infinite Jest (I have a paperback edition; USD/my currency is expensive and I'm not made of money) is that the tome is too big for its binding and will seemingly fall apart at any time; and too heavy to hold in your hands in a reading chair (as opposed to propped on a table).

codekansasonAug 4, 2020

I've been re-reading Infinite Jest recently and it is amazing how prescient David Foster Wallace seems. The deep philosophical question - does American individualism mean anything in a world where the average person cannot be expected to delay gratification?

prawnonAug 8, 2013

Infinite Jest sounds interesting - I've put it on my To Read list. Thanks!

HNLurker2onMar 2, 2019

I agree with you that he is amazing writer. But I am worried I may not get his works like: Infinite Jest and other essay because of not having the American (USA) cultural context.

edgarvaldesonFeb 9, 2017

I dunno about the trend, but modern novels like Infinite Jest are 900+ pages long. Same with the works of Karl Ove Knausgård, and other, good authors.

kingcorleoneonOct 27, 2015

Software developer for Canadian government; Currently trying to finish reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace


trickyonMar 29, 2010

If you're willing to put in at least a month of hard labor, DFW's Infinite Jest is worth the read.

nutateonDec 27, 2014

There is the anecdotal correlation to the contrary w/ May being the first or second most popular suicide month and also the month when the American Psychiatric Association has its annual meeting. I think that was mentioned in Infinite Jest or some other novel, but it is true as far as correlations go.

jrainesonMay 30, 2017

If anyone is daunted by Infinite Jest but undaunted by the fad of hating DFW, definitely start with his books of essays & journalism. IMO they're a lot more rewarding and enjoyable than his novels.

I think E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction is essential reading. (PDF link: https://jsomers.net/DFW_TV.pdf)

tptacekonDec 20, 2015

A good David Foster Wallace starting point is "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again".

I'd tentatively recommend against starting with Infinite Jest. Infinite Jest is a project of a read.

euroclydononNov 20, 2018

Infinite Jest helped me discover my upper limit for bleakness. Turns out is 500-600 pages. I need someone to admire in a book. It’s a dangerous criteria — usually turns out to be some Pollyanna.

jahmedonDec 23, 2014

Im working on The Pale King right now and fuck its a hard read. Infinite Jest is next on the list when I work up the courage.

scubboonDec 16, 2019

I shudder to imagine the experience of reading Infinite Jest in physical form. Having an ereader that could jump back-and-forth between the main text and the endnotes was invaluable.

LaveryonMay 12, 2020

House of Leaves is a great novel. Will feel like a completely fresh take on narrative form.

Infinite Jest is also great, if you haven't read it. It gets a lot of bad press mostly due to being fetishized by a particular type of insufferable person. The book has its flaws, but is a great piece of writing and (depending how old you are, where you are in life, etc) may offer a different lens. Also, the writing is excellent.

mplanchardonAug 18, 2019

I just wanted to reply to let you know how much I enjoyed this comment. Infinite Jest is one of my favorite books, and it’s been a few years since I read it. Your comment really brought me back to some of my favorite moments from the book and reminded me of how much I loved it.

My wife is also a huge fan, and we had a nice discussion over coffee this morning talking about the parts of the book you referenced in your bullet points. There’s really no one like DFW for diversity of style, and his sense of humor resonates so strongly with me that I often find myself laughing out loud while reading his books and essays.

Anyway, thanks for the great comment. Maybe it’s time to give Infinite Jest a reread!

smaddoxonSep 17, 2016

Couldn't get into Infinite Jest. Still sitting on my bookshelf; ~50 pages in, I really just didn't care.

DFW's Kenyan commencement speech is what got me interested in his writing. I'd like to go back and finish Infinite Jest at some point, but I don't see it happening any time soon.

DonGateleyonJan 2, 2014

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe

Be Here Now - Ram Das

Whole Earth Catalog - Stewart Brand

Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace

Savage Continent - Keith Lowe

Forged - Bart D. Ehrman

Young Stalin - Simon Sebag Montefiore

Court of the Red Czar - Simon Sebag Montefiore

KVFinnonSep 16, 2016

I could never get through Pynchon or whatever but Infinite Jest wasn't a slog at all. Wonderful prose full of hilarious details and moments. Wacky sci-fi alternative universe stuff. Great descriptions of dynamics in a tennis match.

It's certainly a long book but you don't have to treat it like a academic paper to enjoy reading it. It's a fun read, for real! Well actually it's kind of depressing but moment to moment it's fun.

cwmooreonAug 26, 2018

I saw the movie. I had hoped it would be good, but I can't say that it was meaningful to me. The protagonist became a terrible shell of himself to have met his idol, and the idol himself was not a traditional hero, rather a matured one. I admit, I have yet to read Infinite Jest. I truly enjoyed Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, to whom David Foster Wallace was often compared, and I am glad you pointed out the author of TFA so I might read this present piece.

QuantumDoggonMay 12, 2020

Infinite Jest has been for a long time in my must read list, but never got to reading it. Heard not much, but only good things about it.

>depending how old you are, where you are in life, etc may offer a different lens.

Could you elaborate more on this? I am curious. Maybe I could be right now in that situation. So in that case it would be optimal to start reading it now instead of in a year or two.

johnfnonSep 14, 2020

Wow, turns out I still have it on GitHub, including the results I ground out 8 years ago. The script probably doesn't work, but the results are still good:


Particularly, load bigdata.js into nodejs and then run a command sort of like this to parse out the results, filtering out young adult/romance/religion stuff/comics:

    bigdata.filter(f => f.ratings > 5000 && !f.genres.includes('Young Adult') && !f.genres.includes('Religion') && !f.genres.includes('Romance') && !f.genres.includes('Sequential Art')).map(f => f.title)

I get some pretty interesting stuff. First result is the Constitution... OK, fair enough... but the next 10 or so are:

    'A Song of Ice and Fire',
'Collected Fictions', (by Borges)
'The Name of the Wind',
'Infinite Jest',
'The Complete Works',
'The Way of Kings',
'The Wise Man\'s Fear',
'A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold',
'The Complete Stories',
'Don\'t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!',
'The Hiding Place',

Is it an amazing list? Eh. Is Name of the Wind better than Infinite Jest? Probably not. They're both fantastic books, though! And still, it's way better than Listopia. Also, this data is 8 years old. I bet it would be way better if I were to clean it up and run it in 2020.

barbsonSep 21, 2016

Funny you should mention DFW. When I read the "Give It Up" story it reminded me of one of the films in his book Infinite Jest called "Wave Bye-Bye To The Beaurocrat", where a man hurries to the train late for work and knocks over a child who mistakes him for Jesus Christ. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the short films in the book were inspired by Kafka.

sharkweekonMar 27, 2017

Infinite Jest - it's just such an absurd book, and arguably way too long, but it's the funniest/saddest thing I've ever read. There are some passages that absolutely shook me.

This section is one of my favorites, about things he learned in a halfway home: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/966304-if-by-the-virtue-of-...

shiionMay 9, 2011

There's a forum[1] that got started last night for reading Infinite Jest at a leisurely pace (75 pgs/wk) over the summer and discussing it weekly starting Juneish by anons in /lit/ on 4chan, if you're at all interested.

[1]: http://www.litinfinitejest.org/forums/

freewilly1040onDec 16, 2019

Infinite Jest is proof the Great American Hype Machine can work wonders

Funnily enough I think DFW would agree, in an interview somewhere (I think it was in Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself) he talks about the surreal experience of seeing all the hype and raves about his book immediately after release, when he knew no one had actually had time to read it.

moseandreonOct 19, 2016

He is well-known for long, grammatically correct sentences and abundant footnotes. Some of it was fitting in as an academic?

