24-Hour Bookclub: These Days by Jack Cheng

Reading Time: 2 minutes

24-Hour Bookclub

I just found out about 24-Hour Bookclub, an online reading flashmob that sounds like a whole lot of fun. It was started by Diana Kimball nearly a year ago, when she decided to read James Gleick’s The Information in one day while tweeting about the experience. I learned of it because of their next book: These Days by Jack Cheng.

These Days by Jack ChengI don’t remember how I first heard of These Days, but after I came across Cheng’s Kickstarter campaign last summer and read the 4-page sample, I was hooked. The story is about a guy who’s completely immersed in digital culture who meets a girl who doesn’t even have a cell phone, and the book is an exploration of technology and how it affects (and is affected by) our relationships with each other. I got my Kickstarter-backed copy (the dead-tree version, naturally) in April and thoroughly enjoyed it. Kimball compares it to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, another book that deals with technology, except that These Days is more introspective, a quiet indie drama instead of a fast-paced high-tech thriller.

Cheng not only wrote the book but also designed it, and his Kickstarter updates (most of which were posted after the campaign closed) offer wonderful insights into the process of creative work, indie vs. traditional publishing, and more. Even before I got the book itself I already felt like I’d just about gotten my money’s worth. The hardcover was specially printed for the Kickstarter (and it’s bizarre to hold a printed book like this with no barcode on it anywhere, no ISBN, almost as if it’s a prop for a furniture store) but you can still get the book on Kindle or in paperback.

And here’s why you should: first, because it’s an excellent book. Cheng is a gifted writer and the book is well-crafted—the story is engaging and the writing itself is superb. Although his two main characters have very different approaches to technology, Cheng is careful neither to glorify nor demonize technology, choosing instead to show both its possibilities and its limitations. I do have to admit that, having gotten married right out of college, I did find it hard at times to relate to the life of young single people in New York, but that’s a relatively minor complaint.

The other reason you should go buy it now is because Kimball and Co. will be tackling These Days this coming Sunday, June 9, so it’s a perfect opportunity to read a really great book. It seems entirely appropriate for a book about technology and relationships to have a real-time online book discussion. (I suppose, for completeness, there should also be an entirely off-line book club happening at the same time.) Follow along on Twitter and use the hashtag #24hourbookclub.

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