Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
October is Public Library Month in Canada and the theme for this month is: “a visit will get you thinking.” That got us thinking! Do you really think about something every time you visit the library? When you borrow a DVD on Friday afternoon are you thinking about where it will fit into your week-end? I know that when I borrow a novel I’m thinking about my limited leisure time and how excited I am to have a new book to read. More directly related to the theme, sometimes we read books, fiction and nonfiction, where the content really fascinates us and make us think about all sort of things.
Today on Library Moments Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will talk about authors who made us think about things a little more deeply than how we are going to schedule our time.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: When journalist Stephen J. Dubner went to Chicago on assignment to write about economist Steven D. Levitt, each was reluctant to work with the other. Dubner was in the middle of writing a book and didn’t want to take the time to fly from New York to interview a human slide rule. Levitt didn’t want to get shadowed by an intellectually underpowered journalist, but his mom really liked the magazine he was to be featured in. After the article came out in The New York Times Magazine – and the two discovered that they actually hit it off quite nicely – Dubner and Levitt co-wrote Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything thinking it would sell at best 80 copies – 5 million copies and another 3 books later the “Freakonomics guys” continue to tickle our brains with their clever blend of sociology, psychology and economics. While Levitt in particular has been criticized for giving the field of economics a cleverness problem, driving serious study toward the quirky and punchy, he has contributed a variety of papers to the field on topics including crime, business, education, and politics. One paper in the American Economic Review co-authored with ethnographer Suhdir Venkatesh detailed the economics of crack dealing in Chicago during the height of the drug and gangs crisis there – showing that the business was not nearly as lucrative as modern mythology would have us believe, but rather the best of a horrible set of choices that a vulnerable and underserved population had at their disposal.
While Levitt and Dubner present some compelling correlations by framing the data of everyday life in ways that we may not have thought about before, they have courted controversy for thumbing their noses at conventional wisdom – sometimes gratuitously. I have enjoyed Levitt and Dubner’s thought provoking and often irreverent series, and while I haven’t seen any criticisms that make me think they have gotten anything factually wrong, it doesn’t mean that I always agree with their conclusions however entertainingly they have presented them. But, you don’t have to agree with a book – in whole or in part – for it to make you think. In fact, I think we are all better off to approach our reading with a healthy dose of skepticism and open-mindedness. We have the entire series of Freakonomics, through to the most recent When to Rob a Bank and 131 more warped suggestions and well-intended rants. Pick one up and draw your own conclusions.
Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian who has written for The New Yorker for the last 20 years. He has also written five books all of which are expansions of a concept he began to explore in one of his articles. My favourite book of his and one that always makes me think is The Outliers which examines how a person’s environment, in conjunction with personal drive and motivation affects his or her possibility and opportunity for success. More importantly from this book we get the concept of 10,000 hours. The principle states that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world class in any field. The principle refutes the notion that certain people are inherently good at things and don’t need to work hard to achieve greatness. The converse of this is that just because you put in your time doesn’t mean you will automatically be great; there are other factors at play. Like the Freakonomics guys, Gladwell is not without controversy but has fascinated millions of readers with his theories.
Gladwell states that in writing books he is concerned with two parallel things- interesting stories and interesting research. All five of Gladwell’s books can be found at the Haliburton County Public Library.
Not only is October Canadian Public Library Month, Evergreen voting starts this week and goes until October 30th. Even if you have only read one of the ten choices you can vote. Come into any branch of the library this month and cast a ballot for your favourite title. That’s it for this week’s episode of Library Moments, thanks for listening here on 100.9 CanoeFM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, October 2-8, 2016.