Charles Yu

Three works to astound your mind — and break your heart.

In his debut short story collection, Third Class Superhero, Charles Yu exploited and defied sci-fi genre conventions to create a gleaming ode to the uncanny. Now he’s back with a new book, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, that stars a time-traveling protagonist named Charles Yu. Needless to say, nimble meta-fiction maneuvers are on display. When we asked him to pick three favorites, Yu chose a trio of titles as multifarious as his own writing.

Books by Charles Yu


Tales from Outer Suburbia

By Shaun Tan

“Reading this book, I got that feeling of half-terror, half-exhilaration, that shock of recognition that I was reading something that would stay with me forever. There are fifteen of these Tales, and I am not ashamed to say I cried probably six times while reading this. (Not ashamed, but maybe a little embarrassed.) That is a remarkable stories-to-crying ratio. I’ve read good books that manage to twist the ordinary into something strange, but Shaun Tan does something much harder: he takes ordinary life and looks at it with such care and delicacy that we see how fundamentally strange it is.”


The Gone Away World

By Nick Harkaway

“The sheer density of the ideas is matched only by the inexhaustible invention of Harkaway’s language. His prose is rich and chewy and from it, he constructs one of the most vivid fictional worlds I have ever had the pleasure of entering. ‘Intoxicating’ seems to be a word commonly found in blurbs and book reviews, so I will say instead that this book is inebriating. This book will get you good and drunk, and you will have an incredible time, and instead of a hangover, it will reward your brain with about 15 extra IQ points.”


White Noise

By Don DeLillo

“Even now, more than 25 years after its publication, DeLillo’s novel is disturbingly accurate about so much: how technology has caused us to become permeated with messages from the media and advertising, and how difficult it is to be an individual thinking human in an ocean of waves and radiation. For me, no other book captures the feeling of contemporary alienation as well as this one. DeLillo is a master chemist, and in White Noise he distills the invisible atmospherics of our age: dread and anxiety.”

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