April 2018 Reads

Three reading recommendations follow.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Recommended by Steve

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

I very much enjoy reading Gladwell's books, and have done since I read his first book, The Tipping Point. He is an engaging writer who comes at his topics from fascinating directions. I'm not sure why I hadn't had a chance to read this before, and I'm so glad that Steve recommended it to me.

What an interesting (and quick) read this was. While I wouldn’t say that this is his strongest title, Gladwell does persuasively take the reader through a number of scenarios that highlight his argument outlining why being the underdog is not always a bad starting point. In the first story, Gladwell rather mischievously outlines why he believes that perhaps David was really the Goliath in the described situation. Gladwell goes on to talk about how dyslexia, family trauma, and near-miss activity (bombing and violence) can actually lead to better outcomes (for some) and describes a number of proofs: London during the Blitz, achievements of famous dyslexics, the higher than predicted number of American Presidents and British PMs who suffered parental loss at an early age, and more. He talked about how limiting a world view as a Goliath can be, using Lawrence of Arabia and the US experience in Vietnam as examples, and also noted that assumed predictors of success (getting into the best Ivy League colleges) may not always have quite the expected outcome.

Do I think his discussion is scientifically accurate? Difficult to say. But it was a fast-paced read about fascinating people with an interesting premise that made me think: on balance, a good thing on all fronts.

Get your copy of David and Goliath today.


Public Library: and Other Stories by Ali Smith

Recommended by Donna


This book of short stories tells stories that are linked by the power of books and how they affect us. We’ve all read books that had an impact on us, and Smith uses this truism to explore our interactions with them. She loves language, and is fascinated by words and so explores their meaning early in the book. She is so skilled that most unexpectedly she made me want to read some D. H. Lawrence again (somewhat of a miracle since upon reading several of his books many years ago, I came to realize I was not a fan).

He wasn't the only author that Smith made me want to take a look at, and in that, she suggests some of the wonder of a public library. By browsing the shelves, and stopping at things that catch your eye and feed your curiousity, you have made an unexpected connection. And so it was with this book of short stories.

The story called "The Poet" begins "So she'd taken the book and she'd thrown it across the room and when it hit the wall then fell to the floor with its pages open it nearly broke, which was one of the worst things you could do, maybe a worse thing even than saying a blasphemous curse, no, than saying a blasphemous curse in a church, or near a church, to break a book". Don't you want to know what comes next? I certainly did.

Each story was interspersed with lovely and poignant references to public libraries. The author is British: you may not know that public libraries have been eroding in Britain. The commentaries talk about the importance of public libraries in the lives of communities and individuals which front each new story, and have been written by notable women and men, who are concerned by this societal ill.

Get your copy of Public Library today.


The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

Recommended by Calvin


This book has been on my radar to read for three years, but I kept delaying reading it, as it was published posthumously. I suppose there was a part of me that thought that as long as I hadn’t yet read it, perhaps in some odd way the author (one of my all-time favourites) wasn't really gone.

Pratchett was a comic genius, and his fantasy fiction world building of the Discworld is a place I am happy to return to again and again. I am a re-reader by inclination, and his books always repay someone who picks up an old favourite to read again. He has a number of continuing characters, who often appear as bit players in one book, only to have a central role in another. I have been puzzling over how I can possibly outline this 41st title in his long-running series, which includes characters and references to many books that you won’t know anything about.

I don't think I can. So instead, I'm just going to say to those who may be interested in reading funny, humane, and surprising books written by a man with a clear vision of what he was doing, that was unique to his world view, I can't urge you more strongly to read Pratchett. His is an unexpected world (a disc carried on the backs of four giant elephants who in turn stand on the back of the even more giant space turtle, Great A'Tuin) with cities, and crooks, gods and religions, business owners, police, government agencies, mountain villages, and sheep farms, newspapers, banking and industry, peopled by wizards, Death (as a person), witches, dragons, elves, trolls, vampires, werewolves, magic, the orangutan Librarian of the Unseen University, and so much more.

Thanks, Calvin, for getting me to finally read this book. I read it with a tear in my heart, and a smile on my face.

Get your copy of The Shepherd's Crown today.