"[I]f I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week…The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." --Charles Darwin

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rip this book now!

The first thing you need to know about the novel Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is that you can read the entire novel, right now for free, and so can your students, if they have internet access.

The second thing you need to know is that a large proportion of your students will really like this book. It is, after all, all about adolescent rebellion, and rebellion that succeeds.

The third thing you need to know is that the subject of the book is one of the most important challenges and debates facing our democracy today: the tension between increased security against terrorism and individual liberty.

The fourth thing is that it is entertaining and fast-moving. Some things are a bit over-explained, but that seems to be a feature of YA fiction, and it makes sense because so few of my students seem to be aware of how things work outside of their own very narrow world. Partly this is a function of youth in general, but we are also developing into a more and more insular society, cocooning our kids away from reality. Which is one fun and liberating aspect of this book--the high school-age characters in the book are able to move freely around the greater San Francisco area where the story is set, and are quite knowledgeable about the city and its 20th-century cultural and political history.

The point is, if you wanted to (and were permitted to) teach this book, you would not need to allocate one penny to acquire copies, because here it is free on the Internet in every format you want, plain text, html, .pdf, iPhone, Kindle, Palm, even an embeddable Facebook version, and many more.

Not only does author Cory Doctorow, host of the very entertaining site BoingBoing, invite readers to reformat the book, he even invites remixes, mash-ups, parodies and fanfic--which could be a leaping-off place for a writing assignment for your students.

The book is not perfect--I have my own demurrals--but it is intelligently written, with much reliable information on encryption and security. In any case, it is thought-provoking and likely to spur reflection and discussion in your class. If you doubt me, go ahead and read it yourself. It won't cost you a dime.

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