I find some of the writing tough (i.e. impossible to read at night in bed) but the audio book for Infinite Jest narrated by Sean Pratt [1] is really nice. The narrator's speech is somehow easier to follow despite the number of clauses and whatever else in the writing.

[1] http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Infinite-Jest-Audiobook/B0...

urmishonMay 11, 2018

I gave up reading Infinite Jest after getting 10-15% into it. I decided to come back to it later but never got back to it. It was somewhat difficult for me (not American). But this was a few years ago. Will try it again sometime soon.

unaloneonSep 15, 2009

Oh, definitely. I read British kid's fantasy in the middle of big literature discussions, and Shakespeare on the way to drunken concerts. It beat when I was reading Infinite Jest last year and getting weird looks from everybody.

laxativesonDec 17, 2019

Its weird because the only people who are going to respond to this type of criticism are people who were so invested in Infinite Jest that they will read this lengthy critique. So its going always going to be extremely biased and poorly received by the biased audience, especially 20+ years later. So its basically just a conversation starter for all the snobs who inhaled this book and maybe a tiny minority who didn't enjoy it but are still motivated enough to discuss it.

The criqitue is mostly well-written and there's some issues I agree with, but they get pretty smarmy and smug by the end.

mindcrimeonJuly 13, 2014

Fiction: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Non-Fiction / Science: Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark

Non-Fiction / Business: Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross

Non-Fiction / Programming / Tech: OSGI in Action by Richard Hall, Karl Pauls, Stuart McCulloch, and David Savage

laxativesonDec 8, 2017

String Theory is one of my favorite essays of all time. Discusses the incredible gap between journeymen, low-ranked tennis pro's and the elite players in both ability and quality of life, as well as the gap between journeymen and highly competive amateurs.

Definitely recommend Infinite Jest like probably anyone else in this thread, but would recommend reading his non-fiction first. Jumping into Infinite Jest, I thought Wallace was some wierdo crank for a long time before I "got" his style and what he was going for. Even then, it took a long time before I enjoyed it and he very quickly became one of my favorite authors.

I think Infinite Jest and GEB are two of the only epic books that accomplishes so much, but in two entirely different contexts. They both build intense, well founded and well structured frameworks that lead up to epic resolutions, despite being respectively fiction and non-fiction.

sixstringtheoryonJan 6, 2020

The only book I’ve abandoned was Naked Lunch. I’ve enjoyed some slog books like Infinite Jest which the article mentioned, I enjoy shocking fiction and films, but something about that book cut to the quick of my imagination and just freaking grossed me out. I couldn’t power through it.

I still think about finishing it one day. The thought of it won’t leave me alone and it’s been years now. To many other books to read though, and time is scarce!

tptacekonMay 17, 2010

This list is a clear illustration of why it's better to read Infinite Jest on the iPad book reader, where dictionary definitions are a tap away, than in dead-tree format. Because I'm only 2/3 through and I can't guarantee that he hasn't found a way to use the word "exergue" in a non-coin-related sentence. Probably in a footnote. Which, by the way, is hyperlinked in the iBooks version.

krylononOct 20, 2016

The footnote thing tripped me up. Some time after reading Infinite Jest (and Gravity's Rainbow) I decided to take a shot at writing a novel, and I splattered it with footnotes. It was great fun, but it quickly becomes an annoying habit, the kind you know you don't want to do that but you constantly find yourself doing that anyway. (So breaking the habit was exceedingly annoying.)

bobyfyfyonMay 12, 2020

I've read both of these, and don't recommend them.

House of Leaves has a very uninteresting plot, and raises more questions than it answers. It's physically painful to read, because most pages, you have to rotate the entire book every which way since the words go in spirals.

Infinite Jest is good, but way too long. A good 70% of the book could have been cut out or condensed. The writing is also intentionally bad, which makes it harder to read. There are definitely good lines, but it's kind of like DFW used a random sentence generator and some of the lines just happened to be amazing, but 90% of it is garbage.

kjdal2001onJuly 1, 2015

I’m not a fan of the tone of this article, at least the first half or so. Its got something of a “if you hadn’t read Infinite Jest before Wallace died then you aren’t a true fan” vibe to it.

Is it really such a terrible thing that people who hadn’t heard about DFW while he was alive are seeing and enjoying his This Is Water speech? I think it does a good job of describing how easy it is to fall into a pattern of letting the world around you control how you feel on a minute-to-minute basis. Yeah he ties the whole idea up too neatly, but it’s a commencement speech not a long form essay.

Sure, there are probably plenty of people out there putting DFW up on a “tortured artist too brilliant for this world” pedestal. But I think the author isn’t giving people enough credit to assume that is the only reason for his recent popular appeal. Maybe people stumbled upon the This Is Water video, watched it, and it inspired them to think a bit differently about their own thought process and feelings.

You don’t need to have consumed everything an artist has produced to be inspired by one of them.

joluxonSep 16, 2016

I think there is a kernel of truth here (popularity != quality) but that being a truism the rest of the article is just justifying why the author doesn't read books that are considered good books. It's entirely true that large books command more attention than small ones, but I think writing a really good large book is much more difficult than writing a really good small book, which seems reductionist but just considering how quickly you an iterate on a shorter book vs. the time it takes to revise or rewrite a longer one. There's a quote from a review of some Franzen or Safran-Foer novel that talks about how a new writer's first page is brilliant, first chapter is great, and how it basically trails off from there most of the time. Maintaining the prose quality and style and complexity of narrative that Wallace does in Infinite Jest is no mean feat, and this may seem controversial but I think in that sense it is a greater accomplishment than some shorter works.

This isn't to say I don't see the value in brevity or that I don't believe it's difficult to write good short books: I do think it's difficult. However because reading a 1000-page book does take more time (I don't think it's necessarily harder word for word) you have to make the writing worth it, which is undeniably difficult.

dfconApr 15, 2014

I should have said "it could be offensive if I thought you recognized/intended." I have no reason to think you are a bad person, so no harm no foul. The fact that you are thinking about this and asking questions is evidence of a certain level of compassion and intelligence.

DFW wrote a lot of Infinite Jest three blocks south of me and across the street from the coop where I buy groceries. It is still kind of eerie walking by the house with a bag of groceries.

objclxtonOct 29, 2013

> it is sad that we don't seem to have authors who write fantastic prose anymore

To spin this around a little: we don't talk about authors in the past whose prose isn't worth going back to. Shakespeare had many contemporaries, but you might be hard pressed to name more than a couple.

Good prose can be challenging, and people don't want to be challenged all the time. I admire Pynchon's writing in Gravity's Rainbow - I don't want every book I read to be like that.

Or to put it another way: there are many novels from the 19th century that were massively popular at the time, but totally forgotten about now. They were novels that were pretty average in terms of prose, but had stories that were relevant to people at the time, and gripped them.

I doubt if in a hundred years people will still be reading the Da Vinci Code - but I can guarantee books like Infinite Jest, The Satanic Verses, Nights at the Circus, and the like will be attracting critical attention.

WastingMyTime89onJune 25, 2021

I'm not convinced you can compare Ulysses to Gravity Rainbow and Infinite Jest. Ulysses is not a postmodern book. Apart from their length, there are few things bringing these books together.

Gravity Rainbow has Pynchon's inimitable prose, constant segue between language register and mingling between the trivial and the profound. Infinite Jest is rambling and convoluted but it is extremely funny from the get go. Both can be a joy to read even if you don't finish them.

