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Summary

Winner of the 2021 National Jewish Book Award in Autobiography & Memoir!

“A beautiful book…an instant classic of the genre.” (Dwight Garner, New York Times)

A New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2021 A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Named a Best Nonfiction Book of 2021 by Kirkus 

MIT psychologist and best-selling author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together, Sherry Turkle's intimate memoir of love and work

For decades, Sherry Turkle has shown how we remake ourselves in the mirror of our machines. Here, she illuminates our present search for authentic connection in a time of uncharted challenges. Turkle has spent a career composing an intimate ethnography of our digital world; now, marked by insight, humility, and compassion, we have her own.

In this vivid and poignant narrative, Turkle ties together her coming-of-age and her pathbreaking research on technology, empathy, and ethics. Growing up in postwar Brooklyn, Turkle searched for clues to her identity in a house filled with mysteries. She mastered the codes that governed her mother's secretive life. She learned never to ask about her absent scientist father - and never to use his name, her name. Before empathy became a way to find connection, it was her strategy for survival.

Turkle's intellect and curiosity brought her to worlds on the threshold of change. She learned friendship at a Harvard-Radcliffe on the cusp of coeducation during the antiwar movement, she mourned the loss of her mother in Paris as students returned from the 1968 barricades, and she followed her ambition while fighting for her place as a woman and a humanist at MIT. There, Turkle found turbulent love and chronicled the wonders of the new computer culture, even as she warned of its threat to our most essential human connections. The Empathy Diaries captures all this in rich detail - and offers a master class in finding meaning through a life's work. 

©2021 Sherry Turkle (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“The strong suit of The Empathy Diaries is the wonderful clarity with which Turkle guides us through her intellectual development . . . [a] compressed summary of Sherry Turkle’s intellectual progress toward the study of 'how computers change not only what we do but who we are' does not do justice to the pleasure a reader gets from following it in the pages of The Empathy Diaries, where it is recorded with a grace and lucidity that are inspiriting.” —Vivian Gornick, New York Times Book Review

 

“Turkle opens up the archives of her life, such that she becomes a subject to think with as much as an exemplary object about which to think. Whether uncovering the secrets of her family (and secrets are always multiple), examining the pain and joy of cross-class sociality and education at Radcliffe, or recounting evenings spent with Lacan, Turkle points her reader toward that which makes us human: vulnerability and, of course, the self-reflexive capacity for empathy. Along the way, Turkle offers an invaluable account, both personal and critical, of how 'science and technology can make us forget what we know about life.’” —Hannah Zeavin, Public Books 

“A beautifully wrought memoir about how emerging technology makes us think and feel [. . .] Anyone who studies, develops, or produces technology—and anyone who uses it—will gain crucial insights from this profound meditation on how technology is changing us. A masterful memoir by a pioneering researcher and incisive thinker.” Kirkus (starred review)

What listeners say about The Empathy Diaries

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  • N. Alaloula
  • 18-03-21

not decided

The shift between times and stories.. I understand wanting to keep some parts private however I am underwhelmed. I still enjoyed listening to the book and I do not regret it only wished I could stop sherry on some parts and ask for more information or just for a closure on some parts. I'm glad I listened to it.

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  • K Bold
  • 16-03-21

Beautiful and brilliant

We all feel the repercussions of the place and prominence of technology in our lives and will be better people for seriously considering the questions raised throughout this book. I only wish I had equal insight into my own story. Lovely narration as well.

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  • esmerelda
  • 01-04-22

Couldn’t finish

I couldn’t finish this book because the voice of the narrator was just too annoying. Very baby-like for lack of a better description

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  • Brian Von Herzen
  • 08-05-21

compelling review of limitations of our tech world

this was a compelling review of some of the hollowness of some of our leading academic institutions. in addition there was a personal autobiographical style that was compelling in its authenticity.

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  • Elliott Wolfe, M.D.
  • 09-04-21

Privacy with Empathy

This book’s paramount message is presented with heartfelt stories: growing up in Brooklyn, center of a loving family; attaining tenure at MIT; addressing lack of solitude as technology surrounds us. Read with the right touch of emotion.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 08-04-21

Maybe if I was a psyche or sociology major...

Parts of the story, her experience and theories were interesting but the name dropping and expansion/explanation of old theories got a bit textbookish. I wanted to be drawn into her life story not lectured so gave it a lower rating.

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  • Marjorie
  • 06-04-21

very revealing portrait

This memoir illuminates the life of a supremely talented professional woman in the early years of women's liberation. Thanks to her diaries and an excellent memory, she describes her childhood in fascinating detail. Whether she mentions it or not, many of those experiences relate directly to her interests and accomplishments and romances as an adult. Very sensitively narrated.

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  • Amos Brumble
  • 25-03-21

Felt like I was spying into her life

I am not a regular reader of autobiographical books but having recently listened to Reclaiming Conversation I wanted to learn more about her background and then this popped up as a recommendation so I went for it.

What pulled me into the story was the feeling of being there at those pivotal moments in her life, leaving me with a better understanding of her as a person.

I thought Jill Larson’s reading was well done with just enough of an expression of emotion to add depth to the words.