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

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,857 ratings  ·  628 reviews
One of 2014's most original and masterfully reported books, A Deadly Wandering by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Matt Richtel interweaves the cutting-edge science of attention with the tensely plotted story of a mysterious car accident and its aftermath to answer some of the defining questions of our time: What is technology doing to us? Can our minds keep up with the p ...more
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by William Morrow
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Will Byrnes
Hi, welcome. I’m happy to see you are settling in to read this now. But…what?...really?…please…ignore that chirp that just told you a new e-mail arrived. It is probably just another add for Viagra or penile enlargement. It is almost never something critical, so…hey…come back. Son of a bitch. (Taps fingers on desk, plays some solitaire, checks watch) Ah, you’re back. Took long enough. Geez. All right, can we get back to it now? You remember? The book is A Deadly Wandering, a pretty amazing look a ...more
B Schrodinger
'A Deadly Wandering' is more than a tale about a tragic event where two people were killed by a distracted driver, it attempts to take on the subjects of attention, justice, abuse, community, .... you name it.

The irony is that a book about distraction was distracting in itself. Small chapters, multiple story threads, constantly jumping between them, random passages on people who play very small or no role in the major storyline. Even presenting the same information several times throughout the b
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Hook - In June of 2006 Nineteen year old Reggie Shaw grabs his cell phone, climbs into his SUV and heads off to work. It’s just an ordinary day. Approximately 35 minutes into his ride, two men are dead and three families lives are changed forever.

I’m a minority, one of the unconnected so to speak. I own an old tracfone, rarely on and even though it’s capable of sending a text message I never have. The premise in my quick summation above grabbed me immediately. I’m in the camp that texting w
Mar 20, 2016 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. Overall this was a pretty good read, but even though the book was just published in 2014, it already feels dated.
Richtel writes beautifully about a horrible texting-while-driving accident and its aftermath. The chapters on the tragedy are interspersed with discussions of technology’s effect on our brains.
But today, texting while driving is illegal in 46 states and I don’t think anyone could make an argument that it’s ok. Because of that, there’s quite a bit of preaching to the choir

In 2006, texting-and-driving was not yet illegal in the United States. A car crash in September 2006 in Utah was a catalyst in changing that. A Deadly Wandering is about this and a lot more--too much more.

The book grew from an article journalist Matt Richtel wrote for The New York Times titled “The Lure of Data: Is it Addictive?” He decided to explore the issue further by writing A Deadly Wandering, which centers on the case of a young man named Reggie Shaw, who killed two rock
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Many of us are absolutely obsessed with staying connected – texting friends regularly throughout the day. Every single day, six billion texts are sent in the United States.

