8. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
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When I teach my Introduction to Literature class, we spend a day talking about narrators—First person, second person, third person; omniscient, limited, limited-omniscient; objective or subjective; reliable or unreliable. We talk about the possibilities that each type presents and the reasons that an author might tell a story using an objective, omniscient third person narrator versus a mentally unstable first person narrator. We don't really discuss what happens when a story has a dog for a narrator. But perhaps I should.
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9. Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
I've read a lot of criticism of pop culture in my life, starting with the classic Amusing Ourselves to Death by Marshall McLuhan when I was in the eleventh grade for a research paper on the effects watching television has on children. When I started teaching composition, I started giving an in-class final about violence in popular media based on two essays about video game and comic book violence, and so I did a lot more thinking about that particular critique of pop culture. However, in the back of my mind, even as I read all of this very legitimate sounding criticism, I knew there was a disconnect between what I was reading and my experience with pop culture. I knew that Buffy and Firefly were incredibly, blazingly intelligent shows with stories and characters that demanded engagement, not passivity, from their viewers. I knew from my comic book junkie friends that comics were smart and complex and referential, and from hours spent with lynxgriffin playing Kingdom Hearts and various Final Fantasy games, I knew that in moderation, there is an incredible amount of satisfaction to be gained from figuring out the puzzles, and having the hand-eye coordination to make the right move at just the right time and beat the big boss.
Therefore, it was with great interest that I borrowed this book from ghettopeach. Johnson's basic premise is simple. As media (he focuses mostly on TV and video games) grows more complex and requires more of its users, it is actually making us smarter in ways that are difficult to measure. Most of the criticism of Johnson's work comes from the fact that this thesis is difficult to prove. He attempts to do so with the data available, but even he admits that it isn't sufficient to prove anything conclusively.