Burn Book by Kara Swisher [8/10]

A perky, opinionated, morally upright memoir about a quarter century of tech journalism in America, Kara Swisher’s Burn Book might be for you, as it was for me, a welcome, oblique retrospective on a tumultuous period of industrial and political history. One of the key journalists in this field (although I never noticed her, this does not surprise me, I paid little attention to the daily fray), she wrote for most major mastheads and then formed her own conference and news company. A glance at the front cover, showing a steely face behind reflective sunglasses (filled in with flames, giving you a sense of her overall message), reveals that the reader is in good hands throughout: the narrative control is firm and clear, the style is brisk or combustive, depending on her mood, and the tone is distinctive. In other words, this book is a pleasure to read. It seems Swisher knew and knows everyone in Silicon Valley; I was especially fascinated by her close-up portrayals of Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. The arc she delineates from the 90s to now is one of moral decline amongst the tech billionaires and at the end, Swisher is a robust advocate of what we all want, which is societal control, via regulation, of one of the central elements of our lives. Neither a polemic nor a self-hagiography, Burn Book is a hoot to read and hugely valuable.

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