Reading List: November 2019

Here are some pieces I read in November that stuck with me.

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – This is a novel about relationships. Period. And destiny. Ishiguro asks his readers to think about how much of our lives is mapped out for us before we are even born. The circumstances in which we are born direct so much of what we are able to obtain and the gates we are able to pass through. And yet, we are still active directors of our own destiny. Those of you who know me, know that I am a huge Orphan Black fan. The essential question in stories about human cloning is: what does it mean to be human? Ishiguro’s novel explores this question in a quiet, melancholic first-person narrative that leverages memory and places the reader in an idyllic British country boarding school.

For fans of: Orphan Black, Harry Potter, Westworld

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Here’s a story I will be thinking about for a long time. Again, I’ve been reading what I would call SciFi Lite – stories that tweak our world ever so slightly, but center around the human impact rather the the scientific logistics. I had heard this novel was about a traveling Shakespeare troupe, but really this a story about human survival after a cataclysmic flu permanently alters modern society. It asks the question ‘What would happen if a flu strain so intense killed 99% of the world’s population?’. A fascinating theme in the novel is how humans pass down knowledge or skills through generations. Without the internet, what shared knowledge would we have? Would we be able to take on basic survival tasks in order to stay alive? Could we recreate electricity? Build homes?

For fans of: The board game Pandemic, Shakespeare, Lord of the Flies

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark – I found this book by accident, in a used bin outside of this small record shop in Brooklyn. It felt like one of those crazy coincidences – I’d been wanting to read more about AI, but isn’t everyone curious about how artificial intelligence could affect our near future? Tegmark begins the book with a story that imagines how an artificially intelligent computer could come to *life* and how our world could be molded by its existence. The what-if scenario isn’t as farfetched as you’d expect – in fact, I rethought how I viewed much of my online interactions after contemplating that chapter. I’m still in the process of reading this book, and imagine there will be even more to unpack in later chapters.

Read if: Alexa worries you, but you can’t quite put your finger on why.

Trailhead Home

Salesforce Trailhead’s Accessibility Module – I am currently making my way through Salesforce’s Trailhead, a free learning tool for Salesforce developers and administrators. While most of the content is Salesforce-specific, I recently completed the Accessibility Badge which is a general introduction to the disability rights movement and digital accessibility. The module introduces the learner to accessibility rights and how they apply to the web. For example, in the United States, civil rights law requires businesses that conduct their business in the public sphere to provide equal access and accommodations for people with disabilities. However, whether the internet falls under “a place of public accommodation” is currently under debate. Certainly it is a necessary tool to enjoy the full extent of today’s economy and digital society, and with many resources readily available that outline how to improve overall accessibility, there is no excuse to eschew industry standards. Progressive companies will take accessibility into account when deploying their apps and websites.

Recommended for: I recommend this tutorial if you are new to accessibility issues. They have an extensive list of further resources that I look forward to reading.

Also for: Educators interested in seeing a high-quality online learning tool. As a writer and technologist, I am often teaching what I know (or don’t know yet!) to students of all ages. Trailhead is a good example of an interactive tutorials platform that has just the right gamification to make the experience fun. You collect badges and there are adorable illustrations throughout; what more could you want from sharpening your data management skills?

What are you reading? I’ll be taking an 8-hour train ride this December and am on the lookout for reading material!

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