Ulysses on the other hand asks more from its readers. You can pretty much ignore the references in Gravity's Rainbow and still get (or not get) the point. Meanwhile, Ulysses is full of oblique metaphors and layered references which make it impossible to understand without knowledge of the referenced material.

laxativesonJan 12, 2016

Is David Foster Wallace really among that calibre of writers? I'm reading Infinite Jest and I think I kind of hate it. There's some amazing chapters, but I can't help but loathe a lot of it. It just feels like pretentious drivel that isn't written by someone who has a clear idea of whats occurring, but by someone who wants to write what sounds "cool". Its almost like emotional pandering. I know he lead a pretty eventful life, but he tries to have so much depth on so many different topics, I get the impression he did the shallowest research time could afford. It would be the equivalent of trying to fit as many highlighted words on a wikipedia page into a paragraph as possible, without understanding what any of them mean. For example, he has some kind of obsession with optics, but every description reduces to convex/concave mirrors and "it just works".

tptacekonAug 25, 2009

You should buy the book; the Illinois State Fair essay is worth the price alone. Also highly recommended is the audio version of "Consider The Lobster", in which DFW implements inline footnotes in audio.

I'm halfway through Infinite Jest right now (putting me many weeks behind http://infinitesummer.org, and I recommend it as well.

jerrylivesonMay 30, 2017

Infinite Jest is pushed in everyones face as an example of what a novel "should" be / best book ever written (yea right) and he has an evercrooning group of adorers who make Pynchon fans look reasonable and sane.

Personally I find it him to be turgid and overwrought but I get why people enjoy him and come back. His essays are entertaining but I've never gleaned any great insight or inspiration from him.

nappyonMar 6, 2017

"The Essence of Decision" - Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow

The easy way to think decisions is with the rational actor model. "The United States didn't sign the TPP agreement because..." "Apple removed the headphone jack because..." When the reality of large organizations is that decisions are made in the interaction of many people suborganizations. Allison and Zelikow are political scientists who massively advanced academic understanding of organization decision making... to illustrate their theories, they did original research into the Cuban missile crisis using it as an example of various models. Very accessible. It changed the way I think about how companies, governments, and the world works.

"Infinite Jest" - David Foster Wallace

It changed my life. This book taught me empathy and the truth in ordinary things... It's brilliant and amazing and worth making your way through 1000+ pages. RIP DFW.

nemo44xonJune 24, 2021

Similar to Gravity’s Rainbow and Infinite Jest. I recommend to people to just fight through the first 200 pages and you end up in the flow and things begin to come together.

Gravity’s Rainbow in particular is confusing for a long while but when it begins to come together it’s rewarding.

Agreed - Finnegan's Wake is impossible. Try the audio version and it’s somehow even more difficult. I was tempted to eat a bag of mushrooms and listen to it but alas, perhaps one day far in the future.

HNLurker2onMar 3, 2019

That's the million dollar question:
* An app that makes you see and use new tools and frameworks that appear on HN (preferably in contained VMs)

A pdf reader that let's you search quotes on reddit to see what comments are about that quote.

Binge-reading and listening eBook reader: challenge is not to break the chain between listening (preferably TTS) and reading. Good books example: Infinite Jest, Buddha discourses etc.

Meditation app that (gruesome alert) makes you meditate on impermanence by seeing a corpse of yours (oldify + zombify).

Netflix for classics books with movies (Albert Camus The Stranger etc)

Blockchain crypto for religious communities cause money and religion don't go good hand in hand.


jwesleyonAug 29, 2009

Good novels don't have to be hard to read, but they can be, and some of them should be. This either/or argument is pointless. Of course extremely difficult (and rewarding) novels like Infinite Jest and Ulysses will not be for everyone. But saying the opposite, that the mark of a great work of fiction is an easy to follow plot, is just ridiculous. Sometimes it's worth it to read something very difficult.

codetrotteronJuly 28, 2020

I tried to read Infinite Jest once but eventually gave up because I found it kind of exhausting to read and I couldn’t really follow along.

After reading your comment I decided to have another look at it. I knew last time that it was a weird book, and that it was enjoyed by a lot of people. But even looking at the first page of it again I just don’t feel compelled to read it. Maybe some day.

thrownaway2424onJan 19, 2015

Try reading Infinite Jest on a Kindle. Half of the book is in the end notes.

codingslaveonDec 16, 2019

I will agree with the writers sentiment about Infinite Jest. I read about 1/3 before deciding I could not make it the whole way through. I think a good chunk of the reasons for the books popularity is the persona of DFW. His personality, physical looks, melancholic and thoughtful disposition make a him a quintessential writer. He looks the part very well, and produces this obscure monstrosity called Infinite Jest. My impression is that tons of people who read the book are never quite sure if its pure genius or complete non sense. His persona tips them over the edge.

ryanydeonDec 16, 2019

They totally missed the mark on this one:
"What’s meant to distinguish Infinite Jest (the book) from various artefacts that precede it is the conflation of entertainment with drug addiction, and this notion is, I think, fundamentally flawed."

It's now pretty clear entertainment can be neurologically addictive, as evidenced by the social media companies and their abilities to predict improved engagement.

On top of that, we've now got an attention + an opioid addiction.

If anything, DFW was just very early at predicting the medium term state, complete with national secession movements.

Not bad for a 'verbose' fiction writer.

ascuttlefishonJan 30, 2011

That is definitely one of many ways a person can self-destruct, and it is indeed related to being wealthy and perhaps famous. But there are other motives that could explain suicides that don't involve money. I'm not saying they suicidal tendencies and wealth orthogonal (disclosure: I had to look that up :), but they're not always, uh, parallel either. Say for example you have someone who's been heavily goal oriented their entire life, but when they achieve their goals--of wealth and fame, or maybe just to be a hell of an entrepreneur, or something that has a side-effect of wealth and fame--they are completely unprepared for the emptiness and lack of purpose they now face. It could be argued that they face a despair unrelated to their wealth and riches but rather to the way they structured and lived their lives. (There's some interesting passages in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest about this.)

I don't disagree with you w/r/t wealth being a possible contributor to the motivations for suicide, but I believe that there are as many reasons a person could kill themselves as we can imagine, only some of which might involve their richness and famousness. Suicide is a dark, multi-tentacled thing.

clay_to_nonApr 30, 2015

This is really cool. I've heard good things about reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest on tablets, because all of the footnotes are hyperlinks - easier than using two bookmarks as you read the book. There also was an internet forum for people who would read it each summer, following along and discussing to clarify confusion (called Infinite Summer, I think it's now defunct).

kmillonJuly 19, 2020

I was playing with AI Dungeon tonight to get access to GPT-3, and one of my many experiments ended up with me meeting a character called the Narrator who believed they were in control of all characters in the game, including me. Eventually, through my predicting what they were about to say by checking and undoing, they seemed convinced I wasn't another character and started asking about whether certain authors were still alive and which I liked to read. It didn't recognize Ishiguro. Later it gave me a truly bizarre (and amusing) summary of Infinite Jest, clearly having never read it. Anyway, the entire experience was uncanny and surreal.

One thing I learned was it has detailed knowledge of the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, seemingly through fanfics. It was fun having it to teach me the lost arts of pizzabending ("form your hands into the shape of a letter 'P'" and so on, and needing to practice by juggling rubber pizzas) and beetlebending ("always remember that to beetle bend it helps to like beetles," my wise uncle suggested). Each of these tended to precipitate a narrative collapse.

The writing style was surprisingly homogeneous, and it reminded me of young adult novels. It would definitely be interesting to see it with other writing styles, beyond the occasional old poetry.

ahussainonFeb 8, 2016

This is one of the reasons to read Infinite Jest - it explores the concept of addiction with incredible depth and interest.

