Sum by David Eagleman

IIMG_2280  came across this book a while back, it was featured on one of the many sites I frequent. I am not sure what made me want to read it other than it did sound a little strange. In fact I was not 100% sure what it was about, which if you read my reviews, is nothing out of the ordinary.

David Eagleman is a writer and neuroscientist from New Mexico. Eagleman has quite the impressive resume. He studied at Rice University and Baylor, has been featured in many prominent magazines such as The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, and the Texas Observer. He has also been featured on the television shows The Colbert Report and Nova Science Now. He seems to be quite popular and have his hand in quite a few different media outlets. Sum was his first book and it was very successful, which is quite an accomplishment for a few reasons. The main one being that it was his first book, the other is that it was slightly over 100 pages, which makes the book all the more interesting given its genre. It was named to Amazon’s best of for 2009 as well as Barnes and Noble’s best of, it was also named to Time reading list for the summer of 2009. Eagleman has written and published five books and a sixth is due out in January of 2016.IMG_2279

This book is very hard to describe, and I have seen that it is in the “speculative fiction” genre, which means very little to me. The book is comprised of 40 either short stories or “tales,” as the title suggest, that have various meanings in them. The tales are very short usually only taking a page or two at most, but are packed with a variety of meanings and philosophy on different aspects of life. The stories cover a multitude of topics and ideals that can easily translate to everyday life.

This is a very strange book in the regards of trying to really pin down what it is about. Now that I have finished I am having a conversation in my head of trying to convince others to read it and it goes something like this.

“Hey so and so you have to read Sum”.

Really, I have never heard of it, what is it about?”

“That is a good question. I am not really sure, but you just have to read it.” Not very convincing I know, but nonetheless it is one you have to read to fully understand. If I am trying to fully describe it I would say that this book is mostly philosophical with metaphysical undertones with some very interesting life lessons thrown in. I would almost say that it is a self-help or some sort of motivational book, but I know that it is not. After each chapter I found myself taking a little time to think about what I had just read and the meaning of the story. It was a very interesting read to say the least.

What I found most fascinating about the story is that each one is very short, which I have already mentioned. But what is really cool is how Eagleman can find a way to put so much meaning and thought provoking substance into a story that cannot be more than 300 words. I would struggle to write a single story with these parameters, much less 40. The way in which Eagleman writes is different to say the least and the ideas for each story and the book as a whole are truly one of a kind.

I also liked that some of the stories had a sifi feel to them, which again sucked me right into them. I found myself wanting more from a few of the stories, wondering what else is happening in this vivid world. This book has so many different aspect to it that it is truly hard to put them all down in a single review. Something else I wanted to mention is that the book does mention God, or some sort of deity in almost every story. I found myself wondering how religious Eagleman was and what his inspiration was to write the book, as well as his religious affiliation. After a little research I found that he is Possibilian, which his part of his own philosophy he calls Possibilianism. Check out the link, it is a pretty interesting read in its own right and might warrant a Random Thoughts post in the coming weeks.

I recommend this book, it a very interesting read for a variety of reasons. There are so many new and interesting thoughts that will have you unable to sleep as your mind tries to digest them all. It is certainly one of the more interesting ideas in general, for the concept of a book, that I have read this year. The good thing is that this book is very short, just over 100 pages, so you will not spend much time on it, but the time you do spend will be well worth it. I have read books that are multiple hundreds of pages long that go nowhere and seem to be endless in the nothingness and lack of thought provoking ideas they provide. Despite its modest page count, there are countless hours of lessons, new ideas, and whole worlds to discuss and ponder. Not a word or page is wasted in this one.


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