Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game is an excellent science fiction book. The setting is a world in the future where Earth has been attacked once by an alien race. Earth expects the aliens to come back again, and in order to prepare the best and brightest to fight the next invasion, they set up a military school … for children. The most intelligent and mentally capable children are selected at a very young age to attend the military academy. At the academy they train using “The Game” – a sports game in no gravity that prepares them for war.
Orson Scott Card does an excellent job of character portrayal, and his children, while geniuses, are very believable.
I’ve read the print edition of this book and recommend it. However, I recently listened to the audio version of this book and it was excellent. It’s done in several voices.

Last Juror

I really enjoyed listening to the Last Juror by John
Grisham. (I listened to it on my Otis from Audible. Tell them
“storming” sent you if you sign up.) It’s a book about a
young man without much direction in life who moves to a
small Mississippi town and ends up, almost by accident,
buying the town newspaper. We meet the town through him
and hear about many topics affecting small southern
towns in the 1970s such as racial integration, Vietnam,
department stores, etc. All of it chronicled through his
friendships and his ownership of the newspaper. The book
does have a murder mystery in it, so it is more like
some of John Grisham’s legal thrillers than Bleachers
was, however it is really a story about a small town and
the people in it.

Innovator’s Dilemna

I had a chance to hear Clayton M. Christensen, the author of Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution, speak today. I enjoyed his first book, Innovator’s Dilemma, and it was really interesting to hear him apply his ideas to current technologies. Clayton talked not only about distruptive technologies that companies miss, but disruptive technologies that they are not able to take advantage of in the markets they serve. For example, he argued that solar power will not develop into a mature technology in the United States because we will not be forgiving of an immature product – we expect 24/7 uptime from our electricity. On the other hand, people living in Mongolia are excited to have solar technology – they don’t depend on electricity 24/7 and are ok with it going out often. He gave a couple of similar examples and ended up having an interesting conversation with Tim O’Reilly who was in the audience.

Charlie Mike by Leonard Scott

Charlie Mike is a book about the rangers in the Vietnam War. My boyfriend recommended that I read it (and then gave me grief for months as I avoided it.) I enjoyed the book – it was much easier to read a book about the Vietnam War than it was to watch a movie. Without the visual violence I was much more able to relate to the characters. In Charlie Mike, Leonard Scott does a good job of describing the war and the people in it in a way that made it more possible for me to understand some of the awful events and behaviors that came out of the Vietnam War, like why people volunteered, why people were slaughtered in battles that shouldn’t have happened, why people enjoy fighting and he did an especially good job of showing us why people enjoy the military.
I do have to say that his female characters were a bit shallow. We didn’t really get to meet them. The focus of the book was most definitely the rangers. The characterization of the rangers was excellent.

Bleachers

Bleachers is a book about the coach of a small town’s football team. Unlike most of John Grisham’s other books, it is not a legal thriller nor a mystery. It’s about a small town, a coach and a football team. John Grisham does a good job of describing how the lives of many men have been affected by their high school football coach. Whether or not you agree with the coach’s methods, there is no denying that he’s a true leader. He changes the lives of those around him.

This is a good short book, so it’s well worth your time to read it.

Snow Crash

I finished listening to Snow Crash this morning. It turned out to be a really good, funny book. The whole premise of the book is that brains are like computers, programmable and capable of getting viruses too. It was interesting because at the same time I was listening to it, I read an article in the Economist, Signs of Success, that studied language in deaf children. They found that groups of deaf children spontaneously create sign languages – sign languages that resemble existing spoken languages. They argue that there must be a grammatical template wired into the brains of infants. Neal Stephenson’s book is based on that idea – on the premise that some knowledge in your brain is hardwired from birth and other parts are learned. He equates the knowledge, or the way your brain works, to software. Once again science fiction is predicting the future – or at least future findings – and playing with them.

On top of the somewhat serious premise of the software/brain analogy, Neal introduces many quirky characters and details that make the book humerous. A pizza chain run by the mafia, a motorcycle riding giant who can’t be killed because he has a nuclear bomb implant, corporate franchises as neighborhoods … all of these characteristics add humor. They take some of society’s already quirky characteristics, apply a little technology, and show us how strange they really could become!

Tango Midnight

Tango Midnight by Michael Cassutt is a science fiction book about the space program. This story about a disaster on the space station takes place in the very near future. The book is well written with well developed characters (always a must for any good book). What I didn’t like about the book is that the author jumps back and forth between two time periods, pre and post disaster.

If you enjoy near future, realistic science fiction, you will probably enjoy this book. Although realize that the book is less about the science of space exploration, and much more about the story – the disaster on the space station and how the characters involved deal with it – and the politics – the Russian, US and Chinese space agencies all interact during this book!

Do you know this book?

My aunt is looking for the author and title of a science fiction book: “Do you know the name of a science fiction book in which experiments were carried out on babies, the babies had wings, the setting was deep in a forest, one of the babies escaped…..????”
I haven’t read it but my guess was either a Ray Bradbury type book or the female science fiction author that writes the language related books …
Do you know? (If you find it with Google or Amazon, I’d like to know which search words you used!)

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

In How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, David Bornstein describes social entrepreneurs as individuals that start businesses to enhance society – individuals with the influence, ideas and drive to change the way the world works for the better. Although he describes social entrepreneurship as a growing phenomenon, he tells us that it’s been around for a while. One of the first examples he gives is Florence Nightingale. Her work to change the medical system of the British army and then in Britain itself decreased the mortality rate of wounded soldiers by 100s of percent. She created a self sustaining organization (a new medical organization) that improved the lives of those in her society.
Bornstein introduces an organization called Ashoka, a nonprofit organization that invests in social entrepreneurs. Through the work and motivation of nine Ashoka fellows, Bornstein shows us what a social entrepreneur is. He uses examples from around the world, from setting up an organization to help homeless children in India to providing affordable irrigation to rural farmers in Brazil. In all cases Ashoka looks for individuals that are self-motivated, already well along the way to making their dream come true, have a realistic plan and a self-sustaining plan. Social entrepreneurs set up organizations that are at least self-sufficient if not profitable. They may need donations and hard work to get started but they are in the end a new profitable way of doing business. For example, in Brazil, Fábio Rosa uses both new technology and new regulations to bring cheap electricity to rural farmers which enables them to use wells and pumps to irrigate their land.
The book is very well written. By describing the nine Ashoka fellows, Bornstein helps the reader understand what motivates these social entrepreneurs, in turn motivating the reader. I highly recommend the book.

Career Warfare

Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand and Fighting to Keep It by David F. D’Alessandro and Michele Owens is a how-to business book. D’Allessandro, the CEO of John Hancock, claims that your personal brand, the way people see you, can make or break your career. In his book (which is co-authored by Michele Owens) gives very well-structured advice on how to build your own personal brand. Writing in a very clear style with highlights called out on each page, D’Allesandro uses personal examples, both good and bad, to demonstrate his points. All of the advice makes good sense, and while you probably won’t learn anything earth shattering, D’Allesandro does a good job of using personal examples to demonstrate why it’s important to ALWAYS pay attention to your behavior. While stressing that your day-to-day behavior is important, he also demonstrates how your actions during a few critical moments can make or break your career.
During this time of high media attention to the personal accountability and responsibility or lack there of at the CEO level, D’Alessandro’s book is a good primer and reminder of how we all ought to behave at work.