I love the idea that many things in life can be modeled as addictions. Abstractly, an addiction takes the pattern of long periods of misery (plateau) interrupted by brief moments of ecstasy - what's special about an addiction is that it feels like the moments of ecstasy are worth it. This pattern is similar to that involved in learning a new skill, or going through a personality change.

jacobedawsononMay 12, 2020

I've just started it - I'm about 10% of the way in and I'm really engaged - enjoying it but with a kind of mental equivalent of full-body exhaustion way after a big day at the beach - it's fun but also hard and sometimes just plain difficult. I think DFW was swimming in so many ideas & feelings that Infinite Jest was a way of letting it all come out in a Kerouacian-stream without much thought for concision.

If it helps anyone decide whether to give it a go, two recent books I read and loved were 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, and Underworld by Don DeLillo, and Infinite Jest is satisfying me in the hard-earned way they both did.

arkaiconMay 30, 2017

I found Infinite Jest extraordinarily compelling, hilarious, and endlessly entertaining. I wouldn't go as far to say that it was "hard to put down". The book will fatigue you at points, as there is such a density of ideas within a single page that you need to just step back for the day and take it all in. But I was inevitably drawn back every time to sit down and open Infinite Jest again and again. Maybe it was the prose, or the endearing and terrible characters that DFW make all come to life, or the sprawling mystery plot. I love the way DFW makes these small, minute observations of life that always seem to make me go "yeaaaah I can relate too!" So many unforgettable moments in that book, including the section about marijuana, and the chapter of the kids playing tennis analogized with war.

sanderjdonNov 20, 2018

Re-posting a dead comment that I don't think should be dead. I totally disagree - I loved Infinite Jest when I read it a bunch of years ago, and think I still would now - but it's not an invalid perspective. It's true that the problems and angst of privileged largely vapid mostly young people are not as bad as those experienced by many (most?) people in the world. But Infinite Jest also captures a certain experience of life that rings true. That's what makes a novel great for me, regardless of how much I relate to the experiences of the characters.

"Infinite Jest was infinitely boring, a lot of the "edginess" feels dated and the problems the characters deal with feel juvenile. Its also devoid of emotions that feels like the isolation of the American suburbs.
I liked many hard to read books, Joyce for example, as well as postmodernism, but I can't recommend this collection of superficial rants and emotional sterility.
Curiously, the people that liked this book had the same kind of emotional sterility I despise. Mostly, whiny, stuck up English majors from the suburbs. Often with few life experiences."

techtalskyonSep 13, 2013

The book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is an astoundingly good illustration of this. He follows characters as they use work, tennis, video entertainment, and even addiction recovery itself as addictions. I feel as if my understanding of addiction and its depths was deepened a great deal. The older I get the more healing from addiction seems like an actual real miracle.

doctorpanglossonMar 26, 2015

I wish when I was 14 I was exposed to more contemporary literature, instead of great classics. And I have no regrets about missing out on math books—most of my friends went to math camp for that kind of knowledge.

I'd recommend David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest; Junot Diaz's This is How You Lose Her; The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis; Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

I wish when I went into college I understood women better, people with mental health issues, sexuality, drugs, rich people, powerful people, old people.

He'll have 2x4 year periods where he'll be able to build long-lasting relationships. Understanding himself and other people will pay off much better than solving puzzles. So I'd stick to really aggressive contemporary fiction. He'll find math on his own.

2bitencryptiononAug 23, 2017

you could read some of DFW's short stories to understand his style a bit.

other than that, don't be too afraid -- Infinite Jest is intentionally complicated and convoluted, being a bit confused is part of the experience. even if you aren't quite sure what's going on in every chapter, the writing is gorgeous and funny even on a sentence-by-sentence basis.

You'll meet one character, then move on to another character, then return to the first character four hundred pages later. You'll read footnotes on footnotes that refer to other footnotes. There will be plays on words that appear on page 20 and then are reprised on page 600. Extended metaphors are introduced and return without warning.

Just start reading it, and if it gets too hard, put it down a bit. It's still a book for entertainment (the whole story is _about_ entertainment), so don't treat it too much like it's homework. just have fun with it :)

tomspeakonMar 30, 2020

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace has been the most impactful, but due to the length of the book it's hard for others to compete on the impact-per-page metric. I wrote about it in detail here https://speak.sh/posts/infinite-jest

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera showed me another perspective of love I had never considered. Gave me insight into vulnerability.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes showed me how by looking through the world via a lens of intellect, you can often miss the point.

The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God by Etgar Keret a collection of some of my favourite short stories. Highly recommend.

zeroonetwothreeonApr 28, 2019

I do the same thing and have ~500 books so far. I started in 2014, so I buy around 100/year. The overall price is actually cheaper than buying paper/ebooks, considering I buy many new releases.

Also getting longer books is a really good value, since they cost the same. Just get Infinite Jest instead of 5 separate books.

frozenportonNov 20, 2018

Infinite Jest was infinitely boring, a lot of the "edginess" feels dated and the problems the characters deal with feel juvenile. Its also devoid of emotions that feels like the isolation of the American suburbs.

I liked many hard to read books, Joyce for example, as well as postmodernism, but I can't recommend this collection of superficial rants and emotional sterility.

Curiously, the people that liked this book had the same kind of emotional sterility I despise. Mostly, whiny, stuck up English majors from the suburbs. Often with few life experiences.

kjdal2001onOct 19, 2016

I can see how that happens. The thing that impressed me most about Infinite Jest is the incredibly deep introspection that the characters had. But the passages were very long, and because they weren't about actual stuff happening, its tough to just stop reading all of a sudden. You cant just jump back in where you left off. It wouldn't make any sense unless you were following the entire train of thought, which means you need to backtrack quite a bit.

I honestly have no idea how people read that book in public. I read it during the winter in my bedroom, which was perfect because there was nothing to pull my attention away and interrupt the experience.

jackstraw-onMay 30, 2017

Well, there was the movie about him that came out a year or two ago. I'm sure that contibuted to the spike, but honestly 95% of the people I've seen reading Infinite Jest in public are somewhere in the first 20 pages, and that's been the case since the mid 2000s. I don't think reading literary fiction to look cool is anything new.

“Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?”

schlagetownonJuly 27, 2016

Aiming for ~ a book a week, and have been holding steady around that mark for around the past 3 years (avg. 50 books / year). I got through Ready Player One in a weekend when I had nothing else to do, but it took me a good couple months to get through Infinite Jest this year…try to balance it out with a good mix of fiction / nonfiction and easy / hard books. I waste plenty of time online, too, but average something in the ballpark of an hour / day of book-reading.

equaluniqueonSep 21, 2019

I recommend Infinite Jest on Audible. There are advantages to it being an audiobook, one being that since you aren't holding the pages, you won't see it coming when a chapter ends. This prevents you from rushing to complete sections, rather, you just go along for a ride while the story is told, not knowing where/when it'll end up.

tptacekonDec 17, 2019

The title of this piece is "Well, duh". The sentence from which this submission's title is taken is If nothing else, the success of Infinite Jest is proof that the Great American Hype Machine can still work wonders, in terms of sales.; the submission's title doesn't get the full intent of that sentence.

Use the story title! It's in the guidelines!

