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One Book, One Community selection is 'The Circle'

Mike Easterling The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A 2013 suspense novel by acclaimed author Dave Eggers that wrestles with issues of privacy in the digital age is this year's selection for San Juan College's One Book, One Community program.

"The Circle" was chosen by the One Book, One Community committee in April from a list of roughly two dozens suggested titles, said committee member Margie Sartin, who also serves as the librarian at Piedra Vista High School. Sartin said the committee's goal this year was to select a book that would initiate a good deal of discussion in the community. She believes that this story — which focuses on the experiences of a young woman who goes to work for an enormous, monolithic tech company that is less a stand-in for Google, Facebook or Twitter than it is an unholy combination of all three — certainly meets that criteria.

Sartin said she read the book in February and found it very interesting.

"It really hits home for a lot of us working in environments where our lives are 24-hour access to work," she said, explaining that she frequently has students email her with questions after she has left the school and she has to remind herself not to allow her life to be ruled by her mobile devices.

Sartin described "The Circle" as a dystopian novel, one with a setting that will remind readers of the characteristics of some contemporary companies.

"I found it really fascinating," she said.

The purpose of the One Book, One Community program is to encourage readers — not just San Juan College students, but members of surrounding communities, as well — to read the same book, then convene in a variety of settings to discuss it. Sartin said PVHS is doing its part by making "The Circle" required reading for students enrolled in the school's dual-credit program.

She said many PVHS students have checked the book out from the school's library since last spring — although she didn't have any numbers, and she hasn't had the chance to visit with any of those students to gauge their response to the book. But she's particularly interested in how those who have grown up in the digital age react to the issues raised in "The Circle," home to a powerful company that espouses an attitude of "PRIVACY IS THEFT."

"It will be interesting for them, these digital natives, in terms of how they see themselves in it in a lot of ways," she said. "It's also interesting to those of us who are a little bit older who have been through this revolution."

The story is a timely one, especially in regard to the issue of cybersecurity.

"As we see more and more talk about privacy, we wonder, 'What do these companies do with our information?' " Sartin said, explaining that many Americans may be naive about how secure their private information is, given the increased sophistication of hackers and the apparent vulnerability of the cloud. She also pointed out that while the U.S. may have some strict laws in place governing the safekeeping of private information, much of that data is stored on servers that are located in other countries.

"So there are lots of things we need to talk about," she said.

While One Book, One Community-related events are still being planned throughout the fall, including a possible visit to Farmington by Eggers, Sartin said one likely get-together is a multi-media showcase that would be open to the entire community. The SJC technology department would play a major role in that event, which is intended to expose residents to many of the ideas covered in the book.

Sartin said the choice of "The Circle" was designed partly to shake up the public's perception of the One Book, One Community program, which has featured selections in the past that dealt with such subjects as Navajo code talkers or immigration, as in the case of the 2014 selection, "The Distance Between Us" by Reyna Grande.

"We just knew we wanted something very different," Sartin said. "A lot of the responses (for possible selections) were very much like the books we have done in the past. We're hoping this will take us in a new direction."

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610 and measterling@daily-times.com. Follow him@measterlingfdt on Twitter.