Recently Read, Head-to-Head: The Word Exchange and Smarter Than You Think

As readers, we know that every book we read leaves an imprint on us and impacts the way we perceive the world. Sometimes that imprint is small enough that we are able to ignore it, but every once in a while our reading aligns in a way that allows us to really see how much our thinking has changed. 

I recently read Clive Thompson’s book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better followed closely by The Word Exchange, Alena Graedon’s new novel that centers on the dangers of technology and the loss of the printed word. It wasn’t an intentional design, but choosing the books back to back definitely had an impact on my reading experience.

The Word Exchange takes place in a near future where digital reading material has almost completely replaced print and humans are even more connected to their handheld devices, known as “Memes”, than we are today. Following the disappearance of her father, who had been working on a final edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, Anana finds herself pulled into a fight to save more than just her father’s dictionary, but the written word itself. 

While there is so much to enjoy in Graedon’s book, I found myself unable to get fully immersed in the novel’s world because I kept questioning it based on information from Smarter Than You Think. It’s a silly way to approach fiction, but I can’t account for brains doing strange things! (You can find great reviews of The Word Exchange from The Steadfast Reader, Books Speak VolumesThe Gilmore Guide to Books and Love at First Book)

Among dozens of other bits and pieces, Clive Thompson reminds us that these feelings toward technology go back as far as the invention of the printing press and even the ancient Greeks, as Socrates believed writing itself to be inferior to dialogue. Sound familiar? Truthfully, Thompson and Graedon’s books work in perfect balance of one another. If you’ve recently read and loved The Word Exchange, but find yourself coming down with “word flu” and fearing the internet, you might want to pick up Smarter Than You Think to help even yourself out

Have you ever had a reading experience changed by a book you recently read?