Andrew Keen

The Silicon Valley critic picks three vertigious reads.

After his first book, The Cult of the Amateur, was published in 2007, Andrew Keen established himself as one of Silicon Valley’s most outspoken critics, the contrarian in their midst. With his second book, Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us, Keen confronts social media, warning us that we may lose what makes us human when we post status updates on Facebook. This week, he points us to “three vertiginous books” that inform his perception of online culture.

Books by Andrew Keen


Vertigo

By W. G. Sebald

Vertigo finds W. G. Sebald at his most elusively dizzying. Simultaneously fictional and autobiographical, Sebald combines intellectual history with travel writing to fuse a radically new genre. For Sebald, the journey — whether it’s to a place or into the past — is the thing-in-itself. From Venice and Kafka to Stendhal and Vienna to Sebald’s own murky German past, Vertigo takes us to an unexplored country that, for all its strangeness, appears inevitable. Sebald’s Vertigo is the best antidote to the tweet. It’s a book that can’t be summarized in 140 pages, let alone 140 characters.”


Autobiography

By John Stuart Mill

“How ironic that this most supposedly pedestrian of 19th century figures has left us with the most dazzling of 19th century autobiographies. From his traumatic break with Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism to his ill-fated love affair with Harriet Taylor, Mill confesses like no Englishman before or since. This is autobiography as intellectual adventure, with its core being Mill’s lifelong defense of the individual in the face of mass industrial society. In our culture of the digital mob, this is as relevant today as it was in the mid 19th century. This is essential reading for anyone who cares about protecting individual liberty from groupthink and the other collaborative orthodoxies of the social media age.”


Zona

By Geoff Dyer

“Like Geoff Dyer, I grew up inside the cinema. But while I was watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Dyer was fixated on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. In Digital Vertigo, I used the excuse of social media to write about Hitchcock’s San Francisco. In Zona, Dyer uses the excuse of Tarkovsky’s dizzyingly elliptical movie to write about everything from his depressingly un-cinematic father to his desire for three-way sex. Rather than the movies of Andrei Tarkovsky, Zona is a memorable journey into the vertiginous mind of Geoff Dyer. This is playful confession by a masterly playful writer.”