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8 socially conscious books to gift your friends and family

8 socially conscious books to gift your friends and family

A great book accomplishes many things: It should tell a powerful story, make you reflect on the subject at hand, and maybe even start a thoughtful conversation with other people in our lives. Around the holidays, especially leading up to the New Year, is a great time to kick back and treat our minds to some thoughtful and engaging prose.

Modern American literature is rich with a diverse set of stories from men and women across the political spectrum, sharing their takes on the art of living. And if you want to go deeper, our shared human history has a nearly endless abundance of tomes on how to live our best lives, in the most meaningful sense that transcends frivolous trends in popular culture.


But a great book, especially one with a socially conscious edge, should challenge our ways of thinking, not just reaffirm that which we already know and believe. So, here is a list of 8 of our favorite books that meet this criteria. No one will be entirely satisfied by our list, and that's the idea! These books are meant to educate, provoke, inspire and even cause debate. If you're thinking of starting a book club this year, put down the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones and pick up one of these. You'll be thankful for it and can proudly display any one of these on your bookshelf or around the office water cooler.



Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

You may truly never find a book full of more tragedy leading directly to direct inspiration and as the title affirms, meaning for life itself. Frankl was a successful psychiatrist in Germany before being sent to a concentration camp during World War II. Surrounded by death and despair, Frankl used the mental notes from a book he was working on to form the basis for logotherapy, a treatment that helps patients find meaning in their lives, something Frankl believed was essential for personal growth and emotional development. The short book (this paperback edition is 192 pages) is nearly evenly split between Frankl's Holocaust memoir and a latter exploration of his breakthrough therapy. It has sold well over 10 million copies and become a trusted guidebook for mental healthcare professionals, member of 12-Step communities and virtually anyone willing to dig a little deeper for meaning. If you're looking for the answer to what life is all about this a book that is quite literally full of answers both large and small.



Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life by Cleo Wade

Only 30-years-old, Wade is already being called "the Millennial Oprah" in some circles. Starting her career as a poet and activist, Wade gave a Ted Talk in 2017 "Want to change the world? Start by being brave enough to care" that quickly went viral. The incredibly accessible book is full of illustrations, affirmations and images shared by Wade on living a life full of personal and spiritual fulfillment. We often equate wisdom with age but Wade has shown that even younger voices can tap into a timeless quality, remixing tried and true secrets for success into a brilliant and engaging read for people of all generations.


Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

A new generation of readers is discovering the literary brilliance of Baldwin, especially through the groundbreaking recent documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Often overlooked in modern American historical texts, Baldwin was an essential figure in the Civil Rights Movement, right alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The fact that Baldwin was also gay, makes his place all the more significant. Though told through the lens of his breakthrough novel, "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is a masterclass if race, sexuality, coming-of-age struggles and class warfare. Like so many of Baldwin's public lectures and essays, the pages of this novel feel both out of time and deeply resonant in any time. You'll not only find the novel impossible to put down, but don't be surprise when you go down the Baldwin rabbit hold before, during and after you finish this one-of-a-kind story.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

What if the president was Indiana Jones? OK, we already got that in the Harrison Ford film Air Force One but this Pulitzer Prize winning book is the real deal. Chronicling Roosevelt's life right up until he becomes president, "Rise" is jam packed with adventures, wisdom and inspiration. Yes, Roosevelt was born into privilege. But unlike so many others, including our current president, TR chose to run away from his inheritance and make a life on his own as a rancher, a soldier and eventually a politician. He made so much history it's hard to keep tabs on it all. This is the man who literally inspired the creation of the Teddy Bear. And along the way he helped launch the modern conservation movement, fought the corruption influence of money in politics, and embodied one of the many phrases attributed to him, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." And oh yeah, he swam with sharks. No really. He may not have been the most important president in history but he certainly was the most badass.



I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Write what you know. The cliched advice to aspiring writers is both well-worn and often true. And Maya Angelou proved it's wisdom in her debut memoir. Angelou went on to have a storied career in the letters and social activism but it's hard to overestimate the importance of this book when it seemingly came out of nowhere. As James Baldwin himself said at the time of the book's publication in 1969: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity."



Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

With great power comes great responsibility and at the time there was no one more powerful in the world than the Roman Emperor. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, it's amazing that more than a thousand years later, Aurelius might best be remembered for his small book full of life wisdom and reflections. Simply one of the most important and useful books ever written, "Meditations" is full of advice on getting along with others and one's self that is just as relevant today as it was nearly 2,000 years ago. There's a reason the philosophy of Stoicism has become so trendy again in recent years as we search for depth and purpose in our modern lives. There's a lifetime of wisdom in these 256 pages -- lessons you'll want to return to time and again throughout your life. Meditations also makes for an incredible gift for just about anyone: the young student headed off to college, someone grappling with loss, or just anyone looking to drive their intellectual and spiritual curiosity. The wisdom of the ages is here for the taking.


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates may be the most important writer on social justice and racism in modern America. "Between the World an Me" is the book that catapulted him from the somewhat obscure world of essay journalism into international acclaim, something he has discussed at fascinating length in interviews and his writing. At times scathing, tragic and always heartfelt, Coates' book explores race in American as he struggles to come to terms with his own philosophical leanings while passing along lessons to his young son. In more recent years, Coates has found a way to bridge his revolutionary writing into mainstream popular culture, penning several Black Panther comics and serving as a consultant on the blockbuster Marvel film of the same name. That makes his more serious writing the perfect bridge for someone who was interested in the themes touched upon in that film and those comics but wanting to go deeper with an unmistakable voice that will not be denied.



God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

Looking for something controversial you say? Well, have we got the book for you! In the last decade of his life, Hitchens became best-known for his support of the War on Terror and his contrarian viewpoints that fit most comfortably alongside the American political right. But Hitch was nothing if not complicated and brilliant. Amongst his core beliefs was a lifelong support of socialism and a career as one of the world's most prominent Atheists. His belief in non-belief is poured into a concentrated blast in "God Is Not Great" which systemically goes through the world's largest religions, heroes and icons -- dismantling the arguments in favor of organized religion. Yes, some of the arguments may prove difficult or even offensive for devout believers but Hitchens thrived on (mostly) cordial debate. That makes this book equally worthwhile for Atheists and believers alike. After all, if we cannot stand by our beliefs under duress, what good are they really? Stick around till near the end when Hitchens anoints Martin Luther King Jr. as one of the few icons worthy of saintliness - but not for the reasons you're probably thinking. The world was a better place with Christopher Hitchens in it -- he made intellectual thought and debate entertaining for the masses. We could sure use his wit and integrity in today's world.



The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by the Dalai Lama

After all that shock and awe, let's wind things down on a peaceful note. The Dalai Lama has spent his current lifetime expanding the reach of Buddhism's teachings in a way that has proven historically accessible, fresh and new. Ancient wisdom has never felt so cutting edge and integral to our world. Like so many other authors on this list, he has experienced personal and transformative loss and yet has found boundless meaning and purpose in the face of adversity. After all, the Dalai Lama is almost always smiling in videos and photos. His book is one that practically invented the cottage industry of self-help books for those looking for greater happiness and meaning in their lives. When in doubt, go to the source. You will not be disappointed.


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Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.


The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

time, science, frames per second, bounced light

The amazing camera.

Photo from YouTube video.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, "If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years."


In the video below, you'll see experimental footage of light photons traveling 600-million-miles-per-hour through water.

It's impossible to directly record light so the camera takes millions of scans to recreate each image. The process has been called femto-photography and according to Andrea Velten, a researcher involved with the project, "There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

(H/T Curiosity)


This article originally appeared on 09.08.17

@thehalfdeaddad/TikTok

Dad on TikTok shared how he addressed his son's bullying.

What do you do when you find out your kid bullied someone? For many parents, the first step is forcing an apology. While this response is of course warranted, is it really effective? Some might argue that there are more constructive ways of handling the situation that teach a kid not only what they did wrong, but how to make things right again.

Single dad Patrick Forseth recently shared how he made a truly teachable moment out of his son, Lincoln, getting into trouble for bullying. Rather than forcing an apology, Forseth made sure his son was actively part of a solution.


The thought process behind his decision, which he explained in a now-viral TikTok video, is both simple and somewhat racial compared to how many parents have been encouraged to handle similar situations.

“I got an email a few days ago from my 9-year-old son's teacher that he had done a ‘prank’ to a fellow classmate and it ended up embarrassing the classmate and hurt his feelings,” the video begins.

At this point, Forseth doesn’t split hairs. “I don't care who you are, that's bullying,” he said. “If you do something to somebody that you know has the potential end result of them being embarrassed in front of a class or hurt—you’re bullying.”

