Welcome to Reading Things, a quarterly newsletter from the Thingelstad Family, sharing thoughts on and about books! Thank you for reading with us! 📚
In this issue: Here in the Real World, Think Again, My Eyes Are Up Here, Klara and the Sun, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Radical Markets.
Welcome to the second issue of Reading Things for Summer 2021! Tammy kicked things off last time, and this time I thought I would share a little bit of the background behind this new project.
The idea for Reading Things started about a year before we sent the Spring 2021 first issue. I had been thinking about a digital project that Tammy and I could do together, and I kept coming back to books and reading. As I thought about it, the idea just wouldn’t go away. I pitched the family on it once, and nobody seemed to get excited, so I sort of filed it away. But it kept coming back, so I decided to push through and get everyone on board.
I felt there were many great reasons to do Reading Things.
I think those are pretty good reasons, and so far, it is delivering on most if not all of those. I’m looking forward to continuing this project for many more issues to come!
Before we get to the books, a few of you shared comments, kudos, and feedback with us. We got one suggestion to share a board game recommendation with everyone. While not on topic about books, we are considering that. There was also a note about sharing some books from that past that may be great for a specific age group. We are still taking those in and will consider them for the Fall issue. In the meantime, if you have anything to share, just hit reply and say Hi! 👋 — Jamie
Reading Things has already exceeded 100 subscribers! 🎉
We appreciate you all joining us on this fun adventure around books. To celebrate 100 subscribers, we are doing a couple of things. 🥳
We donated $100 to Little Free Library, $1 per subscriber! 🤩 I think most people are familiar with them, particularly in the metro area, but we have always liked the organization and what they do. It is a little bonus that it was founded just across the river in Wisconsin. 📚
We have also minted a special digital token (technically an NFT) just for you! Go to Reading Things 100 to get your very own token for being one of the first 100 subscribers. You can get a token with an email address, or if you have an Ethereum wallet, put your address in, and you will be minted a special one-time token to keep! 🙌
Sara Pennypacker (2021), 336 pages.
I honestly believe that any person would benefit from reading this book. Technically, it’s categorized as a book for kids. However, while it might be written with kids in mind, this book is for everyone. The basic story is simple enough, but the details make it impressive. The rich character development throughout the story not only makes the characters on the page seem to become a part of the actual world, but it also makes the book fulfilling to read. Like you’ve made the world a better place simply by turning some pages. Like by watching 11-year-old Ware become a better version of himself throughout the story, you’ve improved just by reading it. Furthermore, Pennypacker’s writing style makes every sentence unique. I’m talking about the unconventional, almost poetic placement of words on the page. While many might skim over some of the complex sentences, taking a second to really understand them is the key to fully appreciating this heartwarming story. The story is told in such a delicate manner that it feels as though the author is whispering the whole thing in your ear, like a secret- just for you. In this way, 100 pages could slip by while seeming like only a few sentences. The words themselves are so vulnerable, so fragile, that it truly does have the effect of secrets spilled out onto the page.
Here in the Real World is the classic heartwarming, feel-good story of a few insignificant kids making a significant transformation to their world. It’s the heroic tale of them discovering who they really are, or, more like it, finally coming to terms with who they always have been. The best part is, it’s a story that has never been told before.
One building, one grandma, two kids, and a camera. One very special summer lays ahead… — Mazie
Adam Grant (2021), 257 pages.
I read a brief intro to Think Again and was instantly drawn to the topic. I hoped for a foundational book with a lot of utility, and I feel like I got that. I have definitely developed concepts and principles that deserve a “think again” to make sure they are still valid.
Grant starts his approach by pulling from research by Phil Tetlock. Tetlock’s research suggests that we often slip into three mindsets: preachers, prosecutors, and politicians. Grant adds Scientist to that, and if all I took from this book was this model, that would be valuable enough. I spent some time asking myself, “When advocating for this concept, what persona have I adopted?” If you ask yourself that question objectively and then apply the framework, it can immediately help you understand the weaknesses in your own position and what to watch out for.
