Cal Newport aims to do for our digital clutter what Marie Kondo has done for our physical clutter—show us how we can thoughtfully minimize it to lead happier lives. In Digital Minimalism, Newport leads readers through an initial 30-day “digital declutter” process that helps them to organize their digital lives and identify what has meaning for them. Being a digital minimalist isn’t about going fully analog. It’s about knowing how much is enough, and using technology as a tool to support your personal values. If you find it difficult to hold a long conversation without glancing at your phone, or you don’t know how people manage to unplug for even a day: this book is for you.
Scam Me If You Can
Former con artist Frank Abagnale is now one of the world’s leading experts on cyber security. He knows how scammers steal money and personal information, and he knows how to prevent it. In this book, he teaches readers how to keep themselves safe in the digital era. Learn how to protect your phone from hackers, what not to post on social media, how to safely use a WiFi network at the airport, and more. Let him brief you on protecting yourself from crime in the digital era.
Language is always evolving, and it’s evolving especially fast now. Do we even use periods anymore? Do you prefer LOL or lol? While it may seem to older generations like the internet is killing communication, linguist Gretchen McCulloch is here to explain why it’s changing the English language in a good way. All slang has a pattern behind it. McCulloch shows readers the patterns behind internet slang, the deeper forces shaping our linguistic choices online, and what our interactions reveal about us.
How to Break Up with Your Phone
Digital minimalism may work well for some people, but sometimes the relationship with your phone is just so toxic that you have to make a clean break. If you’re tired of always being glued to your screen, Catherine Price has the no-nonsense advice guide for you. Don’t worry, you and your phone will get back together. You’ll just spend some time learning about why apps are so addictive, and make some custom choices that will put you back in control of the phone—not the other way around.
Douglas Rushkoff is an intellectual who studies human autonomy in the digital age, and his books are accessible, insightful looks into our relationship with technology. In Present Shock, Rushkoff explains the reason your technology gives you so much anxiety: we’ve moved from an obsession with the future into an obsession with the present. Our social media is a continuous stream of information about what’s happening now, but in always catching up with it, we never seem to quite be on top of it, so we never quite get to “now.” The disconnect between our digital lives and our analog bodies keeps us in this state of present shock—an anxiety about staying current. That anxiety can lessen, though, once we understand where it’s coming from and allow ourselves to step off the media treadmill once in a while.
You Are Not a Gadget
Programmer Jaron Lanier was a pioneer in digital media and virtual reality technology. He predicted the revolutionary changes that digital technology would bring to the world, and he has seen his predictions become a reality. And now he has some critiques. With the internet influencing every aspect of our lives and becoming ever more crucial, Lanier issues a warning about elevating the “wisdom” of crowds and algorithms over the wisdom of individual humans. The programming choices we make now will dictate the future. Lanier wants to make sure those choices are thoughtful ones.
What happened to Facebook in 2016? And how did we get here? Roger McNamee gives us the answers, in this account of a company’s crisis. McNamee was an investor in Zuckerberg’s company from the early days, and few investments had made him more proud. But a series of rude awakenings changed his mind. He became aware, gradually, of how the platform was being manipulated, but his concerns were met with no action from Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg. When the news about Facebook’s role in Trump’s election broke, instead of facing the serious issue, McNamee was dismayed to see the company’s leadership treating it like a public relations problem. He teamed up with some Silicon Valley technologists who shared his concerns about the threats our platforms can pose to society when tech companies operate outside of normal constraints.
To Be a Machine
O’Connell writes an intriguing work of gonzo journalism exploring transhumanism—the movement to merge biology with technology in an effort to cheat Death. What does it mean to transcend the human condition? Are our bodies already a kind of outmoded device? The author explores the movement that has engaged some of the largest figures in Silicon Valley, including Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. He visits a cryonics facility, where some people are forestalling their own deaths, and meets an underground group of biohackers who implant electronics under their skin to enhance their senses. In his journey through the world of machines, humans, and everything in between, he uncovers more questions than answers about our digital future.
If you’re like most people, you own a smartphone, and you bring it with you everywhere. You wake up in the morning and use your phone to read the news, text a friend, or scroll through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You use your phone to date other people, to play games while you’re waiting in line, and to take all of your photos. So if you’re like most people, you find your phone indispensable. Maybe even so much that it’s taken over your life a little bit. How did we all develop this relationship with our digital technology, and why are we all so obsessed? Put the phone down for a minute and pick up one of these books to find out.
Featured image: Kei Yan Wat