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Richard Powers Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance (1985)Description / Buy at Amazon
Prisoner's Dilemma (1988)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Gold Bug Variations (1991)Description / Buy at Amazon
Operation Wandering Soul (1993)Description / Buy at Amazon
Galatea 2.2 (1995)Description / Buy at Amazon
Gain (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
Plowing the Dark (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Time of Our Singing (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Echo Maker (2006)Description / Buy at Amazon
Generosity (2009)Description / Buy at Amazon
Orfeo (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Overstory (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
Bewilderment (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction(1954)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Future Dictionary of America(2004)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers(2005)Description / Buy at Amazon
Ways of Hearing: Reflections on Music in 26 Pieces(2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Richard Powers is an American author that writes novels which explore the impact science and technology have on ordinary life. Powers has won numerous awards for his fictional works.

Richard Powers was born in 1957 in Evanston, Illinois. He was only one of five children and Powers remembers never feeling quite at home wherever he went. The author came from a working-class family with a father who held the position of principal at a high school.

His sense of isolation more than likely emanated from all the changes to his living situation that kept manifesting whenever the family would move. When Richard Powers’ parents moved them to a heavily Jewish neighborhood in North Chicago, Powers remembers being one of only a few kids who would show up at school during the Holy Days.

But then the family migrated to Bangkok when he was eleven, and Powers realized that his struggle to assimilate to North Chicago’s Jewish streets had been a far smoother experience. Thailand opened the author’s eyes to an entirely alien culture.

The move came about because Powers’ father was asked to undertake an appointment at an International School. The United States had a heavy military presence in Asia at the time and the services of people like Powers’ father were heavily sought after.

Powers was compelled to start hunting for a sense of belonging within him, one that was independent of his external circumstances. This he found in his love for music. At first, the author was satisfied to simply experiment with the Cello, going so far as to undertake training to master the instrument.

But as time went on, Powers also took to the guitar and the clarinet. He also mastered the saxophone, eventually going on to pursue training in vocal music. Within those years, reading came into the picture.

The author had a reckless curiosity that, he found, could only be sated by the stories in which he lost himself. Though, it is worth noting that fiction was a late addition to Richard Powers’ pool of interests.

As a young precocious fellow, the author was initially drawn to nonfiction. The Illiad and the Odyssey would eventually shape his reading habits. But at the start, Powers was enamored with science and biographies.

Few kids Powers’ age could have boasted of reading ‘Voyage of the Beagle’ by Darwin in Fourth grade. Most people who knew Powers were not particularly shocked when he began to take an avid interest in scientific careers, with his preferences ranging from paleontology to archeology.

Nothing got Powers in his teenage years quite as excited as stories of scientific exploration and excellence. He vividly remembers the roiling emotions the Sputnik launch ignited within him.

It came as quite a shock to his friends and family when, as he matured, Powers’ interest in science began to falter. It wasn’t that Powers no longer found inspiration in the field. Rather, while his love for the sciences had only grown stronger in his teenage years, Powers’ interest in the arts had thrived just as powerfully.

The author found himself in a position where he had to choose between science and art. Science seemed to win out when Richard powers joined the University of Illinois to study Physics in 1975.

But then the author met a charismatic teacher whose reasoning convinced Powers that his critical approach to life would be best served by a pursuit of literature.

His decision to change his major from Physics to English did not come easy. But Powers was convinced to take the drastic course of action when he peered into the future that his career in the sciences would afford him and he realized that the field would encourage him to take an intolerably specialized course, something that was anathema to Powers who had always wanted to acquire an aerial view of the world.

So Powers threw himself into literary studies, coming across and consuming the works of James Joyce, Thomas Mann, and their ilk; after earning his M.A in the late 1970s, the author considered pursuing a Ph.D. in humanities, but he changed his mind when he realized that such a path would only lead him down the same path of specialization that had chased him out of the sciences.

For a little while, Powers moved to Boston and began to do computer work, primarily programming. His day job kept him pretty busy but he always found the time to read, experimenting with a wide variety of subject matter from sociology to political science and even hard science.

The author took his first step towards publishing success when he visited an exhibit in the Museum of the Fine Arts, saw a photograph of three Westerwald Farm Boys heading to the dance and got inspired to write ‘Three Farmers’, his first novel.

It took Richard Powers almost three years to finish the book. But the desire to write it was so strong that Powers quit his job just so he could focus. That one book catapulted the author into the public eye, garnering the attention of industry professionals and marking Powers out as a rising star.

+The Echo Maker
When Mark Schulter flips his truck and slips into a coma, his sister Karin comes back home to take care of him; when Mark finally awakens, he becomes convinced that the woman nursing him back to health is an impostor.

She speaks and acts like his sister but Mark proclaims that she is not the real Karin. Karin calls upon Gerald Weber, a famous neurologist who tries to dismiss Mark’s claims as the ramblings of a sick man with a bizarre brain disorder.

But the further he digs into Mark’s case, the more difficult it becomes for Gerald to maintain his own sense of being.

+Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance
August Sander took a picture of three young men in 1914 as they made their way to a country dance. The picture captured a singular moment of innocence that would soon be lost as the First World War loomed over the Horizon.

In this Richard Powers story, a young narrator discovers and obsesses over the photo.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Richard Powers

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