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Happy New Year 2023

Newsletter, Jan 7th 2023

Here we are back with a brand new year. I hope that like me, you too are rested, refreshed and ready for 2023!

As is customary this time of year, we will do a look back and a look ahead. But first, some exciting news for January:

  1. Make room for 2023 sale - Earlier this week, with the help of family and book-loving friends, we did a full inventory of in-store books. Thanks to all those who showed up to help, we got through all of the ~5300 books in 6 hrs, including breaks and frequent digressions into the fascinating book someone had just uncovered! What we did find though, is that I'm running out of space for new books. In order for me to continue bringing in the awesome new books that are published each year, some of these current books need to find a new home. With that in mind, one of our front shelves now holds “Books needing a new home” that are 30-40% off their cover price! Current selection is from our Adult non-fiction Space/Astronomy, Physics, Nature and Science Reference sections. I will add more sections as we go. If you had your eye on a book that you weren't quite ready for, now's your chance!

  2. Loyalty program - Excited to finally offer a loyalty program for all those who continue to support us through repeat purchases. From now on, every $1 you spend gets you a star. Accumulate stars to earn rewards. I will add more rewards and more ways to earn stars as we go through the year.

  3. Board Games and Trivia nights - Game nights are back! With some changes. We will now host them on Thursday evenings(first one Jan 12th), 4pm - 8pm. Pre-registration is required for each person attending and will close at 3pm on the day of. That way if there is no registration for the day, we can close at 6pm as usual. Once a month, we will add in a trivia night for science based trivia games with prizes!

  4. Story Time with Stages Theatre - Super excited to share our first event of the year! We are partnering with Stages Theater company for a special story time on Sat the 14th at 12:30 pm. A teaching artist from Stages will read the book “Maybe” by Kobi Yamada. Stages is premiering a play based on that book from Jan 13th to Feb 12th. All attendees will be added to a raffle for a chance to win a free ticket to the show!

And now, for a look back at 2022. Below are the 7 goals I had set for The Thinking Spot in my Jan 2022 Newsletter. Let's see how we did:

  1. Collections - My goal was to recommend unique book collections in-store throughout the year. Between presenting new releases and other collections in each newsletter as well as multiple changing displays in store, I think this one's a green.

  2. Events - This is the one where we blew past all expectations. My goal was at least 1 event a month. We did over 30 events in 2022, not counting book clubs and workshops!

  3. Story times - This one did not pan out as I had hoped. While I did run weekly story times for a few months, attendance was sparse and I ended up shutting it down. We will attempt to do more special story-times with external partnerships, as the one above with Stages.

  4. Space Rental - We have had a few folks take advantage of this resource. Over the year, we've restructured the spaces. You can now reserve the individual cubbies for personal work or 1-1 sessions at 10$/hr OR the entire back half for private events of upto 25 people, with or without add-on workshops, at 25$/hr. As always, the space comes surrounded by books, music and free coffee/tea. You are also welcome to use the board games we have available for game nights during your reserved time.

  5. Memberships - This is another one that did not work out. We have discontinued memberships at this time.

  6. Workshops - We have offered several one-time workshops in 2022. In 2023, I plan to add additional vendors and start to offer multi-day sessions in addition to one-time workshops.

  7. Book clubs - We hosted 4 book clubs in 2022. Looking forward to continuing those as well as adding a few more in 2023. If you'd like to host your own, please reach out.

All in all, a pretty good year. Looking ahead then, for 2023, here are the new goals:

  1. Events - I plan to continue hosting Author and Speaker events, with the goal of at least 1-2 each month. I loved the engagement and discussions that came with Adult Author events. Hope to do more of those, even if virtual.

  2. STE(A)M Workshops - I hope to bring in 2 additional vendors and provide at least 1 multi-session workshop this year.

  3. Book Clubs - I'd like to add a YA book club, a Tech book club and a Fiction book club. Please reach out if you'd like to host or participate in these or any other book clubs.

  4. Loyalty Program - As noted above, I am introducing a loyalty program as a way to give back to those who continue to support us through their purchases. My goal for the year is for 200 customers to reach at least one reward level.

  5. Subscriptions - I would like to introduce “Book of the month” style subscriptions. The first one will most likely be for picture books for kids age 3-7. That is an age range where parents seem most busy and do not have time to browse. I hope to help them out by providing interesting picture books they can share with their kids. Watch for details later in the year.

