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books lately

by Shawni

Ok I have really been holding firm to my goal to read at least two books each month in 2019 and I’m loving it. (My memorization goal, on the other hand, isn’t going quite so hot, but we don’t have to talk about that right now! ha!) I can’t quite keep up here writing about all those books though! And that’s too bad because if I share here it helps me hold on to them a little better. So here are a few to catch up on.

Abby introduced Sapiens to us to because she was reading it for her Anthropology major:

Dave’s friend had also told him about it, so both he and Abby had read it so I figured I better get busy with it too. It’s a pretty big book (Abby’s book she lugged around Africa looked a little daunting) so I opted to listen to it which was a good choice in my opinion!

You guys, this is a pretty fascinating book! It is the history of all mankind from the very beginning packed into one book that really pulls you in. It’s very science-based, which was interesting to me, (includes some “religion is a myth” stuff that I obviously don’t believe in, but always love hearing other sides), and goes into how the human species developed into who we are today from what we eat to how we act to how we communicate and cooperate. It goes through basic economics and religion Am I making you yawn yet? I know! I thought the same thing before I read this but I it somehow just draws you in and makes it all so interesting…it’s put together so well!

Some little outtakes I took notes on:

–the beginning goes into depth about mapping the neanderthal genome, mapping the unique human DNA to our society today, how the discovery of fire changed the world, how the agricultural revolution was “history’s biggest blunder” and goes into such an interesting synopsis of how something as seemingly small as cultivating wheat can expand humankind exponentially.

–it goes into the history of bartering and how money got it’s worth and became a system of mutual trust.

–pros and cons of capitalism…“if it weren’t for businessmen seeking to make money, Columbus would not have reached America, James Cooke would not have reach Australia, and Neal Armstrong wouldn’t have taken that small step on the moon.”

–the evolution of industry and how consumerism has “worked hard to make indulgence good for you, whereas frugality is self-oppression.”…”each year the world spends more money on diets than it would to feed the whole world.

–the parts about the FAMILY really hit me. It talks about how the family has always accounted for all social systems, the essential building block of societies and how “the most momentous social revolution that ever fell on humankind: the collapse of the family and the local community.” And it goes into how they have been replaced in many ways by the state and the market. I took away that we need to fight more for families! “Strong families have a high rate of happiness.” “Marriage is proven to create a high sense of well-being.” “Individual wielding unprecedented power (they can leave any time) our society makes it harder and harder to make commitments.”

–I loved this: “being satisfied with what you already have is far more important than getting more of what you want.” It is all a matter of expectations: mass media and the advertising industry are depleting the world’s reservoirs of contentment. If you were and 18-year-old in a small village a hundred years ago you’d probably think you and were good looking because the pool is small to compare and many were old or young. But nowadays you are a lot more likely to feel inadequate. You try to measure yourself against athletes and actors you see all over. Possible third-world discontent is not from poverty, disease, corruption, etc., but also mere exposure to first-world standards.” (not exact quotes as you could probably tell, but as close as I could get from listening)

“A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.”

Oh my goodness I could go on and on…so many thoughts (it is a long book!).

You can find it and all kinds of reviews HERE.

I read The Lake House (below) for book club a couple months ago. It kept me interested but was tied up way too neatly at the end in my opinion and wasn’t my favorite…not sure I would wholly recommend it unless you’re looking for something light and entertaining.

Where the Crawdads Sing though, that one I’d recommend. It is one I read last summer and gosh, it is so beautifully written, but I sure wished I had someone to discuss every detail with the second I was done! I don’t want to give anything away but I had mixed up emotions at the end.

Luckily my book club read it last month and we got to discuss all together. It was a mystery mixed with thought provoking characters (a girl who raises herself in “the swamp” of North Carolina). Two of the parts I bookmarked were about one of the characters, Tate. I loved how his father taught him that a “real man” is “one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera with his soul and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.” That is, of course, a tiny sliver of this book but it stuck out to me because so often you can link the goodness or troubled-ness of a person back to their parents and the love and wisdom they have or have not instilled, don’t you think? And then you have someone like the main character Kya who is just trying her darnedest to figure it out with the snippets of memories she has from both of her parents.

Oh there’s way more so just go ahead and read it and get enthralled with the moral dilemmas 🙂 You can find it HERE.

Ok, signing off for now, next week I’ll share a few more…

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6 comments

Madeleine October 15, 2019 - 10:23 am

So many people have told me about Sapiens – thank you for recommending! Also, just want to give Abby a shout out for majoring in Anthropology! Because post-secondary is so expensive for young people these days, I know many feel pressured to get a degree that can “give them a job” immediately out of one degree. And while it is absolutely fine to pursue a degree in marketing or finance, I think many are missing out on a really important part of education: to expand your mind and world. There aren’t really any jobs for social science majors (I was a political science major so I was in the same boat and ended up doing a second degree – law) but there is SO much value is pursuing that path. I remember asking my mom, who really encouraged me to take polisci, what on earth I was going to do with my degree and she said, “you are going to be a critically thinking, engaged citizen of this country. It is one of your major responsibilities in life.” I’ve never forgotten her words. And heaven knows we need critically thinking, engaged citizens in this country and world right now! So three cheers for Abby and her pursuit of knowledge. It is the best use of ones early 20s and I hope she is soaking it all up.
I have a few more book recommendations for you (and Abby, and anyone else who likes books that, as you say, “really make you think”). I think both of these books should be required reading for all North Americans:
1. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder – amazing biography of Laura Ingalls, author of Little House on the Prairie. It won the Pulitzer Prize so you know it is good!
2. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King – it’s fascinating and also quite funny!

And then my third recommendation is called “The Great Work of your life” by Stephen Cope. It’s a fast read that includes inspiring mini biographies of great thinkers every chapter. I think you will be so inspired by it. And it is such an interesting way of thinking about what is one’s “great work” in their life – not just their job, but their calling – whether it be poetry or parenting or establishing a non-profit. I don’t know you, of course, but I am pretty confident in saying it is your kind of book. 🙂 Cheers!

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SHAWNI POTHIER October 15, 2019 - 10:39 pm

oh I love the recommendations! They all sound like they’d be right down my alley, thank you for sending them!
xoxo

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Elizabeth October 16, 2019 - 8:34 am

I totally agree with you Madeleine on the value of liberal arts! I’m an English and French major who has been employed at a large financial services company for 14 years, so I think that the idea that only STEM majors have jobs waiting for them out of college is a bit misguided. I found this article and the comments on it super interesting in that regard:
{https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/business/liberal-arts-stem-salaries.html?fallback=0&recId=1RNslJxvl9Wi9l990IXWIaEfxCX&locked=0&geoContinent=NA&geoRegion=NY&recAlloc=story-desks&geoCountry=US&blockId=home-featured&imp_id=277546301&action=click&module=editorsPicks&pgtype=Article&region=Footer}

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Shawni October 21, 2019 - 11:49 am

Thanks Elizabeth, I will check that out!

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KIRSTEN CANTRELL October 15, 2019 - 11:29 am

Where the crawdads sing was one of my fave reads in the past year or so!
Also, random question but I remember you posting a photo of you and your girls accidentally matching in black jumpers? Where do you find jumpers for tall girls? I’ve got one heading out on a mission in a few months.

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SHAWNI POTHIER October 15, 2019 - 10:42 pm

Oh yes, one of those (mine) was from a sale at Urban Outfitters, one was from Target (Claire’s) and the other was a great find of Grace’s from Savers. Not sure how much that helps since they were all a while ago, I wish I had other good suggestions for missionaries! Good luck to your daughter!
xoxo

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