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: A Novel 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 - 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 - 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 (Louise Rick series) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455541072
Availability: Hard to Find
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: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501160769
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250081438
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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.  

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455563920
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grand Central Publishing - November 14th, 2017

From the author of the national best seller Free Food for Millionaires comes another well
written novel about the experience of Koreans. In her new book, Min Jin Lee explores the
lives of Koreans who migrated to Japan in the last century. Pachinko begins in 1910 and
centers around the life and family of Sunja all the way up to 1989 when Sunja is still
alive. As a teenager Sunja has an affair with an older gentleman, Koh Hansu, who woos
her with kindness and respect. She becomes pregnant and discovers her suitor is already
married. Thus begins an amazing family saga that involves a fair amount of good fortune,
largely at the hands of Hansu, and a great deal of tragedy, often as a consequence of the
oppression of Koreans in Japan but also consequence of bad luck. The family consists of
a large cast of characters as family situations are in a long state of flux. Most fascinating
to me was learning about the life of Koreans in Japan in the last century when they were
treated very poorly, even if they were born in Japan. Not dissimilar to the experience of
African Americans.

A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594205514
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Penguin Press - April 4th, 2017

I will read anything by T.R. Reid as he never fails to come through with a real winner.
This very timely book takes aim at evaluating tax systems from around the world to
illuminate how to create an effective system of taxation. Similar to his books on health
care and creation of the European Union, Reid writes in very understandable language
backed up with sufficient levels of readily accessible data and facts leaving the reader
with a clear sense of understanding both the overview and the details of the matter being
presented. Reid has his focus on taxation in the US at all times, while he discusses tax
systems from around the world. From flat tax approaches (very popular in Eastern Bloc
nations), to capital gains, to inheritance tax, to the many approaches to sales tax, to
wealth taxation, to income taxes, etc. Reid covers it all. At this time when the notion of

“tax reform” is being bandied about, it would serve every American to arm themselves
with a clear understanding of the realities of taxation by reading this book. It is not dry, it
is readily accessible, and will help the reader cut through the political nonsense being
thrown about. Nonsense such as “Americans pay the highest taxes in the world”, when
the truth is we sit at the bottom end of developed countries in terms of the percentage of
our income going to taxes. Nonsense such as “American corporations pay the highest
taxes in the world”, when again the truth is we do not sit in the upper echelons of the
developed world pack. Consider this simple fact. In the 60’s American corporations
brought in about 33% of US tax revenues, while today their contributions sit at less than
9%. Virtually all of that missing revenue has been made up by you and me, and a
continually dropping government presence. Government costs Americans about 15% of
our GDP, placing us at the bottom of the developed world, and the figure keeps dropping.
At this time there is no tax “reform” being considered. At best, what we are going to see
come out of the current negotiations is tax “adjustment”, as this is the only kind of
change being discussed. We need real tax reform in this country. The truly sad thing is
we know what the proper approach is to tax reform. In a nutshell it is a broad base of
taxation with low rates of taxation, but eliminates all forms of deduction. The key word
in that sentence is “all”. This approach to taxation is supported by the three big heavies in
the world of global economics – the World Bank, the IMF, and the OECD. If those three
heavy hitters can agree, why can’t our Congress wake up and smell the roses? Read this
book and write to your Congress people asking for true reform.

Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062364685
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - July 4th, 2017

I was introduced to Sarah Vaughan at about the age of 12. Instantly she became and
remained one of my most beloved artists of all time, and clearly was at the top for her
time. Prior to reading this book I only knew Sarah through her music (and as it turns out
only a small portion of her music.) I largely knew Sarah through her jazz, which in my
opinion was truly the hallmark of her musical repertoire. Elaine Hayes, however, opened
my eyes to the totality of this amazing woman – she sang everything from jazz and blues
to pop to country to rock to shlock to classical and more. As is the case with most of us,
Sarah was a deeply flawed woman, mostly within her relationship to men. However, she
was also an amazingly focused and dedicated musician who wanted nothing more from
life than the opportunity to perform her music for listeners. This passion of Sarah’s is
sharply illustrated by the abundance of quotes from Sarah’s sidemen. A significant bonus
to this book is that in telling Sarah’s story Hayes has produced one of the best books I’ve
read about racism and sexism in America. Sarah was never a political person. As I’ve
said, all she ever wanted from life was to sing. When one contrasts this desire and a talent
placing her at the top of the heap, it completely exposes the horrifying absurdity of the
oppression she endured. Read this book if you love music, or read this book if you want a
vivid illustration of how far we have come as a culture in terms of racism and sexism, but
more importantly how far we still have to go. As a bonus, while you read the book, give
yourself access to YouTube to listen to the music you read about!

The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid Cover Image
By Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062342454
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer + Bray - October 24th, 2017

Charlie, aka the Grenadine Kid is the son of an American diplomat in France in 1961. By
chance, or is it, he witnesses a pick pocket, Amir, similar in age to himself being accosted
by police, Charlie comes to his aid and by doing so strikes up a friendship. Charlie really
has no friends and is drawn to the very different life that Amir lives. Long story short,
Charlie becomes a trusted member of the Whiz Mob, a gang of child pickpockets who are
all graduates of the same mysterious teacher who has pickpocket gangs working for him
the world over. The excitement of something so different from his own life has Charlie
taking greater and greater risks. The storyline develops in unexpected ways, and moves
along at a very brisk pace with lots of action building along the way. The book is listed as
suitable for 8-12 year olds, but this is one that will have holding power of any serious
young readers of any age. Bonus – this is in the Holiday Gift Guide and is thus 30% off
November and December.