Why do people follow the crowd in modern society and who decides what’s popular? That’s the hook behind Connie Willis’ Bellwether, which focuses on research sociologist Sandra Foster, who works in R&D at HiTek and is trying to figure out where the hair bobbing trend of the 1920s starts.

“Ties are a lot like the rest of men’s clothes. Almost everything’s in. That wasn’t true until recently. Each era had its own fashion in ties….. But now all of them are in, along with bolos, bandanas, and the ever popular no tie at all. Bennett’s tie wasn’t any of those– it was just ugly.”

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As HiTek pushes its scientists toward research that might win the elusive Niebnitz Grant, Dr. Foster fights her inept mailroom clerk Flip, meets chaos theorist Dr. Bennet O’Reilly, adopts a flock of sheep, and comes to the realization that her answers were really staring her in the face the whole time.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Aside from being set in a vaguely futuristic Denver, Bellwether is a hilarious look at corporate science and a fascinating take on how fads start and shift throughout society.

Rating (5 stars)

This book is clever, hilarious, educational– the whole thing. The main character (Dr. Foster) felt like someone I would be friends with, and Flip annoyed the crap out out of me. The middle of the book has you sort of scratching your head and trying to figure out where it’s going, but by the end of it, not only is it crystal clear how you got there, but the last surprise actually made me laugh out loud.