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.

The Shadow of the Lion

I am reading The Shadow Of The Lion by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint & Dave Freer right now. I’m enjoying it (although I think it could be a little shorter than it’s 900+ pages.) The book takes place in an alternate reality in a Venice, a 16th century Venice, that has magic, monsters, priests and gods. It’s pretty good – definitely a fantasy novel with a lot of character development. Speaking of character development, it reminds me a lot of one of my top favorite (like probably top ten books of all time), Angel with the Sword by C.J. Cherryh. They both have lots of character types in common. To start with they both take place in a city riddled with canals with an abundent underlife. Both have a female character who has her own boat that she inherited from her very strong, single mom whom we never meet. Both canalers fall in love with a mysterious blond guy who is working for high class families. Both books have two brothers who were born to one of the high class families but are in hiding. Both have two, maybe lesbian, female singers/musicians. Both have swamps where scary people live but you can hide. And so on. They are very different books but if you enjoy one, you will probably enjoy the other one because the worlds and character types are similar.

Amazon Reviewers

According to the New York Times, Amazon suffered a glitch for about a week that showed the identies of those that had provided anonymous reviews. (See the article.) They made it sound quite common for authors to offer 5 star reviews of their own books and for people to rate their enemies books very poorly. Hopefully, Amazon.com books get enough reviews that one or two don’t sway the overall ratings too much. (I have to say that if I were going to do that something that morally wrong, I’d create a whole new Amazon.com login, not just mark it anonymous!)

Trading Up: The New American Luxury

Trading Up: The New American Luxury
I really like this book because it offered explanations for what seems like irrational behaviour. Have you ever noticed that you’re willing to drive all over town and comparison shop at Target, SuperWalmart and the mall in order to save $3, but then you’ll spend $3 more for organic frozen dinners. Or Starbucks coffee. Or a Panini sandwich instead of Subway? Well, this book explains the characteristics of the Panini sandwich that make you willing to pay more for it: the homemade bread, the intimate local, etc. Warning! The authors are writing to business people – giving them ideas on how to leverage your willingness to pay $3 more. But the book is very interesting and uses examples that really back up their theories like BMW, Panini, and Victoria Secret.