Shelf #10 Complete, On to Shelf #11

I know I said I was going to read slowly and deliberately, but Sweet Land Stories was an extremely fast read. I’m not quite sure how to describe this collection, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. Each of the stories was pretty disturbing and tackled various types of moral ambiguity. What tied them all together was the question of why people go along with things that are not in their best interests or in many cases reprehensible. And why do so many people make excuses for those who do horrible things? My favorite story was “Walter John Harmon,” which was about a religious cult led by a con artist. The members of the cult refused to see the truth and found ways to continue to venerate Walter John Harmon even after his betrayal was clear. This collection was published in 2004, but there were so many parallels to what is going on today. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

Reading this satisfied two challenge categories: “Sweet or Spicy” and “read a book based solely on the title.” They fit together nicely. It would have also worked for “door on the cover,” but I have other books that will satisfy that.

Now for shelf #11!

I plan to read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe because of the reviews and because it has a door on the cover! I like letting the reading challenges guide me because deciding what to read from this shelf would have been extremely difficult without them. It’s highly likely that I’ll get through all my fiction shelves before I finish the reading challenges. I’ll have to come up with a new plan once my shelf challenge is complete!

Books I’ve read:

  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  • Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi
  • The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
  • You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter
  • Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book Review: Verified by Mike Caulfield & Sam Wineburg

Today, I finished reading Verified: How to Think Straight, Get Duped Less, and Make Better Decisions about What to Believe Online by Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg for Nonfiction November’s “Web” prompt.

I consider myself a very savvy person when it comes to navigating information online. I’ve been teaching high school English for almost 24 years, and I have master’s degrees in Classroom Technology and Library and Information Science. I love teaching research skills, especially evaluating information for credibility and bias, mostly because I’ve seen so many people I care about get sucked into misinformation and easily debunked conspiracy theories. Because I know the information landscape is constantly changing, I do my best to keep up. When I saw that Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg were releasing a book, I knew I had to have it immediately, because I’ve used their work with my students and when preparing professional development for my colleagues. 

I’m familiar with Caulfield’s SIFT method, and Verified provides many examples of how to use it in different contexts. As a longtime fan of the CRAAP test, I appreciated learning why checklists don’t hold up, and why the SIFT method is a faster and more reliable alternative. I may be most grateful for the chapter on Wikipedia because so many of my students and colleagues are not aware of how far it has come or what a valuable tool it can be. As I was reading, I kept marking pages with ideas that could be turned into activities for students (and possibly colleagues), and I see myself sitting with this book as I revise and update my research lessons. I learned a lot from the chapter on advertising because I found out that there’s so much I didn’t know about online advertising, especially native advertising. Caulfield and Wineburg also address AI in the postscript and explain how the SIFT method holds up in the face of AI generated disinformation. 

This book is extremely accessible and would be valuable for anyone who wants to be smarter in how they approach the information they encounter online. For those of us who teach research, it’s a must read.