At the beginning of the year, my Netflix recommendations popped up this little reality show called The Circle (not to be confused with David Egger’s book of the same name). As someone who isn’t much of a fan of reality television in general, I, of course, clicked to watch the first episode without much thought. I had to see this dumpster fire. To my surprise, I was immediately hooked.

The circle "I Can't Even Look" gif

The gist of the show: eight players at a time live separately in the same building. The catch? They never meet face-to-face, only interacting with one another through the show’s social media messaging app. They can choose to be themselves or completely catfish the other contestants (sorry MTV). All they have to do is become the most popular person in the building and they could win the $100,000 grand prize. Sounds easy right?

Consider me shook, when this seemingly inane reality show grabbed my attention and turned into an interesting commentary on modern life and our addiction to social media. After all, we are only what we present ourselves to be right?

GIF of contestant from The Circle

While the contestants were sequestered from each other physically and had zero access to the outside work via the internet, they were allowed to bring in magazines, books, and occasionally watch Netflix to pass their time. But what were they reading? The covers of each book were covered, most likely due to trademarks or licensing, so while a few contestants absorbed themselves in the written word, we were left guessing.

Fret no more citizen! I’m going to make those guesses for you. ***SPOILERS FOR THE CIRCLE***

What are they reading? Netflix's The Circle

Each contestant is listed in the order they were blocked from the show.

Karyn aka Mercedeze (3rd to be blocked)

Still image of Karyn aka Mercedeze reading on gray couch

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Translated from Italian and originally published in 1532, five years after Machiavelli’s death, The Prince is claimed to be one of the first works of modern political philosophy. It states that the effectual truth is taken to be more important than any abstract idea. Karyn, who came into the show as one of the original eight players, was one of a few catfishes in the pond that is The Circle.

While using her middle name and her own personality to interact with the other players, Karyn decided to use pictures of an unknown woman instead of herself. She chose this to come off more approachable to the other players stating that her “dominant appearance  [tends to make] people assume [she] is aggressive”. Unfortunately for Karyn, faking her looks didn’t help her in the long run.

What Karyn was actually reading: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Quote from iClickTV exclusive.

Alex aka Adam (5th to be blocked)

Assholes Finish First by Tucker Max

Like Karyn, Alex came into the game using a face very unlike his own, but he also chose to use a different personality. His goal coming in was to immediately flirt with all of the ladies, which he was terrible at. Seriously, who uses “arouse” when flirting? While Alex was a genuine sweetheart and avant-garde dressing cat lover, Adam, his alter ego, honestly gave me Tucker Max vibes. Not great. But I wouldn’t mind borrowing some overalls from Alex’s wardrobe.

Seaburn aka Rebecca (5th place finalist)

Seaburn aka Rebecca GIF

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young

Similar to our previous two contestants, Seaburn also came onto the show with a different face. But, unlike the other two who chose strangers, Seaburn was parading around The Circle with his girlfriend’s face. Seaburn took the sweet, innocent girl approach to the show which ended up working in his favor ending up the only member of the final five that was a catfish. Just don’t talk to him about that time of the month ladies, then he freezes.

What Seaburn was actually reading? The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Chris (4th place finalist)

Chris from The Circle in an orange shirt in the bathroom

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

While Chris was an instant favorite for me, he stayed pretty consistent in the middle of the pack leading into the season finale. Like 4 of the 5 finalists, he was pretty sincere and authentic the entire show with his positive personality and hilarious vernacular. I won’t lie if Chris decided to write a self-help book right now, I’d buy it.

Shubam (Runner-up)

GIF of Shubham saying "Aw, that's so sweet" in response to a message from Joey

The Circle by Dave Eggers

You really didn’t think I was going to make it through this entire post without assigning someone this book right? SHUBBY! As another member of the original eight, Shubham was pretty vocal about his hatred for all things social media. Despite that, he was an influencer, or in the top two, almost the entire game. I think Shubs would really appreciate Egger’s dystopian satire.

What Shubham was actually reading? A collection of Shakespeare’s plays and Following the Equator by Mark Twain.

Source for actual reading material: The Cut