Saturday, March 18, 2017

And the mountains Echoed

My last “Extra book” for a long time as I begin meeting with the RAs of 2017-18 starting tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to the long list of new books that I will review in the coming months.  This is a fun time of the year.  My last Facebook friends favorite books was a good one, And the mountains echoed, by Khaled Hosseini.  Yes, the same author who wrote Kite Runner and A thousand splendid suns.  Hosseini is a wonderful storyteller.  He leaves the reader wanting for more.  Once again, his stories tear at your heart strings.  He is able to ‘move the reader’ from one emotion to the next.  Brilliant writing!  His new technique is using nine chapters and having nine different characters each tell a bit of the story, from their perspective, culminating in an ending that brings it all to an end.  Chapter one introduces a father who has to give away one of his children, a son (Abdullah) or the younger sister (Pari) to the evil spirit in a dream sequence, which is a premonition of what is to follow… fast forward to 1952 when Pari’s father (Saboor) takes the two siblings on a trip to Kabul from their impoverished surroundings in the rural village area.  Pari is left behind, sold to her uncle Nabi’s employers, a wealthy couple (the Wahditis) whom he runs their household.  The rest of the chapters have tangential characters each having some connection to Abdullah and Pari which leads to the last chapter where the brother and sister reconnect across the globe after 60+ years apart.  Can sibling connections remain intact forever?   It is a story of missed opportunities, lost love, and heartbreak.  Worth every minute, though I was confused as the years went forward and back through the voices of multiple characters.  After I figured things out, easier to understand the author’s intent.

Friday, March 3, 2017

David and Goliath

Image result for Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath.
Read one of my favorite sociologists, Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath.  Gladwell uses the historical biblical tale of Goliath, the giant soldier who is donned with a golden helmet, to fight the small and slender, David, who volunteers for the battle. And who wins?  The story has been used for centuries to note that underdogs should not be overlooked.  Gladwell highlights these “underdogs” in war, such as Lawrence of Arabia and how they won a war they had no reason winning.  Vivek Ranadive’s basketball team, his daughter’s seventh/eighth grade Junior BB team from Redwood City in California won the National championship by playing an unheard of defense for the entire game, player to player press!  Full game press would be something the opposition would never think of doing, but they did, and won, and won, and won!  Doing the unexpected can lead an underdog to the elite status.  Gladwell draws upon changes in our society and measures the outcomes of those changes, such as, increase in hiring school teachers to lower classroom size and notes that it may improve student learning, to a point… but overdo it, and it’s costly and it doesn’t work.  Same with California’s crime reduction approach, “three strikes” rule that put repeat offenders in jail.  This law certainly responded to drug usage etc., but now the jails are overrun!  Has it really helped?  How about Monet and his band of artists?  How they became famous?  Or Dr. Freireich and saving children who had cancer?  I won’t give you all of his examples, but they are compelling and gives us all a chance to best understand that just because the deck may be stacked against us, don’t give up so quickly.  There are always exceptions for every rule.  Gladwell is on top of his game again in this one.  Read it and learn!