Free-For-All Newsletter #4

Not gonna lie, for a while there, COVID-19, quarantine, depression, and anxiety really got the best of me.

I sometimes struggled to even get out of bed, let alone function as a normal human being, but I can’t even begin to tell you how much meeting all of you like-minded weirdos has improved my mental health.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

In case you missed the meeting last night, here is a list of all the things we discussed.

Enjoy! :)

FFA Member Highlight...
Create Your Self: A Workbook to Build Your Character in the Story of Life

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

-George Bernard Shaw

When I first heard this quote at 16 years old, I had so many questions.

How does one go about creating themselves? Is there a right and wrong way to do it? Are there any books that might help me do so?

I looked far and wide, and what did I find?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

That's why I wrote this book.

Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service

For decades, Israel's renowned security arm, the Mossad, has been widely recognized as the best intelligence service in the world. Authors Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal take us behind the closed curtain with riveting, eye-opening, boots-on-the-ground accounts of the most dangerous, most crucial missions in the agency's 60-year history.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one--homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

The Dictionary of Lost Words

The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Based on actual events and combed from author Pip Williams's experience delving into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary, this highly original novel is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.

Crime and Punishment

Dostoevsky himself was interrogated, tried, and condemned to death — a sentence commuted at the last moment to penal servitude. In prison he was particularly impressed by one hardened murderer who seemed to have attained a spiritual equilibrium beyond good and evil: yet witnessing the misery of other convicts also engendered in Dostoevsky a belief in the Christian idea of salvation through suffering.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas--and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.

Zahra's Paradise

Set in the aftermath of Iran's fraudulent elections of 2009, Zahra's Paradise is the fictional graphic novel of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has vanished into an extrajudicial twilight zone.

Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You

Making the right medical decisions is harder than ever.

The authors weave vivid narratives of real patients with insights from recent research to demonstrate the power of the medical mind. After reading this groundbreaking book, you will know how to arrive at choices that serve you best.

Parable of the Sower

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Journalist-mountaineer, Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.


With a poetic voice of crackling electricity, K-Ming Chang is an explosive young writer who combines the wit and fabulism of Helen Oyeyemi with the subversive storytelling of Maxine Hong Kingston. Tracing one family's history from Taiwan to America, from Arkansas to California, Bestiary is a novel of migration, queer lineages, and girlhood.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

With Americans' ever-growing concern over an agricultural establishment that negatively affects our health and environment, the Kingsolver family's experiences and observations remain just as relevant today as they were ten years ago. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a modern classic that will endure for years to come.


Le Guin explores the dreams and sorrows of the inhabitants of a beach town where ordinary people bring their dreams and sorrows for a weekend or the rest of their lives, and sometimes learn to read what the sea writes on the sand. Searoad is the story of a particular place that could be any place, and of a people so distinctly drawn they could be any of us.


Walden describes Thoreau's domestic economy, the wildlife, the few visitors to his remote wooden hut, and his reflections on the quality of human life in an age of growing materialism and of prevailing work ethic. It has become poignant critique of the values of Thoreau's society which retains its relevance and extraordinary power today.


"Humanity is now faced with a stark choice: evolve or die. If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction."

― Eckhart Tolle

Ideas + Concepts


By believing in common myths and so-called “intersubjective realities,” large numbers of total strangers can establish trust, successfully cooperate together, and gain greater clarity, purpose, and meaning.

Examples of this include human rights, money, justice, etc.

“When we see a color and call it “red,” and other people point to it and call it “red” too, we can reasonably conclude that we are experiencing the sensation of seeing red, as are others. 

However, we can’t objectively know that what we are experiencing as red is the same experience as the person standing next to us.

"Intersubjective entities depend on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans."

"We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head. Yet in truth, the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another."

"Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories."

Put another way, trust, cooperation, clarity, purpose, and meaning can only be created once context has been established.


Simple. The art of simplifying is to encapsulate the core idea in terms that anyone can understand, without changing the meaning. A great example is Southwest Airlines’ slogan “THE Low Fare Airline.”  While a complex comparative breakdown of their prices would be instantly forgotten, a catchy statement like this one will stick. 

Unexpected. When confronted with the unexpected, your brain jolts out of autopilot and into manual control; the unexpected receives our full attention. Imagine a flight attendant giving the standard pre-flight safety demonstration. How much attention would he get? But what if he were to suddenly break from the normal briefing and declare that while there may be fifty ways to leave your lover, there is only one way to leave the plane? You guessed it: all eyes (and ears) would be on him. 

Concrete. Abstract terms convey a message about as well as tapping on a table conveys a melody. On the other hand, using clear, concrete terms drives a message home. A retail worker hasn’t just “delivered outstanding customer service;” they’ve given a customer a refund on a shirt even though it was purchased at another branch. The fox hasn’t “altered his tastes to suit his means;” he’s convinced himself that the grapes he can’t reach are too sour. 

Credible. Ideas only spread if they’re believable. One tried-and-true method is to have your story backed by experts. People trust stories told by real, trustworthy people. Another way of adding credibility to a story is to use facts and figures to illustrate the point – as in the anti-war campaign that claims the world’s combined current nuclear arsenal has 5,000 times the explosive power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. 

Emotional. To get people to donate to starving African children, there are two possible approaches: either present facts and figures about the millions of children starving and perishing every day, or show a picture of just one child in need who could be saved by a donation. The second approach appeals directly to the emotions. We find it just as credible as the first approach – after all, we can see with our own eyes a human being who is clearly starving – but it inspires us to take action in a way that numbers never could. 

Stories. Often when trying to spread an idea, people make the mistake of banishing its origin story for brevity or slogan’s sake. While slogans can be useful at getting an idea to stick, they’re not ace at inspiring action. Here’s where story comes in. Take the fast-food chain, Subway: Subway profited immensely from the (true) story of Jared Fogle, a seriously overweight man who managed to slim down to a healthy weight with a simple diet of two Subway meals per day. No slogan in the world could match a story like this.

Other Recommendations:

Based on the 1998 book `The Surgeon of Crowthorne' by Simon Winchester, the life of Professor James Murray is portrayed as he begins work on compiling words for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in the mid-19th century. As he led the overseeing committee, the professor received over 10,000 entries from one source in particular - a patient at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dr. William Minor.


Walden, a game is an exploratory narrative and open world simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond.


Dive into Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents

That's all, folks! 

To everyone who came to the meeting last night, thanks for coming, and we hope to see you again next week!

To everyone who didn't show up, you are dead to us now. Lol, jk. Excited to connect with you soon! :)

Hakuna Matata,

May the Force be with you,

To infinity and beyond,

Live long and prosper,

May the odds be ever in your favor,

Roll credits,


Trace & Caitlyn

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The Free-For-All Book Club

921 N Woodbridge Drive

Bloomington, IN, 47408

United States