Articles like this, it seems to turn out, are part of Dale Peck's schtick, as you'll quickly learn from a Wikipedia page that seems to think these kinds of takedowns are the most notable thing about him:


I'm always there for a good takedown, and while I like DFW's writing I think Infinite Jest is a rich, slow-moving, and inexplicably unharried target. But I do think it's kind of funny that Peck opens by saying that Infinite Jest is a book without much of a plot, in which not much happens other than a 700 page conversation, and then spends 2 gigantic paragraphs trying to explain all the details of the plot. Which, it turns out later, he actually enjoys, once the puzzle pieces fall into place and reveal the book's underlying simplicity. OK then.

The bit in Infinite Jest written in (attempted) African American vernacular is truly awful, though. Peck is clearly right about that.

c0nsilienceonSep 1, 2009

I'm currently reading Infinite Jest along with the rest of the "Infinite Summer" crowd at http://infinitesummer.org. I love the book so far. Prior to this, I read "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" and when this summer reading group is over, I want to read Pynchon's newest novel "Inherent Vice" for some lighter fare.

pastrami_pandaonOct 3, 2020

Many years ago I read the preface to the behemoth of a book that is Infinite Jest by DFW.

I don't remember the wording of the preface, but I recall it arguing that the sheer size of the book could be regarded both as a cultural experience as well as a mental exercise.

The author of the preface argued that when (or perhaps if) you finished the book you would feel like you've just run a marathon. You would be highly fit, reading wise. Nothing would phase you.

This was probably compounded in my teenage head by the fact that the only quote I've heard from the author beforehand was:

"I consume libraries. I wear out spines and ROM-drives. I do things like get in a taxi and say, 'The library, and step on it.'"

It sounded like a complete opposite of myself at the time, but I did want to learn that ability. And
I liked that preface a lot. It kept me going at it month after month on busy train rides, with the promise of some transcendent reward at the end.

There are famous footnotes in that book spanning several pages in tiny print. The amount of mental effort it took to read the thing was extraordinary for someone like me at the time. I often had to backtrack several pages to perform the context switch from a mini-novel footnote back to the main storyline.

This was many years ago now, and I have slipped far behind on my reading fitness. But I still carry with me the realization that I can't expect to be fit if I don't train hard.

Now, ADD is a whole nother beast. Sicknesses often require medical attention and this should not be smoothed over. Still, I think there's an interesting discussion to be had regarding reading fitness in the era of information. Maybe this is a widely discussed thing and I'm just not hearing it, but it seems obvious that we slip further toward obesity without training. Surely something similar happens with our ability to focus without training?

platzonAug 9, 2021

have you ever read Infinite Jest

gensymonDec 4, 2007

The Evolution of Cooperation - Robert Axelrod

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clark

Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace

The Informant - Kurt Eichenwald

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information - Edward Tufte

Liar's Poker - Michael Lewis

kensonAug 3, 2017

I agree on The Power Broker; it is kind of amazing and changed my view of New York City. To summarize, Robert Moses leveraged a parks commission position to reshape New York City how he wanted it: from bridges and expressways and urban renewal to the Lincoln Center and United Nations buildings. The first key point is how to leverage a minor position into dictatorial power. The second key point is that New York City didn't just end up how it is; many of its good and bad characteristics (including many racial issues) are because Robert Moses made it that way. However, I can't really recommend reading the book since it is very, very long - longer than Infinite Jest.

And yes, Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" is definitely a must-read if you're interested in urban areas.

Patrick_DevineonDec 16, 2019

The first time I tried reading Infinite Jest I felt that I was dealing with DFW's own personal trauma. I think I made it about 10% of the way through before putting it down.

The second time I picked up the book, I made it all the way through and thought it was absolutely brilliant. I see this in the same vein as Paul Beatty's _The Sellout_. There's a lot of stream of consciousness, there's a plethora of characters, and you have to really be paying attention to figure out exactly what's going on. These books aren't for everyone, but they're certainly important parts of American Literature.

21elevenonMay 12, 2020

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

torbjornonSep 2, 2017

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

mlthoughts2018onSep 13, 2018

There’s always a lot of intellectual signalling at play no matter what type of intellectual pursuit is being discussed. It doesn’t mean people are insincere.

Conversely, when people criticize groups that focus on a shared intellectual pleasure, that criticism too is often just more signalling, especially if there is something to be gained by undercutting the value of the intellectual pursuit in question.

Some people are prolific readers and they read things like Infinite Jest and get pleasure from discussing its obscurities.

Then some other people don’t want intellectual merit to be associated with the workload of reading a heavy book they may not particularly like, so they invent some story about how Infinite Jest readers are arrogant.

You could say the same thing about so many things: prolific open source software contribution, prolific consumption of obscure music or music that was lost to history, prolific love of a cult TV show, prolific focus on niche cooking techniques or recipes.

I think any comments that try to apply the negative stereotype to the whole group are just unproductive.

But it will always be this signalling arms race between showing value through obscure intellectual pursuit vs. undercutting that so as to avoid needing to expend the effort while still getting credit for being intellectual.

jgrzymskionJune 12, 2015

Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
The Making of the Atomic Bomb - Richard Rhodes
Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco

delackneronSep 16, 2008

I had the great luck to be given Infinite Jest by a friend who had read it, and I cannot praise it enough. It is by far the most amazing book I have ever read, achieving a clear and full vision into the world of its characters' internal thought processes to a degree I had not known was possible.

After reading Infinite Jest, I have struggled to find any author to equal its vitality, and have been frequently disappointed by the flat hollow fakeness of most works I have read since it, by authors both new to me (Paul Auster) and old (William Gibson).

His use of language has a kind of magical... it is hard to get exactly how he does it but his writing brings his characters alive.

I am crushed and saddened by his death and the tragedy of its cause. Depression haunts the people in many of our lives. It is a terrible disease made worse by the mistaken notion that melancholy is somehow noble or simply a fact of creativity, an illness to be proud of. It is certainly not.

turingbikeonDec 16, 2019

I think you will also like this quote/thought then:

> The theory is this: Infinite Jest is Wallace's attempt to both manifest and dramatize a revolutionary fiction style that he called for in his essay "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction." The style is one in which a new sincerity will overturn the ironic detachment that hollowed out contemporary fiction towards the end of the 20th century. Wallace was trying to write an antidote to the cynicism that had pervaded and saddened so much of American culture in his lifetime. He was trying to create an entertainment that would get us talking again.

- http://fictionadvocate.com/2012/09/19/the-infinite-jest-live...

unaloneonSep 15, 2008

I think his generation is pretty close to this current one. Infinite Jest was the 90s, right? (I've never read it, sadly.)

I feel like the novel is winding down, actually. There's no great proliferation of ideas any more. The last great author I can think of was Beckett; after him, everybody I've read really seems to be struggling to do something new. Even Murakami (who, not counting Wallace, I think is the greatest of the generation) is less innovative than the authors who preceded him.

Is it possible that a novel as a pure-prose medium can be exhausted in terms of ideas? Because I think (and I've written rather extensively about this) that for the novel to go on, it'll have to evolve to match current technology, in the way that Coupland and Danielewski do it. But that means a departure from pure literature, in a way.

dredmorbiusonAug 23, 2016

A long (85 minute) David Foster Wallace interview from 2003. He talks about the manic state of a media-saturated society in which solitude is perceived as almost a pathology (or perhaps not even "almost"). Rather Brave New World-ish , actually.

I think the relevant parts are toward the beginning. Full thing's worth listening to, several times. Or you could just read Infinite Jest.


Particularly around 18 and 24 minutes, continuing for 6-10 minutes after. Ah yes, particularly at 30m.

The theme is interwoven throughought the interview though.

SnacksOnAPlaneonOct 19, 2016

Honestly, most of Infinite Jest is not like that. It's only like that when you're "in the head" of certain characters.

