Let's Talk Books

Six Degrees of Separation

Following on from Sandra’s post over at A Corner of Cornwall, and joining in the MeMe hosted by Kate at books are my favourite and best — in which readers create a chain of six books leading from the monthly title, this month (June) is The Tipping Point (2002) by Malcolm Gladwell — I thought I would join in, but, of course, having never read this month’s title and starting point, nor knowing the author, I hit my first hurdle.

Then I gave it a moment’s thought and wondered about the title, ‘tipping point,’ which brought me of all places to physics. Yes, that kind of tipping point—the point where there is no turning back, where a thing will go from being balanced, to being unbalanced. Which in turn reminded me of a book I read just last month, The Missing Informant by Anders de la Motte. Where David Sarac and, in fact, a number of characters in this fast-paced thriller face their own ‘tipping points,’ and, as the various story threads weave and intertwine, we’re pulled toward the story’s gripping and climactic ending.

Informants and tipping points brought me then to Secrets of State by Matthew Palmer, another thrilling read in which tensions between Pakistan and India are at a critical point. And where one piece of planted intel could lead to all out nuclear war. A thoroughly plausible scenario with the focus on two countries more likely to bring us to the brink of destruction than the Middle East, fractured and fighting amongst themselves.

Thinking about secrets and nuclear tensions reminded me of another recent read, Sarah Paretsky’s Fallout. In which V.I. Warshawski finds herself leaving behind her beloved Chicago on route to Kansas in the hunt of a missing film student. But as readers of Paretsky know by now, northing is ever straight forward for Vic, who finds herself mixed up in a mystery from the past and a Cold War-era missile silo. Great fun.

Book five, again written by Parestky, and tied in with nuclear war and buried secrets, is Critical Mass (yes, another physics term—critical mass, like tipping point, being a point of no return). Critical Mass is one of my all-time favourite books and not because of Paretsky’s writing or her long time character V.I. but because of the subject matter she chose to focus on: Physics. Moving seamlessly between past and present, Paretsky ties in several threads that connect Warshawski’s closest friend, Viennese-born Lotty Herschel, to events that took place in Vienna and Germany in WWII. Lies, secrets and silence.

Book six in the chain was a little less obvious, it’s The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny. Which, in it self, is book eleven in the series focused on the fictional village of Three Pines, and the now retired head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, Armand Gamache. What opens to be a straight forward murder-mystery when 9 year-old Laurent Lapage goes missing turns out to be anything but. And the further Gamache delves, the further down the rabbit hole we all go in the search for answers. The connection here, weapons of mass destruction. While not nuclear, still, nonetheless, are at the centre of this cleverly written mystery. And who writes it better than Louise Penny, no one!

Tipping points and critical mass key in every one of these well-plotted and thrilling reads that all share six-degrees of separation to each other.

What are your six-degrees of separation choices?


  1. This is a really clever meme, Alex. And I like the choices that you’ve made. I find it fascinating to see how different bloggers move among books.

    • La Blonde says

      Isn’t it just? I love this idea and hope to do it monthly to see what pops up. My mind getting stuck in the science side with tipping points in this month’s challenge, which is just typical of how my mind works.

      I would love to see what books you came up with too, Margot. I’m sure that would be just as fascinating. And yes, seeing how different bloggers navigate this one is intriguing.

  2. I love your version, Alex! Especially as you wound up with Louise Penny. You are obviously a fan; I shall be starting with the very first book in the series before too long!

    • La Blonde says

      All thanks to you, Sandra. It was fun to do and also, I discovered a new blog to visit (Kate) and a new Meme to do every month.

      Oh yes, a big fan of Penny here. And I hope you enjoy reading her as much as I have. The evolution of her writing and the characters, from Still Life right through to Glass Houses makes this a special series. And, of course there are the stories themselves. All worth a read IMHO! 😉

        • La Blonde says

          Well, I do hope you enjoy it, Sandra. And, given a number of people have expressed how much they like Penny’s work, I’m dedicating tomorrow’s post to book 6, Bury Your Dead, which was set here, in Québec City.

          You could say, like you, I read this one in situ! 😀

  3. La Blonde says

    The post is written [complete with photos] and scheduled for tomorrow, Sandra. 😀

    • La Blonde says

      Indeed, thanks for hosting the Meme, Kate. It was not only fun to do, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading a number of the other participants. And I’m looking forward to joining in again next month.

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