This author appeared at the 2009 festival. Please view the list of authors appearing at this year's festival or see our suggestions for similar authors below.
Imagine God is a species of "small, dim-witted, obtuse creatures," or a married couple. What if we died three times before we're dead? That's not all David Eagleman conjures in Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. Divided into 40 vignettes, Sum is Eagleman's trippy, vivid portrayal of what the afterlife can, and sometimes should, be like. What links his stories is his restless metaphysical curiosity and a quest to ponder the possibilities of the afterlife; every tale in the book presents a different scenario of human ability, human weakness, and how humans have conceptualized God. Eagleman, who directs the Eagleman Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, is skeptical of our received notions of the afterlife, and in Sum, he becomes an avuncular, imaginative ambassador to the afterlife. "Science is nothing but careful thinking, and careful thinking encourages an appreciation of the complexity of the world, and this complexity encourages us to maintain several possibilities in our head at once," Eagleman has written. Sum is guaranteed to stimulate readers' curiosity. Instead of understanding religion as the final answer and the destination, Eagleman calls his readers to use religion and the divine as a springboard to educated speculation. "This delightful, thought-provoking little collection belongs to that category of strange, unclassifiable books that will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned," Alexander McCall Smith wrote in the New York TimesBook Review. "It is full of tangential insights into the human condition and poetic thought experiments.... It is also full of touching moments and glorious wit of the sort one only hopes will be in copious supply on the other side."