Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" by Cory Doctorow. I figured I'd kick off my monthly recommended book to read with a novel that I think captures the social trends that are transforming our society thanks to the technology of social media. In this book, Mr. Doctorow paints a vision of the future where society is based on the concept of social capital. Keep in mind as you read this that the book was published in 2003, the same year MySpace launched as a social networking site and one year before Facebook even appeared on the scene.
This book has had a ripple effect beyond just its value as fiction. Like many compelling visions of the future, people have already begun to try and realize it. Things that will make more sense after you read the book are Tara Hunt's book, "The Whuffie Factor," and the website www.thewhuffiebank.org. Also, while she doesn't reference the book, Rachel Botsman's TED talk on collaborative consumption is clearly influenced by the same trends Doctorow has tapped into; around 14:35 is where she really gets into this. After you read the book, be sure to go and check out sites like StuffPal, SXSW 2011 darling GroupMe, and read Augmented Reality in a Contact Lens to see how close we are to being technically able to do what he proposes.
I think Doctorow, who is also the founder of the popular website BoingBoing, is probably one the most important writers you've never heard of. He is one of the people dreaming the dream of the future and inspiring people to make it a reality. Like the technology of Star Trek, which we've seen people spend the past forty years trying to bring to life and rapidly succeeding in the past few years, Doctorow's visions are ones that people are adopting and taking on a life of their own.
So give "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" a read and Rachel Botsman's TED Talk a watch, and then tell me what you think.
Note: the link to the book on Amazon.com contains and affiliate code. This means if you happen to buy the book from that link, I earn a few pennies. This has in no way influenced my decision to recommend this book.