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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Reading Connections

This week I have been reading a variety of books. In my past reading life, I never read more than one book at the same time; focusing on a single topic was necessary for focus and engagement. Lately though, I have appreciated the opportunity to read a few chapters of a Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, switch to an intermediate-grade novel (like Lisa Graff's Absolutely Almost), and spend some contemplative time with a more serious non-fiction book.

Today I finished Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogd, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants and then opened to my bookmark in Jenny Lee's Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service. The latter is a sequel and features a Newfoundland who acted as a service dog to the main character, Benji Barnsworth, but is now the First Dog. Amazingly, Elvis can talk and communicate, and he has sent a Morse Code message to Benji on a YouTube video, begging for help. So, Benji is in Washington, D.C., and Elvis calls Benji "a feisty little David" and explains how the expression is "used to describe the little guy going up against big odds."

The former is a fascinating look at a variety of case studies in which the powerful do not triumph in expected ways because the underdogs - or seemingly less powerful people - behave in unexpected ways that bring about incredible results. French people in Le Chambon during World War II embraced the opportunity to take in Jews, hiding them and guiding them to safety, and the government knew about it. The Catholics in Northern Ireland did not behave as the British army expected, and the attacks on the people resulted in devastation and violence that went beyond what was necessary. Students who choose the larger, more prestigious university programs often find being a little fish in a big pond is not desirable. The examples from education, law enforcement, civil rights, war, and medicine speak to the power of underdogs.

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