Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing by Jacob Goldstein (4 stars)
How did it develop? What I’ve always assumed, and what I think most people who think about it assume, is that money evolved from early barter economies. Instead of selling, for instance, crops for money, early farmers would exchange crops for things that they needed. So a farmer would have to find, say, a potter and exchange a bushel of wheat for a clay pot. Aristotle theorized this is how money developed as a concept. But, as Goldstein explains here, that probably isn’t true. Early human societies didn’t rely exclusively on barter economies; instead, they were heavily dependent on gift exchanges with no agreed upon reciprocity. So the well-off members of society would, for instance, provide lavish meals for people, who would then “owe” them a future favor. These gift exchanges built communities, tying people together with continued exchanges. “I owe you one” eventually became, “I owe you a specific amount of something”, which later became money.
Goldstein explains it far better than I just did.
Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing is written by Jacob Goldstein, co-host of the long running NPR economics podcast Planet Money. If you’re familiar with the show, this book will seem like an extended episode, as it serves as a good primer on what money is, how it developed, and how it’s meaning has changed over the millennia.
It’s not incredibly in depth, however – which may be great or not, depending on what you’re looking for. If you want a general overview of money, I think this book is probably exactly what you’re looking for. If you want to understand the ins and outs of how money has advanced what people can do, economically, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
The only part of this book that I didn’t find satisfying was the end, which focused mainly on cryptocurrency, which is not something I’ve ever been particularly interested in. Apart from that, however, it was an interesting and sometimes irreverent read.
We Are All Monsters Here by Kelley Armstrong (4 stars)
This short story, available in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 8, is about as far removed from the other review, here, as you can get. Like many of the short stories I’ve reviewed this year, it can also be found for free online.
We don’t know in what year this story takes place, but it isn’t too far in the future. There’s a pandemic, where the virus turns people into vampires. They are perfectly normal during the day, but turn into murderous, bloodthirsty savages at night, and return to normal with no memory of what happened the previous night.
Our protagonist is in college when the outbreak arrives in the US. A genetic test is devised that can determine someone’s likelihood of turning, so everyone is tested. She doesn’t have the genetic markers, but a friend of hers does, and our unnamed protagonist chooses to stay with her. Everyone else leaves, and the college becomes a quarantined area. Someone (the people in charge, perhaps) gives the quarantined access to guns, and essentially tells them to kill themselves. Only, predictably, not everyone is able to do it while some others take it upon themselves to hunt them down.
And thus the tone is set for the rest of the story. It is dark. Our protagonist suffers. If you like your post-apocalyptic hellscapes to be given a touch of hope and restored faith in humanity, you might want to keep clear of this one.
Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it – I did. But it’s not going to be for everyone.
I liked the writing enough to look up the writer. She’s written a lot of books. I don’t know that a great number of them are books I would typically seek out – but I may give them a shot some day.