It's hard for me give this a rating, as I haven't really read many other how-to business books. I liked the narrative section at the beginning of theIt's hard for me give this a rating, as I haven't really read many other how-to business books. I liked the narrative section at the beginning of the book a bit better than the tactical advice section, but I think that's probably just how I prefer to get information. There are some great lessons in here for non-CEOs, but I suspect it's even more valuable for those who have founded and/or run a company.
I think most relevant and/or interesting to me were:
* Hiring for strength rather than lack of weakness. If you're bringing someone new onto the team, really think hard about what strengths are most important for the job and find someone who is world class at those things. If that person isn't as strong at everything else on your check-list, don't sweat it.
* Importance of one-on-ones as a management technique. It's sort of incredible that people can manage without one-on-one meetings, but I guess it happens. The big breakthrough (or at least, the one that I hadn't put into words before) is that it's the employee's meeting, rather than the manager's. I mean, duh, but still a good framework for thinking about the meeting.
* As a CEO, you don't have time to develop your direct reports. I suspect this is really difficult for many CEOs to deal with at first. I know it would be tough for me. But it makes sense -- at that level, you just have to be able to do the job with minimal-to-no developmental runway.
Anyway, for my first management book, this one was fun and readable and very honest. Also lots of hip-hop quotes, for those who roll that way. ...more
Not in the same league as his Patrick Melrose novels, but better than Lost for Words, which was light to the point of vapor (at least for me). Again,Not in the same league as his Patrick Melrose novels, but better than Lost for Words, which was light to the point of vapor (at least for me). Again, St. Aubyn's incredible gift for perspective shows up here, with shift POV in many scenes so deftly handled there wasn't a moment of confusion. I could have done without yet another drug hallucination scene (when I am king, these will be first against the literary wall), but otherwise, recommended. ...more
This is a really fascinating book. It's also a really enjoyable book. Even the relatively negative reviews I've seen of it grant it that. The main chaThis is a really fascinating book. It's also a really enjoyable book. Even the relatively negative reviews I've seen of it grant it that. The main character felt so real to me, so alive, so human, and also unique and distinct from anybody I'd seen on the page before. And the minor characters, the ones who are necessarily more flat, were still interesting and provided very true (in my opinion) points of view.
I'm wrapping the rest of this in a spoiler because the end of the book poses some very interesting questions and I wouldn't want anybody to read this book knowing what is coming. Read on at your own peril if you haven't finished the book.
(view spoiler)[There are, I think, two lenses through which to view the end of the book. The first is not very charitable towards the characters, especially Adam. That view takes the position that Adam is, in essence, a rapist for not telling Gillian that he isn't transgendered and instead having sex with her, repeatedly, under the pretense that he was born female. He operates under false pretenses and deceives her for the expressed reason of getting laid, which makes him a scumbag. Gillian, in turn, appears to be less of a character for not reacting with revulsion and horror upon discovering Adam's secret. Both characters are implicated in events that appear to take the book into a somewhat reactionary place.That's one way to view it. I wouldn't say it's necessarily wrong. I'll admit that I felt this at various points reading the book.
In the end, I viewed it differently, though. The way I saw it, Gillian knew at some point that Adam was cisgendered...and she didn't care. Or at least, she didn't care enough to stop seeing him. Because she liked him. She didn't care not because labels like straight and gay and male and female don't matter at all. On the contrary, those labels do end up forming our identities. In the best of circumstances, they are self-imposed labels and not something forced upon us by others, but regardless, they are ways that we choose to say "This is who I am." And sadly, in the worst of circumstances -- circumstances the novel doesn't shy away from -- people die because of those labels.
That being said, I think this book posits, in a very convincing way, that those labels matter tremendously to a point. They matter, but ultimately, a relationship can transcend them. Because as much as the labels have meaning, they cannot define the breadth of a person. Not every relationship does transcends them, but Adam and Gillian, for a brief period of time, are in love, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. To suggest that this isn't possible is to essentially side with Brad, who thinks that a transgender woman is wrong for deceiving straight guys into having sex with her. Ethan himself doesn't always tell people he's trans before hooking up with them.
The book seems to me to refuse to land on something as neat or tidy as "straight people are this way" or "gay people are like this." It offers trenchant critiques of both straights and gays, without condemning or praising either group. Instead, it attempts to dig deeper into the idea of gender and sexuality and to offer us something more. And I think that makes it a very brave book. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The titular first essay is required reading for humans, especially men. I enjoyed (is that the right word?) the rest of the book as well, though I felThe titular first essay is required reading for humans, especially men. I enjoyed (is that the right word?) the rest of the book as well, though I felt the essays were best when they were most direct. My only quibble with the book is that the essays weren't meant to appear together, which led to some unfortunate repetition, right down to quotes from primary sources that appear in multiple essays. Still well worth the time.
One note: The best part about reading this as a book? No comments section. You forget how great it is to read someone's ideas without a chorus of nutters shouting at them from the comments. ...more
Beautiful, sometimes mesmerizing collection of short (sometimes very short) stories from one of the real masters of the form. These stories are sometiBeautiful, sometimes mesmerizing collection of short (sometimes very short) stories from one of the real masters of the form. These stories are sometimes linked (several stories involve characters named Gil and Bea) but mostly they just have recurring themes and motifs (looking back at the Jazz Age, intimacy and vulnerability, mist, snowfall, Chicago). I tended to prefer the more realist stories in this book, but occasionally a story like "Swing," with strong metaphorical content, would knock me over. Highly recommended.
The word I keep coming back to with this book is "honest." No punches pulled here. These characters might let you down, they might not do what you wanThe word I keep coming back to with this book is "honest." No punches pulled here. These characters might let you down, they might not do what you want them to do in every instance, but damn if they don't feel real throughout. Still, the second half of this book is an epic, gut-punch of a page-turner. Highly recommended....more
"Things were happening to her. They were bad things, but at least they were happening."
I'm a fan of Emily Gould, kind of just in general. I like her i"Things were happening to her. They were bad things, but at least they were happening."
I'm a fan of Emily Gould, kind of just in general. I like her internet writing and I liked her collection of essays, and I think she has one of the most interesting businesses around, one that's built on taste and heart and smarts.
Which is why I'm not surprised that this is such a good novel. Funny, of course, but also really honest and true and moving. I'm not embarrassed to say that I teared up a little at the end (on a plane, no less). I said early on in reading this book that it reminded me a bit of Lucky Jim, and there's some of that there throughout, though it's ultimately a more sincere and (is this word terrible to use in a book review?) generous novel. (Side note: Isn't it funny how Lucky Jim and much of Kingsley Amis's work is kind of sexist (sometimes very sexist) and yet these days, the authors who seem to be best at his particular brand of novels featuring hapless and wonderful characters are all women like Kate Christensen and Emily Gould? What do you make of that?).
I read this book in about 6 hours, mainly on two flights and one kind of great lonely dinner in New York. It's a book that feels current and relevant and just very alive. I love how it embraces the way humans use technology today (there are many descriptions of texting, emailing, IMing, scrolling through Twitter, and just general fondling of smartphones). I love the New York it describes and the brilliant skewering of the start-up and blogging worlds. The dialog is well rendered and sounds like people I know talking. It is also, in a subtle way, very well plotted. But I think what most people are going to love about the book are its two heroes, Bev and Amy. The book is, after all, the story of their friendship, and it was almost instantly a story I wanted to read. As it progressed, I found myself sucked into their troubles -- Bev's pregnancy, Amy's career troubles -- and was sort of blindsided by how much I cared about them. I'd read a bunch more novels about these two characters, Patrick Melrose-style. Yeah, I'd be into that....more
If you're looking for an unbiased review, you can look elsewhere. I'm married to the author of this book. I read drafts of this at various stages andIf you're looking for an unbiased review, you can look elsewhere. I'm married to the author of this book. I read drafts of this at various stages and since I know the author in the Biblical sense (hey now), I am completely incapable of giving an unbiased review. But if you're interested in hearing why I think this is such a tremendous novel and such a fun read, read on.
