Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Surely, you're all dying to know what we've been reading lately. Here's a quick run down.

A few weeks ago, we went through Borders and picked up a few new books to read. Well... new to ES, but good old stories to LW and me.

First up was Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. ES really liked this one a lot. He did a super job reading it, too. I just held the book open for him and he read it all. Amazon says the reading level for the book is 9-12, so I thought that was pretty good for my almost 7-year old. He looks forward to reading more stories about Pee-tah and Fudge, so I think we'll be picking up Super Fudge, Double Fudge, and Fudge-a-Mania.

Next we gave Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events a try. Someone had told me that they loved reading this series with their kids. I really enjoyed the movie, too, but wasn't sure how ES would go for it. I thought we'd try the book. We read the first chapter together one night, but it didn't really catch his interest, and he wanted to try a different book the next night.

I'm really excited about the third book we've started reading. When I was around ES's age, my Grandpa Ernie started reading books to me on an audio tape and sending the tapes to me in the mail. One of my favorites was The Hobbit. I must have listened to Grandpa's tape reading the story to me a hundred times or more. Because of the fond memories I have of Grandpa reading to me, it's one of those things that I have looked forward to doing with my sons for quite a while. I was a little worried it would be too deep or over his head.

I'm happy to report that he REALLY likes it! We wants to read it every night. The biggest problem is that we start reading it and then end up reading for like 45 minutes instead of the usual 15 minutes with his other books. I need to start setting a timer to limit how long we spend reading so that ES gets to bed on time.

It's most definitely above his reading level, so I have been reading it to him with him sitting on my lap following along. I definitely think it is going to help his vocabulary grow, because he doesn't hesitate to ask me, "What does _________ mean?" when we encounter a new word.

Aside: For the previous books, I included links to the edition we picked up at Borders. There are just way too many different printed versions of this one for me to include a link here. I would spent all day just searching the internet for THE edition we bought.

As for my own personal reading, I have been reading Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational. It's really good! My commodore came back from the submarine major commanders' conference with this book recommendation from Admiral Donnelly.

It's quite similar to Levitt & Dubner's Freakonomics in it's expose of bizarre and seemingly irrational choices that people make. In fact, both books cite some of the same studies, like the Israeli day care center that started charging a fee for parents that picked their kids up late. It backfired on them and people were more frequently late to pick up their kids, because now they were just paying for the time instead of feeling guilty about their kids being watched for extra time without paying for it.

There's one big difference between the two books that sets Predictably Irrational apart as my favorite of the two. Freakonomics read like a sensationalist tabloid of bizarre true life stories. In Predictably Irrational, Ariely illustrates the phenomena with similar sensationalist-style stories, but then he takes it a step farther. He describes the probable root cause behind the behavior and illustrates the potential weaknesses in our own "logic." Then, he takes that a step further and offers some practical strategies that the reader can use to try not to make the same "irrational" decisions. In other words, I felt like Freakonomics was just sort of an interesting description of some weird behavior, while Predictably Irrational offers practical applications of knowing about these weaknesses in human nature.

Reading Predictably Irrational reminded me a lot of one of my favorite classes in college, Social Psychology. The thing I enjoyed most about that class was what it taught me about marketing and salesmanship. Not because I was a salesman, mind you, but so that as a consumer I was aware of the tricks that high-pressure salesmen use.

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