cover image A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention

A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention

Matt Richtel. Morrow, $28.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-228406-8

A deadly driving-while-texting car crash illuminates the perils of information overload in this scattershot saga of digital dysfunctions. New York Times reporter and novelist Richtel (The Cloud) recounts the story of Reggie Shaw, a 19-year-old Utah man who in 2006 swerved into oncoming traffic while texting his girlfriend; the resulting accident killed two other men. Part of the book is a lucid, interesting account of the developing brain science of how we focus our attention and how it is distracted by the addictive flood of information from our always connected wireless devices and our insistently multitasked jobs. (Researchers tell the author that texting impairs ones driving as much as being drunk.) Interspersed is a drawn-out journalistic account of the accident’s aftermath, with grieving families, legal proceedings that explore the growth of jurisprudence on driving and cell phones, and Reggie’s guilt and subsequent rebirth as an anti-texting crusader. The author’s determination to juice up the science with human interest, emotional anguish, and courtroom drama feels overdone—many figures in the book have their back stories ransacked for extraneous episodes of trauma and abuse. Still, when Richtel lets the research speak for itself, he raises fascinating and troubling issues about the cognitive impact of our technology. Agent: Laurie Liss, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)