circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers is the story of Mae Holland – a twenty-something working at The Circle, a GoogleAppleMicrosoft-like conglomerate that is the technology center of the country, nay, the world. Mae is awe-struck over the vastness of The Circle’s campus, and of its presence in nearly every aspect of a person’s life. After Mae’s arrival at The Circle, her colleagues push out such inventions as SeeChange (a tiny, inexpensive camera that anyone can install anywhere, including around their necks to promote transparency) and TruYouth (a tracking device injected into the bone of every infant so they can never be lost, but the device also tracks their academic standings, health records, and more). They sound harmless – helpful even – but Mae’s ex-boyfriend Mercer believes otherwise and fears The Circle’s all-encompassing control.

Mae doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid at first. She goes an entire weekend without sending one Zing (Tweet?), posting one Smile (“Like”?), or uploading pictures of her meals, her kayak trip, or of another daily activity. She is reprimanded by higher-ups who feel that her lack of posting shows she doesn’t care about sharing her experience with others. Her best friend, Annie, a heavy-hitter at The Circle, encourages her to do more with The Circle’s social scene, and Mae quickly becomes entranced by the place.

Then she goes transparent, being the first non-Congressperson to wear SeeChange for all of her waking hours. Her life is filmed, but a couple people are afraid of what will come next for The Circle, and the world, if such technology is commonplace.

The Circle is by the great Dave Eggers – Zeitoun is one of the most intriguing and affecting nonfiction books I’ve read. But unfortunately I felt this most recent one was a bit contrived. Maybe I read too much dystopia as it is, because this felt like just another on the pile. A technology company takes over the world by creating seemingly-harmless products, but those who want to maintain their privacy freak out and think it’s the end of the world. And even the “bad guys” aren’t that bad. They truly think they are doing good – keeping children safe from kidnappers, aiding in the health care system, forcing the government to be transparent and accountable for their actions – so you can’t hate them (although you do find them a bit odd and obsessed).

Recommended for:
Anyone who isn’t burned out from other dystopia or controlling-technology books. Definitely teens who like to read adult novels. Except for a couple PG sex inferences, this one is appropriate for older teens.

Read-alikes:
Machine Man
by Max Barry and Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.

1Book 1Community: learning together

It’s no big shock – to anyone who reads my blog or knows me IRL or has interacted with me for more than 6 minutes – that I like my job. I am blessed with the opportunity to create work for myself, in addition, of course, to the everyday tasks of serving patrons, covering desks, attending meetings, leading programs, etc. Some of the work I create for myself is sitting on committees. In the short 2.5 years I have been with LCPL I have saw on the Summer Reading Program committee, New Employee Orientation committee, and the 1Book 1Community committee. It is the last one that I want to tell you about today.

My first experience with LCPL’s 1Book 1Community was back in September, 2011. I had only been with Loudoun for 3 months when I was asked by the manager of the Programming Division if I would accompany her and the 1Book author – Patricia McCormick – to the Juvenile Detention Center and Douglass School. Read about my experience here.

Six months after my day with Patricia I was invited to sit on the first-ever 1Book 1Community committee. Comprised of 9 public and school librarians and teachers, the committee met 3 times to meet and learn about the title-choosing process, discuss possible titles, and vote on the title. That first year I was assigned to read The Lottery by Patricia Wood, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, The Wave by Todd Strasser, and When the Emperor was Divine by Julia Otsuka. The last one I read was the one that was ultimately given majority votes and chosen to be the 1Book. I find myself thinking of that book – and the shameful thing we did to Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II – often. It has true staying power, and I continue to recommend that title to teens and adults.

My second year as committee member began in March of this year. I recommended the titles Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Septys. Neither of my titles was chosen, but I simply adored the one that was – The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.

William is from Malawi, and just knew there was a way he could help save his family’s farm from suffering through another drought season.

I looked at my father and looked at those dry fields [in Malawi]. It was the future I couldn’t accept.

Using English-language library books and items found in the local dump, William built a windmill that successfully brought electricity to his village. You can see his TED Talk here:

I had the honor of dining with William prior to the 1Book program. He was so pleasant, so smart, and so willing to answer the questions of the 11 women who dined with him, some of whom are teachers who said William’s story inspired some of their students in ways they had never seen. In his modest manner, he simply smiled and continued talking about his studies, his experience on the farm in Malawi, his family, and his future. There were nearly 400 people in attendance at his talk. Elementary school children, seniors, families, and groups of high school students listened intently as William shared his experience, inspiration, and goals.

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Afterwards, William signed books (and even a Kindle cover! What a great idea!)

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We were very honored to welcome William to our library, schools, and community. I was honored to be a part of the 1Book 1 Community committee for 2 years. A big thank you to my mentor and friend Linda (in the picture below) for asking me to be a part of that team and passionate readers.