But you have no idea what's going on in the book for the first 300 pages or so. It takes until around 500 pages in before you're immersed in the story, and then reading it becomes kind of an addiction. And once you're done, you feel an intense need to start it over again, knowing what you do now.

I only really got the theme of it on the second reading. I actually put it down for a few months the first time I tried to read it because I was confused. But it's worth it...oh man, is it worth it.

scrameonAug 7, 2010

Gödel, Escher, Bach is one of the most beautifully bizarre, transcendent creations I have ever come across. I wish every computer programmer that I ever heard say something silly like "I don't like art", or "I don't read that much" could be exposed to it. There is nothing so humbling as getting your ass kicked by 800 pages of a guy trying to explain an idea in the simplest terms he can.

The only things that I can compare it to are more literary, but "Breakfast of Champions", "Foucalts Pendulum" or "Infinite Jest", aren't out of order.

They are all products of brilliant, obsessive, minds making a concerted effort to explain what they can see above the clouds.

As much intellectual ego that gets bandied about between computer programmers, its nice to keep a humbling base where you can actually see that no matter how smart you think you are, that there are people who are way way way smarter than you and actually have the dedication, skill and expertise to try to help you understand what they have spent their life learning.

roymurdockonMar 17, 2017

DFW examines this phenomenon, obtusely, in Infinite Jest. None of his characters are Hikikomori (and honestly a book about someone sitting around and doing nothing sounds a tad boring and self-absorbed, but I'll have to read Leave Society to find out), but they are all forced to deal with a world over saturated with drugs, politics, sex, tennis, and the TV/video media.

Orin, the main character's older brother, becomes a semi-recluse/sociopath, which is the closest character to an explicit Hikikomori DFW paints in the book. The other major characters rely on other forms of relief to cope with their anxiety, depression, family issues, etc.

DFW wrote Infinite Jest in 1996 before the internet truly took over. I'd love to see another book tackle the issues and repercussions of internet-soaked culture the way DFW tackled the nature of addiction in Infinite Jest.

merceronDec 10, 2016

While I've been a huge fan of this 'golden age of TV', I can't help but wonder to which degree I'm fooling myself by spending hours on 'extremely high quality' television that ultimately still is primarily entertainment and doesn't 'improve' my life in any real way.

The Wire felt like it actually taught me something and made me think about society and my role in it. But to what extent are Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Westworld basically same as daytime soap operas dressed up so they're palatable to 'discerning' consumers?

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but I do find that many people, myself included, justify their TV habits by arguing that we're watching 'quality' TV instead of the usual daytime garbage.

(I've been reading Infinite Jest and recently read Wallace' "E Unibus Pluram"[1], so this has been on my mind.)

[1]: https://jsomers.net/DFW_TV.pdf

aaronblohowiakonAug 7, 2013

read Infinite Jest by DFW. or watch the TNG episode http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollow_Pursuits

marnettonNov 6, 2018

Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Dostoyevsky, Ursula Le Guin, David Foster Wallace (I could truly go on forever, but I think these authors are phenomenal, with themes and meta-themes different from one another).

I think if you watch an interview with DFW you will realize just how much he has thought of just about every facet of modern, entertainment-centric western society - all coming together in Infinite Jest which is the most depressing book I've ever read (he later committed suicide, so it might have been the most depressing contemporary book ever written either). Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness models an entire planetary civilization with no fixed sex (written in 1969, mind you), which I found very eye-opening. Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (as well as Crime and Punishment) are extraordinarily psychological and philosophical - ethics, free will, and God are centric. Both Steinbeck and Vonnegut have multiple books I'd recommend, but East of Eden by Steinbeck is an all-time favorite tackling good and evil (honestly Nietzsche in novel); Slaughterhouse 5 by Vonnegut (just a notch above Heller's Catch-22) is the embodiment of darkness and absurdity. Take an anti-war sentiment and an author willing to tiptoe to the border of sanity and insanity and the result is SH5. It is truly brilliant, and as someone who is fortunate enough to not have ever been impacted greatly by wartime, it is equally eye-opening.

Honorable mention (a book I have read more recently) goes to Tom Wolfe with The Bonfire of the Vanities. This book combines the legal system (police and prosecutors), personal greed and ambition (Wall Street bond salesman), racism (Media biases), and class structures and privilege in a hard hitting social critique on 80s New York City. Everything between its covers is key to understanding how the world actually works.

This turned out to be a lot longer than I anticipated. Hopefully it is helpful!

merceronMay 13, 2017

I loved House of Leaves. The most recent example where the 'shape' of the content really contributed to the experience, albeit in a much, much subtler way, was Infinite Jest.

While cramming stuff into multiple-page-long footnotes and footnotes with footnotes felt a bit gimmicky at first, a few experiences stand out:

1. getting so drawn into a long footnote that I forgot it was a footnote. The confusion upon getting back to the main story felt right for that point in the story (or the book in general)
2. a large number of footnotes that were mildly interesting at first and turned out to be hugely valuable later on (but not crucial to enjoying the book).
3. footnotes that were funny precisely because they were footnotes and somewhat self-aware of it.

If you like Wallace' essays or the themes he kept going back to (depression, self-analysis, addiction, irony, media), I can highly recommend going through the effort of reading the book. It took me multiple tries over a period of maybe a decade to finally finish. Once I got past 200 pages it became difficult to put the (massive) book down and now, weeks later, I'm still thinking about it regularly. Few books have had that effect on me.

mbrockonApr 4, 2010

Wait, wait, what? This thread ... huh?

It's weird to see someone you think of as writing in a genre that kind of combines Dostoevsky, Kafka, and Nabokov with an almost fanatic pleading for empathy and communion -- described as someone who writes puzzles and brain teasers!

He wrote great stuff about addiction, entertainment, alienation, human communication, depression; stuff that to at least one withdrawn academic prone to sadness and anxiety was enormously powerful and redemptive and transformative.

He was a cerebral guy, he studied formal logic and math; that doesn't make him nonhuman! Is language not a valid, "people" thing to write about? People do have "trouble communicating," people are affected by the culture of television, even "postmodernism" and "irony" and "solipsism" are relevant in a deep, basic human sense for lots of (confused, lost) people.

(Granted, his nonfiction pieces are what I like best -- every essay in A Supposedly Fun Thing is gold -- still, Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Infinite Jest are powerful books, though sometimes tragic on many levels.)

wmhorneonDec 17, 2019

> The bit in Infinite Jest written in (attempted) African American vernacular is truly awful, though. Peck is clearly right about that.

On this topic I certainly agreed with him. I found that section horribly out of tune and out of touch. Also---though maybe I'm forgetting something---I recall it played almost no role in the story or plot. It stuck out as easily the hardest part to get through during my second read.

bathMarm0tonJan 5, 2020

I am in love with books and the notion that you can talk with another person long dead without any distortion or distraction. Some rules I abide by:

1. Any book that you expect to read once and once only (popular science, pulp fiction, toilet-reading) rent from the library. Keep it by your bed at night and give-er by the lamplight.

2. Any book that you can read, word-over-word, end-on-end, without confusion or introspection can be consumed in condensed form. Condensed forms come in many guises:(audio-books, blog-feeds, wiki-pages etc.)

3. You are missing out on all the glories that are not defined by 1 and 2. A good book should be a conversation, held at length, over time.

You asked for philosphy in another comment:

Victor Frankyl: Man in search of meaning

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

Jung: Development of Personality, Archetypes/Aion

Nietsche: all and any

For philosophical fiction:

Goethe: Faust

Hemingway: Death in the afternoon (this was my first glimpse into why books can provide lightness of body, displacement of time: wait for the 4th-wall-breaking-rapport with the old woman)

David Foster Wallace:Rise Simba, Infinite Jest, etc.


