📚 The Reading Journal #055

Oppenheimer, Motivating Drive, Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Easy Money

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J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant theoretical physicist and one of the key figures in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. One interesting fact about his biography is related to his early education and upbringing.

Oppenheimer was born on April 22, 1904, in New York City, to a wealthy and influential family. His father, Julius Oppenheimer, was a successful German immigrant who had made a fortune in the textile business. The family was assimilated into American society and embraced their new identity, but they still maintained a strong connection to their Jewish heritage.

What's particularly fascinating is that young Oppenheimer initially showed very little interest in science and mathematics. He was more drawn to literature and the arts, and he even wrote poetry. However, his mother, Ella Friedman, recognized his potential and encouraged him to pursue a more scientific and intellectual path.

At the age of twelve, Oppenheimer's interest in science was sparked when he read a book about the theory of relativity. This marked the beginning of his fascination with physics and mathematics. Thanks to his mother's support and the encouragement of his high school physics teacher, he began to excel in these subjects, eventually leading him to become one of the most influential physicists of his time.

This early encouragement from his mother and the fortuitous discovery of a book that ignited his scientific curiosity played a significant role in shaping Oppenheimer's future and ultimately led him to contribute to the development of the atomic bomb. It serves as a reminder of how pivotal supportive parents and chance encounters can be in molding the trajectory of an individual's life and career.

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📚️ Staff Pick of the Week

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

In his book, Daniel H. Pink challenges the common belief that rewards like money are the best way to motivate people, advocating for a more intrinsic approach to motivation. Drawing on extensive scientific research on human motivation spanning four decades, Pink argues that true motivation comes from fulfilling our innate need to have control over our lives, to continuously learn and create, and to contribute positively to ourselves and the world. He identifies three key elements of genuine motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Pink exposes the disconnect between scientific knowledge on motivation and its application in business and life, offering innovative strategies to incorporate these elements into our lives and work. Through this compelling work, Pink aims to revolutionize our perspectives on motivation and ultimately transform how we lead and live.

🎥 Reading Talk's

📈 Rising Quickly - Week of July 17, 2023

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

In his book, anthropologist David Graeber challenges conventional beliefs by revealing that debt predates the concept of money. He traces back over 5,000 years of human history, showing that complex credit systems were used for trade and commerce long before coins or cash were invented. This era also marked the emergence of societies divided into debtors and creditors. Graeber highlights how discussions about debt and debt forgiveness have played a pivotal role in political debates worldwide, leading to numerous uprisings throughout history. He further explores how ancient concepts related to debt, such as "guilt," "sin," and "redemption," have influenced the language of law and religion, shaping our fundamental notions of right and wrong. Graeber argues that these age-old debates about debt continue to resonate in present-day society, affecting us on a subconscious level, even without our awareness.

🪄Most Talked About Fiction - Week of July 17, 2023

Horse: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks

Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South. When the nation erupts in civil war, an itinerant young artist who has made his name on paintings of the racehorse takes up arms for the Union. On a perilous night, he reunites with the stallion and his groom, very far from the glamor of any racetrack.
New York City, 1954. Martha Jackson, a gallery owner celebrated for taking risks on edgy contemporary painters, becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century equestrian oil painting of mysterious provenance.
Washington, DC, 2019. Jess, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian, find themselves unexpectedly connected through their shared interest in the horse—one studying the stallion’s bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the lost history of the unsung Black horsemen who were critical to his racing success.
Based on the remarkable true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington, Horse is a novel of art and science, love and obsession, and our unfinished reckoning with racism.

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📚️ Most Talked About Non-Fiction - Week of July 17, 2023

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer Kai Bird

American Prometheus is a comprehensive biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, renowned as the "father of the atomic bomb." The book delves into Oppenheimer's life and achievements, from his leadership in developing the atomic bomb during World War II to his later involvement in advocating international controls over atomic materials. Despite his fame, Oppenheimer faced opposition from influential figures like Edward Teller and J. Edgar Hoover, leading to doubts about his trustworthiness with America's nuclear secrets. The biography explores his education, quantum physics studies in Germany, establishment of a leading physics school in Berkeley, and his transformation during his time at Los Alamos, where he directed nuclear weapons research. The book presents a vivid portrayal of midcentury America, offering insights into significant historical events, including the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. American Prometheus provides a crucial understanding of the past and its relevance to future decisions.

🆕 New and Noteworthy

Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud

During the height of the pandemic, popular TV star Ben McKenzie found himself intrigued by the world of cryptocurrency, driven by a mix of being stuck at home with some disposable income, concern for his family's financial security, and a fear of missing out on potential profits. Despite his background in economics, McKenzie was initially drawn to the idea of cryptocurrencies empowering individuals and challenging traditional banking systems. However, as he delved deeper into the world of blockchain, Bitcoin, and various other coins and exchanges, he began to question whether it was all a massive scam. In the book "Easy Money," McKenzie collaborates with journalist Jacob Silverman on an investigative adventure, exposing the shocking and potentially devastating reality of the cryptocurrency world as it reaches a critical juncture. The book features stories of average traders, victims of scams, eccentric crypto enthusiasts, influential Hollywood figures who believe in crypto, whistleblowers speaking out against cryptocurrencies, and government agents attempting to find solutions amid the looming threat of a major crash, likening it to the irresponsibility and fraud seen during the 2008 Housing Bubble, potentially even dwarfing Bernie Madoff's infamous scheme.

✍️ Quote of the Week

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

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