  6. Fund raisers - In 2022, we held a fund raiser event for Code Savvy with the AI/ART workshop that was a huge hit. We were able to raise over $500 for CodeSavvy in just one day! I'd like to extend this offer to schools and other literacy/STEM related non-profits with the goal of hosting at least 2 fund raisers this year - either through a workshop or a book fair. Please reach out if interested.

Science News: Still no flying cars, teleportation or holograms but lots of exciting advances in science happening all around us. As I look back at the news I shared in 2022, 3 stand out:

  1. James Webb Telescope first images

  2. Fusion Breakthrough

  3. AI advances with DALL-E and ChatGPT!

I'm sure we'll see advances in all 3 areas in 2023, but there will be additional, unexpected, mind-blowing advances as well. I'm excited to discover that future!

Here's one from this week to get you started:

  • A male contraceptive pill without unwanted side effects could soon be a reality. More options = good thing for all concerned!

Book Recommendations: I thought about doing a Thinking Spot best sellers list but given that I only order 1-2 copies of each book and that the interests of all of you science-loving readers are so amazingly varied, it didn't make sense. One trend I did see and am super-thrilled about, is that local Authors did really well - Ben Orlin's Math books led the way, followed by Liz Heinecke's books as well as the other Authors we had in-store, including, surprisingly, a book on cat haiku by our very own multi-book club member, and prolific reader, Lee Scholder! Check them out if you haven't already.

Personally, I got to about 45 books in 2022, still short of my book a week goal, which I will carry forward into 2023. Below are my top 5 of all the books I read in 2022.

Happy New Year, hope reading made it to your list of 2023 goals and see you at The Spot soon!


My Favorites of 2022

Pipe Dreams

By Chelsea Wald

Finalist for the 2022 NASW Science in Society Journalism Award

Longlisted for the 2022 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books

From an award-winning science journalist, a “deeply researched, entertaining, and impassioned exploration of sanitation” (Nature) and the future of the toilet—for fans of popular science bestsellers by Mary Roach.

Most of us do not give much thought to the centerpiece of our bathrooms, but the toilet is an unexpected paradox. On the one hand, it is a modern miracle: a ubiquitous fixture in a vast sanitation system that has helped add decades to the human life span by reducing disease. On the other hand, the toilet is also a tragic failure: less than half of the world’s population can access a toilet that safely manages body waste, including many right here in the United States. And it is inefficient, squandering clean water as well as the nutrients, energy, and information contained in the stuff we flush away. While we see radical technological change in almost every other aspect of our lives, we remain stuck in a sanitation status quo—in part because the topic of toilets is taboo.

Fortunately, there’s hope—and Pipe Dreams daringly profiles the growing army of sewage-savvy scientists, engineers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and activists worldwide who are overcoming their aversions and focusing their formidable skills on making toilets accessible and healthier for all.

This potential revolution in sanitation has many benefits, including reducing inequalities, mitigating climate change and water scarcity, improving agriculture, and optimizing health. Author Chelsea Wald takes us on a wild world tour from a compost toilet project in Haiti, to a plant in the Netherlands that salvages used toilet paper from sewage, and shows us a toilet seat that can watch users’ poop for signs of illness, among many other fascinating developments.

“Toilet humor is one thing, but toilet fact, as digested by skilled science writer Wald, is quite another…[Pipe Dreams is] a highly informative, well-reasoned call to rethink the throne” (Kirkus Reviews).Chelsea Wald has repeatedly plunged into the topic of toilets since 2013, when editors first approached her to write about the latent potential in our stagnating infrastructure. Since then she has traveled to Italy, South Africa, Indonesia, and Haiti, as well as throughout the Netherlands and the United States, in search of the past and future of toilet systems. With a degree in astronomy from Columbia University and a master’s in journalism from Indiana University, Chelsea has more than fifteen years of experience in writing about science and the environment. She has won several awards and reporting grants, including from the Society of Environmental Journalists, the European Geosciences Union, and the European Journalism Centre. She cofounded and continues to help coordinate the DC Science Writers Association Newsbrief Awards for short science writing. She lives with her family in the Netherlands, in a region renowned for its water-related innovations.

