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A man reads a book in the sunshine on steps covered in artificial grass on July 10, 2013 in London, England. Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Make Me Smart With Kai and Molly

Blog: The Make Me Smart Book Group

Jennie Josephson Mar 10, 2017
A man reads a book in the sunshine on steps covered in artificial grass on July 10, 2013 in London, England. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

On a recent Facebook Live video, Molly Wood talked about a book that includes one of her favorite topics: path dependence — the idea that the decisions we make depend a lot on past knowledge and decisions we’ve made, even if those ideas are no longer relevant. Kai Ryssdal suggested a book club. You responded! So drum roll, please. Welcome to the Make Me Smart book club.

Here are a few of the books we’re reading (listeners included): 

Kai Ryssdal: Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison.

“It’s a psychological profile of Robert Lowell, the poet. He was manic depressive and wrote some of the best poetry this country has ever seen. One of the lines in the book that the author quotes is, “He has written the kind of poetry that will be talked about as long as people are still reading the written word.” 

Jamison is a clinical psychologist and writer who has contributed to a better clinical understanding of bipolar disorder, the term that replaced manic depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. Her autobiography, “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” details her own struggles with mania and depression and is considered a classic.

Molly Wood: “Change Agent,” by Daniel Suarez  

“I decided I don’t want to do book group anymore, because I’m going to be embarrassed every time! I’m always going to be reading some pablum. Actually, I’m not reading pablum, I’m reading sci-fi like I usually am, but it is making me way smarter. I’m reading this book called “Change Agent,” by Daniel Suarez, who I’ve been actually been talking about for years. He writes these high-tech, science fiction thrillers, and it’s always, like, horrific unintended consequences of technology. The first one he wrote is a book called “Daemon,” which was just amazing, about how data is going to track you down. But this one is all about gene editing, and it is so fascinating, and so terrifying, and so interesting, because all the conversations about gene editing are something that I hope to get to on this show, I don’t know, whenever the news cycle slows down.” 

We also wanted to know what you’re reading. Here are just a few of your favorite books: 

Adam L.: “As an extrovert married to an introvert, I recently undertook to learn more about how to interact more effectively with introverts in general. As part of that, I read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain. It helped calibrate my perspective and has informed my interactions, and that has dramatically improved my relationship.”

Allison G.: “I just finished “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult with my book group. The book covers privilege, power and race. It has made me smarter because I see racism and privilege differently. This book was perfect for the book club, because it was made to be discussed in groups and pushes one to think about how they perceive race in their own life.”

Nikunj T.: “I’m currently reading “The Silk Roads: A New History of the World,” by Peter Frankopan. The book essentially is a history lesson in how, from the very beginning of civilization, trade and economics and exchange have been the single-most important constant which has dictated and molded kingdoms and countries. There are such intricate records of trade and Marketplace (a little unintended plug for you) from the B.C. era and how economics has led us to where we are today. It’s a fascinating read. And, history does repeat itself.. let’s just say that…”

Thanks for helping us start down this path. Who knows where it will lead? 

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