You are sentenced to five years’ prison, and reading Malcolm Gladwell

By Toby Manhire In Books, The Internaut

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The Canadian eco-terrorist Rebecca Rubin has been sentenced to five years imprisonment by a Portland court for her role in arson committed by the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front in the 1990s.

The judge added another, unusual requirement: that she read two books.

US District Court Judge Ann Aiken ordered Rubin to read Nature’s Trust by Mary C Wood and David and Goliath, the latest bestseller by New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell.

The first concerns environmental law, but why the Gladwell? Carolyn Kellogg in the Los Angeles Times reports: “Gladwell is on her reading list, the judge explained, because it would help Rubin learn nonviolent means to protest against systems she perceives as unjust.”

But maybe the book, which received an uneven reception when it was published last year, will have as much punitive as educative impact.

The Economist, for example, urged would-be readers to choose one of Gladwell’s earlier books, such as The Tipping Point. They “were genuinely thought-provoking”, it advised. “This one is about as insightful as a fortune cookie. Read something else.”

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