7 Facts About Jenga

Chris Jackson, Getty Images
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Since the early 1980s, players all over the world have tested their nerves and tried to maintain a steady hand while hovering around Jenga. The deceptively simple rules of the building-block game require participants to try and withdraw a single piece from the tower of 54 blocks and place it on top. As the structure grows, it threatens to topple over. The player who pushes things too far and extracts that fateful support beam loses. For more on the game that’s sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, keep reading.

1. Jenga's inventor didn’t know she had invented Jenga.

Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Leslie Scott was born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and spent her youth moving to cities across Africa. In the 1970s, Scott’s family often played with her brother’s amassed pile of building blocks, using them to build a swaying tower that would crumble if they weren’t careful. The family loved the game so much that they eventually ordered professionally-crafted bricks from a carpenter. It wasn’t until later on that Scott realized the game had been conceived within her household. “It was only when I moved to Oxford that I realized this wasn’t something everyone did,” Scott told the Somerset County Gazette in 2010.

In Oxford, England, Scott worked at Intel as an internal game designer to help employees learn new skills. In her spare time, she held dinner parties for friends. When they kept insisting on playing the “game with bricks," Scott decided to bring the game to market. Jenga—which is Swahili for “build”—was launched in the UK in 1983 and in Canada in 1984.

2. Jenga nearly bankrupted inventor Leslie Scott.

The early sales of Jenga were not encouraging. Because Scott was paying for production herself, the game’s lack of success had personal consequences. At one point, she told the Oxford Times in 2009, she contemplated selling both her house and her shares of Intel to help continue funding the game. Fortunately, her family backed the idea. Her then-partner agreed to be a guarantor on a loan, and Scott’s mother agreed to put her house up as collateral for a second loan.

Their trust was rewarded when the game appeared at the 1986 Toronto Toy Fair; Scott received orders for 400,000 copies. When Hasbro's then-chief executive Alan Hassenfeld saw the game, his reaction was: "We just have to have it." He quickly bought the distribution rights for the United States.

Jenga was released in North America in 1986 and became an immediate hit, though Scott’s deal left a lot to be desired: Scott has said she receives just 20 percent of the royalties on the game, an amount she said comes to about five cents for every $10 Jenga earns.

3. Jenga owes a debt to Trivial Pursuit.

Chris Jackson, Getty Images

The games couldn’t be more different: Jenga requires fine motor skills, while Trivial Pursuit requires a memory warehouse of knowledge. But according to Scott, Jenga might not have taken off if Trivial Pursuit, which launched in the U.S. in 1983, hadn’t been such a success. “I was extremely lucky that I launched Jenga just after Trivial Pursuit had hit the big time and the toy trade was actively looking for the next big board game,” she said.

At the time, the toy industry was heavily into electronic diversions, including the recently-released Nintendo Entertainment System. When Trivial Pursuit proved there was still a market for analog games—it sold 15 million copies in 1984 alone—Jenga was able to wedge a foot (or a block) in the door.

4. Jenga blocks aren’t identical.

While they may look similar, Jenga blocks have subtle differences in dimensions to make their construction less stable. Each brick is a different size and weight so no two games are alike.

5. There’s a world record for the tallest Jenga structure.

Getty Images

In 1985, Jenga sales representative Robert Grebler pursued competitive play, stacking increasingly large towers of blocks. That year, he was able to complete a 40-layer structure consisting of three blocks per layer. According to Hasbro, it’s believed to be the tallest on record. He was apparently two blocks into the 41st layer before the structure became unstable. The official Jenga website indicates it’s actively seeking someone to beat the record.

A different, potentially more impressive feat was accomplished in 2019, when Tai Star Valianti of Pima, Arizona, managed to stack 353 Jenga blocks on top of one single upright block. The achievement earned Valianti a Guinness World Record.

