My Current Bookshelf - December 2017

Ok, catching up with all the amazing reads that I've encountered in December.  I even finally read Foucault's book after years of reading the first 60-80 pages, again and again.  So what are the highlights in this month?
Word Cloud of this Blog Post


The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

I am late to the game with this one but I blame that on my aversion to picking up book series that aren't finished yet.  You can blame Robert Jordan for that one--and if you don't know who he is, well, imagine Lord of the Rings, like ten more books over varying lengths between 600-1000 pages; and the author dies before finishing it. So I don't like to start something unless I know it's finished and since the third book was recently published, I was excited to finally read The Fifth Season because everyone that knows me, said I should read it.  The story is a masterclass in world building and merging science-fiction and fantasy in compelling ways.  I appreciated the character development and how we are given a lens into the lives of humans that are both like us and far different.  

The premise is it is the future of Earth in a time of environmental disaster; but so far into the future that the world we know has been forgotten.  The world as presented is largely one continent (or that's all that's left) and it has several metropolis and smaller cities that have to regularly wall themselves up when it comes time for the fifth season, a time in which the weather shifts and its impossible to do grow anything or be outside.  It's different from winter in that it's not just cold but harmful.  Throughout the world, there are people known as orogenes who have a magic power that allows them to tap into the earth and ease earthquakes and other useful things.  However, these people are largely controlled, considered subhuman, and bred--a metaphor (or outright analogy as they call it out within the book) for slavery.  The story follows three different orogenes, a mother whose daughter has been killed by the father upon discovering the daughter was an orogene, a woman who has been paired with a master orogene to explore an issue in a harbor in a city, and a new student at the school where they train the orogenes.  The reader follows them as each of them comes to better understand their position in the world and find a means of resolving their orogene identity with the world at large (which is all I can say without giving away too much).    

Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy Walker

Walker provides a good collection of tips and considerations about the ways in which one might try to blend some of the best features of Finnish classrooms with American classrooms.  Acknowledging that to completely model the Finnish education system, a system that has been heralded as creating amazing changes in teaching and learning in the last few decades, is unreal since the US does not have the same values or mechanisms to transition, Walker delves into thinking about the smaller pieces that teachers themselves can easily practice or incorporate into their teacher.  His advice comes from spending several years teaching in Finland after he had taught in the US.  Some of his tips are as simple as getting students up and moving or make sure there is fresh air, while others require rethinking one's practice and being a bit more mindful in the moment.  While not all may be applicable to a given course, there are lots of ways of tweaking and adjusting the learning to change the learning and teaching experience.  I found that his suggestions, though geared for K-12, still had some applications and relevance to all learners.   

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Wachter-Boettcher's book on understanding the exclusionary power and privilege of technology is must-read for anyone who works in technology or with technology (which yes, means the vast majority of us). She moves through a variety of technologies, platforms, and systems to show how while useful, technology also privileges certain groups of people and excludes other and that if technology is going to truly meaningful and transformative, it needs to be inclusive.  She does this by look at different technology and raise questions around questions of edge-cases (people who do not fit the mold of how tech designer assume will fit into their technology or who were not prepared for such people), intentional design made to rush users rather than engage them, and how companies have histories of abusing or not protecting the information they gather on users.  It's not a call to be anti-tech but a call to be tech-conscious, tech-inclusive and tech-responsible, which is always appreciated.  Her best work is done when she illustrates how simple steps in processes and technologies illustrate innate and problematic assumptions on the side of the designers such as when name-inputs restrict the letter count (what if you have a particularly long name) or when Google search results illustrate problematic results (that typically represent racial assumptions baked into or derived from other people's use).  These help the common reader understand where these problems arrive for those that may not have encountered them or help them understand that they have indeed encountered such issues but did not realize such things were conscious design choices.  In total, it's worth checking out as many of us can benefit from thinking about the inclusivity of technology.  

Check out other reading recommendations from 2017 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads):


BOOKS

  • The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

AUDIOBOOKS

  • Hulk: Planet Hulk Prose Novel by Greg Pak
  • How the World Learns: Comparative Educational Systems by Alexander Wiseman
  • Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy Walker
  • Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher
  • Understanding Beliefs by Nils J. Nilsson
  • The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction by Michel Foucault
  • Do All Lives Matter?: The Issues We Can No Longer Ignore and the Solutions We All Long For by Wayne Gordon
  • White Working Class by Joan Williams
  • Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment by Michael Smith
  • The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber
  • I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Yoda's Secret War (Star Wars #5) by Jason Aaron
  • Archangel by William Gibson
  • The Screaming Citadel by Gillen Kieron

What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?





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