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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is one of my all time favorite books.  Juster has another children’s classic, The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics. It was made into a 10 minute animated short film in 1965. Someone was kind enough to post it on YouTube and I’ve posted it here for you to enjoy.

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Now that I have a little bit of spare time, I’ve been able to catch up on some reading. I’ve been meaning to read the books listed bellow for a long time. I’m glad I finally got around to it.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch’s story is truly inspiring. I’m sure many are already familiar with it. Randy was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2006 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and in August 2007 he was given a terminal diagnosis: “three to six months months of good health left.” He gave his “last lecture”, titled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, in September 2007 to an audience of about 400 people at Carnegie Mellon.

This book is full of stories from Randy’s life. I particularly like this one. Randy had just created a new course called “Building Virtual Worlds”. He gave the class its first two-week assignment and was blown away with the results. He called his mentor Andy van Dam. “Andy, I just gave my students a two-week assignment and they came back and did stuff that, had I given them an entire semester to complete it, I would have given them all A’s. What do I do?” Andy’s reply, “OK. Here’s what you do. Go back into that class tomorrow, look them in the eyes and say ‘Guys, that was pretty good, but I know you can do better.’ ” Randy followed his advice and the students continued to impress. Enabling the dreams of others was a main theme in Randy’s life and this story demonstrates one way he was able to do that. Never underestimate people, let them fulfill their potential.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Another really inspiring story which I’m sure many are already familiar with. While attempting to climb K2, Greg and and three other climbers had their ascent interrupted by the need to rescue of a fifth climber. After getting lost during his descent, Greg takes refuge in the small village of Korphe. Inspired by the their hospitality and shocked by their lack of education, Greg promises to repay the village by building a school.

The book chronicles Greg’s struggles as he attempts to build a school for Korphe. Starting from literally nothing, Greg is able to raise money and purchase supplies for the school. Greg’s work doesn’t go unnoticed, after many hardships people in the US and Pakistan start to see the good that he is doing. With the help of a wealthy philanthropist, Greg becomes a founding board member of the Central Asia Institute (CAI). The CAI’s mission is to build schools and promote education throughout Pakistan. Greg’s story is proof that one man can really make a difference in the world. Although initially met with some resistance, it is amazing how much support he has gotten.

I still have a couple of weeks left on my break. I’ve heard Water for Elephants is good, perhaps I’ll read that. Any other suggestions? NPR has a selection of best books of 2010 here.

True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, another great little book by Tich Nhat Hanh. Highly recommended.