6. There’s a Louis Vuitton version of Jenga.

Tired of playing Jenga with primitive wooden blocks? In 2019, luxury fashion label Louis Vuitton introduced a Jenga game made out of plexiglass. The set, which is simply called a "monogram tower" on LV's website, retails for $3050.

7. Someone played Jenga with construction equipment.

A 2019 publicity stunt by construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar USA involved recruiting enormous excavators, telehandlers, and loaders in service of manipulating 27 8-foot-long, 600-pound custom Jenga bricks. The 28-hour game ended with 13 layers.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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14 Black Authors You Should Read Right Now

Pexabay, Pexels // CC0
Pexabay, Pexels // CC0

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, works on anti-racism have been flying off the shelves of Black-owned bookstores. But anti-racism doesn’t start and end with philosophical theories—it’s also a matter of shifting your current reading patterns. If you’ve found yourself purchasing Stamped but not The Hate U Give or With the Fire on High, then you’re doing yourself a major disservice. To help you get started, here are some groundbreaking Black authors you should read—and a few suggested books for you to check out.

1. Jason Reynolds

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Amazon

Jason Reynolds has a true gift when it comes to describing the Black male experience. He began writing poetry at age 9 and published his first novel in 2014. With his books—more than 10 so far—he’s created a space for Black boys to see themselves on the covers of fiction as much more than victims. On his website, Reynolds acknowledges that “I know there are a lot—A LOT—of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don't actually hate books, they hate boredom… even though I'm a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Boy in the Black Suit, Ghost

2. Nic Stone

Nic Stone has been kicking down the door on issues that have been overlooked for decades. Through her books, she brings attention and nuance to subjects like grief, discrimination, and questioning one’s sexuality in a way that has rarely been seen before in Young Adult and Middlegrade fiction. Up until 2013, The New York Times bestselling author didn’t think she could write fiction. “Part of the reason I didn't think I could do it is because I didn't see anyone who looked like me writing the type of stuff I wanted to write (super popular YA fiction),” Stone writes in an FAQ on her website. “But I decided to give it a shot anyway. (Life lesson: If you don't see you, go BE you.)”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Dear Martin, Odd One Out

3. Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas made waves after the release of The Hate U Give, a New York Times Bestseller that was made into a critically acclaimed film. Thomas’s second novel, On the Come Up, takes place in Garden Heights about a year after the events of The Hate U Give. It follows a 16-year-old up-and-coming rapper who goes by the nickname Bri. As a former teen rapper herself, Thomas knows the topic well. Just don’t ask her to participate in a rap battle. “I hoped that with writing these scenes and with showing people the ins and outs of it and the internal part of it, of coming up with freestyles on the spot, that maybe—just maybe more people would respect it as an art form,” Thomas told NPR. “But I can't do it.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Hate U Give, On the Come Up

4. Brittney Morris

Simon Pulse/Amazon

In her debut novel, Slay, author Brittney Morris shows the ways that Black people are discriminated against in the gaming industry. In its review, Publisher's Weekly wrote, “This tightly written novel will offer an eye-opening take for many readers and speak to teens of color who are familiar with the exhaustion of struggling to feel at home in a largely white society.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Slay

5. Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Nigerian-American author who intertwines African mysticism and science fiction in her writing, masterfully addressing societal issues while showing us how the world can become a better place. Okorafor never envisioned a career as a writer; she planned to be an entomologist until, as a college student, she was paralyzed from the waist down after back surgery. She began writing to distract herself while she recovered, and never looked back. “Nigeria is my muse,” Okorafor told The New York Times. “The idea of the world being a magical place, a mystical place, is normal there.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Binti, Akata Witch

6. Tiffany D. Jackson

If you love psychological thrillers and haven’t read Tiffany D. Jackson’s first two novels, you’re missing out: Jackson has an ability to twist elements of her story to include new perspectives while keeping readers second-guessing their own theories. Her writing was influenced by many of the authors she discovered in her teen years. “I was, and still am, a HUGE R.L Stein fan, so his Fear Street series took me into my teen years," she writes on her website. "But then I was introduced to Mary Higgins Clark, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Jodi Picoult, to name a few.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Allegedly, Monday’s Not Coming

7. Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Nafissa Thompson-Spires catalogues the plights of the Black community with stories that are so intricate, they could be true. One story follows a Black cosplayer shot by police; another addresses post-partum depression. She also showcases the joy that surfaces throughout our lives, despite the hardships. Thompson-Spires’s writing has earned her comparisons to the likes of Paul Beatty, Toni Cade Bambara, and Alice Munro. “I think the goal of a writer should be to tell the truth in some way, even if it’s to tell it slant—or to imagine a better version of the truth," she told The Guardian. "We have to find ways to confront difficult subjects.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Heads of Colored People

8. Justin A. Reynolds

Katherine Tegen Books/Amazon

No, Justin A. Reynolds isn’t related to Jason Reynolds, but he’s just as talented. In his debut novel, Opposite of Always, Reynolds uses common YA tropes in an innovative way; a star-crossed lovers plot with the added effect of time travel truly sets this story apart.

Add to Your TBR Pile: Opposite of Always, Early Departures

9. Tony Medina

Tony Medina, the first Creative Writing professor at Howard University, has published 17 books, and his fight for social justice is evident in his writing. In his graphic novel, I Am Alfonso Jones, Medina uses Hamlet as inspiration for explaining issues of police brutality and social justice to Young Adult readers.

Add to Your TBR Pile: I Am Alfonso Jones

10. Elizabeth Acevedo

Quill Tree Books/Amazon

The Black experience is not a singular one, and Elizabeth Acevedo—whose debut novel, The Poet X, was a New York Times bestseller and won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018—expands the canon with beautifully detailed Afro-Latinx narratives. “I feel like it’s hard to dream a thing you can’t see," Acevedo said in an interview with Black Nerd Problems. "And I think growing up like I knew I loved music and I loved poetry and I loved the feeling of being with other poets and listening to other stories and thinking, like, I think I can do that just as good.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: The Poet X, With the Fire on High

11. N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is a voice for the marginalized in science fiction. She has won a number of awards for her work, including a Nebula Award and two Locust Awards, and she was the first person to win three Hugo Awards for Best Novel in a row, for her Broken Earth trilogy. "I’ll use whatever techniques are necessary to get the story across and I read pretty widely," Jemisin told The Paris Review. "So when people kept saying second person is just not done in science fiction, I was like, well, they said first person wasn’t done in fantasy and I did that with my first novel. I don’t understand the weird marriage to particular techniques and the weird insistence that only certain things can be done in science fiction."

Add to Your TBR Pile: The City We Became, The Fifth Season

12. Renée Watson

Renée Watson uses her novels to address gentrification, discrimination, and what it’s like to grow up as a Black girl. “My motivation to write young adult novels comes from a desire to get teenagers talking," she said in an interview with BookPage. "I hope my books are a catalyst for youth and adults to have conversations with one another, for teachers to have a starting point to discuss difficult topics with students.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: This Side of Home, Piecing Me Together

13. Maika and Maritza Moulite

Inkyard Press/Amazon

In their book Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, Haitian-American sister-author duo Maika and Maritza Moulite have created an exciting and riveting story of self-exploration and the meaning of family. These two have already secured a publishing deal for their next novel, One of the Good Ones.

Add to Your TBR Pile: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

14. Talia Hibbert

Although you may have heard her name more recently due to her USA Today bestselling novel Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert isn’t a newcomer to the world of adult and paranormal romance: In books, she writes narratives that often follow characters who are diverse in race, body types, and sexuality—because, as her website bio states, “she believes that people of marginalised identities need honest and positive representation.”

Add to Your TBR Pile: Get a Life, Chloe Brown, A Girl Like Her

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