We Review Jon Ronson's Latest Book, Plus Other Amazing Reads On The Dark Side Of The Internet
The Debrief: Probably a good time to stop Facebook stalking your ex and read one of these instead...
You probably couldn't move this weekend for reviews of Jon Ronson's latest book So You've Been Publicly Shamed (below). But he's not the only writer who's journeyed to the dark side of the Internet. Put your laptop down and read these IRL-reads (fact and fiction) about the murky truth behind the World Wide Web...
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson (Picador)
Ronson pulls off a remarkable sleight of hand here by writing with perfect comic timing about something deeply serious. Starting with his own infuriating but hilarious efforts to get rid of a fake Jon Ronson-bot on Twitter, it springboards to look at the public disgraces of Justine Sacco, Max Mosely and indeed the Salem ‘witches’ - and why these ‘shamings’ are now so fast, and so thorough. The current vogue for public lambasting online, and its repercussions on our ability to act as individuals are pertinent and serious. Ronson’s affable tone makes him the perfect navigator through these awkward new times where the old maxim that ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s fish & chip wrappers’ no longer applies.
Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked - James Lasdun (Vintage)
Originally published in 2013, this was the first (and is still the best) non-fiction look at an online ‘friendship’ going too far. Lasdun is a New York author and academic, whose brief dealings with a writing student he barely knew but tried to encourage got very far out of hand. She began stalking him online, with a thoroughness and an antisemitism that were so shocking they caused him to question if he had actually done anything wrong. His careful, clear prose, and empathetic examination of what could make someone go to such extremes give the book an almost thriller-like tone. You won’t read this without thinking about it haunting all your online behaviour for weeks.
Kiss Me First - Lottie Moggach (Picador)
No novelist really got how shaky our online identities are until Lottie Moggach created the ultimate social media nightmare story. Tess, a flighty but depressive woman decides to commit suicide - but hires the solitary Leila to maintain all of her social media sites in order to spare friends and family the pain of knowing she’s gone. Leila’s isolated lifestyle allows her to indulge the mechanics and the minutiae of keeping things up to date, but she struggles with implications of what she has got involved in. Inevitably, living ‘as’ Leila seems too good to be true, so it can only be so long before things unravel…
The Blue Nowhere - Jeffery Deaver (Hodder)
It seems extraordinary now, but Deaver’s novel about identity theft and hacking felt like science fiction when it was published in 2002. It even came with a note at the back explaining that companies really are able to collect digital data on us all! Only a fool would dismiss Deaver’s prowess as a thriller writer though, so this now serves as a juicy slice of internet history as well as a forgotten gem for the hardcore fans, or a perfect first look for those (lucky) readers who have yet to discover his ‘miss three tube stops’ level of classy thriller writing. Even when he's dated, Deaver is damn classy.
The Day We Disappeared - Lucy Robinson (Penguin)
It’s all wrapped-up like standard mass market women’s fiction, but this gem packs a proper thriller punch. The jacket tells the usual vague story about women, secrets, friendship etc, but this is really about how much you can ever know about the fruits of online dating, how easy it is for anyone to act in your name if you just leave your phone alone for five minutes, and how to come back from a big online betrayal. The tone is light and chirpy, but the fresh modern settings and the all-too-real threats and relationships gone sour make this much more than average supermarket fare.
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You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating