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There are a thousand things to be grateful for every single day. But what if you were thankful a thousand times for one single thing? This is the journey that A.J. Jacobs starts when he looks to curb his naturally grumpy state. Believing that good actions can change his thinking for the better, Jacobs looks around for something simple that he can give thanks for. After considering numerous options, he settles on his morning cup of coffee.  

He starts by thanking the barista at his local “Joe Coffee Shop” in New York City. She responds by saying “thanks for thanking me.” Then he looks around and notices that his coffee cup has a well-designed logo on it. So he reaches out to the graphic designer and thanks him. Next he turns his attention to the coffee cup lid. His research leads him to a coffee-obsessed attorney and part-time inventor named Doug who describes how lids are crucial in the experience of drinking coffee. Jacobs then says “thank you” and updates his spreadsheet tally to 3. Just 997 thank-yous to go!  

This short book (and accompanying TED talk) is Jacobs’ journey of thanking a thousand people who helped make his morning cup of coffee possible—including the water reservoirs and testing facilities, a steel mill, warehouse managers, pest control for those warehouses, wood pallet companies, forklift drivers, coffee bags, lumber companies that provided the raw pulp for the coffee cup, and a small family-owned Colombian coffee farm that picks the red fruit that contains the green coffee bean.

Along the way, Jacobs ponders sticky situations when he weighs the morality of thanking an oil company that makes the gasoline that fuels the ships and trucks that transports coffee all over the world. How can he thank Exxon in good conscience for oil when the process of extracting these raw resources and its refinement causes pollution and climate change? To read Jacobs’ self-acknowledged “passive aggressive” letter of gratitude to the CEO of Exxon, pick up the book.  

Thanks a Thousand is an enjoyable short read. You’ll find your gratitude increasing as you journey along with Jacobs to say thank you to a thousand different people while discovering along the way how interconnected our world really is. As Jacob concludes, it not only takes a thousand people to bring you a cup of coffee—truly, it takes the whole world.  

(TED Books / Simon & Schuster)

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