June Reads

I read these books this month, pushing my total number of books read for the year to 38. I went to the eye doctor yesterday and received a new prescription; so I’m not sure how much reading I’ll get done while I wait for my new glasses to be made.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – This is one of Greg’s favorite books and he cautioned me about falling down the philosophical rabbit hole when he saw me reading it. We have been discussing how a lot of what Aurelius wrote about is echoed in Christianity. I believe St. Augustine expanded on Aurelius but I’m not too sure about that.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman – Back in my undergrad years, I spent more time with the physics and computer science folks than the folks in my major so of course I heard a lot about Richard Feynman. This was on my “to-read” list in those days but never was able to get it read. I’m glad I read though – it’s a great read, funny at times; but also somber (especially the parts about the Manhattan Project). I may put this book into our highschool years.

Your Two Year old and Your Six Year old – these child development books are somewhat old but informative. I really like them because they’re short (about 120 pages usually) but really do a good job about conveying what typically developing children go through. I like the giant caveat in each book that every child is different and not to stress too much if your child isn’t EXACTLY BY THE BOOK. I like these books to give me a reality check and make sure I don’t have wildly inappropriate expectations for my kids.

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr – another slightly outdated book, but the overall message is solid. What IS the internet doing to our brains? I know when my kids have overdone it on screentime they are just absolutely bonkers afterwards. Even I have a hard time switching from screens to books from time to time. I’ve always liked this book because it’s not a fatalistic almarist “we’re all going to die!!” type book, but one that definitely makes you stop and reevaluate a few things.

It Happened in Montana by James Crutchfield – a preread Montana history book. Short, sweet, and full of fantastic stories about Montana and important events for the state.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance – I find Elon Musk extremely fascinating, and so I had to add him to the list of people to read about. I liked this biography because it was more like sitting down with the author over a beer to discuss Elon Musk vs some scholarly tome about him. The author actually had multiple dinners with Elon while writing the book, so hooray for first-person sources.

I read this book in one sitting, so I clearly found it engaging and informative. I knew next to nothing about Elon Musk, except for very little bits that come through the media.

The most thought-provoking part of the book (for me) is at the very end, where Vance talks about how everything Elon does is for one goal. Is Elon’s overall goal to get to Mars or to make a “fantastic future”? I’m not sure, but Tesla (the car company), SpaceX, Boring Company, and whatever else he’s up to all seem to feed into each other and work to support his overall goal/vision/dream. There really isn’t any waste in terms of “let me devote my time and money to something that won’t further my goals and desires of going to Mars/better humanity/etc”.

I need something like that in my life because as of now, I feel very fragmented, like my overall dream/vision/goal is still something that can’t be put into reality. I want to raise children who are critically-thinking adults, content with doing things perhaps not how society does it; who are good and virtuous. But what does that look like? I would like to say “I’m doing X,Y, and Z to get to my goal above” but who knows what that looks like because I’m dealing with people here (something that ultimately can’t be controlled), AND there’s a danger in defining a goal so focused on my kids. Something for me to (over)think.

Also, you should know there’s a lot of profanity in this book. I’m not bothered by profanity (thanks, oilfield work) but I know some people are. So just a heads up for y’all.

Tesla: Inventor of the Modern by Richard Munson – this is absolutely a “book of the year!” read for me. I just loved this book about Tesla. It is objective, factual, has lots of quotes from Tesla throughout it, includes Munson’s thoughts about Tesla in a curious but still objective fashion. I can’t stand it when biographies paint a specific picture about a person in either extreme. Everyone has their flaws and a good biography (I feel) will include them. Munson did a wonderful job talking about Tesla’s mystical experiences without turning him into some sort of extra-terrestrial. This will definitely be included in our curriculum for high school.

If you’re new to Tesla, start with his autobiography or this biography. Absolutely a wonderfully written book.

Every link except for the one to Meditations is an Amazon affiliate link, purchasing through them gives me a small commission which I turn around and buy more books with. Thank you!

Catching Up

It’s certainly been a busy summer lately. Once we wrapped up our school year, we have been decompressing as much as we can and just relaxing. I was thinking about doing some nature walks over the summer with the local Charlotte Mason group, but I’m starting to think maybe not (mostly due to the inclement weather that’s been going on).

As we are going to start our next school year towards the end of August, I’ve been ramping up book purchasing for the kids. I have all but one or two left to buy for Wok’s Year 1, nothing for Moose’s Year 3, and still a lot or Peanut’s Year 5.

Some books for Year 5, Year 3, Montana history, and geology.

I’m also adding a “family time” component where the four oldest kids will be participating in, will probably happen during Nugget’s naptime; and will consist of Art Study, Composer Study, Hymn, Folk Song, Swedish Drill, German, Programming/Typing, and in-depth science topic. Peanut selected term 1’s in-depth science topic: geology. I’m also doing our own artists and composers for study – Peanut is doing Montana history this year so the artists and composers will all be Montanans. I’m putting together a page here that has a list and links to all my Montana history resources.

