Monday, January 16, 2012

Dreaming of a Better World

I thought that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day it was appropriate for me to blog about one of the most exciting books I've read recently, Dream of a Nation: Inspiring Ideas for a Better America. This book is a collection of writings by a whole lot of people who have done some amazing things, and have great ideas on how to improve the world we all live in. (Full disclosure time: I also work at National Priorities Project. NPP was founded by Greg Speeter, who wrote one of the chapters, so I am 1/62nd biased. I won't review his chapter but I will say I think it's great!)

I think it's pretty safe to say that most people have concerns about the way we are living. If you've ever found yourself wondering if living in a democracy should be about more than voting and shopping, or what can be done to make sure all children get equal educational opportunities, read this book. The chapters cover such a wide range of topics that everyone is sure to find something they are passionate within these pages. The best feature of this book is that almost all of the chapters not only inform about widespread problems, but offer suggestions of things all of us can do about them.

Some of these tips can have staggering benefits. For example, switching just the five most used lightbulbs in your home with compact fluorescent bulbs can save you about $90 a year, and 662 pounds of coal worth of energy. Changing to independent news sources may not have that same quantifiable dollar figure, but will certainly help you get a different perspective on the world. I thought that "Key Steps for a Healthy Nation" was one of the most memorable segments of the book, with the statistic that 40% of premature deaths in the United States are due to personal behavior patterns. However, on the very next page it details the four healthy habits that can cut risk of diabetes by 93%, heart attack by 81%, and stroke by 50%.

While you could sit down and read it in one go, I think it's set up perfectly to keep handy for reading in small increments over a long period of time. Keep this book on hand for all those nights where you've got 15 minutes before dinner comes out of the oven. Instead of checking your email or Facebook again, flip to a new chapter and get ready to be inspired! 

When I saw this book for the first time, it reminded me of one of favorite textbooks from college, which was a collection of essays about environmental issues. However, the interior could not be more different. Instead of a bunch of essays with the occasional black and white chart of rising temperatures, this book is colorful, appealing, and beautifully designed from cover to cover. I've had a great time reading this book, and I hope you enjoy it too! -Sheila

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