Friday, January 4, 2019

Review: Thanks a Thousand by A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs describes himself as "more Larry David than Tom Hanks" and he wanted to find a way to be less annoyed and more grateful, leading to the idea of this participatory memoir.  It's an expanded version of his TED talk which readers might have seen. I too find I am annoyed a lot of the time and once I am annoyed, it's harder and harder to stop being annoyed by even the smallest of things, to just be happy with life. So I thought that following Jacobs on his "Gratitude Journey" to thank all the people who make his morning coffee, a necessity for so many people, possible would make Thanks a Thousand the perfect book to ring in my new year of reading.

It is easy to be annoyed or angry over something. It is much harder to be grateful. And it might be hardest of all to be grateful for things we take for granted. It is this that drives Jacobs' interest in his quest. He wants to thank everyone for their contributions, from the big and obvious to the small and seemingly insignificant as he traces the origin of his coffee and all the things that allow it to journey from the coffee bean farmers to his own mouth. Jacobs manages to connect a whole host of people who we might not otherwise consider here, highlighting the absolute interconnectedness of all the businesses and people on the planet. In fact, he went so far down the rabbit hole looking into all the industries involved in a simple cup of coffee (he makes no mention of adding milk or sugar but that would just expand the scope exponentially I imagine) that he has to consciously restrict himself to thanking only 1000 people (more or less). His investigation into each aspect is by necessity not terribly in depth but it is enough for the layperson to understand the gist and to continue to be fascinated by all the places that Jacobs is taking them. The information made me appreciate all of the moving parts that absolutely anything takes (especially the usually overlooked bits) but the push to recognize people's contributions and the gratitude those contributions inspired were definitely thought provoking. Even as a non-coffee drinker, I found this to be a quick and fascinating read, and one with which I am happy to have started my year.

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