Summer Reading List: Learn About States’ Shapes, Social Physics, and Rust

By Jeffery Robichaud

I was in Seattle for a meeting this spring and realized that my kids had only two more weeks before they were off for the summer. My wife and I would face the yearly struggle of convincing them to read for “fun” again. It was also a reminder that I needed to build my reading list for the summer!

So here’s my Big Blue Thread Summer Reading List for 2015. While you’re at it, check out my Fall 2012 Reading List and Fall 2008 Reading List.

“How the States Got Their Shapes” by Mark Stein

How States Got Their ShapesThis book has been out for a while but I picked up the paperback version for my kids at the Smithsonian earlier this year. I intended for them to read it, but I ended up being the first to crack it open. It is chock-full of the stories behind all the minor squiggles, curves, and not-so-straight lines that make up our states’ borders. If you find yourself bored at home sometime, pull up Google Maps and zoom in really, really close, and you may find that many of the straight lines you learned as a child aren’t so straight after all. There appears to be a second book from Mark Stein called “How the States Got Their Shapes Too: The People Behind the Borderlines.” If you’ve read it, jot down a comment below and tell me how it was.

“Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – The Lessons from a New Science” by Alex Pentland

How Good Ideas SpreadI’m not entirely done with this book yet. It’s beckoning me from the nightstand, competing with all the shows that my wife and I have stored on our DVR. So far, this has been a really interesting read, focusing on the importance of social interaction in creativity and innovation in the workplace. It puts a lot of things into perspective with respect to the new “connected” workforce, or more accurately, how we might be missing some really great opportunities because of the lack of meaningful social interaction and stimulation. Definitely a headier read, so if you have little ones who will be vying for your attention, save it for another time.

“Rust: The Longest War” by Jonathon Waldman

Rust The Longest WarOK, I’ve only made it through the first few chapters of this book, and I really enjoy it. I’m going to save the rest for the beach later this year (especially since saltwater plays a prominent role). If you enjoyed other historical treatises such as “Salt,” “Water,” or “Cod” (I sense a theme), then I’m pretty sure you will enjoy “Rust.” The writing is fast-paced and funny. Waldman tells us, “rust affects everything from the design of our currency to the composition of our tap water, and it will determine the legacy we leave on this planet.”

So head out and pick up a new book for the summer. Better yet, support your local library with a visit. While you’re there, ask them how to sign up to check out e-books and audiobooks. After your visit, share some of your recent reads with us. What page-turner would you recommend we pick up this summer?

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second-generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. Jeffery fondly remembers card catalogs from his youth and wonders what became of all those beautiful old wooden shelves. (Youngsters who have no idea what he’s talking about should check out the opening scene in “Ghostbusters.”)

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