Brad's Picks

Brad Smith
Owning Paulina Springs Books since 2003 has been a bit different from the community-owned grocery store he managed for years, but Brad is a glutton for work. He opened Paulina Springs Books in Redmond in 2007 and is active in the independent booksellers association. Brad likes to read books about the absurdity of humanity from religion to farming or any other such area where our culture has become bent. He likes to commune with nature, so maybe that’s why he would like to return in his next life as a thorny devil stick insect called Phasmatidae.


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Britt-Marie Was Here Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501142536
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Atria Books - May 3rd, 2016

Perhaps you've read either of his earlier works, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry or A Man Called Ove. If so, you know what a wonderful writer Backman is. His works are both very character driven as well as being story driven. In Britt-Marie... , Backman takes a character who appears in My Grandmother ... and tells a continuation of her own story. This is a book that simply leaves the reader feeling good about life. Britt-Marie is a quirky woman for whom life has not delivered what she deserves. Obviously she has played a role in this short coming, but still I always wanted better for her. Her life is turned upside down as consequence of an unfaithful husband and a bold move on the part of Britt-Marie. She finds herself in a small community that has been torn asunder by changes in the economy. She arrives with a temporary job in hand, and without really trying makes a very real mark on the hearts and minds of community members. Of particular significance she influences the lives of a young teenage girl, an alcoholic storekeeper and a former soccer player (a footballer really). Backman's quirky storytelling works extremely well.  Place your order today to have one set aside when it releases.

Lab Girl Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101874936
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - April 5th, 2016

This was a very surprising book. Not at all what I was expecting. Hope Jahren is a scientist through and through, and as her blog hashtag states "Hope Jahren sure can write". Going in I hadn't  really read any reviews etc, so I was unaware of the memoir aspect of the book. Lab Girl weaves a story of her life as a scientist with the actual science she does studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil in the field of geobiology. The science writing in the book is fascinating and to be honest I wish there was more. I hope someday she pens another book that is about nothing more than her research as it is truly fascinating. However, the memoir portion is equally intriguing, weaving the challenges of being a research scientist in the USA where getting funding is such a challenge (we just don't invest enough in it), the particular challenges of being a female scientist, and Hope's personal demons she struggles with. At times the memoir portion becomes maudlin, which Hope readily admits to, but is understandable given what she is going through. The concluding chapters of the book which come up to close to present are surprising and certainly not what I was expecting. Give this book to any young women you know who wish to enter the STEM fields. Great read!  

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393246186
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - April 25th, 2016

At least as far back as the creation of organized religion humans have seen themselves as being different from other animals. Even those of us who firmly believe our ancestors crawled out of the ocean and evolved over a millions of years to become Cubs fans (can you believe that Series!), television binge watchers and creatures who care about Prada; we are largely still guilty of seeing ourselves as something above the 'animal kingdom'. Frans de Waal successfully punches our inflated egos full of Swiss cheese holes. The primary message behind this book is that animal research fails us in the most basic of ways by asking the wrong questions, formulating flawed studies, and in general producing observations with humans in mind as much, if not more, than keeping the subject material first and foremost. Frans is less critical of this fact in the book than he is adamant about the need for formulating better questions, testing our theories with truly objective eyes and analyzing the data without placing humans into the equation. All animals are unique in how we came to be who we are. Our bodies, brains, instincts and sense of self have evolved in a broad spectrum; each suited to our individual species yearning for survival. Frans is a Dutch ethologist and primatologist with many years of research under his belt. The case studies in his book tend to focus on primates as this is his specialty. However, he also spends time with research involving corvids, canines, squirrels, dolphins, wasps, octopuses and more. The research studies he discusses involve all forms of intelligence, both emotional and intellectual. Reading this book will not only have you questioning what you thought you knew about the 'animals' in your life, it will also provide great pause for thought about the humans in your life (aka yourself).

