A useful and much-needed guide to turning the clock back to a less frazzled pre-internet and -smartphone day.

24/6

THE POWER OF UNPLUGGING ONE DAY A WEEK

The joy of going offline.

Filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Shlain once urged friends to connect online. Now she wonders, “how do you get people offline regularly to live a good life?” In this bright debut, she offers a very personal solution: Take a weekly “Technology Shabbat,” a day spent without smartphones or any other screen. A secular Jew and child of the 1970s, the author and her husband and daughters have been unplugging for one full day, every week, for nearly 10 years—and liking it. Troubled that everyone is “head-down looking at screens all the time”—like “ostriches burying our heads in silicon sand”—she argues that the traditional day of rest works nicely to reduce the stress of news, tweets, and other electronic distractions. Benefits include increased productivity, reduced burnout, and greater quality of life. Writing in a pleasing, conversational style, Shlain reminds us that, according to one study, American adults spend 74 hours per week staring at a screen. “Screens have become like members of the family,” she writes, noting some people keep power on even during Lamaze classes. Drawing on family experiences, she focuses on the basics of 24/6 living, beginning with the need to get back your landline: A phone plugged into a wall is critical for emergencies. Have needed supplies at hand (pad and sharpie pens, radio or record player, camera, books, other offline amusements), tell your relatives and boss, invite friends to join the day, entice your children (with games, picnics, bike rides), and so on. A weekend day is best for Tech Shabbat, when there is time for cooking, excursions, talks, visits, or doing nothing. While outdoors, borrow someone else’s phone to make calls. Shlain’s detailed examples will seem a bit much for some, but they make clear how an off-day can refresh the entire family.

A useful and much-needed guide to turning the clock back to a less frazzled pre-internet and -smartphone day.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982116-86-6

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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