A big, fat 5/5 for this, the final Tiffany Aching book, from me.
As she does for my friends, Nathan and Courtney, the young Miss Aching appeals no end;...moreA big, fat 5/5 for this, the final Tiffany Aching book, from me.
As she does for my friends, Nathan and Courtney, the young Miss Aching appeals no end; she is moral, caring, a thinker and understands that while she has a place in the world, it is often complicated by difficult or potentially unpopular decisions.
Though Pratchett originally wrote this subset of the Discworld novels for a younger audience, there's absolutely no reason they ought not be on the reading list of any Discworld fan. Nay, any fantasy fan.
With the Tiffany Aching books, Pratchett has moved beyond the (very excellent, mind you) silliness and satire present in many of his earlier pieces to a more profound, gentle humor laced with more than a condiment level of humanity.
It's a great read, no matter whether you're a fan of the author or genre or not.(less)
As someone who loves travel, and is endlessly intrigued by the happenings at international airports, Alain De Botton's A Week at the Airport is a deli...moreAs someone who loves travel, and is endlessly intrigued by the happenings at international airports, Alain De Botton's A Week at the Airport is a delightful window into the culture apart that this feature of the modern world embodies.
For anyone who has not yet entered De Botton's philosophical world via his writings, A Week at the Airport is short enough, at a little over 100 pages, and put together so nicely (the author has a skilled and touching turn of phrase, deployed as needed), that it's the perfect gateway into his longer and deeper works.
Assembled as a series of observations by De Botton and anecdotes from the denizens of this odd other place, A Week at the Airport is a pleasant and well worth it short diversion that should be on your reading list. I finished wanting a longer, deeper tale.
Try as I might to go into reading McCarthy's The Road without preconceptions, I just couldn't do it completely. I'd seen the film, I knew of other fri...moreTry as I might to go into reading McCarthy's The Road without preconceptions, I just couldn't do it completely. I'd seen the film, I knew of other friends who read it and had varying (though broadly positive) responses to it, and had looked at a bunch of the reviews on Goodreads. Let alone the fact that it's a Pulitzer Prize winner (amongst a not-inconsiderable list of other awards).
That all said, I think I largely managed to read the book without those collective factor weighing overmuch upon me. No small feat.
McCarthy's book touches so many factors - the Hero's Journey, a road tale, father-son relationships, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, cautionary tales of what might happen if Mankind continues on our merry way, environmentalist warnings of a world denuded of its biosphere. The richness of all of these intersecting at once, and the interesting style of McCarthy's writing, which is stripped very bare but remains full of depth and meaning, makes The Road something more than just an interesting piece of fiction; rather, it's an artwork in and of itself.
Possibly (if not certainly) the bleakest tale I've read in a good long while, The Road should be something we all read. It may not necessarily be to everyone's taste, but should be read.
More than anything, David Niven reminds me of my grandfather. The same cultured voice (although my Papa had a combination of Received Pronunciation an...moreMore than anything, David Niven reminds me of my grandfather. The same cultured voice (although my Papa had a combination of Received Pronunciation and whatever its Kiwi equivalent is, versus Niven’s UK Public School accent), the same approximate age, the impeccable grooming and, most importantly, the fact that he was a raconteur of the first order.
I also remember seeing this book, and Niven’s later memoir Bring On the Empty Horses, on my grandfather’s bookshelves as a child.
Without doubt, Niven’s tale of his early life, time at school (many of them, as he was expelled from several), time in the British Army, both before and after he’d achieved some level of fame in Hollywood, his time in Hollywood mixing with the great names of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and his romances with his first wife, lost tragically and his second, make for a rollicking and enjoyable read.
As you might imagine, Niven is a great storyteller, even if, as it turns out, he’s played a little fast and loose with the accuracy of the facts.
It’s worth noting that Audible also has an audiobook of The Moon’s a Balloon, read by Niven himself. It’s well worth getting, just to hear the voice and imagine him in the various situations he writes of.(less)
I have no recollection of why I bought this. It must have been one of those "people who bought X also bought Y" things on Amazon. Nonetheless, a good...moreI have no recollection of why I bought this. It must have been one of those "people who bought X also bought Y" things on Amazon. Nonetheless, a good fun read which touches on a little of the science (Amy Stewart freely professes she's no scientist early on), a lot of the crawling, flying and slimy things that make human life a little more challenging, and does it with a touch of good humor and a strong intent to inform.
I've no idea whether Stewart has a great editor or whether she's something of a comic genius, but the section/chapter names are fantastic - “She’s Just Not That Into You” for the beasties with weird and often horrifying reproductive lives, “Fear No Weevils” for those infesting our food, and “Have No Fear” for those that are the subject of some human phobias.
As a kid (and still subconsciously as an adult) I was fascinated by all the things that creep and crawl. It's astounding I didn't end up bitten, stung, infested or otherwise damaged. I still enjoy learning about these things and Amy Stewart's book does a good job of being informative while providing some good storytelling and recounting interesting anecdotes along the way.
Oh, and the illustrations are weird and beautiful.