There are many "post-apocalyptic" books in existence, but what I love about California is that it feels very mid-apocalyptic. The apocalypse here is not that of the molten lava variety or the devastating plague nature, but rather the slow, inevitable decline that likely awaits us all. Lepucki doesn't dwell too much on the whys and hows of the world of California. We know that for the 99%, the world is a brutal place, one that only vaguely resembles our own. Those who can have fled the major cities--now riddled with violence and decay--either for the cloistered sanctuary of a "community," where life is a sort of clownish replica of the world we inhabit today, or to set out on their own in the wilderness.
Frida and Cal are two such pioneers, living alone in a hand-made shack. They grow what they can and kill what they can and try to make a go of it the way their ancestors likely did. One thought that recurred as I read a later draft of California is that Frida and Cal's existence is one logical conclusion of hipsterdom. Too hip for the city, they now live out a kind of fantasy life of burlap and denim, the ultimate farm-to-table life. Their world is small and fraught until Frida becomes pregnant and decides that they must set out to find other nearby settlements.
This is the story of a family, complete with all the politics, grudges, in-jokes, and tenderness that most of us will recognize as true. That it happens to take place during the end of our world makes it all the more compelling. Beautiful language abounds, as does mystery. Violence hangs over the book, but presents itself only in small bursts, little cataclysms.
I could go on and on about this book, but what I'm really looking forward to is discussing it with some other people. It's a book full of ideas and life. And I can't wait for all of you to read it.
* While the book wisely eschews most historical irony, there are a few fun Easter eggs. My favorite involves a certain contemporary author. Keep your eye out for that one.
* Some of my favorite sections of the book--those detailing life on the bizarro campus of Plank College--were cut from the book. It was the right decision, but man, do I miss those pages. I'm hoping Edan will make a little DVD-extras-type thing out of that section to satisfy my campus-novel lust....more
An engrossing collection of short stories that can be read on a long commute (side note: there should really be a serieDisclosure: I know the author.
An engrossing collection of short stories that can be read on a long commute (side note: there should really be a series of books called Commuter Specials or something that can be read in one or two train rides). The stories are thematically related, but never in a forced or unnatural way. I admired the way Lopez could set a scene. Visual-heavy writing can get bogged down so easily, but these stories managed to feel buoyant (see what I did there) despite some great detail. I think if pressed I'd say the title story was my favorite.
Looking forward to a novel or something longer from Lopez in the future. ...more
This is a fascinating look at the US and specifically CIA involvement in Afghanistan from the late 70s to early 2000s. Each of the major players -- BiThis is a fascinating look at the US and specifically CIA involvement in Afghanistan from the late 70s to early 2000s. Each of the major players -- Bin Laden, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Prince Turki, Pervez Musharraf, William Casey, George Tenet, Mullar Omar, etc. -- get their own mini-biographies. Coll does a tremendous job of contextualizing each major moment in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union and the subsequent radicalization of the region and blowback against American involvement.
One interesting thought experiment that came out of my reading this book:
* If the Monica Lewinsky scandal never happens, does 9/11 happen? This is a bit of a stretch, but follow me here: In the late 90s, the CIA had several chances to kill Bin Laden with cruise missiles and/or commando raids, but Clinton -- embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal and weakened by the impeachment hearings -- didn't have the political capital to pull the trigger. I'm oversimplifying here, to be sure, as there were a lot of other factors going into whether to attack Bin Laden on Afghan soil, but it's an interesting thought experiment.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in South Asia and American relations with it in the last part of the 20th Century, as well as anyone hoping to better understand how the CIA works and how it interacts with the rest of the Washington machine. And in a strange way, I think this book should be taught in business school, as it's a tremendous case study of how large organizations with many different stakeholders make decisions (or fail to make them)....more
I'm a fan of Katie Coyle's online writing, Katie Coyle herself in person, and now her books, as well.
This book was fun. It's extremely well-plotted aI'm a fan of Katie Coyle's online writing, Katie Coyle herself in person, and now her books, as well.
This book was fun. It's extremely well-plotted and twisty. Even scenarios that I thought were coming had a fresh feel to them. And the ending was satisfying but also made me want a second book. Impressive stuff for any book, but especially for a debut.
The book really picked up for me once they were out on the road. The stakes from that point forward felt really high, which leant the narrative a nice amount of push. Best road narrative since "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo." ...more