Reggie Shaw, a young clean-cut Mormon teenager, was one of those texters. He did not know that he was quite literally on a collision course with destiny. As he inadvertently wove in and out of the lane, his car smashed into another car containing two family men, rocket scientists on their way to work. They were instantly kill
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Everyone, yes, everyone, should read this book. I have never ever said that before about any book, but there it is. I can't remember reading anything that has so changed the way I look at, well, most everything. In reading many of the 5 star reviews here, I see that I can add nothing about the story. What spoke most to me was the "attention science", the neuroscience of attention and distraction, along with its human counterparts. That has changed the way I drive (being more attentive to the roa ...more
Dec 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Good God, did the writer get paid PER WORD? Saying this book is well-researched is an understatement! The reader is saturated with background about every single person he introduces and who may only momentary matter. Initially, I loved this book, so much so, I gave it 3 stars, and would ration how much I'd read because I didn't want to finish it. Now, for about a week, I dread picking it up, and have therefore deducted 1 star. It's become like a friend who has overstayed their visit! But I want ...more
Galen Johnson
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
While I admire the work that went into this book, the writing was just too overdone and poorly edited for the book to be enjoyable to me. Everything had to be spelled out again and again-- after chapters of describing Reggie's town and family and religious community, the author summarizes just in case we didn't get the point: "After all, it's not uncommon for young people to lie to parents or a pastor….And they tell those lies even when there isn't the intense cultural pressure that Reggie felt ...more
Julia Rose
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
We all know texting while driving is dangerous. So why do we keep doing it? Could it be that we CAN'T stop the compulsion to stay connected; that we are so over-stimulated by our social networks and pressured to multitask that we are addicted, and in collective denial? A Deadly Wandering is a riveting account of the fatal tragedy and subsequent seminal legal (and moral) battle that led to texting-while-driving bans being signed into law. It links neuroscience research, legal undertakings, and na ...more
Amy Rogers
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it review: Matt Richtel is a science journalist who covers Silicon Valley for the New York Times. In 2009, he wrote a front page story about distracted driving. The story went viral in part because the subject touches so many of us. Richtel was one of the first to put a mirror in front of us, making us unwillingly recognize the ways in which we have allowed our technology to control us and to put us at risk both physically (while driving) and emotionally (in our relationships). ...more
May 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
A cautionary tale of a young man who caused a car accident that killed two men because he was texting and driving. The author not only follows the young man and the subsequent legal implications but current researching on the brain and what we know about our attention span. We're still learning what draws our attention, and we don't always have the control that we think we do. Richtel demonstrates that it's not just the act of doing something else while driving that's dangerous but the ease with ...more
Bonnie Brody
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
One morning in September, 2006, Reggie Shaw was driving while texting on a Utah road. He was witnessed swerving into the oncoming lane several times. He ended up hitting another vehicle that held two men, both rocket scientists, husbands, and fathers. They were killed on impact. This book describes the dangers of driving and texting but, more than that, the impact of modern interactive technologies on human attention. It also goes into the lives of the people who were involved in the crash: the ...more
Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This was an interesting book and I'm glad I read it, but I had a hard time with it in several places. It is absolutely unbelievable to me -- and to anyone who (there's no other way to say this) isn't an idiot -- that the young man responsible for a crash while texting didn't remember that he was texting. He denied it over and over, to law enforcement and to friends and family, and was pretty much caught red-handed coaching the not-terribly-bright young woman with whom he was texting -- and we're ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think everyone should read (parts of) this book because it's still astounding how people think they are invincible and don't have a second thought about using their phone while driving. I've been in the passenger seat more than once with a driver using their phone and crossing the yellow line and they don't even think anything of it. The neuroscience bits were really interesting and changed my views on multitasking.
But there was just something about the way Richtel tells this story that I just
Dalton Snyder
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 Stars

I finished this a couple days ago but forgot to update my goodreads. This was a very well informed book about texting and driving and the problems technology creates in society today. However, their were points in the book that were really stretched out for absolutely no reason (during discussions in my AP English class I said that it was like a student writing a 1000 word essay but only being at 750 words so they just keep repeating what they already said until they hit word count).
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to Gideon by: Gideon Cohen
A Deadly Wandering I won an advance copy from Goodreads and I have not been able to put it down. Richtel weaves an engrossing narrative, with excellently researched background and science. Richtel does a great job presenting the story, the mindset of the characters and the scientific data without imposing his own value judgements. The reader must make up their own mind. This is a must-read for anybody who uses digital devices. I guess that means it's a must-read for everybody. ...more
Mar 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
A true crime story about an incident that wasn't really a crime at the time.

A kid who is a bit of a screw up gets into an accident with a fatality. He claims he wasn't on his phone. Some policeman with too much time on his hands won't let go. He traces the kid's phone through dubiously legal means, and can prove that the kid was texting on his phone, which wasn't illegal at the time.

