Bookworm: ‘Jackpot’ – What would you do with a windfall?

Also, Earth Day books for kids

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist
“Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live – and How Their Wealth Harms Us All” author Michael Mechanic.

“Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live – and How Their Wealth Harms Us All”

  • By Michael Mechanic
  • c. 2021, Simon & Schuster
  • $28, $37 Canada; 416 pages

It only costs a dollar. That’s what it takes to dream. A dollar, five numbers, and your head spins with all the things you could do with the kind of money you might win. Fancy yachts, huge homes, luxury cars, travel, you could do a lot with it. But, as in the new book “Jackpot” by Michael Mechanic, what will that money do to you?

“Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live – and How Their Wealth Harms Us All” by Michael Mechanic.

What would you do with a windfall? If you’re like most people, you have a quick answer because you’ve already thought it through. Chances are, you’d head out first with a debit card in-hand.

You’ll find a lot of merchants to help you spend your money, from high-end restaurants to shoe designers to car dealerships. Buy yourself a mansion but remember that those rooms have extra costs: upkeep, insurance, heating and cooling, utilities, staff to keep it nice. Ditto on the cost for your new jet and your yacht. Even an exclusive concierge service, meant to make your wildest dreams come true, comes with a regular fee.

Making that wealth stretch from now to the next generation isn’t going to be cheap, either and it’ll take serious work on your part. You’ll also need lawyers, accountants, financial and market advisors, a whole host of professionals who will need constant decisions from you. Like most newly-wealthy people, you’ll probably worry about keeping your cash and about making more of it. For sure, relationships with almost everyone you know will be changed.

By the way, think hard about leaving scads of cash to the kids.

Yes, money does indeed talk, and it talks loudly to politicians and people in high positions. Just one percent of the “one percent” are unimaginably powerful – money buys more than just things – and the gap between the haves and the have-nots widens annually.

The question, asks Mechanic, is why we’ve tolerated it for so long ...

Each week, you set aside a contribution to the lottery, ever hopeful. In your mind, the winnings are already spent but read this book and you’ll think again.

Before you get to an introspection-level, though, “Jackpot” is so darn entertaining, filled with stories of folks who unintentionally struck it rich in ways they never really expected. Reading their stories feels almost like a workbook for potential winners: do you do this or that? Buy a plane or change careers? Build another house? Who cares?

But author Michael Mechanic gets to that, first, by taking readers on a shopping spree that initially seems wild but that eventually feels like no fun at all. This reality-check becomes a behind-the-checkbook look at big money’s mind-set, its racial issues, the serious drawbacks to having it, its responsibilities, and don’t be surprised if you don’t like what you see.

Lack of money is hard – but having it is no walk in the bank, either.

Still, it’s fun to dream so keep “Jackpot” just offstage in your fantasy. If you’ve ever watched those numbered balls spin, fingers crossed, this book is a big win.

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Earth Day books for kids.

Earth Day books for kids

  • Various authors, various prices

Everything has its place. That’s what you’re told when it’s time to straighten up your room: everything has a place where it belongs, so put it there – especially if it’s trash. Then read more about recycling, Earth-friendliness, and nature in these great Earth Day books for kids ...

First, “Headstrong Hallie! The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett, the First Female ‘Fire Guard’ ” by Aimee Bissonette, illustrated by David Hohn is part biography, part history, part ecology. It’s the true story of Hallie Daggett, who dedicated her life to protecting nature and who became the first woman to work with the U.S. Forest Service. But don’t stop there: kids who love trees will also want to look for “Summer Of the Tree Farm” by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Kirbi Fagan, the exciting tale of a group of boys who go to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Both books from Sleeping Bear Press are great read-a-louds for kids ages 4 to 8.

You know how much fun it is to grow something and you know what it’s like to fall in love with gardening, so why not put the two together in “What’s Inside a Flower?” by Rachel Ignotofsky (Crown). Not only will this book teach kids about plants in easy-to-understand language, but children will also learn about creatures that live in and near the soil, and how a plant makes a flower. This is a great teaching tool, perfect for 5-to-8-year-old gardeners and future young scientists.

For the slightly older child (7-to-10-year-olds), “Our World Out of Balance” by Andrea Minoglio and Laura Fanelli (Blue Dot) is a great overview of climate change, written in small bites that invite browsing. This book also helps kids who want to do something, by offering ideas for action. For fun, instructional activities, look for “The Extraordinary Book That Eats Itself” by Susan Hayes and Penny Arlon, illustrated by Pintachan (“Earthaware Kids”). It’s a book that’s meant to be torn apart, cut in pieces, written on, purposefully destroyed, and used to help 9-to-12-year-olds become a whole lot Greener.

Middle-schoolers will be happy reading “Kids Vs. Plastic” from National Geographic Kids this Earth Day because it helps them identify where plastics go when they’re not recycled, why they can be harmful, and what can be done. Bonus: tons of full-color pictures and information that may send them looking for more to learn.

And finally, for the 12-and-up reader who wants to see a different side of environmentalism, “Earth Squad: 50 People Who are Saving the Planet” by Alexandra Zissu, illustrated by Nhung Le (RP Kids) is a book they’ll treasure. It’s filled with mini-bios of people who’ve done brave, focused, smart things to help the planet and the people on it, and people who practice their activism through politics, business, the arts, and quiet efforts.

If you’d like more suggestions for any budding ecologist ages 3 and up, check with your favorite librarian or bookseller. They’ll know exactly what should have a place on your child’s bookshelf.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.