Quick, before they’re all made into movies and TV shows!

Still Dreaming: A Guide to the Essential Philip K. Dick Books

Philip K. Dick/Photo © Nicole Olivieri Panter

The visually striking “Blade Runner 2049” plunges audiences back down a futuristic rabbit hole mingling noir sensibilities with artificial beings living among people who want to eliminate them. But this sequel to 1982’s “Blade Runner” goes way beyond cat-and-mouse suspense to explore what makes us human.

Author Philip K. Dick loved to ponder alternative universes and question reality over his forty-four novels and roughly 120 short stories, merging science fiction with philosophy. Since his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which inspired the original “Blade Runner,” Hollywood has mined his works for ideas, often expanding just nuggets into films.

Dick can be a dense read or a head trip, but this member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame has thoughts on world building that are as relevant today as they were in 1978. “[W]e live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups,” he said in a speech that year. “So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people …. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

The cover of the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick

The film adaptation of this Nebula Award nominee introduced mainstream audiences to the terms blade runner (a type of bounty hunter) and replicant (an artificial person). Fans of Blade Runner might love to compare how it veers from the book, with sequences such as protagonist Rick Deckard being arrested by a police precinct of androids. Deckard’s empathy remains intact: “The electrical things have their lives too, paltry as those lives are,” he notes.

The cover of the book Time Out of Joint

Time Out of Joint

Philip K. Dick

Dick references Hamlet in the title of this 1959 novel, which might remind readers of the film “The Truman Show.” A man who thinks he lives in a quiet community finds reward in being a crossword puzzle champion. This mild brain teaser, however, turns out to be a ruse for a greater task only he can do – something that would devastate him if he knew the truth. This read offers a good taste of Dick’s favorite themes and frequent setup of an ordinary person watching his life unravel.

The cover of the book The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

Philip K. Dick

Amazon adapted Dick’s 1962 Hugo Award-winning novel into an acclaimed TV series, now entering its third season. It imagines the Axis powers – chiefly Nazi Germany and Japan – won World War II and have established totalitarian rule in the United States.


The cover of the book Clans of the Alphane Moon

Clans of the Alphane Moon

Philip K. Dick

Based on Dick’s short story “Shell Game,” this acerbically comic novel establishes a caste-like society on a distant moon comprised of people with various mental illnesses playing to their strengths. (The paranoiacs are the statesmen and secret police. Those with mania are warriors. The schizophrenics are poets or religious visionaries, and so on.) Dick, who during his life wrote and spoke about his own hallucinations, also includes characters such as a telepathic slime mold.

The cover of the book Ubik


Philip K. Dick

Chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 greatest novels since 1923, this “existential horror story” written in 1966 and published in 1969 envisions a future where psychic phenomena are common, to the point that a privacy company employs those who can block telepathic intrusions. Some of those come from the dead, who exist in a suspended state that allows them to communicate.

The cover of the book Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Philip K. Dick

Winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, this 1974 novel follows a popular TV star who wakes up one morning to learn that he’s never existed, and that the United States is now a police state following a second Civil War. The title alludes to a musical work by sixteenth-century composer John Dowland, and the plot mixes the espionage of forged identities and a life on the run with reality-warping drugs and parallel universes.

The cover of the book A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick

Director Richard Linklater adapted this 1977 novel into a well-received animated film starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downey Jr. Based partly on Dick’s experiences using amphetamines and living with addicts, the book focuses on an undercover cop who loses his identity as he becomes involved with a new psychoactive drug.

The cover of the book The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick

The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick (Edited by Lawrence Sutin)

This 1996 collection presents Dick’s worldview through an impressive mix of autobiography, speculative essays, and critiques. It includes his speech “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (from which the quote above was taken) and gems such as the beginnings of his VALIS trilogy and two chapters of a proposed sequel to The Man in the High Castle.


British Writer Kazuo Ishiguro Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

Kazuo Ishiguro

by Lynn Neary, October 5, 2017, first appearing on npr: Books Blog

The Swedish Academy chose Kazuo Ishiguro as the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday, October 5. Ishiguro’s most well-known work is likely The Remains of the Day, a 1989 novel.

Click here for a transcript of the awards ceremony.

George Saunders Wins Man Booker Prize For ‘Lincoln In The Bardo’

George Saunders Book

Author George Saunders poses with his book Lincoln in the Bardo at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Monday. On Tuesday, he was announced as the winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Chris J. Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images

by Camila Domonoske, October 17, 2017, first appearing on npr Blog

American author George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a polyphonous meditation on death, grief and American history.

Saunders, widely lauded for his short stories, was considered the favorite to win the award. His novel centers on the death of Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son Willie and the night that Lincoln reportedly spent in the graveyard, devastated by his grief and lingering by his son’s body.

In the book, Saunders weaves fragments of historical documents (both authentic and imagined) with the voices of ghosts trapped in the graveyard with young Willie, watching in wonder at the strength of his father’s love. The devastating toll of the Civil War is the backdrop for the scene of very particular loss.

Lola Young, the chair of the panel of judges that awarded the Booker Prize, called the novel “utterly original,” praising the narrative as “witty, intelligent, and deeply moving.”

In February, Saunders told NPR that he carried the idea for the novel around with him for 20 years — although he wasn’t sure it would be a novel at all.

“Four years ago, I was like, ‘Jeez, this has been bothering me all these years, maybe it’s time to give it a try,’ ” he said. “And I kind of almost had a contract with this book. Kind of like, don’t bloat up on me — be a story if you can be a story. If you can be a nice paragraph, that’s fine. So I kind of kept it on a short leash, but it just kept growing, so I finally said, ‘OK, you are what you are.’ “

Saunders explained that the “bardo” of the title is a Tibetan concept for a sort of transitional zone — a space between death and whatever comes after, in the world of the novel.

This is the second year in a row that an American has taken home the prize — in a year when U.S. authors made up 50 percent of the short list.

The Man Booker, one of the most prestigious prizes in literature, has been awarded annually since 1969. It comes with a £50,000 (nearly $66,000) cash prize and is generally associated with a substantial boost in sales for the winning book.

The award was originally reserved only for writers from the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth (countries that were once part of the British empire), but four years ago, the prize was opened up to Americans.

Last year, the prize went to Paul Beatty for The Sellout. It was the first time the Man Booker had been awarded to an American.

Dont’ You Cry – Book Discussion with the author, Mary Kubica

IL Reads - Don't You Cry

I bet it’s a great book, but I tell you, that title does not make me feel like something good is about to happen.

Where to Start: The 7 Must-Read Sherlock Holmes Stories

Sherlock Statue

Sherlock Holmes statue in London, England/Photo © Shutterstock

“Elementary,” “Sherlock,” “House,” “Sherlock Holmes”: These are just some of the more obvious adaptations of the great series of work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made in recent years. If you are a fan of any one of these, or if you are simply looking to dive into classic literature that has shaped detective-storytelling for decades, here is a cheat sheet for the must-read stories from Doyle’s fantastic collection of works.

1. A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet
If you want to acquaint yourself with Sherlock Holmes and his partner-in-crime-solving, Dr. John Watson, you should really start at the beginning. Doyle’s characters are still taking shape in this first tale, but it’s truly essential to set up the rest of the stories. In it, we learn how the pair came to meet and work together, and are introduced to Sherlock’s idiosyncratic and ingenious ways.

2. The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four
Also a good place to start, “The Sign of Four” explains how Watson came to be married: a key point in the relationship between the two men. Watson as the domesticated man is a stark contrast to Holmes’s independent and disconnected nature, and is often depicted in – and at the core of – various adaptations of Doyle’s work.

3. The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

A Scandal in Bohemia
The first story in the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, this may not be Doyle’s longest tale, but it has left quite a lasting impression as the only piece to reference “The Woman” Irene Adler. Doyle’s stories frequently refer to “women’s intuition” and many of his female characters are perceived as quite clever (if not, perhaps, untrustworthy), but only Adler has gone on to be repeatedly portrayed in television and films as one of the people held highest in Holmes’s esteem. For anyone interested in the character’s origins, “A Scandal in Bohemia” is essential.

Other stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes worth noting are: The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Man With the Twisted Lip, The Speckled Band, and The Copper Beeches.

4. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Final Problem
Brought to the reader in the final story of the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, James Moriarty is considered to be the arch-nemesis of detective hero Sherlock Holmes. He is described by Holmes as the “Napoleon of crime” and the only man to match him in wit. Simply put, no list of Holmes must-reads would be complete without the tight but significant story of their battle at the falls of Reichenbach.

Other stories from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes to consider adding to your list are The Gloria Scott, The Greek Interpreter, and The Naval Treaty.

5. The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Written after The Final Problem but set before, The Hound of the Baskervilles is probably Doyle’s most famous Holmes adventure and therefore should not be missed. Rather than a short, Hound is a longer novel like A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four and an enjoyable romp of a mystery that stands alone better than any other Holmes work.

6. The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The Empty House
For reasons that shall not be spoiled for newbies, Watson goes several years without documenting Holmes’s cases. The two are finally reunited in this first story of the collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes. You will be delighted by Watson’s joyful reaction to his friend’s reappearance, and this short will lead you directly into a new series of adventures for the pair including The Dancing Men and The Three Students.

7. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

The Three Garridebs
In the final collection of short Holmes stories, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, lies a small narrative called The Three Garridebs. The case itself is not necessarily the most fascinating of Doyle’s work, but it is in this particular story, when Watson is suddenly injured, that Sherlock’s true affection for his only friend is revealed. It is a lovely note on which to end such a wonderful anthology of works, as it is really where the stories began: a surprising, and perfect, friendship. And that is why the small tale should find its way to your must-reads.


There are a great deal more Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson stories beyond what we’ve featured on this list, and all are worth exploring. These choice titles, however, should not be skipped and will offer the perfect introduction to Doyle’s sharp and highly revered world. If you’re a smart reader looking for something classic but fun, the decision to start these delightful tales should be rather, well, elementary.

Exoneree Diaries with Alison Flowers

Join us for this discussion with the author about her work and issues it addresses.

IL Reads - Exoneree Diaries