Malcolm Gladwell’s latest pop sociology book, Outliers, did not live up to the promise of its subhead: “The Story of Success.” As always with Gladwell, the tidbits of little publicized studies (e.g. the cultural reason for the excessive Korean Air plane crashes) and psychological tests (e.g. the impact of calling a Southern guy vs. New Englander an “asshole” on his way into a classroom study) were fascinating in their own right, the perfect fodder for cocktail chat. MGladwell But, as has been the worsening trend with his trio of books, Gladwell simply doesn’t connect the social observations in a convincing – or useful – thesis.

While I still stand by The Tipping Point as an essentiel read for anyone in PR or marketing, Outliers felt like a lazy attempt. It was formulaic (and as a result will likely become a bestseller on the merit of the author’s past success),  oftentimes condescending and surprisingly simplistic, especially in its generalizations on wealth and race. 

For now, I’m sticking to my new favorite columnists, Chip and Dan Heath, whose book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is on my short list. For a taste of their insight, check out their column in Fast Company.


A new favorite travel writer…

While there are plenty of travelogues and adventure-driven memoirs out there, it’s hard to find those that combine fine writing, sincerity and a truly engaging story.  Rosemary Mahoney has succeeded in getting my attention, and I expect she’ll keep it.

nileI recently reviewed Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff and can’t wait to dig in to some of Mahoney’s previous books… like The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground, and The Early Arrival of Years: A Year in China.

As I’ve written about before, other favorites in this genre includeTales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman, and Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan, by Jamie Zeppa. Strong women willing to take a chance with the unknown. Honest storytelling. Unexpected adventures.

I still don’t understand all the hype about Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert), which came across as a self-serving, contrived memoir written about an “adventure” funded by a book deal. I prefer to stick to the reflective, humble storytelling of authors like Mahoney.

Bass & Books



You know what I love most about striper fishing? All the reading I get done!

In May, my husband Joe and I went back east to visit family in NY, CT and NJ. One of the main reasons for the timing of our vacation is the striper run. Yes, it’s a big deal, and it only lasts for a couple of weeks. During this past trip, we spent most of our time fishing on The Hudson, because that’s where they were biting.

For me, the beauty of surf fishing is that I can hang out in a camp chair and read. When you fish from the shore, you bait the hook, cast the line, put the rod in its holder, which is anchored in the sand. Then you sit back. And watch. And wait. When the tip of the rod snaps back and forth, you run and grab the rod, in hopes of a big striper bite. (While most of the Kusumoto clan is better about holding the rod and watching attentively, I toggle between watching for bites and  reading!)

Despite my focus on the page rather than the line, I actually did catch one: a 28″ striper that I didn’t think I’d be able to reel in on my own. We thought it was a huge catch, until  my sister in law (my “fish-tah” Vikki) showed me up with a 31″ (she always does that!) ( :

A week later, Joe brought in the big doozy – a 39″ striper – that now holds the Kusumoto family record.

I love fishing back east. Armed with Italian subs, chips (that eventually get all wormed up with everyone poking their dirty, bait-smeared hands in the bags!) and my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, we spend hours by the water… fishing, waiting, relaxing and reading. 

~ ~ ~

If you love fishing for striped bass, here’s a must read that fisher-people love: On the Run: An Angler’s Journey Down the Striper Coast (David Dibenedetto.)

And while I’m on the topic, here’s a list of reads I polished off in May, all of which I’d recommend:

Out Stealing Horses (Per Peterson)

On Beauty (Zadie Smith)

Mountains beyond Mountains (Tracy Kidder)

Imperial Life in Emerald City (Rajiv Chandrasekaran)

Mister Pip (Lloyd Jones)

Loving Frank (Nancy Horan)

No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy)