📚 The Reading Journal #048

Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

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Italian author Italo Calvino, renowned for his innovative and whimsical style, was a significant figure in 20th century fiction. Notably, he was a member of the Italian Resistance during World War II, where he and his family provided shelter to partisans, an experience that inspired his debut novel "The Path to the Nest of Spiders". Moreover, Calvino was a member of the Oulipo, a group of writers and mathematicians who employed constrained writing techniques. This influence is visible in his novel "If on a winter's night a traveler", which is uniquely structured to begin repeatedly, presenting the first chapter of ten different novels across various genres.

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📚️ Staff Pick of the Week

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler

Nudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioral science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions. In the tradition of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, Nudge is straightforward, informative, and entertaining—a must-read for anyone interested in our individual and collective well-being.

🎥 Reading Talk's

📈 Rising Quickly - Week of May 22, 2023

The World of Sugar: How the Sweet Stuff Transformed Our Politics, Health, and Environment over 2,000 Years by Ulbe Bosma

In "The World of Sugar," Ulbe Bosma presents a comprehensive 2,500-year history of sugar, tracing its evolution from a luxury good in Asia to a ubiquitous element of our diets, with significant human and environmental costs. Bosma elucidates how sugar, despite its lack of nutritional necessity, infiltrated our food system, fueling illnesses and environmental crisis. The book delves into sugar's early production, its transport to high-status individuals across Asia and the Middle East, its eventual arrival in Europe, and the consequent brutal enslavement-driven trade to meet rising demand. Sugar's proliferation in the 20th century is explored, illustrating how it became a substantial calorie source across Europe and North America. Bosma illuminates sugar's global impact, its role in creating and dismantling cultures, influencing governmental policies, industrialization, labor migration, and dietary shifts. This comprehensive history offers insight into our current world of corn syrup and ethanol, emphasizing the profound threat this deceptively simple commodity poses to our health, environment, and communities.

🪄Most Talked About Fiction - Week of May 22, 2023

You Shouldn't Have Come Here by Jeneva Rose

In this highly anticipated thriller from USA Today and #1 bestselling author, Grace Evans, a workaholic New Yorker, books an Airbnb on a Wyoming ranch seeking respite from her bustling life. She is welcomed by the charming owner, Calvin Wells, but soon notices unsettling elements, such as a lack of cell service, a missing woman, and a disconcerting aura about the ranch. Despite these misgivings, Grace and Calvin develop a romantic connection. As her departure approaches, however, their blossoming relationship transforms into a convoluted maze of deceptions. Calvin's affections become unnerving, while Grace suspects Calvin of concealing something sinister. This vacation romance, instead of ending in heartbreak, threatens to unravel in a far more damaging and destructive climax.

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📚️ Most Talked About Non-Fiction - Week of May 22, 2023

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed

The connection between Mercedes Formula One team and Google lies in their adoption of "Black Box Thinking," an approach that encourages learning from failures to improve performance. This mindset is integral to their operations, facilitating innovative solutions, whether in car performance or algorithmic efficiency. Team Sky, a cycling team, and the aviation industry are also linked by this mentality. They continuously improve their performance through incremental enhancements ("marginal gains") and rigorous analysis of any failures or accidents. Similarly, James Dyson, inventor and industrial designer, and David Beckham, a globally recognized footballer, embody this thinking. Dyson's iterative design process, persisting through numerous failures before achieving success, and Beckham's dedication and ability to learn from his mistakes in his sports career, exemplify the concept. Matthew Syed's "Black Box Thinking" explores these connections, emphasizing the universal importance of this approach in achieving success across various fields - sports, business, politics, and personal life.

🆕 New and Noteworthy

Fancy Bear Goes Phishing: The Dark History of the Information Age, in Five Extraordinary Hacks by Scott Shapiro

"Fancy Bear Goes Phishing" by Scott J. Shapiro offers a revealing exploration into the world of cybercrime, framed through captivating narratives of its most notorious perpetrators. Drawing on his Yale University class about hacking, Shapiro delves into the mechanics of the information age, demonstrating how our vulnerability to cybercrime stems not from faulty programming, but from the imperfect workings of our psyches and society. The book's rich tapestry of tales includes those of Robert Morris Jr., who accidentally crashed the internet in the 1980s; the "Dark Avenger," who designed the first mutating computer-virus engine; a teenager who commandeered Paris Hilton's cellphone, and Russian operatives who attempted to influence a US election. In illuminating these narratives, Shapiro unravels the hackers’ toolkits, answers pressing questions about the internet's susceptibility, and provides fresh insights on mitigating cybercrime. The book is a masterful blend of philosophical exploration and thrilling true crime, offering a unique perspective on the future of hacking, espionage, war, and our digital existence.

👀 In Case You Missed It

✍️ Quote of the Week

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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