My friend, Nick, and I recently read “The Circle” together. Nick and I became very good friends in graduate school. We were both part of a small group of students completing the same program. Through that program we read books together, supervised each other in counseling sessions, and learned a lot about each other. When I moved to California six years ago we created our own little book club so we could continue our education together and stay in touch.
We take turns choosing the book and this time I chose: “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. My mother suggested that I read the book because, like all good science fiction, it reads like a commentary on society without reading like an op-ed piece in a newspaper.
That being said, you won’t find the book on the shelves of a bookstore or library in the “science fiction” section. While some of the science from the book may be a little ahead of our time, I’m fairly sure all of the science would be possible for today’s scientists and engineers.
The book is the story of a woman who gets a job with a company called “The Circle“. The Circle is a multi-dimensional company that functions like a conglomerate of Google, Facebook, Amazon, American Idol, and AT&T. It is a multi-platform, social media focused, panel of judges led, global company that employs many. Any job with The Circle is a prized position. The benefits that come with the position are the kind that will keep people in a company.
The main character gets a job and excels in the company. The book follows her career, her family life, and the relationships she develops at the company.
I don’t want to say too many specifics about the book – as I don’t want to take anything away from experiencing the plot line as the author intended. Therefore, I’ll just leave you with these teasers:
1) Have you ever worried about having too much of your information on the internet? Have you ever turned off your Facebook page because you felt you needed more privacy? Have you worried about the Google car mapping your house? If so … I don’t know if I should tell you to read this book to confirm some of your fears or not to read this book as it will further add to your concern. If not, I encourage you to read the book because you’ll find you’re well represented.
2) On NPR I have heard and read a variety of stories stemming from the ruling in the EU that individuals have the “right to be forgotten online”. At the end of one such article, the reporter said something like this: “Are you more comfortable in a world where you can control what can be found on the internet about yourself or in a world where other people cannot control what you can find about themselves?”
Do you often feel hurt or upset on the inside but hide that behind a mask of beauty that tells the world “I’m doing just fine?”
Do you have voices in the back of our head that tell you that you’re not good enough? That the things that failed in your life, previous relationships, work events, etc are your all your fault?
Do you love the TV show “Veronica Mars” because there was a strength, conviction, and an attitude in the character of Veronica that you could only hope to have? (No? Maybe that was just me.)
Do you question your worth or value in this thing called life? Do you work hard to be perfect at school? at work? in your marriage? with your friends?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions or to all of them, I highly suggest this book. If you haven’t heard of Brene Brown before, I highly suggest you watch the TED talk below. Her work comes from her study of shame.
One of my favorite things that Brene Brown shares in the book is this fact:
Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it—it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy.
Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Kindle Locations 279-280). Hazelden Publishing. Kindle Edition.
I have taken this fact very seriously and in the past year I have started to open up to a very select group of women and men in my life the “shameful” thoughts that I sometimes think. In some ways, these shameful thoughts are “easy” to share because I’m not being mean to other people. My most shameful thoughts are the ones I think about myself. Things such as: “If you can’t type someone’s information correctly on a registration form, how can you think that you’ll do the rest of your job adequately, let alone very well?” I give my coworkers far more grace than I give myself. I would never think that of them. But I’ve thought it to myself.
Wonderful people in my life, Chante, Karla, Sarah, Arisa, Matthew, Alex, and Jeremy (to name a few), remind me that I need to give myself the grace and love that Brene Brown teaches in this book. What the book teaches sounds like a cliche if I type it this way: “No one can be a more perfect version of you than you; AND, that YOU is pretty darn amazing!” However, when you read the book, it doesn’t ring like a cliche. It rings true. It rings like something for which to strive and for which to look internally and find it is already there.
This book is similar to “The Willpower Instinct” in that after each chapter there are questions to ponder, exercises to complete, or challenges to take to help you understand yourself better or learn to make new and hopefully healthier decisions in your life.
If you’re looking for inspiration or ideas for how to know and care for yourself better, I highly recommend this book.
If you’re not up for reading, then I highly suggest that you find some people in your life that you can be honest with about those things that you feel shame.
I’m pretty sure that if Erik Larson had written my history books in junior high that history would have been my favorite subject. In fact, I think it would be great if students would be asked to read books by Erik Larson in the classroom. Students could read the book and then he could come to talk to the students about how he does his research and his “process” for writing his books.
I recently read the book “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America“, by Erik Larson. The story revolves around the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and a serial killer who was active at the time of the fair.
If you’ve never read a book by Erik Larson, I highly suggest it. The writing is such that you do not realize that you’re reading real-life accounts of history until you notice the careful grammar that Larson uses. Quotations are used when something was found through the research that could be quoted. I cannot imagine and can only appreciate the quantity of time in the research that must go into the books that Larson writes.
The writing compels the reader to want to learn more. Are there still world’s fairs today? (Answer: yes) Is Pabst Blue Ribbon any good? (Answer: I like my beer to taste like chocolate or coffee …) Does Irvington Indianapolis still exist? (Answer: Yes, and my in-laws live there.) Actually, Irvington has a haunted celebration every Halloween and I’m wondering if the end of the book makes a special appearance in the lore behind Haunted Irvington. I need to do some research in this area.
This book inevitably leaves the reader asking questions of a philosophical nature. What does it mean for Chicago to be the “white city”? What does it mean to contrast the great achievements of people with the horrific acts of one man? Is one a natural consequence of the other?
Do you enjoy reading non-fiction history books? If so, what books do you suggest? If not, I encourage you to give Larson a try.
Is it July 15th yet?
On July 15th the third book in the “All Souls Trilogy” by Deborah Harkness becomes available for purchase. I cannot wait to lose myself in the third and final chapter of this trilogy.
You don’t know about the “All Souls Trilogy”, you say? Well, let me tell you just a little about it.
The first book in the series is called “A Discovery of Witches“. It was published is 2011. In this book, the author introduces the reader to a world very similar to the one in which you and I live. A world where people go to college and become college professors. A world where people can check out books from a library. A world where there are witches and vampires. A world where history is a place where one can travel.
Okay, so maybe it’s not quite the world we know today.
This series is a fusion of history, drama, romance, suspense, and magic. Everything you know about witches and vampires is either true or explained in very fun and entertaining ways through this series. When Deborah Harkness chooses to allow a little humor in her writing, it is well placed, well done, and kept me smiling for hours.
The quality of the writing, character development, and story telling is enough of a reason to read this series. That being said, I have another reason why I am in love with these stories. That reason is relational.
I have two strong relational connections to this book. The first is that my mother told me to read it and we have had great fun discussing the book together. It is as though we have a mother-daughter book club. The second is a connection with the author. Now, I’m by no means saying that I know the author, and she probably won’t remember the interaction I am about to speak of, but I love the author for this story:
When I finished the book, I wrote a post about it on Facebook. By this time, the book was on the best seller list and I wanted to let people know that I thought the book was worth the hype. Within a few hours, the author had posted a comment to my post. She said she was glad that I had enjoyed the book and thanked me for posting about it.
It meant a lot to me that the author had found and replied to my post. I never expected it. I hadn’t connected the post to the author or to the book like I probably would have today. I didn’t write the post for recognition but it’s a small connection that I will never forget.
Do you like to read? What types of books do you enjoy reading the most? If you don’t like to read, why not? How can you make reading, which is primarily a solo activity, more of a connectional activity for you life?