And Another Two For One!

I’m on a roll with this reading-two-books thing so here’s another two for one post. I finished two incredible and very different books and they were both so thought-provoking and everyone should read them.

Book #74 was a memoir called Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton, published by an independent house; book #75 was the much bigger and probably more widely-read The Circle by Dave Eggers, who I’ve never read before but have been wanting to read for a while now. They were both incredible, ah.

If I had a quarter for every time I played the game “would you rather?” and spent minutes debating whether I’d rather be deaf or blind (insensitive in hindsight) (but always settling on deaf), I’d be a rich lady. So the author of Cockeyed was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 18, and had to live with the fact that he would slowly lose sight from then on.

I feel like this book could have been really depressing and heavy, and at times it was. But Knighton is such a great author and storyteller who was able to spin almost every anecdote into a story that had me laughing out loud in public.

He touched on the fact that facing his disease and coping with his loss of vision led to some bitterness, but in this book he focuses more on what being blind has taught him about himself and about other people.

There are stories about passing for sighted when he’s attempting to hit on women in bars, and his first lesson learning to use his stick. It’s really poignant and touching, and his positivity is pretty incredible. He’s also lived through some really tough life events, and he offers sharp insight into coping with those. It was great and touching and mostly hilarious.

Then tonight I finished The Circle, and I know I’ll be thinking about that book for a while; already I’ve been tempted to recommend it to basically anyone I make eye contact with. This was another book that I finished while walking off the subway, which is kind of risky behavior but I just had to. It was that good.

This book is set in modern-ish times, and follows the main character, Mae, as she starts out at her new job in customer service at this company called the Circle. I felt like it was a sort of fantasy Google meets Facebook meets some online banking app that has yet to be invented.

The Circle was founded by one man who wanted to streamline the online experience; two others joined him in his business endeavor and they became ‘the Wise Men.’ The company is based in Northern California on this beautiful, sprawling campus with everything and anything you could imagine, from an organic convenience store to dorm rooms available for employees to rent for free. The perks of working for the Circle are endless.

Beyond that, I don’t want to give too much about this story away, but it was incredible and I highly, highly recommend it. It brings to light how lonely and narcissistic social media can often become, and made me think about where we’re headed in this information-sharing age.

The book escalates so quickly and effectively, and it’s especially eerie that some of the scariest things that happen in this book don’t seem like that much of a stretch with modern technology. I don’t know if this makes sense, but everyone just read it. It’s one of those books that I couldn’t wait to finish, but then once I did I was kind of disappointed. It felt important. Just read it.

SO… 25 books and 38 days to go. ◊

You might think an appetite for something called a nightclub would be a bad idea for someone called night blind. You would be right. Equally wise would be me joining a gun club. Nevertheless, to this day I owe a debt to punk rock. Its culture helped me become as blind as I was but couldn’t admit to being.”

– page 67, Cockeyed

‘It’s not that I’m not social. I’m social enough. But the tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs. No one needs the level of contact you’re purveying. It improves nothing. It’s not nourishing. It’s like snack food. You know how they engineer this food? They scientifically determine precisely how much salt and fat they need to include to keep you eating. You’re not hungry, you don’t need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you’re pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it’s equally addicting.'”

– page 134, The Circle

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