Archive for January, 2014

White Fire

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The Short Take:

Hooray! Preston and Child have forsaken the continuing stories of their recent books for a thriller than stands alone. Agent Pendergast is as frustrating (to others) and fascinating (to readers) as ever. Plus this outing has connections to Sherlock Holmes, a string of mysterious deaths 150 years ago, and a modern arsonist. All that keeps those pages turning.


Preston and Child write excellent thrillers, but their last few outings have been built around rather complicated ongoing story lines that eventually bogged things down. Not so this time. Plus, Corrie Swanson, the rebellious young girl who made Still Life With Crows such a breakthrough hit, returns to center stage. Thankfully, there’s only one four-page reference to the old ongoing story. So, if you aren’t a regular reader, just skip Chapter 22.

Actually, this book is an excellent first introduction to the enigmatic, eccentric, and most excellent Agent Pendergast. Of course, this being a thriller, there are plenty of tense moments and life-threatening scares. You may think you know what’s going to happen next. And, you may be wrong.

But the icing on the cake is the inclusion of a Sherlock Holmes angle. I won’t divulge more except to say that it is completely audacious and great fun.

A Little Plot:

Corrie wants to write a prize winning thesis for her criminal studies course and decides to study the bones of  Colorado miners killed by a grizzly bear in 1876. She heads to what is now a exceedingly posh resort town in hopes of studying how grizzly bear claws and teeth left their marks. However, that’s not what she finds.

Instead, Corrie lands in a lot of trouble. Pendergast comes to her aid, but a terrifying case of arson grabs his attention.

If you want to know more about Preston and Child, click here. They also have a regular newsletter and are on Facebook.

David and Goliath

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

By Malcolm Gladwell

The Short Take:

This highly readable nonfiction book is a delight in every way. The premise — that misfits and underdogs can, and do, triumph — is exciting and inspiring. Gladwell’s storytelling is completely engaging. Plus, you’ll have interesting factoids and tales to share at cocktail parties and dinners for weeks to come. What more could you possibly want?


Simply put, Gladwell writes a great book. He brings together a wide range of real-life examples to make his points. In this case, he demonstrates that obstacles and misfortune can hold the seeds of success. However, thinking you know how things should be done can lead to unfortunate outcomes.

This is no weighty academic tome. It’s the work of a gifted journalist who has exceptional skill. If you’re looking for more scientific rigor, delve into the sources included in his extensive notes. However, if you are looking for inspiration — for stories of people who bucked the establishment and/or overcame odds clearly stacked against them, this one is for you.

It might even change the way you think about your own life.

A Little Plot:

Basically Gladwell has gathered stories and studies that show (among many other things) classrooms can be too small, colleges can be too good, too much money can be as bad as not enough, power is worth little without legitimacy, and trickery can triumph.

It all builds around the Biblical tale of David and Goliath, which Gladwell points out was really an unfair fight — for Goliath. Perceived underdogs have much more  to do with observers’ expectations than with the reality of their situations.

For more about Gladwell and his work, click here. And, read this book. It’s small, breezy, and so very enlightening.


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January 2014