We Should All Be Feminists Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101911761
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor Books - February 3rd, 2015

At a mere 64 pages, this book might seem like a lightweight, but it is nothing of the sort. It is in fact, a book that should be read by all adults in our culture, particularly all men. I don't say this lightly. There is nothing new or groundbreaking about the information or the message presented here. The real value is how the message is presented. Anyone, but the most extreme head-in-the-sand misogynists (think our current President) will find the message compelling, concise and exceptionally coherent. Adichie is a Nigerian novelist and short story writer. She is also the winner of many literary awards and a MacArthur genius award. In We Should All Be Feminists Chimamanda brings to bare the straightforward and self-evident truths of feminism, and enriches her presentation with poignant memories from her childhood. Her TED Talk that inspired the book has been viewed nearly 4 million times. I recommend reading it and then discussing it with at least one other person who read it for the full experience of what this book has to offer. Yes! We should all be feminists

The Lost Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455541072
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - February 7th, 2017

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399184413
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - March 1st, 2016

Another science book written with poetic reverence for the beauty of the scientific world. In this short (less than 100 pages) little book Carlo Rovelli tackles the most fundamental theories we have for explaining the universe and what we call reality. We begin with gravity where Rovelli does a real bang up job of describing the properties of gravity in a way we can wrap our heads around given the limited true understanding the lay person has (apple falls from the tree.) Then we jump headlong into quantum mechanics where we explore the mystical properties of the lonely electron. In Lesson 3 we cut a break while exploring the architecture of the cosmos. Lessons 4 & 5 dovetail well with the first discussing particle physics and the second discussing the space between those particles. This latter piece is truly mesmerizing as Rovelli brings this bizarre concept within reach of the lay person. With Lesson 6 launches us back into more challenging concepts where he explores how heat, time and probability both support our sense of reality, while simultaneously challenging it big time. The book has been out now for over a year, with no paperback in sight. At $18 this little book is a power-packed read that can be reread numerous times.  

Beartown Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501160769
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atria Books - April 25th, 2017

Beartown shows a different side to the writing capability of Frederik Backman. It still features community as a large character, but in this case we are speaking about a community larger than the ones his books have inhabited before. The story line is more complicated and there are more moving parts. Subject matter too, is darker, more byzantine and he challenges himself in trying to see multiple sides to the same equations. The European title for this book was The Scandal which speaks more clearly to the story at hand than the Beartown title selected for the North American audience. Beartown is a town on the edge of the forest. We assume it is in Sweden where Backman lives, but the book never clarifies. Beartown was a successful town for many generations until the forest industry changed as did many other things making it difficult for smaller towns to survive. The multiple story lines involve a town in decline, clear lines of haves and have-nots, the inherent hierarchy involved with organized sports, the individual challenges of everyday life, and than thrown on top of it all is a sexual assault right in the middle of everyone and everything.  The sexual assault puts everything into stark focus as the towns individuals begin grappling with issues of friendship vs loyalty, seeing right from wrong, and choosing paths of courage and integrity versus one of giving in to fear and social pressures. As in all of his books, the reader becomes engaged with the story, feeling present in the drama as opposed to viewing it from the outside perspective of the reader. Chalk this up as another winner from Backman. 

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250081438
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Flatiron Books - August 29th, 2017

I'm going to let you know right upfront, this debut novel would have been well-served by an editor who insisted on 100-150 pages of the more than 500 to be removed. Still, I have to recommend this to the lover of literary fiction that is new and fresh story telling. Cherise covers tremendous ground in these pages, but the star in the writing is the incredibly unique story of Joan Ashby and the manner in which the story is told. Joan Ashby was a very young  literary star. By her early 20's she has published two exceptionally dark short story collections that garnered tremendous accolades and prizes. The world awaits big things from her. We get to read a fair amount of Joan Ashby's writing within the pages of the book, which lends incredible insight into Joan Ashby  the writer. In keeping with a pledge made when she was 13, Joan gets her husband to agree to a life without children. Surprises arrive however with not one, but two pregnancies that add motherhood to this woman's life.