There have been studies that your brain scans feeds and webpages differently than text on a page. You set yourself up to not pay attention / are just "scraping the good bits"

Someone mentioned a while back that Infinite Jest (1000 page tome + 300 pages endnotes!) had ~50 pages that made the whole thing worth it. The immediate following comment was "why not just read the 50 pages?". It is the context around which we find our content that gives it worth. The internet allows you to bypass the context.

krishicksonSep 2, 2017

On re-reading books:

The first time I read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace I found myself unable to determine what was Important for much of the first few hundred pages. None of it made sense and I couldn't figure out what The Point of the book was. I kind of read the pages but didn't really take any of it in.

The second time I read it was a completely different experience: those first pages immediately made sense, and I derived a sense of pleasure in reading them that I didn't have the first time around.

sharkweekonSep 24, 2019

I hope you and your family have been able to find peace or are at least able to work toward it... I am so sorry for your loss.

There's a quote in the novel Infinite Jest that changed my perception on suicide. This passage helped me make some sense of something so terrible. It helped me see that I honestly can't even imagine what's going through the head of someone who is going against every human instinct to otherwise survive.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

simiasonFeb 1, 2019

I seldom use my Kindle anymore but I bought Infinite Jest a few weeks ago and immediately regretted not having dusted my old Kindle and bought the digital version instead. These large books are cumbersome to handle and carry around.

For shorter books I agree that paper is superior, I don't have to worry about damage, battery level or theft, I can easily borrow and lend them (I think you can do that with Kindle nowadays but it can't be as convenient as lending a physical object).

macraelonSep 15, 2013

East of Eden is my favorite book I've read in the last several years. Beautiful end to end and very moral. If you've read it it's totally worth reading Journal of a Novel: a collection of letters Steinbeck wrote to his editor every day as he was writing East of Eden. It's a fascinating window into the mind of a master deliberately creating a masterpiece.

Other favorites: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, In Our Time by Hemingway, The Magus by John Fowles, 100 years of solitude, Moby Dick (perhaps a precursor to all modern fantasy?) Stranger in a Strange Land, and Infinite Jest. I've also loved both of DFW's big essay collections: Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll never Do Again.

wldcordeiroonOct 19, 2016

If there's ever a book that I found better on an e-reader, Infinite Jest is it. The movement between the endnotes was so much more fluid and not having the bulk of the book itself was a huge plus. Still have a physical copy for the at home reading (been a bit since I read and want to go for a third go around) but the e-reader experience felt like the experience the book was made for, but preempted.

lylejohnsononNov 3, 2010

I don't think it's necessary to read "all his other essays and short stories" to appreciate Infinite Jest, but you certainly might want to read at least a couple to get used to his writing style (e.g. the unending sentences; heavy use of footnotes and abbreviations). A fun one to read (for me) was "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," about his experience on a week-long pleasure cruise.

Don't skip the footnotes when reading IJ. There's some important stuff in there.

Don't get frustrated when you get to the end of the book and aren't sure what just happened. That's why ladyada correctly says that you'll need to read it again when you get done.

jasodeonApr 26, 2015

I've read over 500 fiction books and 2000+ non-fiction. I've read many of the big thick classics like Moby Dick, War & Peace, Infinite Jest. I've kept a spreadsheet of all the books I've read somewhat like Art Garfunkel[1] (of Simon & Garfunkel music duo).

I've also read Nick Carr's "The Shallows"[2] and other authors about about the web's effect on attention span, distractions, etc.

With all that said, I'm not convinced that people "should" read long form books. I read all those books because I personally enjoyed it. I just can't say with confidence that others should do the same or they will be "missing out" on some unquantifiable intellectual nirvana.

I also enjoy getting lost in Wikipedia articles and jumping around hyperlinks without fully finishing the wiki article I was reading. (Wiki articles are not ever "finished" anyway so there's no guilt trip in leaving the page to head down another rabbit hole.)

15 years ago, I read a dozen of C++ books cover-to-cover. Can someone today get similar levels of knowledge jumping around quality blog posts and watching youtube videos? I think so. I don't hold my traditional reading method for C++ to be superior; it's simply what I did before the internet was available in 1995. I certainly did not learn Golang by reading a book cover-to-cover.

Books certainly have benefits but I think they are overstated in relation to non-book forms of consuming words.



mlthoughts2018onDec 31, 2018

> “What does it say about the competence of "future" engineers if they can't understand code written by past ones?”

It doesn’t say much about those future engineers at all.

It’s easy to write inscrutable code that even veteran engineers can’t understand, yet still “gets the job done.”

Also, you act like this would imply that all future engineers are the same, but that is not true and not related to my points.

You’re writing code for the inexperienced future engineer, some poor soul tossed into a legacy codebase without much help. It’s not their fault they were put in that position. It’s sink or swim. Good code helps _that_ person swim.

As for the quote you mention,

> “One of my favourite sayings is "the code is unreadable to you, because you are not qualified to understand it yet".

That is a horrible way of thinking, with built in condescending attitudes and everything. If code is unreadable to someone, beyond basic syntax definitions, that is the author’s fault and not at all the reader’s fault for being inexperienced.

The reason 5th graders can’t read Infinite Jest is because David Foster Wallace tried to make it complicated, not because, in some skewed perspective, the writing is perfectly simple but 5th graders just aren’t experienced enough yet. It’s a complexity property of the writing not of the reader’s brain.

With literature you can get away with this because there are extenuating arguments about artistic merit.

For business software, not so. In that case, if you write something more like DFW and less like Hemingway, it’s a sign of laziness and lack of self-discipline.. and not at all a sign of skill advancement.

Analemma_onMay 30, 2017

Heh, guilty, although I do get farther and farther each time. Last time I made it almost halfway before I stopped.

The issue is that I'm a "distracted reader" and tend to leave books half-finished. Unfortunately, the likelihood of this happening is a function of the book's length and density: if I can read it in a day or two, there's no time to get distracted, but Infinite Jest is both long and slow. Someday, though.

ZevonJuly 16, 2010

You know that inner voice you have when reading, that mentally speaks what your eyes are reading? Tell it to shut up.

When I read, at most, I'll say the first two words of a sentence every two to three sentences in my mind, before reading turns into more of an absorption of whats on the page. Obvious exceptions being when I'm reading something like Infinite Jest or Finnigans Wake (which sits unfinished on a table at home). But those books are difficult.

laxativesonDec 6, 2016

Here's my favorite essay from String Theory that really sums everything that book is about: http://www.esquire.com/sports/a5151/the-string-theory-david-... This version is a bit of pain though since the footnotes are collected at the end and you would have to swap back and forth to read them; the book allows space on each page to make it much more convenient. I think I'm in the minority, but I really wish Infinite Jest handled footnotes in the same way.

cwal37onApr 22, 2014

Thanks for the comprehensive comment.

I completely agree on the discussion here and that Piketty has struck a nerve. I was just a bit annoyed that no one was even attempting to claim actual knowledge of the book at hand, but was ready to make statements on its content, without any kind of qualifier (really, all I wanted). I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books whose influence, at least in discussion, will be greater than expected given the people in those conversations who didn't read it. I have found it an easier read than I expected though. Right now I alternate between it or Infinite Jest each night, which is a really nice change of pace in either direction.

