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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A Man Called Ove Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476738024
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Washington Square Press - May 5th, 2015

From Swedish author Fredrik Backman comes a story about a severe curmudgeon who is thoroughly unlikable in the beginning of the book, and just grows upon the reader as we learn more and more of his story. This is a life story about a man with impeccable moral standards whose life has thrown him more curves than it should have. Ove was raised by a father who was not personable in the slightest, but was very effective in relaying important lessons about being a person of integrity. We follow Ove through his childhood, into adulthood where he meets and marries a woman that some might think was too good for him. Toward the end of his life he develops some neighborly relationships that allow his heart to unfold in manners unavailable to him in earlier life. Start reading this book, and get through the beginning where I found him to be someone I just did not wish to get to know. You will be rewarded with a story that fully warms your heart.

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307408860
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - March 10th, 2015

The paperback releases later this month, so I thought I would add to Sue's earlier review for the hardcover edition. It's not my favorite Erik Larson book, but the man sets a high bar for himself. Impeccably researched, Larson includes the stories of a great many of the people on board and nearly on board of the Lusitania on it's last cruise. As Sue commented, you know the ending of the book, so there is in essence no surprise their. However, his account of those final hours is so personalized and so well told, that as a reader I found myself growing increasingly more uncomfortable and fearful. In addition though, Larson provides provides a wealth of information about the ship, the build up of the war, U-boats and the emerging submarine technology, and key political elements and characters to keep any history readers engaged and satisfied. I really could have done without the depth of coverage of President Wilson's love life, but I'm certain other readers found this just as engaging as the rest.

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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: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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

A Consequential President: The Legacy of Barack Obama Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250081391
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Thomas Dunne Books - January 3rd, 2017

Author Michael D'Antonio has penned many historical books based upon the lives of individuals, such as Milton Hershey, Thomas Lipton, Walter O'Malley, and Donald Trump. Be sure to check out a past staff pick of mine by him, A Full Cup, an excellent bit of history. A signature feature of D'Antonios writing is his straightforward handling of the facts. He does his homework and presents the information with little of his own opinions getting in the way. A perfect quality for a biography writer. In A Consequential President, D'Antonio covers the eight years of the Obama Presidency with a purposeful focus on the accomplishments of the Administration. While the obstructionist practices of leading Republicans are covered in the book, it is there only to illuminate the accomplishments of the 8-years. If you  are feeling worried/concerned/troubled by the actions of our current White House administration this book is a good pick-me-up, as it clearly demonstrates that our country can achieve good things with the right person in charge. In our current state of affairs, reading this book is a breath of fresh air, even if it is looking backward, because it truly demonstrates the progress we can make once we have a change in the guard. 

The Lost Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455541072
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grand Central Publishing - February 7th, 2017

A Wrinkle in Time Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312367541
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Square Fish - May 1st, 2007

Published in 1962, and winner of the 1963 Newbery award, this book still stands out as a great read aloud. My mother read this to me and my younger sister when I was 8 or 9 years of age. Despite being a million years ago, I still had many vivid memories of the book, which is a real testament to the storytelling. So I felt it was time to revisit it. Despite the book containing many of the trappings of the era, not the least of which is grossly simplistic gender roles, it still survives as great storytelling. Meg Murray and her younger brother Charles Wallace are drawn into a tremendous interstellar adventure after they make the acquaintance of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. The three women bare clear markings of witches (odd, beaked nose, funny dress, etc) which I imagine is the image most children draw, but they are far removed from being witches. Meg and Charles father is a scientist who went missing some years back while working on a top secret project for the government. The three W's know of his whereabouts and have come to requisition the help of the children to save their father. A star-studded family movie edition is coming out a year from now. Take the opportunity to read aloud this book, or present it to your young readers in advance of seeing the movie.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594746031
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Quirk Books - June 4th, 2013

This quirky young adult fantasy novel features Jacob, who does not quite fit in and goes in search for answers about his grandfather's past. Traveling to an island off the coast of Wales with his father Jacob discovers a world far beyond anything he could have imagined. On the island he discovers a refuge for the most peculiar children. At this point we veer off into a world not dissimilar from that of Marvel comics. It is a far flung fantasy that works well keeping the reader engaged and drawn to numerous characters. Placing this book in the hands of a broad spectrum of readers will find fans, and being the first book in a trilogy it provides a good amount of fun reading for a spectrum of ages. Good readers as young as 10 would have no trouble consuming these books, as would many readers into the late teen years. In fact, the books found popularity among adults as well. If you are looking for books to keep your readers happy this summer, you won't likely go wrong by putting this in their hands.