More books for the upcoming school year. I helped with a garnet dig for kids at a local festival, and the festival organizers put the dig right in front of the used bookstore. 😀

I’ve been getting out into the field more with the local rock club. It’s a lot of fun, great specimens are found, and we even ran into a juvenile moose! We were nervous it was a mama with babies, but since it wasn’t; we were just ignored. I also have made a couple new friends who are more into rocks and minerals than I am; so we (naturally) have a grand old time together.

The cubes are barite.

Sometimes the kids come out into the field with me, and they get to make their own discoveries! It’s also why Peanut chose geology for the first in-depth science topic.

Blue calcite, epidote, and I think there’s some garnet in there as well. Collected by Moose, age 8.

Finally, when we have had good weather and break in my husband’s on-call schedule; we’ve been CAMPING. The kids have all enjoyed it and even the dog loves all the new smells and sights he gets to take in. So far we’ve gone up into the mountains and camped by a river. It’s nice to get away from everything and not have to do much other than hike and camp and watch wildlife.

I also had a friend come over with her daughter for Peanut to play with, where we just discussed paper planners and personality theory. 😛

I need to finish getting the rest of the books for the upcoming year, then plan out the 36 week plan, and start making sure we have all of our extra resources (science experiment items, nature study stuff, do we need to refill any art supplies, etc). I’d also like to get some more camping in if the sun returns and rivers cease flooding, and keep on reading great books!

A Brief Look at Biographies of Tesla

A friend of mine on Instagram was inquiring about the various Tesla biographies I’ve read and which one would be a good one to start out with, if one wants to learn more about Nikola Tesla.

As I can be overly lengthy when talking about things I like (and really, anything relating to books will surely trigger such a reaction), I figured it would be easier to make a blog post than constantly run up against IG’s comment length limit.

The first book about Tesla I read was Margaret Cheney’s Tesla: Man out of Time. This is also a book that I did not finish (with 30 pages left) because I couldn’t handle the sudden turn of making Tesla seem to be this beyond human entity. There’s a lot of talk about ESP and Tesla and for me, that was a total turn off. It’s well-known that he had visions – flashes of light where he would see things -but to go from there to full blown ESP is a little much.

Still, there was a lot of good things in this biography, especially the whole “Edison vs Tesla” issue. It’s where I first read that Edison had neighborhood pets stolen so he could electrocute them in a scare campaign against Tesla (which shocked me so much because that was news to me and I always thought Edison is as this noble inventor…). She also did a really good job highlighting Tesla’s eccentricities (which honestly sounds like OCD but could just be how he was wired  and not actually a mental disorder).

[I promise that the amount of puns I’ve written in the above paragraph are completely unintentional.]

After I read Cheney’s biography, I went to the source himself and found a cheap copy of his autobiography on Amazon for $3. It’s a short, 92 pages and is titled “My Inventions” and is mostly about – surprise – his inventions. But he does talk a little bit about his family life. I always like to go back to the primary source whenever possible, especially when it comes to biographies.

I’m halfway through Richard Munson’s Tesla: Inventor of the Modern and am enjoying it greatly. There’s a lot of overlap between this book and the two other books – but this book does get more into his family life (including grandparents), includes little mini-bios of people like Edison and Westinghouse, and has quotes by Tesla sprinkled throughout. There’s also footnotes and a couple of appendices. The actual biography is about 260 pages, then the rest of the book are appendices and footnotes. And there are some pictures in the middle, which are always fun to look at.

Although I’m not finished with this book (and therefore can’t tell if Munson also veers towards the supernatural in a big way), I really enjoy it. Plus, Munson cites a biography of Tesla written by John O’Neill, which is something I’ll have to track down – Tesla actually talked to O’Neill while he was writing the biography.

If I had to rank the biographies in terms of their awesomeness/readability/objectiveness, the list would look like this:

  1. My Inventions by Nikola Tesla – short, cheap and is ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’, so to speak. I don’t have to worry if someone is trying to make Tesla someone he’s not.
  2. Tesla: Inventor of the Modern by Richard Munson – lengthier than Tesla’s autobiography but (as of halfway through the book) the approach to Tesla appears to be very balanced and objective. Yes, Tesla had eccentricities and visions but he was still human.
  3. Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney – mostly good, but the direction of making Tesla seem like this supernatural being was just too much for me. And I’m Catholic, so I’m quite comfortable with mysticism and the supernatural.

For everyone’s convenience, here are some COMPLETELY AFFILIATED Amazon links for the books that will give me a little commission that I use to buy more books, should you choose to use them. 🙂

And as I track down more biographies about Tesla (especially that O’Neill one!) I’ll be sure to update this list!