I got the ebook on my tablet to just speed through in bed, but I've realized this is going to be one I'll need a physical copy of eventually to annotate. Thanks for the link to your subreddit, I've subscribed.

dx7tntonDec 17, 2019

Ha. I have those two books back to back on my shelf. I've always thought there was some sort of connection between the two, other than thickness. Infinite Jest is a really amazing piece of work, and it's difficulty, it's obtruseness, it's long-winded pointlessness all contribute to that, in a way above the superficial 'wtf is he going on about wasting time for 30 pages?" picked up on by this article. It's a hard time, and not a book I'd really recommend to anyone at all, but it did strange things to me, and poked me in a way unlike any other writer ever. RIP DFW

cmyronOct 19, 2016

on the point of recursive loops: The most amazing thing about IJ, to me, is how the book itself _does_ recurse; chronologically the first scene in the book takes place after the last, and when you reach then end you could reasonably start again from the beginning, with the knowledge you've picked up on your first reading informing your second and fundamentally changing the tone and mood of the book.

i.e./tl;dr, Infinite Jest is itself the infinite entertainment it describes.

clentaminatoronJune 8, 2016

Fun fact: The book Infinite Jest includes a character who keeps their artificial heart in their handbag. In one scene, the handbag is snatched by a passing thief which leads to the character shouting "She stole my heart, stop her!". As expected, this is tragically misconstrued by passersby who believe that the woman was in the middle of a sad yet not unexpected lovers quarrel, whereas in actual fact her heart had been stolen. Tragicomedy in the same scene.

pemulisonMay 8, 2011

I'm on a David Foster Wallace kick right now: Working through The Pale King, his collected essays and his short stories. Already read Infinite Jest. It's hard to say what qualifies as "essential reading" when it's impossible for a human being to read even one tenth of the great, all-time classic books. There just isn't enough time. My advice would be to read at least a few books that have reputations for being difficult. War and Peace, Gravity's Rainbow, In Search of Lost Time, Ulysses, etc. (The reason I'm only listing near-undisputed classics here is because these books are difficult, and in some cases very, very long [looking at you, Proust], and the assurance that it is all worth it helps you keep going when your brain hurts.) These books survived despite their difficulty because reading them is a mind-expanding, sometimes life-changing experience. Reading shouldn't be essentially passive.

rcptonMay 6, 2015

The best quote on this topic that I know of is terrifying:

The so-called 'psychotically depressed' person who tries to kill herself doesn't do so out of quote 'hopelessness' or any abstract
conviction that life's assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in
whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling
from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out
the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire's flames: when the flames get
close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It's not desiring the fall; it's terror of the flames.
And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling 'Don't!' and 'Hang on!', can understand the jump. Not really. You'd
have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

roymurdockonMar 16, 2016

Older Stuff: The Bible/Quran, The Republic (Plato), The Social Contract (Rousseau), Tao Te Ching (Laozi), Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky), History of the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides)

Newer Stuff: Nine Stories (Salinger), The Razor's Edge (Maugham), Nausea (Sartre), Siddartha (Hesse), Road to Serfdom (Hayek), The Book (Watts), Design of Everyday Things (Norman), Atlas Shrugged (Rand), Invisible Man (Ellison), Debunking Economics (Keen), Blood Meridian (McCarthy), The Center Cannot Hold (Saks), This Time Is Different (Reinhart/Rogoff), Infinite Jest (Wallace), Calvin and Hobbes (Watterson)

All of these books are well written and have given me some perspective on interesting people/situations/ways of thinking.

nkurzonOct 11, 2017

The article makes an opaque reference to "the oft-quoted David Foster Wallace passage on suicide and burning buildings". Here's the actual quote from Infinite Jest for those who have not yet had seen it quoted enough to know by heart:

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

And here's a longer excerpt from the book that includes the quote, with some discussion: http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com/2011/04/elements-of-suic...

ethanbondonOct 19, 2016

I've never been a big fiction reader, and I don't know how much time you spent trying his fiction, but I highly recommend giving Infinite Jest a shot.

I had to take a 3 month break in the middle of Infinite Jest (not recommended) and even then, finishing it was the most rewarding and somehow obscenely frustrating literary experiences I've ever had.

This accomplishment/frustration thing is also central to the book and is "the point" (really one of several). The fact that it still has that effect even when I know it was meant to is a testament to how well it worked.

sharkweekonNov 29, 2016

This is grossly oversimplifying suicide...

For your consideration:

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

cjarrettonSep 26, 2018

David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest as well:

In the novel's world, each year is subsidized by a specific corporate sponsor for tax revenue. The years of Subsidized Time are:
Year of the Whopper
Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken
Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster
Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade for Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems for Home, Office or Mobile
Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment (Y.D.A.U.)
Year of Glad

igraviousonJan 11, 2011

Considering that David Foster Wallace killed himself in September 2008 it's unlikely that he recently made these predictions. The article claims that the thinking comes from Wallace's (critically acclaimed) novel Infinite Jest which you may note was published in 1996 so the ideas date from the last century, not from last year.

Nice write up by Jason Kottke.


MaxGabrielonNov 24, 2011

I tried three different writing samples and got:

David Foster Wallace (excerpt from blog post)
Edgar Allen Poe (introduction to peer-reviewed journal article)
Jonathan Swift (concluding paragraph from ibid)

I also tried:

The first few paragraph's of Wallace's Infinite Jest (he writes like himself)

The first few paragraphs of The Raven (Poe writes like HP Lovecraft), then the whole of The Raven (now Shakespeare), and first three paragraphs of The Masque of the Red Death (now Anne Rice)

The first three paragraphs of Swift's A Modest Proposal (Daniel Defoe).

I don't know much about literature--maybe e.g. Defoe's writing is similar to Swift's--but without seeing the reasons why I write like a particular author, I take these results with a grain of salt.

ilzmastronJan 26, 2015

Childhoods end - Humanity takes the next step in evolution

Anhilliation - Fish out of water like story of exploring a mysterious, horrific, environment (2 sequels drag on for too much after this one though)

Many Ray Bradbury stories (Martian chronicles, and the Everyman collection contain the best ones)

Infinite Jest (Alternate American future of a culture of addiction and depravity, partly mediated by technology)

The Circle (haven't read, but like the author, life inside the biggest tech company of the future)

donutteonJuly 5, 2018

So, I’ve never finished Infinite Jest. My father once told me that’s okay— it ends in the middle.

Cloud Atlas employs the same structure deliberately, with wonderful narrative impact. You have to climb up the mountain in order to climb back down.

I do think GEB is the same way. The first half of the book is the climb. The second half is merely the question, what can we see from way up here?

DeclanomousonFeb 21, 2017

I use the kindle app on my phone, but I really like owning physical copies of my books. One of my friends recommended Infinite Jest to me, but told me to buy an e-reader specifically for that book. I got the book itself, and I wish I would have listened to him. It literally occupies half the volume of my backpack, and my arms get tired holding it in my usual reading position.

calebmonDec 22, 2016

1. Nexus (Ramez Naam)

2. Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)

3. The Fellowship of the Ring (J. R. R. Tolkien)

4. The Sin of Certainty (Peter Enns)

5. The Bible Tells Me So (Peter Enns)

6. Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations

7. Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)

8. Elantris (Brandon Sanderson)

9. A Wild Sheep Chase (Haruki Murakami)

10. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami)

11. Freedom TM (Daniel Suarez)

12. Lightning (Dean Koontz)

13. Daemons (Daniel Suarez)

14. Foundation and Earth (Isaac Asimov)

15. Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

16. Fear and Loathing in Las Veges (Hunter S. Thompson)

17. Foundation's Edge (Isaac Asimov)

18. The Doors of Perception (Aldous Huxley)

19. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson)

20. Tortilla Flat (John Steinbeck)

21. The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson)

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