Review of The Circle by Dave Eggers

GoodReads Summary: 
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Review:
The Circle was both gripping and eerie. When I first started reading this novel, I felt a similar sinking feeling in my stomach as I did when I started B.A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors. I knew something was off, but I could’t figure out what was exactly making me feel so uneasy. The descriptive language that Egger uses is unique and crucial to creating this world within The Circle that the reader quickly recognizes as too good to be true but somehow seems unstoppable.

Through this ultra-connected dystopia, Eggers makes some very important social commentary, by showing just how damaging this can be. He clearly demonstrates how easily we can get caught up in our online presence that we lose touch with our ability to converse in real life with out the added “watchers” of people in our social networks. Furthermore, we have gotten to the point where we are more willing to spend hours stalking someone on social media to find out more about a person instead of simply communicating with them directly, just as Mae felt the need to do as the novel progressed. Mercer’s character also demonstrates just how resistant some people can be to technological advances. Although in this particular case Mercer rightfully recognized the ramifications of The Circle, his actions speak volumes about individuals in today’s society who resist both social change and technological advances on principle.

As for the main character, Mae Holland, I was quite disappointed with her. She seemed so strong-willed and capable of beating to her own drum even within the confines of The Circle that I firmly believes that she would be this story’s heroine. However, the way in which she was so easily absorbed into the faux-community culture and inner workings of The Circle despite seeing all that it was capable of was extremely frustrating to me. The Circle cost her so much, including her parents, that it was just hard for me to respect her as the novel went on.

Overall, I was absolutely fascinated with this book. Although it was published a few years ago, I feel as though the social commentary that this novel makes is even more relevant now as we continue to become increasingly connected in today’s world. If you’re looking for a book that is somewhere between George Orwell’s 1984 and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Pretties, and Specials trilogy, I would highly recommend The Circle by Dave Eggers.

4 out of 5 stars

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Review of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

After the results of the 2016 election, I found myself asking one question repeatedly: how did this happen? I was very troubled by the fact that many of my fellow Americans voted for a man who, in my opinion, used incredibly hateful rhetoric during a campaign that was otherwise filled with a lack of productive ideas to move this country forward. However, through my own frustrations and disappointment with Mr. Trump, I failed to genuinely consider how some of what he said may have been exactly what many middle Americans had been waiting to hear for a long time. To begin to understand his appeal to voters in the Rust Belt, I reached for J.D. Vance’s memoir entitled Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. 

In this memoir, Vance eloquently chronicles his life growing up in the poor Appalachian town of Middletown, OH. Through the lens of his rather tumultuous childhood Vance offers poignant sociological commentary on the inner workings of the white working class and its overall decline over the past four decades.

JD Vance writes in a way that is incredibly thought-provoking and moving. His story humanizes a group of people that are often cast aside and misunderstood, especially by New Englanders and people of color like myself. As he reveals his complicated family life and struggle with living at or below the poverty line, Vance astutely draws connections between the problems facing the white working class and other extremely marginalized groups such as African Americans. Furthermore, his introspective reflection on the impact that “hillbilly culture” has on upward mobility was particularly interesting and important to my understanding of the Vance family and the white working class in general.

Ultimately, I reached for this book to lean about a group of people that I may have jumped to conclusions about, and Vance did not disappoint. I realized that many of the experiences that many members of the white working class with shared with some of the other marginalized groups in this country. If you’re looking to read a truly eye-opening story that will leave you with a greater understanding of your fellow Americans in Appalachia, look no further.

5 out of 5 stars

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“To understand the significance of this cultural detachment, you must appreciate that much of my family’s, my neighborhood’s, and my community’s identity derives from our love of country…Mamaw and Papaw taught me that we live in the best and greatest country on earth. This fact gave meaning to my childhood. Whenever times were tough–when I felt overwhelmed by the drama and the tumult of my youth–I knew that better days were ahead because I lived in a country that allowed me to made the good choices that others hadn’t…If Mamaw’s second God was the United States of America, then many people in my community were losing something akin to religion. The tie that bound them to their neighbors, that inspired them in the way my patriotism had always inspired me, had seemingly vanished…President Obama came on the scene right when so many people in my community began to believe that the modern meritocracy was not built for them.”
-p. 189-91.

January Wrap Up and February Focus/TBR

Happy February Everyone! I wanted to post a quick recap of what I read over the course of this past month and what my reading focus is for the month of Feb.

January Wrap Up: 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
5 out of 5 stars

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5 out of 5 stars

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur
5 out of 5 stars

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
4.5 out of 5 stars

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
2 out of 5 stars (DNF)
release date: 2/7 

The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens
5 out of 5 stars

The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens
3.5 out of 5 stars

Currently Reading: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

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Throughout February, I intend to read books that discuss the black experience from a variety of different perspectives. As a person of color, I find it very important to read black voices and understand the issues of the past and the current issues plaguing the black community. Therefore, it is my goal this month to incorporate as many books by black authors and the black experience in general into my seemingly never-ending TBR list/NetGalley request list.

As always, let me know in the comments below what you’re most excited about reading this month!

xx -zo