So, Forseth and Lincoln sat down for a long talk (a talk, not a lecture) about appropriate punishment and how it would have felt to be on the receiving end of such a prank.

From there, Forseth told his son that he would decide how to make things right, making it a masterclass in taking true accountability.

“I demanded nothing out of him. I demanded no apology, I demanded no apology to the teacher,” he continued, adding, “I told him that we have the opportunity to go back and make things right. We can't take things back, but we can try to correct things and look for forgiveness.”

@thehalfdeaddad Replying to @sunshinyday1227 And then it’s my kid 🤦‍♂️😡 #endbullyingnow #talktoyourkidsmore #dadlifebestlife #singledadsover40 #teachyourchildren #ReadySetLift ♬ Get You The Moon - Kina

So what did Lincoln do? He went back to his school and actually talked to the other boy he pranked. After learning that they shared a love of Pokémon, he then went home to retrieve two of his favorite Pokémon cards as a peace offering, complete with a freshly cleaned case.

Lincoln would end up sharing with his dad that the other boy was so moved by the gesture that he would end up hugging him.

“I just want to encourage all parents to talk to your kids,” Forseth concluded. “Let's try to avoid just the swat on the butt [and] send them to their room. Doesn't teach them anything.”

In Forseth’s opinion, kids get far more insight by figuring out how to resolve a problem themselves. “That's what they're actually going to face in the real world once they move out of our nests.”

He certainly has a point. A slap on the wrist followed by being marched down somewhere to say, “I’m sorry,” only further humiliates kids most of the time. With this gentler approach, kids are taught the intrinsic value of making amends after wrongdoing, not to mention the power of their own autonomy. Imagine that—blips in judgment can end up being major character-building moments.

Kudos to this dad and his very smart parenting strategy.


This article originally appeared on 3.24.23

Representative image from Canva

Because who can keep up with which laundry settings is for which item, anyway?

Once upon a time, our only option for getting clothes clean was to get out a bucket of soapy water and start scrubbing. Nowadays, we use fancy machines that not only do the labor for us, but give us free reign to choose between endless water temperature, wash duration, and spin speed combinations.

Of course, here’s where the paradox of choice comes in. Suddenly you’re second guessing whether that lace item needs to use the “delicates” cycle, or the “hand wash” one, or what exactly merits a “permanent press” cycle. And now, you’re wishing for that bygone bucket just to take away the mental rigamarole.

Well, you’re in luck. Turns out there’s only one setting you actually need. At least according to one laundry expert.

While appearing on HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast, Patric Richardson, aka The Laundry Evangelist, said he swears by the “express” cycle, as “it’s long enough to get your clothes clean but it’s short enough not to cause any damage.”

Richardson’s reasoning is founded in research done while writing his book, “Laundry Love,” which showed that even the dirtiest items would be cleaned in the “express” cycle, aka the “quick wash” or “30 minute setting.”


Furthermore the laundry expert, who’s also the host of HGTV’s “Laundry Guy,” warned that longer wash settings only cause more wear and tear, plus use up more water and power, making express wash a much more sustainable choice.

Really, the multiple settings washing machines have more to do with people being creatures of habit, and less to do with efficiency, Richardson explained.

“All of those cycles [on the washing machine] exist because they used to exist,” he told co-hosts Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson. “We didn’t have the technology in the fabric, in the machine, in the detergent [that we do now], and we needed those cycles. In the ’70s, you needed the ‘bulky bedding’ cycle and the ‘sanitary’ cycle ... it was a legit thing. You don’t need them anymore, but too many people want to buy a machine and they’re like, ‘My mom’s machine has “whitest whites.”’ If I could build a washing machine, it would just have one button — you’d just push it, and it’d be warm water and ‘express’ cycle and that’s it.”
washing machine

When was the last time you washed you washing machine? "Never" is a valid answer.

Canva

According to Good Housekeeping, there are some things to keep in mind if you plan to go strictly express from now on.

For one thing, the outlet recommends only filling the machine halfway and using a half dose of liquid, not powder detergent, since express cycles use less water. Second, using the setting regularly can develop a “musty” smell, due to the constant low-temperature water causing a buildup of mold or bacteria. To prevent this, running an empty wash on a hot setting, sans the detergent, is recommended every few weeks, along with regularly scrubbing the detergent drawer and door seal.