I enjoyed this book and will definitely use the concepts. I found the essential message of the book is about asking questions. Ask open-ended questions that prompt people to rethink on their own. Don’t try and convince them, as that will likely have the opposite effect.
If I have a gripe about the book, it is in many of the other visuals. There are a variety of graphs that lack the basic principles of good data visualization. I am sure it is intentional, and the authors attempt to keep things light and easy to understand. Still, I found them distracting in their simplicity. — Jamie
Laura Zimmerman (2020), 352 pages.
The first time our newsletter went out, which was the last time it went out, one of the replies we received was from a guy whose wife just wrote a YA novel. I thought it would be fun to check it out and review it here. First, let me say that anyone writing any novel is a feat that I find very impressive. Even writing a story seems elusive to me, but an actual book, wow. I thought it was so cool that someone that Jamie knows has a wife, and that wife wrote a book, got it published, and the book was even a Minnesota Book Award finalist.
I didn’t know anything about the book when I purchased it other than this guy’s wife wrote it, the title, and that it was a YA novel. It turns out the book is about a teenage girl, who happens to be Mazie’s same age, who has recently had her boobs grow from normal size to really, really big, and she’s coming to terms with that by hiding from others in huge clothes and avoiding a lot of life because she doesn’t want to deal with her boobs.
I’m someone who also has boobs, and while my boobs aren’t particularly large, they are big enough that they get in the way of a lot of things, mainly sporty things like running. I don’t know how many times I’ve dreamed of running as I did as a little kid with no boobs flopping up and down with every step. Meaning to say, I could relate to our protagonist.
I thought the book was smart and funny. I enjoyed hopping back into the high school world and getting to know the characters. I found the book similar to a John Hughes movie from my teen years… very satisfying. 😊 Thanks to Laura Zimmerman for writing the book and to her husband for letting us know about it! — Tammy
Kazuo Ishiguro (2021), 303 pages.
This is my second Ishiguro novel. I read Never Let Me Go in 2011 with my book club, and I loved that book. It has come back to me many times since I’ve read it, and I suspect Klara will also come back to me for years to come.
As you would expect from Ishiguro, the writing is superb, and the story is rich. The book is told through Klara, an Artificial Friend or, more directly, a robot. The story is divided into six major parts of Klara’s experiences. You get to hear her thoughts as she tries to figure out human emotion and as she architects her scheme with the Sun that is the majority of the book. I particularly loved how Ishiguro describes her vision during intense scenes. He never describes directly the technical components that would manifest what he describes because, to Klara, that is just her. But he shows her compute limitations in intriguing ways.
It was also interesting that Ishiguro set this book told through an Artificial Friend in a world where children are being “lifted.” Lifted isn’t explained fully, but it is later described as genetic engineering. The central figures in the story have all been manipulated by engineering, whether the silicon or genetic kind.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to a wide variety of readers. I’m hoping both Mazie and Tammy pick it up now that I’m done with it. — Jamie
Jeff Kinney (2007-2020), 15 books.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a funny, fast, and excellent read. I have read every book FIVE times and I still like them. It is about 2 days to read and is very easy to read. So let’s hear about the book.
It is about this kid in middle school named Greg and he is very unlucky. He also has a friend named Rowely which he is always kind of mean to. Anything that is good is always bad and there are only a few pictures were anyone is smiling. Also he has some pretty crazy thoughts. The last thing to know is that his mom got him a diary when he asked for a journal so he is also pretty mad about that in the beginning.
I would say most people have heard about this book but if you have not you have got to get it. There are 15 books in the series and also later Rowely gets a journal and makes a whole new book which has 3 in that series currently. So thats all I have to say about the book so bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! — Tyler
Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl (2018), 368 pages.