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My 2-year term is up, but I am already making a list of books for next year’s committee to consider. Any suggestions?

 

Review: Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Homeland by Cory Doctorow is the sequel to Little Brother, the thrilling and terrifying story of the overtaking of San Francisco by the Department of Homeland security following a terrorist attack. A group of technologically brilliant teens is missing one of their own, who is being held without reason by the DHS. Their attempts to free him include unveiling some very dirty secrets about the federal organization.

Homeland picks up a few years post-attack. Marcus is a college drop-out, following his parent’s unemployment and his own streak of bad luck following the 2008 economic crash. He and Ange are typical twenty-somethings until a not-so-friendly character from Little Brother returns and asks a huge favor of Marcus, one that leaves him struggling to stay out of the feds’ sight all the while staying true to the ethics he has lived his life by.

It would definitly be difficult to read Homeland without first reading Little Brother, so read both. Now. I was obsessed with the first, and will forever sing its praises. The second brought up even more scary ideas: our student loans are being bought up by private firms who are charging extravagent interest and late fees, even going after family members (read: not the person who took out the loan) if payments are late. Literally, people are paying thousands upon thousands more dollars because their loan happened to be purchased by a private firm.

Yeah. This is real. According to Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, the federal government will make $51 billion off student loans this year. Yeah. Billions.

I did not love Homeland the way I loved Little Brother but it is (almost) just as motivating a read. There is a boatload of technical jargon, so prepare yourself for a lesson in 3D printing and securing your Android phone. The most motivating part came at the end, the afterwords from Jacob Applebaum of Wikileaks and Aaron Swartz of Reddit (who sadly committed suicide in January…reading his name on the byline of the afterword stopped me short). He wrote of his own experience with challenging the status quo:

This is not how the system is supposed to work. A ragtag bunch of kids doesn’t stop one of the most powerful forces in Washington just by typing on their laptops! But it did happen. And you  can make it happen again.

I appreciate this kind of motivating talk from guys who’ve actyally done it. Swartz, Doctorow, and so the many techie-activisitst whose faces we will never see on book covers or websites. Their anonymity ensures their safety from the bad guys.

Recommended for:
Anyone who needs a kick in the butt. You cannot read this book and stay de-motivated and lazy. Also, for anyone interested in technology, activism, or hacker/makerspaces.

Read-alikes:
How to Lead a Life of Crime
by Kirstin Miller. Flick sees an injustice and fights against it. What begins on a small-scale (the revenge of his brother’s murder), becomes much larger when he sees how bad the bad guy’s influence actually reaches.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is the story of a group of rogue teens who run away from the organ farm their parents sent them to. Teens see an injustice and fight against it. A bit dystopic, but proves that teenagers can take a stand and make a difference.

Wednesday Reads, May 29

I introduced my weekly Wednesday segment 7 days ago, and am back for the May 29th installment of Wednesdays Reads.

I completed Talking Pictures by Ransom Riggs (and have recommended it to approximately a million friends), completed The Dirty Life (which will be reviewed on “Non-fiction Friday”), and am still working on Ruby Red which is my lunch-time read (and seeing as how I had a 3-day weekend followed by a day of school visits, I haven’t picked it up since last Thursday. That is neglect, and I should be written up.).

Of course I cannot just read/listen to one book at a time, so allow me to introduce the titles I’ve picked up recently:

14bCronin In this sequel to The Passagethe vampire-zombies are back, and each of the (like, 3 dozen) characters are attempting to find a cure, thrive, or simply just stay alive. I am listening to the audio of this, which is read by the same guy who read Devil in the White City, Tony Goldwyn. I am beginning to think he will only read creepy books. Which is fine by me, because his voice is spot-on!

 

 

 

homeland Homeland by Cory Doctorow is the sequel (woah, just realized I was reading two sequels at once…*mind blown*) to Little Brother, the fictional story of  a teenage boy’s overthrowing of the oppressive Department of Homeland Security’s reign over San Francisco post-terrorist attack. In Homeland, Marcus and his friends are back…this time trying to save another friend illegally detained.

Doctorow’s books are part how-to, part conspiracy, part cold-brew coffee recipe (no, seriously), and mostly awesome. I say mostly because man, can that dude go on some techy-tangents that go so far over my head I have to put the book down and watch some reality TV. Nevertheless, worth reading. He is the founder of the website Boing Boing which last year collaborated with libraries on Library Boing Boing. 

 

So now you know what I’m reading. As do the folks who get stuck in traffic next to me, because I listen to books as loudly as I used to listen to music. (Seriously, can audiobook creators adjust that?? I turn the volume up to 24 and then when, heaven forbid, I want to listen to the radio, I momentarily go deaf because I forget to turn it down. Come on, Recorded Books…work with me, here.)

 

What are you reading?