Still, even with those additional caveats, it might be worth it just to knock out multiple washes in one day. Cause let’s be honest—a day of laundry and television binging sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

To catch even more of Richardson’s tips, find the full podcast episode here.


This article originally appeared on 2.4.24

Should babysitters be expected to clean?

When it comes to babysitting, you can hit the jackpot with someone who not only enjoys hanging out with your kiddos but also cleans out of boredom. The only babysitter I've had that experience with is my mom, but I do hear they do exist. While walking into a spotless house after a much-needed night out would be amazing, it's not really part of a standard babysitting package.

Typically, whoever babysits for you is solely there to focus on the well-being of your children. They feed them snacks, play games with them, and follow their bedtime routine to the letter. Then they hang out on your couch reminding Netflix that they're still watching and wait for you to return. Sure, they clean up dishes from dinner and whatever toys were pulled out during their time with your kids, but they don't typically clean your house.

But in a private parenting group I belong to, a long debate was started when a mom asked a group of 260k of her closest friends if it would be appropriate for a parent to ask a babysitter to clean their home.


The anonymous mom explained that her college-aged daughter had recently started babysitting for a family, but on the second day, her duties suddenly changed. There was a list of chores waiting for the babysitter that included cleaning the family's dishes and cleaning up messes that were there before the sitter arrived.

This revelation set off a firestorm of comments with many agreeing that anything outside of cleaning up after the children while they're in your care is a separate job. But not everyone was on the same page and it was clear that this was a topic that was going to cause some intense debate. Since summer months are here, there's no wonder this topic is coming up and views are split.

woman holding kid in the street

Should babysitters be expected to clean, one mom asks.

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Scary Mommy recently published an article posing a similar question, only this was coming from a parent who wanted her babysitter to clean while her children slept. Elizabeth Narins explains that she and her husband are stretched thin and have an active toddler she jokingly calls a "toy tornado."

"Given the amount of housework that clearly needs to be done, paying someone to sit on our toy-covered couch during naps or after bedtime just seems... inefficient," Narins wrote before posing the question. "Is it completely out of line for me to ask her to declutter when my kids are in bed?"

Whether it's the expert interviewed for the Scary Mommy article or the parents in the private group, there does seem to be one common theme among the discourse: Any additional chores should be clarified in the original job description, and if it wasn't, then it should be directly brought up in a conversation with the babysitter.

Many parents in the comments believed that a housekeeper should be hired in addition to the babysitter, while others thought the babysitter should be offered more money for the additional work. But there were several people who thought it was just common courtesy for a babysitter to clean the house while the kids were asleep.

It may seem that you're paying a babysitter to do nothing while your children sleep, but you're paying them to be there in the event of an emergency. No matter which side of the debate you're on, it seems proper communication about expectations will save everyone a headache in the future.

Do you think cleaning should be expected from a babysitter?


This article originally appeared on 6.8.23

CBS Mornings|YouTube

Video shows group of strangers trying to free man from burning car

Getting into a car crash is not something people hope they experience in their lifetimes, and if it does happen you hope it's just a minor fender bender. Unfortunately not all car accidents are minor. One man found himself in a pretty major accident on a Minnesota highway becoming trapped in his car.

According to eye witnesses, the man struck a light pole on the highway, landing with the driver's side of the car pinned against the guardrail. The car quickly becomes engulfed in flames as other drivers rush to the man's side in an attempt to free him from the fiery vehicle. Kadir Tolla caught the whole thing on his dash-cam accidentally when he jumped out of his running car to help.

Multiple people fought flames trying desperately to pull the car door open to let the driver out, but the guardrail thwarts their efforts repeatedly. At some point, Tolla runs to grab a large piece of hard plastic he found on the road and attempts to break the window. Nothing seems to be going in favor of the civilian rescuers.


"He was saying, 'pull me out, pull me out, pull me out,'" Tolla tells Fox News. "We could crack the door a little bit, you know, give him a little air. It [the flames] was actually smacking us in our face but we was just jumping back."

Eventually a "highway helper" arrived and breaks the glass on the driver's side window, which allows the other drivers to pull the man through the window, carrying him to safety. They got him out just in the knick of time because before they could get the unidentified man away from the car, the flames began to dance right where the driver was sitting seconds before.

The entire video is heart stopping, and shows the power of everyday people working together to save a stranger. Watch the heroic rescue below.