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Staff Picks: Books

From Preschool to Prosperity

How can very young children help Michigan’s economy? Simple. Attend a high-quality preschool.

Really? Really!

Tim Bartik, who is an economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research here in Kalamazoo, believes that our economic future can be improved by expanding high-quality early education programs and making sure that all children have the opportunity to participate. Dr. Bartik’s new book, From Preschool to Prosperity, is available as a free download here:

While economics might be a subject that can seem intimidating, if you care about kids in our community please take a look at this book. It’s short, readable, and so very important. Let’s keep working hard in Kalamazoo to make sure that all of our kids have the opportunity to reach their potential. 

Hear an interview with Dr. Bartik on WMUK’s WestSouthwest.

A Librarian with a Statistics Degree?

Yes, I studied actuarial science before getting my library science degree, which statement probably prompts most of you to think, “I didn’t even know those two sciences existed.” But I bring this up, because I am currently enjoying reading/listening to three books on three completely different subjects, but where numbers and statistics play a big part: 

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Triumphs of Experience by George Vaillant

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong by David Sally

Lewis’ book The Big Short is a well- known bestseller that explains the financial meltdown of 2008. It is fascinating and infuriating and may leave you swearing like a Wall Street bond trader (bond trader is worthy of replacing sailor in that cliché).

In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant tells the story of the Harvard Grant Study, a longitudinal study that started in 1938 and has followed almost three hundred men of which the survivors are in their 90s now. The study was started as an attempt to, “transcend medicine’s usual preoccupation with pathology and learn something instead about optimum health and potential and the conditions that promote them.” The conclusions are interesting as well as the different factors they study over time that they think might lead to optimum health and the changes in the definition of optimum health. 

Sally’s book The Numbers Game is to soccer what Moneyball (written by Michael Lewis who wrote The Big Short) is to baseball. As he crunches the numbers, he comes up with conclusions like launching corner kicks into the box hoping to score a goal is less valuable than just retaining possession with a short safe pass and that the team that takes the most shots on goal actually loses slightly more than half of the time. 

Isn’t it great that libraries have books to please all sorts of tastes? 


The Numbers Game



A Very Big Deal

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that Ron Burgundy: Let Me Off at the Top! My classy life & other musings, the new book by legendary fake news anchor Ron Burgundy, is by far the best movie tie-in fake biography of a fictional character that I’ve read this year. The book not only presents the rich, dare I say majestic, life story of Mr. Burgundy, but also offers readers the kind of practical advice that only comes from a life lived at top speed without brakes. That is, the life of a local TV news anchor. Burgundy’s tips on parenting, like instilling confidence in a ten-year-old by teaching them to drive on the freeway, along with his essential “rules for living through a prison riot” are priceless, pure Burgundy and worth their weight in gold. As the man himself says in the introduction to Let Me Off at the Top!, this book is a gift. If you are a silly person looking for a very silly read, it is a very nice gift indeed. Stay classy.


Ron Burgundy: Let Me Off at the Top!

A Look at Detroit

Detroit is described as our country’s greatest urban failure from once being a capitalist dream town.

As several reviewers have written, Detroit City is the Place to Be, captures the beauty and nobility of the city as well as the hardship and chaos. It is part history and part biography of a city and its people; a commentary on postindustrial America with some limited optimism for the future. The author grew up in the city and weaves in some personal narrative as well.

This may sound familiar to those who grew up in Detroit or Michigan. For those of us who were not here during the glory days of Detroit, it helps understand how and why Detroit became “a once-great American metropolis gone to hell” as one reviewer wrote.

This book provides the framework for our state, even our nation, to grapple with the issues facing Detroit.


Detroit City is the Place to Be

A comprehensive financial resource

 In contrast to my previous blog post, a big book (1200 pages!) that goes beyond investing to cover every facet of your financial life is Making the Most of Your Money NOW by Jane Bryant Quinn. It is not necessarily a book you read straight through, but contains chapters on all aspects of your financial life, from budget planning to insurance to saving for college to wills & trusts. It is a fantastic resource to dip into when there is a specific topic you need to know about.

It was revised in 2010 to stay up-to-date with your financial information needs.


Making the most of your money now : the classic bestseller 

Investing: A place to start

 The days of defined benefit pensions are fading. These days employees more likely to have a defined contribution plan if their employer offers any retirement savings vehicle at all. That typically means that they are responsible for making investment decisions, though employers may offer some choices that narrow the field. For those saving in an Individual Retirement Account, a real option for a lot of people, the choices are even more numerous. Where do you start?

The information out there can be overwhelming. Here at KPL, we have many books about investing, and you can spend endless hours reading them all (you could have easily done all your Summer Reading Game reading with these books). One good place to start is with The little book of common sense investing by John Bogle who started Vanguard, the nonprofit mutual fund company which introduced index funds, giving individual investors the opportunity to invest in the whole market. It is a little book that gives a quick introduction to markets and investing.


The little book of common sense investing : the only way to guarantee your fair share of market returns

Art of Enchantment

Guy Kawasaki has written the better part of a dozen books about business, management, and marketing, including Reality CheckRules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, and Selling the Dream. Perhaps his best known is The Art of the Start, a how-to guide for “anyone starting anything.” Guy was an employee at Apple during its formative years in the 1980s and he later played a key role in rejuvenating the Macintosh division. Guy is now a venture capitalist, author and speaker.

Kawasaki’s latest is Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, a concise 200 page guide that describes what it takes to enchant your customers, no matter what you produce, sell or do.

Enchantment, as Guy explains, goes beyond simple influence and persuasion. It’s about creating an experience rather than a simple product or service. He cites Virgin Airways and Amazon as examples, along with his former employer, Apple. He speaks of a user who buys an iPod and begins using iTunes. Then moves to an iPhone and perhaps an iPad with iBooks… or a MacBook or iMac, creating content with iPhoto and iMovie… you get the picture. The entire experience not only becomes enjoyable and productive… it’s enchanting.

While little that Kawasaki presents here is truly revolutionary, there is lots of good information, especially for students or those just beginning. Takeaways? There were several, but for me there were at least two that I found especially affirming…

Bakers and Eaters

First… his thoughts about how the world can roughly be divided into two types of people… the “bakers” and the “eaters.” “Eaters” wants a zero-sum game – to get as much of the pie as possible, where “bakers” see the world as an opportunity to make more and bigger pies. A simple but thought provoking concept.

Default to ‘yes’

Second… I particularly valued his “default to ‘yes’” approach… According to Guy, “Trustworthiness occurs when you trust others – you trust people and they will trust you. The onus is upon you to trust first. When you default to ‘yes’ you are always thinking ‘How can I help that person?’ as opposed to ‘How can that person help me?’ You empower action. You empower people to do things.”

The concept of enchantment goes well beyond the product level. It can be applied to almost any type of human interaction – business or otherwise – which makes Enchantment a quick, interesting and worthwhile read.

An abridged version of The Art of Enchantment speech by Guy Kawasaki:


Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions