Love this book! I've always been a bit intimidated by baking pies and Michele Stuart takes all of that away. The recipes are so simple and delicious....moreLove this book! I've always been a bit intimidated by baking pies and Michele Stuart takes all of that away. The recipes are so simple and delicious. I keep returning to them again and again. (less)
This is solid book on branding that moves beyond the usual hype. I thought the last third of the book seemed less rich and was somewhat repetitive but...moreThis is solid book on branding that moves beyond the usual hype. I thought the last third of the book seemed less rich and was somewhat repetitive but I liked Mc Ghie's approach overall. His main message is that "brand" is a market response and not a verb. So in some ways your brand is out of your hands but positioning is not. Most of the book is focused on how to effectively position oneself.
As with many of these books by marketers who have been in the game for some time, the references to the old school of marketing were the most opaque. I've never known a world in which a company could have a captive television audience or where social media were not a reality, so these examples seemed weird.
Still, a pretty easy substantive read. I can definitely see myself going back to specific chapters for a refresher.(less)
This book had some interesting insights about why change can be so difficult and how to overcome these obstacles. A centerpiece of the Heath brothers'...moreThis book had some interesting insights about why change can be so difficult and how to overcome these obstacles. A centerpiece of the Heath brothers' approach is this idea that we are divided beings--that our subconscious or the irrational part of us is constantly barely leashed by our rational mind. In the first chapter, the metaphor of the rider (rational/logical mind) and the elephant (irrational mind) worked quite well but at several points in the book I felt that the metaphors were applied inconsistently, leading to some confusion about what strategies would be most effective for trying to bring about change in the face of specific types of obstacles.
Culturally, I also think the idea that the best way to bring about change is through small individual actions and not through top-level policy change is something that resonates strongly with a North American audience but may not be entirely realistic.
Overall, I enjoyed Switch but I think the meat of the book is really in the first chapter. Many of the other chapters seemed repetitive. Worth a read, but could have been a little more precise.(less)
I read this for work and at over 400 pages it's not a page turner by any means, but was surprisingly engaging and easy to read considering it's a book...moreI read this for work and at over 400 pages it's not a page turner by any means, but was surprisingly engaging and easy to read considering it's a book about web analytics. I haven't read Kaushik's previous book so I have nothing to compare this to but I found Web Analytics 2.0 to provide a solid overview of analytics for the novice and was full of insights that I will come back to again.(less)
I normally am not drawn to memoirs but this proved to be a surprising gem among my discount book buys. In Stealing Buddha's Dinner, Bich Minh Nguyen c...moreI normally am not drawn to memoirs but this proved to be a surprising gem among my discount book buys. In Stealing Buddha's Dinner, Bich Minh Nguyen chronicles her experiences as a Vietnamese immigrant in 1980s Grand Rapids Michigan and her struggles to fit in.
I appreciated Nguyen's clear simple prose but more than anything I was amazed at how much of her experience I could relate to. Much of this book is dedicated to descriptions of food, clothes and music from the 80s and as a child of the 80s myself I couldn't help smiling. Beyond simple nostalgia or exhaustive lists, Bich's obsession with food is symbolic of her desire to assimilate and to be the "normal" American girl she thinks she should be. This leads to situations that are hilarious but also heartbreaking.
What struck me most about Stealing Buddha's Dinner was the constant tension between Bich's American and Vietnamese identities. Underlying every description was a palpable sense of resentment, pride, anger and grief at the inability to fit in. Though I found the passages about Little House on the Prairie rambled on too long I could relate strongly to Bich's feelings about mastering a language to which she is in many ways an outsider.
Overall, what makes this memoir saddest for me is the fact that Bich spent so much time either blind to or unappreciative of richness of her own heritage when it could have been viewed instead as a gift. By the end it's clear she too is aware of how much she has both lost and gained.
This is not a perfect memoir by any means: some sections are a little slow and I did wish for a slightly more chronological time line. Still, its thoughtfulness and surprisingly universal insights make it really memorable.(less)
This was a quick and fascinating read about our hidden connections to fish and many other primitive creatures. What I found most intriguing and profou...moreThis was a quick and fascinating read about our hidden connections to fish and many other primitive creatures. What I found most intriguing and profound was the incredible economy and malleability of nature: Very little new is created; instead the same structures are modified for different uses in different species over time. For me there was something deeply philosophical about that discovery.
I have never been particularly good at physics, but this idea of nature re-purposing itself seemed to echo the "maxim" I learned as a child that energy is not created or destroyed but transformed. Also, I think the idea of continual transformation speaks to the Buddhist conception of nature always being in flux.
Another important insight for me was looking at the progression of how organisms developed. Brains for example are a pretty "recent" phenomenon. Yet for millions of years there has been life and change and differentiation. From the traditional Christian perspective, creation is presented as a concept or an idea of a supreme being but scientifically if we had to make any sort of guess about the common ancestor of species it would probably be something quite simple and incapable of "thought"--it would be something brainless. Instead what "drove" it to change is probably much more akin to an impulse--something deep and hidden and instinctive.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, not just for it's engaging and clear style but for the amazing fodder for thought it provided. Science and philosophy or religion sometimes seem at odds but "Your Inner Fish" was proof that there are surprising connections and validations among the three.(less)
Before reading Enrique's Journey I had no idea of the horrifying experiences that are a fact of life for illegal immigrants migrating from Central Ame...moreBefore reading Enrique's Journey I had no idea of the horrifying experiences that are a fact of life for illegal immigrants migrating from Central America to the United States.
Obviously I knew the journey was difficult but it's impossible to imagine the depth of the pain and suffering they go through. I was even more stunned by how many of these migrants are children in search of their mothers. Their stories broke my heart in so many ways from those who are attacked by gangs to those who lose limbs trying to get on and off trains to those stuck in jails and detention centers with no idea how to find their parents.
The strength of the book is in the way Nazario higlights the trade-off that so many immigrant mothers make by going to the US in the hopes of creating a better life for the children they leave behind. Yet, the impact of the separation on these children is irrevocable. Many children lose their own lives trying to follow their mothers to the US while others fall into addiction and crime. Even those who don't fall by the wayside must live with deep emotional scars and resentment. Nazario therefore does a good job of posing the question of whether it is worth it.
I was also particularly intrigued by the fact that Mexicans are currently facing some of the same challenges and grappling with the same issues that the US is in dealing with illegal immigration. In Mexico's case, the illegal immigrants are from other Central American countries and much of the same animosity towards and ambivalence about immigrants exists there as well.
Because I'm interested in development, this book also makes me think about the roles of labor mobility and remittances in development. Researchers like Lant Pritchett for example argue that labor mobility is perhaps the singlemost effective path to poverty alleviation in lesser developed countries. Yet, it is impossible to deny that countries like Honduras and El Salvador should also be responsible for creating economic opportunities for their people. Given that we're still not quite sure how development happens and the role of global forces in influencing development I wonder what is the most equitable way for countries to share the benefits and the burdens of low-skilled migration.
In Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI and the Origins of 9/11, Amy Zegart identifies the organizational failures at the root of 9/11. In particular, Zegar...moreIn Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI and the Origins of 9/11, Amy Zegart identifies the organizational failures at the root of 9/11. In particular, Zegart attributes the CIA’s and FBI’s failures to intercept the terrorists to a failure to adapt.
In both cases,“structural problems, cultural pathologies and perverse incentive systems” prevented the CIA and the FBI from adapting to meet the terrorist threat. The organizational failures of the CIA and the FBI in turn interacted with the perverse incentives which prevented three presidents, Congress and the Senate from effectively using their power to spur organizational change when it would have mattered most.
I think this book is so damning--and frightening--precisely because it doesn't take the easy route and point fingers at individuals or particular adminstrations. Zegart makes a convincing case for why US intelligence agencies failed so badly at intercepting the terrorist attacks.
I'd always imagined the CIA and FBI as these highly efficient agencies, but after Spying Blind, I'll never look at them the same way again. From the CIA's lame duck director to the FBI's outdated computer system which took fourteen commands to enter a single document, it becomes painfully clear just how prone these seemingly invulnerable organizations are to the same failings as the rest of government. This is a quick and highly entertaining if sobering read. Recommended for anyone interested in 9/11, organizational behavior and policy disasters(less)
A very readable, but meticulously researched look at the growth of India and China and the particular challenges each faces as they become more integr...moreA very readable, but meticulously researched look at the growth of India and China and the particular challenges each faces as they become more integrated with the global economy. Meredith highlights how much China and India are changing the global economic and political landscape and argues that if America does not keep up by investing in mathematics, science and research, improving its educational system and providing better safety nets for those who will inevitably lose their jobs to China and India, it will fall far behind. She emphasizes that protectionism is not the answer especially when China's and America's economies are so intertwined.
I thought this book was fascinating on many levels. In particular, the different paths of India and China and their different political systems raises the interesting question of which is better for economic growth--authoritarianism or democracy? Or perhaps less starkly, does authoritarianism produce fast but unsustainable growth while democracy produces slower but more sustainable improvements? I doubt it's that clear of a dichotomy but it certainly provides food for thought.
Easterly provides a great overview of the different economic theories that have been posited to be the key to growth and why they have failed. Overall...moreEasterly provides a great overview of the different economic theories that have been posited to be the key to growth and why they have failed. Overall, his point is that creating the right incentives, from education, to private investment, to combating inequality, to diminishing ethnic conflict is the key to growth. At the same time, Easterly points out how much of development is a product of plain good luck.
What I loved most about this book is the highly accessible style and language. This is not just a book for economists. Easterly reminds us just how new in relative terms the field of development economics is and how much we still do not know. He encourages us to continue to try to discover what will make poor countries rich but with sufficient humility and recognition of the complexity of the problems we are trying to solve. There is no one magic bullet and poverty alleviation requires the collaboration of actors on many levels--local, national and international--if we are to succeed.(less)
Whenever I hear economists talk about "happiness", I tend to roll my eyes because of all the obvious problems associated with using a utility definiti...moreWhenever I hear economists talk about "happiness", I tend to roll my eyes because of all the obvious problems associated with using a utility definition of happiness. It was thus refreshing to see a more realistic (if elusive definition) being measured in Happiness and Hardship: Opportunity and Insecurity in New Market Economies.
Graham's work (mostly in Latin America and Russia) focuses not on revealed preferences but on people's own assessments of their well-being through a combination of qualitative surveys and more traditional econometric analysis.
She confirms for example the Easterlin paradox that across countries there is no link between GDP per capita and happiness, though within countries the rich tend to be happier than the poor. The role of within-group inequality is probably the most fascinating finding as it's not the very rich or very poor who are unhappiest, but the most upwardly mobile. Graham also points out the problems however, of trying to use these findings for policy. How does one deal, for example with "the happy peasant" problem when trying to address poverty?
Overall, this is an interesting marriage between economics and psychology and a research area we can probably expect to see more of soon. (less)