When I got serious about blog reading, Seth Godin’s blog was among the first I added to my reader. While I’ve added and dropped a lot of blogs since I started reading, Seth’s has always been a port of my daily reading routine. What’s impressive is that he has posted every day since I started following him many years ago without missing one. single. day. Even more impressive is the quality of his content. So when Seth Godin says that the best book he read in 2014 was Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer, I figured that I should add it my reading list. It took me a while to get to it, but it finally crested the top of my reading list and was the book I chose to kick-off my reading in 2016.
It’s hard for me to describe the genre Whiskey Tango Foxtrot falls into. Most review sites mark it as a techno-thriller, which certainly fits, but I don’t think adequately describes the type of book it is. In my opinion, it’s part character study as Shafer does a deep dive on the three primary characters of the novel, and it’s part commentary on the perils of our use and reliance on technology, particularly the always connected smartphones that we haul around with us all day long.
The plot is built upon the struggles of three seemingly disconnected individuals who are struggling with their direction in life. There’s Leila, an NGO worker trying to live up to the lofty expectations her family has set for her. There’s Leo, who struggles with addiction and holding a job despite his privileged upbringing. And then there’s Mark, an anointed self-help guru who suffers from feelings of inadequacy and self-confidence. Through a series of strange, random events, Shafer manages to connect all three individuals using unexpected plot twists that make for a very interesting story.
Moreso than the plot, I found Shafer’s writing quite witty. There were numerous points in the book where I found myself laughing out loud. He does a great job developing the main characters such that I found it easy to relate to the way they responded to the various predicaments they find themselves stuck in. Some reviews refer to as his writing as “dark humor”, but I found it to be just plain funny. He also makes his concern about the centralization of technology clear. It will make you wonder if having a single company such as Google or Apple in control of our smartphones and all the data we put into it is a good thing or not.
Overall, I found Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to be a very fun, and thought-provoking read. It wasn’t fast-paced enough to make it into my must read category of books, but you won’t be disappointed if you pick it up. It’s a great read over an extended vacation or for reading on a long flight. Not only will it entertain you, it may also make you want to consider your technology habits and how often you carry your iPhone or Android device around with you.