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Friday, August 12, 2016

Obama puts Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi tale ‘Seveneves’ on his summer reading list

“Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson. (Credit: William Morrow)

Seattle science-fiction author Neal Stephenson’s tale about the moon’s destruction and what happens next, “Seveneves,” has won a place on President Barack Obama’s summer reading list.

Obama, who’s beginning his summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, isn’t the only one who has put Stephenson’s 880-page novel on a short list. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates put it on his summer reading list in May. And let the record show that I featured the 2015 book in my holiday book guide last December.

“Seveneves” is the latest dense-with-detail saga from the author of “Snow Crash,” “The Diamond Age,” “Cryptonomicon,” “Anathem,” “Reamde” and the Baroque Cycle. Obama might want to pay attention to what happens to the fictional U.S. president after she finds out that the moon has been blasted apart and Earth appears doomed. (Spoiler alert: It’s not pretty.)

Stephenson has lived in Seattle for decades. Every once in a while, he’ll take on a non-book-related project, like helping out Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture or the Magic Leap augmented-reality company. He’s known to tap out the occasional tweet. But he generally takes a low public profile, all the better to focus on his writing.

Among the projects reportedly on his radar screen are a historical time-travel book that he’s co-writing with Nicole Galland, and a screen adaptation of “Seveneves.”

If Obama is aiming to finish “Seveneves” and the other books on his list during his vacation, he may have a hard time tearing himself away for golf. Here are the four other volumes the president is putting in his luggage:

  • ‘Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life’ by William Finnegan. A Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by an obsessive surfer who travels the globe.

  • ‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead. An Oprah’s Book Club novel about a young slave’s bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

  • ‘H Is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald. The naturalist and falconer weaves a story about grief and the goshawk that brought her back into the world.

  • ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins. A psychological thriller told from three points of view, soon to be a major motion picture.

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