Remarkably Bright Creatures

By Shelby Van Pelt

For fans of A Man Called Ove, a luminous debut novel about a widow’s unlikely friendship with a curmudgeonly giant Pacific octopus reluctantly residing at the local aquarium—and, when a mysterious grifter comes to town, the truths all three unlock about her son’s disappearance 30 years ago.

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in the Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

As she works, Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight tentacles for his human captors—until he forms an unlikely friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. As his affection for Tova grows, Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.

Charming, compulsively readable, and full of wit, Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a beautiful exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope—a reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Shelby Van Pelt lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her family. This is her first novel.

An Immense World

By Ed Yong

A grand tour through the hidden realms of animal senses that will transform the way you perceive the world—from the Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes. The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of an immense world. This book welcomes us into a previously unfathomable dimension—the world as it is truly perceived by other animals. We encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and humans that wield sonar like bats. We discover that a crocodile’s scaly face is as sensitive as a lover’s fingertips, that the eyes of a giant squid evolved to see sparkling whales, that plants thrum with the inaudible songs of courting bugs, and that even simple scallops have complex vision. We learn what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes, and what dogs smell on the street. We listen to stories of pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries which lie unsolved. In An Immense World, author and acclaimed science journalist Ed Yong coaxes us beyond the confines of our own senses, allowing us to perceive the skeins of scent, waves of electromagnetism, and pulses of pressure that surround us. Because in order to understand our world we don't need to travel to other places; we need to see through other eyes.

Ed Yong is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer on the staff of The Atlantic, where he also won the George Polk Award for science reporting, among other honors. His first book, I Contain Multitudes, was a New York Times bestseller and won numerous awards. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, National Geographic, Wired, The New York Times, Scientific American, and more. He lives in Washington, D.C.

What We Owe the Future

By William MacAskill

An Instant New York Times Bestseller “This book will change your sense of how grand the sweep of human history could be, where you fit into it, and how much you could do to change it for the better. It's as simple, and as ambitious, as that.” —Ezra Klein An Oxford philosopher makes the case for “longtermism” — that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time. The fate of the world is in our hands. Humanity’s written history spans only five thousand years. Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more — or it could end tomorrow. Astonishing numbers of people could lead lives of great happiness or unimaginable suffering, or never live at all, depending on what we choose to do today. In What We Owe The Future, philosopher William MacAskill argues for longtermism, that idea that positively influencing the distant future is a key moral priority of our time. From this perspective, it’s not enough to reverse climate change or avert the next pandemic. We must ensure that civilization would rebound if it collapsed; counter the end of moral progress; and prepare for a planet where the smartest beings are digital, not human. If we make wise choices today, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty.

William MacAskill is an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford, and the most widely cited philosopher of his age. A TED speaker and past Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur, he also cofounded the Centre for Effective Altruism, which has raised over $1 billion for charities. He lives in Oxford, England.

The End of Bias: A Beginning

By Jessica Nordell

Finalist for the NYPL Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Lukas Book Prize, and the Royal Society Science Book Prize

Winner of the 2022 Nautilus Book Award Silver Medal and an Honorable Mention from the American Society of Journalists and Authors for General Nonfiction

Named a Best Book of the Year by World Economic Forum, AARP, Greater Good, and Inc.

The End of Bias is a transformative, groundbreaking exploration into how we can eradicate unintentional bias and discrimination, the great challenge of our age.

Discussions of unconscious bias typically focus on the problem, not on solutions. But how do we eradicate the unintentional prejudices that clash with our values and wreak havoc across medicine, the workplace, education, policing, and beyond? To find out, award-winning journalist and writer Jessica Nordell undertook a global search for solutions. The culmination of fifteen years’ immersion in the subject, The End of Bias: A Beginning explores how bias ends: the police unit in California where new incentives improved police behavior and decreased both arrests and violent crime, the checklist used by doctors that erased gender disparities in treatment, the media intervention that reduced religious intolerance in France. Weaving gripping stories with scientific research and exquisite writing, Nordell paints riveting portraits of those leading change and interrogates her own biases with candor and insight. Called “powerful” by Bloomberg and “rousing” by the Guardian, The End of Bias: A Beginning offers a hopeful, achievable vision: biased behavior can be remade and we can create a more just world.

Jessica Nordell is a science and culture journalist whose writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, the New Republic, and many other publications. A former writer for public radio and producer for American Public Media, she graduated from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The End of Bias: A Beginning is her first book.

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