Radical Markets was suggested (but not picked) in my book club and the premise of the book piqued my interest. As I have been exploring deeper into crypto over the last several months, particularly in decentralized finance (DeFi), there are routinely references to bringing market-based dynamics to a variety of different areas. When I then saw that the introduction to the book was co-written by Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, and Jaron Lanier, who is a pioneer in virtual and augmented reality (and highly critical of social media), my curiosity grew.
If we aspire to prosperity and progress, we must be willing to question old truths, to get at the root of the matter, and to experiment with new ideas. This is what we have tried to do.
I read Radical Markets as an exploration of ideas. Posner & Weyl do not claim to have answers but instead suggest that we need to continue to innovate our approach to markets. A significant component being how technology may allow us to bring market concepts to more areas of life. The book illustrates radical market concepts in five different sections: Property is Monopoly, Radical Democracy, Uniting the World’s Workers, Dismembering the Octopus, and Data as Labor.
Yet Smith passionately believed that inequality was mainly the result of legal and social restrictions that favored the aristocracy and were incompatible with a market economy.
I found the sections on Property, Democracy, and Data very interesting. The quadratic voting mechanism described in the Radical Democracy section seemed incredibly powerful to me and very novel. I found myself wishing that I could have quadratic voting now and how it would allow me to express my views so much better. The Property discussion was very provoking as it went into some areas around property ownership that I just had never considered. And the Data one made me think that there could be a better way for people to be compensated for their role in large-scale technology systems.
The Worker and Ownership sections I found the least convincing. In fact, the Octopus one to me seemed to miss the mark entirely on solving a real problem and seemed the least likely to be something that could be implemented. The Worker one just seemed odd, but I will admit to reading it and thinking that I really don’t understand the situation that a migrant worker is in and the tradeoffs even present in the current system. As a result, while it put me off with some of the ideas, I accept that it is possibly much better than any system we have today.
The book concluded with a concept that I had not considered, Markets as a Computer.
The “market” is then in some sense a giant computer composed of these smaller but still very powerful computers. If it allocates resources efficiently, it does so by harnessing and combining their separate capacities.
I sat with this concept for a while and still am. Considering the world enabled by DeFi and the radical markets that exist today in crypto solutions, it seems like that market as a computer is more real than ever. — Jamie
Summertime and the living is easy… It’s time for another Tammy’s corner. First off, I’d like to announce the winner of the $50 gift card to Content Books in Northfield, Minnesota. Each person had a 33.3% shot as only three people entered the competition, but there can only be one winner, and Julie Berman is that lucky winner! Julie, I will shoot you an email with the gift card shortly. Congrats!
Speaking of Content Books, I’ve still to read one of the books that I got there last quarter. Not sure what my problem is, but High Dive by Jonathan Lee didn’t grab me during the first few chapters, and I’ve since to pick it back up. I have a thing about reading all of the books that I purchase, so I will read it at some point. The other book, The Adventure’s Son by Roman Dial, did get a read, and I quite enjoyed it. It’s a sad book as a very adventurous father retraces the steps of his very adventurous grown son after he disappears in South America. It’s part memoir of both father and son and part meditation and remembrance of a life lived well but cut short.
The three bookstores that were submitted in the contest were Magers and Quinn in Minneapolis, Birch Bark Books in Minneapolis, and Fair Trade Books in Red Wing. I’ve been to both Magers and Quinn and Birch Bark, but not Fair Trade Books. I decided it would be good to visit all three and buy a book at each one. Gotta keep the virtuous circle going! Sometimes the best-laid plans just don’t happen, and as of yet, I haven’t visited any of the bookstores. 🙁 In the beginning, summer is like a blank slate just waiting for adventures, but it quickly turns into a crowded canvas with nary a spot to add color.
Somehow I did make it back to Content Books a couple of times and purchased several more books, so now I have many things to read! — Tammy
What are we reading next? A small sampling from our collective book pile.
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