Now, we have all sorts of laws against it, even though people do it all the time anyway.
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
I saw this in the airport and got it for my Kindle because it looked interesting, and it apparently was very well received. It's about a kid in Utah who is driving on the highway one morning and is texting his girlfriend. He weaves out of his lane and causes and accident that takes two lives, neither of them his. At first, he claimed he didn't remember texting while he was driving, and we are never sure if he was telling the truth or not. I suspect he wasn't, but the author didn't want to say th ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Annie by: Katherine
When I was a little undergraduate at the University of Utah, getting my psychology degree, I was required to participate in a number of psychological experiments that were happening in the research labs. One of them was the driving simulation by Dr. David Strayer that was referenced in this very book! I did not get drunk and then do the driving simulation, in fact mine involved driving the simulation and then sometimes texting while driving during the simulation. For that reason alone, I quite l ...more
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: people
Last week, I went on a birdwatching trip that required me to travel alone from central OH to SW West VA. It was an easy drive but I had never been there before, so I had to pay attention. I decided what better way to occupy myself while driving than listing to my tutorials for birding by ear--how to recognize songs and calls. However, I found myself having to restart the various tracks because while I was learning the difference between hairy and downy woodpeckers I found that the track was on t ...more
Ann Campbell
Oct 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
I read this book for my book club, and it was assigned for my book club because a busy friend had to teach it because our university adapted it as their "campus read" (meaning all first year students must read it). My "campus read" was _The Iliad_, so my bias here is obvious. This book is a poorly cobbled together series of what must have been lectures, journalistic accounts, and maybe tv segments. It is poorly organized and sloppily written. It uses sensationalistic language to "build suspense" ...more
Peter Richter
Jul 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
I thought this book could have been a 10-20 page magazine article. Spoiler alert: Texting while driving is bad. That's basically what all the detail in the book spent on scientific research and all the detail about the trial simply boils down to. From a literary perspective, I didn't find the writing particularly compelling. I thought too much time was spent on the life histories of the characters involved in the story which wasn't really relevant to the main narrative. I found the scientific re ...more
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is a page turning combination of real life tragedy, neuroscientific discoveries, and the attempt of one teenager to somehow redeem the fact that he killed two people one morning, while driving and sending 11 texts to his girlfriend. You'll turn your phone off every time you get in the car after reading it, and change lanes if you see anyone staring at their phone in traffic. It could literally be the only thing that saves your life. If you have a teenage or young adult friend or family ...more
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It was a nice mixture of science-heavy background and putting human faces on the important issue that is distracted driving. But it also has an overall theme that is paramount to this generation -- issues with attention and distraction due to brain-overload with all of our constantly chirping and chiming social and mobile devices.

Highly recommended.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Richtel writes, "We all know that texting and driving is dangerous, but we do it anyway. Why?" This is THE question. I wish everyone would read this book, understand the science, quit texting & driving, and we wouldn't have to ask that question anymore. This book is a great read, and it's packed with scientific evidence that we really don't have the capabilities to multitask like we think we do. Reggie's story puts a human face to the tragedy this can cause. His is a cautionary tale, and I think ...more
Very absorbing read concerning one of the seminal cases on texting & driving. In September 2006, there was little case law in regard to this subject. Reggie Shaw, a clean-cut young man, was driving on a 2 lane road when he crossed the line and caused the deaths of 2 rocket scientists in rural Utah. He had been texting and was seen to be crossing back and forth over the yellow line several times before the fatal accident. The author takes this case - in which Reggie was eventually prosecuted for ...more
Tracie Gutknecht
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like almost all genres of books and this non-fiction read was pretty awesome.

This is the true story of a car accident that took the lives of two rocket scientists. It's 2006 and Reggie Shaw is like most Mormon kids his age. He works, goes to worship and is trying to figure out how to go on a mission trip. It is 7am and Reggie is on his way to work. Since he lives in Utah, he must drive over ranges and passes through the Bitterroot mountains. Weather conditions are not great and he clips the fr
Julie Harding
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars, rounded up.

It was a day that started out like any other. Reggie Shaw, a young man recently out of high school, came upon a mountain pass on his way to work in Utah. His phone buzzed, and he read and responded to a text message, and then another. It was a split-second decision with a lifetime of consequences. Before he knew it, Shaw’s vehicle had swerved over the line and clipped another car, which spun out and was essentially cut in two by another truck. The two men in the car - fath
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my second read of this book. I can't recommend it enough. Published in 2014, It tells the story of a 2006 head-on crash that killed two people. It is the first case in the US to successfully link mobile phone usage in a vehicle to a level of cogntive impairment that is the equivalent of drunk driving. The chapters tracking the incident and subsequent prosecution alternate with chapters entitles "The Neuroscientists" bringing us a roller coaster of a book. The book'ssubtitle is "A Myste ...more
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“He repeated that the texting driver faces a sixfold crash risk, whereas a driver talking on the phone faced a four-times increase in likelihood of a crash, which he said was roughly equivalent to someone who is legally drunk. A drunk driver and a person on a phone were equally likely to crash, whereas “we’re seeing the risk factor for accidents when someone is texting exceeds the level when people are legally drunk.” 4 likes
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