David and Goliath | Malcolm Gladwell
In his latest look at human nature, Gladwell talks about the underdog and misconceptions about power and authority.
From the Holocaust to the Civil Rights Movement in the South to class sizes at contemporary schools, Gladwell shows examples of where the weak and disadvantaged are better off than it seems.
Above is Bill Hudson’s famous photograph from a protest in Birmingham in 1963.
To sum up this book and its thesis:
Wealth contains the seeds of its own destruction.
There comes a point where the best-intentioned application of power and authority begins to backfire.
The World’s Strongest Librarian | Josh Hanagarne
This book is about so many different topics: reading, Tourette’s, Mormonism, weighlifting, love, family, careers, and other subjects. It took on a bit too much by a newbie writer, who was trying maybe a little too hard to write his memoir. But some great moments are as follows:
I also work here because I love books, because I’m inveterately curious, and because, like most librarians, I’m not well suited to anything else. As a breed, we’re the ultimate generalists. I’ll never know everything about anything, but I’ll know something about almost everything and that how I like to live.
Hanagarne is a strong advocate for libraries, making him something of a hero to me:
A library is a miracle. A place where you can learn just about anything, for free. A place where your mind can come alive.
Let The Great World Spin | Colum McCann
I’m admittedly on a Colum McCann kick and this is by far the best piece of his writing yet. Especially after seeing the documentary “Man on Wire,” this is like the connected story or stories around that moment when everyone was looking up at what was happening between the World Trade Center towers in 1974.
Some great lines, from a slew of characters:
The only thing you need to know about war, son, is: Don’t go.
At a certain stage every single thing can be a sign.
That’s what good men do — they appreciate.
She’s always thought that one of the beauties of New York is that you can be from anywhere and within moments of landing it is yours.
I can stop squirming. If fidgets were Wikipedia edits, I would have completely revamped the entry on guilt by now, and translated in into five new languages.
He has the strangest expression his face — the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.
I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and I have to say, it’s a totally different experience. When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, liek a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes
The main character describing lunch at Google HQs in Mountain View: Did everybody here go to Stanford? Do they just give you a job at Google when you graduate?
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal | Mary Roach
She’s back schooling us on the digestive system this time!
Best footnote in the book, with the first summarizing this book up well:
The human digestive track is like the Amtrak line from Seattle to Los Angeles: transit time is about thirty hours, and the scenery on the last leg is pretty monotonous.
"While a seaman might survive the suction and swallow, his arrival in a sperm whales stomach would seem to present a new set of problems.*"
*Footnote: I challenge you to find. More innocuous sentence containing the words sperm, suction, swallow and any homophone of seaman. And then call me up on the homophone and read it to me.
Best definition of a common word:
Burp: A transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, aka TLERS
And The Mountains Echoed | Khaled Hosseini
Here’s another tale intertwining Afghanistan and America — and even Greece — from different times, places and people. I loved the connections that seemed like tangents but truly showed how everyone who comes into your life can have an impact.
Quotes from various characters that I enjoyed:
…I stole a quick glance at the red polish on her toenails, at the gold-tinged sheen of her shaved calves, the high arch of her foot, and always at her full, perfectly shaped breasts. There were men walking this earth, I marveled, who had touched those breasts and kissed them as they had made love to her. What was left to do in life once you had done that? Where did a man go next once he’d stood at the world’s summit?
I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.
Entering my childhood home is a little disorienting, like reading the end of a novel that I’d started, then abandoned, long ago.