• The Good: Scifi, humor, all-around madness
  • The Bad: You may have to read this document in triplicate
  • The Literary: Epitome of its genre

On a Thursday morning, Arthur Dent discovers his house is set to be demolished to make way for a new motorway bypass. Coincidentally, the same fate awaits the planet Earth. Arthur Dent’s friend, out of work actor and contributing writer to The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Ford Prefect, convinces Arthur to join him for a pint instead of laying down in front of a bulldozer, and together they hitch a ride aboard an alien spaceship moments before Earth’s destruction.

There exist a few singular stories that you read in a lifetime that set the bar for all other stories to come. Two decades ago, at the impressionable young age of seventeen, I picked up the five-book trilogy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it blew my mind. Now, highly educated, well traveled, and significantly more well read, I approached this book again hesitantly, not wanting to disturb the nostalgia I hold for it.

The story asks humanity’s oldest and most philosophical questions. Why are we born? What’s our purpose? What is the answer to the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything? And then proceeds to answer them with absurdist slapstick humor. You might assume this comes across as flippant and cheeky, and maybe it does, but it also manages to soothe those deeply worrisome existential quandaries that, when seriously considered, keep you up at night. Why let the anxiety of living get you down when you can marvel at the beauty of a Norwegian coastline, eat a toasted sandwich, or wrap yourself in the most useful of all inventions—a towel.

If you like scifi, this 1979 book showcases digital books, touchscreens, sentient AI, robots, and FTL travel, to name a few. You’ll be surprised just how many scifi references and quotable one-liners originate here. Combined with the dry absurdist humor, (infinitely) improbable plot lines, and memorable characters, this is a must-read classic. In addition to bumbling, naive Arthur and matter-of-fact Ford, you’ll meet the two-headed, three-armed, over-confident galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox, fellow Earthling  and physicist whom Arthur once tried to pick up at a cocktail party Trillian, Marvin the paranoid android, and many more.

Highly recommended for any ape-descended life form that still thinks digital watches are a pretty neat idea! Stephen Fry does a fantastic narration.