If you're at all into creepy-crawlies, I'd say give it a read. But don't come looking for hard science.(less)
Despite being an English Lit major at university, I recall reading little or no Wilde. As a part of my Cannonball Read (http://cannonballread4.wordpre...moreDespite being an English Lit major at university, I recall reading little or no Wilde. As a part of my Cannonball Read (http://cannonballread4.wordpress.com/) this year, I decided to tackle this one (it was also recommended to me as one of the dozen books an enlightened man ought read - I forget where I found this list).
Some of the ideas Wilde proposes in his story must have been more than a little challenging back in the day - a woman refusing to marry and bringing up a child (let alone her subsequently being accepted in "polite" society), the notion of a man refusing to accept responsibility for a child (though I'm certain there were many bastards born to minor gentry), the idea that women need and should marry, the terrible and undoubtedly hurtful gossip around the secret lives of the "upper class".
Reading through, I began by being frustrated, with my 21st Century sensibilities railing against the outdated world view represented in the play's characters. It was only when I caught myself and read on with a more neutral mindset that I began to enjoy it.
Once that shift was made, I was able to enjoy Wilde's shining of light upon the hypocrisy of these people. It's possible that every character has few redeeming qualities. Even our heroes have great failings.
It's definitely worth the read, reflecting on how much Wilde must have intentionally have been seeking to upset many readers. Speculating, it's possibly more than a little payback against the discrimination Wilde himself faced.(less)
Everything about The Swerve hits the right places for me - mysterious documents, Renaissance treasure hunters, the humanist movement - and it's a rea...moreEverything about The Swerve hits the right places for me - mysterious documents, Renaissance treasure hunters, the humanist movement - and it's a real pleasure to read. Inspired into reading this book by attending the fantastic Renaissance exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia and it's little cousin Handwritten at the National Library nearby, I was not disappointed.
More than anything, reading The Swerve evoked memories of reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, minus the murderous activity, but with no less intrigue, church suppression and attempt to control the intellectual agenda. I'm now more than tempted to track down a good translation of Lucretius' De rerum natura and read it, just to see what all the fuss is about.
You'd have to imagine a professor of English literature can turn a word, and in Stephen Greenblatt we have someone who can do just that. He tells a rollicking tale, exploring not only the search and emergence of Lucretius' epic, but also of the intrigue and harshness of the Papal curia and those in orbit about it.
If the Renaissance, history, literature or humanism are at all your bag, I commend The Swerve to you unequivocally. It's worth noting that there are extensive notes in the book, referenced back to the text. However, my copy had no forward referencing or footnotes, so they stand somewhat isolated in the physical book. The Kindle edition, however, uses extensive hyperlinking throughout; both forward to notes and back to the text.
Oh, and if you are in Canberra, I cannot recommend highly enough that you visit both Renaissance at the National Gallery of Australia and Handwritten at the National Library.(less)
Set in a world divergent from our own from just post-WWII, where the release of an alien virus has caused population mutations on a widespread scale;...moreSet in a world divergent from our own from just post-WWII, where the release of an alien virus has caused population mutations on a widespread scale; some of those mutations are beneficial, others not so much, in examining the social, political and individual implications of the wild card virus, this is a very interesting collection of short, and longer-form, but sub-novel, stories by a series of well-known authors of speculative, science and fantasy fiction including George RR Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, among many others.
Not all the stories are fantastic writing, others are really quite good.
Since the publication of this first volume, the Wild Cards universe has expanded significantly with many more volumes of short stories and novels. While reading this collection took me rather longer than it ought, that shouldn't be an indication of the quality of the work, which is really rather good. I'll definitely be reading more Wild Cards.(less)
I've never been one to conform, and Havas Media Lab Director and HBR blogger, Umair Haque isn't either. The radical re-imagining of economics and capitalism he proposes in The New Capitalist Manifesto is an idea for the 21st Century, rising out of the ashes of a still-burning post-Industrial economy. Illustrating his new economics through comparisons between old economics (and the companies living off it) and the new "betterness"-based economics, Haque argues extensively and convincingly that what organisations need to do in the 21st Century to continue to survive is focus on an operational model:
The twenty-first century capitalist’s agenda, in a nutshell, is to rethink the “capital”—to build organizations that are less machines, and more living networks of the many different kinds of capital, whether natural, human, social, or creative. And, second, to rethink the “ism”: how, when, and where the many different kinds of capital can be most productively seeded, nurtured, allocated, utilized—and renewed. What we need, then, is a new generation of renegades, laying deeper, stronger institutional cornerstones.
Haque's argument resonates super-powerfully with me. While I certainly don't have the chops to have written The New Capitalist Manifesto, it articulates many of the arguments I've put to people in the past 10 years; business today is no longer sustainable in the way it was before. It can't go on cannibalising profits and circulating the same money (and making more and more "pretend" money that only exists in a computer somewhere. Business needs to act to add real social value and not only make money but make social goods as well, as Haque suggests, the paradigm needs a shift thus:
- Loss advantage: From value chains to value cycles -�Responsiveness: From value propositions to value conversations -�Resilience: From strategy to philosophy - �Creativity: From protecting a marketplace to completing a marketplace - �Difference: From goods to betters
I can't recommend The New Capitalist Manifesto strongly enough, and also highly recommend Umair Haque's new, short ebook, Betterness, which extends his articulation of some of the themes in this book. If it was mathematically possible to give a book 6/5, I would give it here.
This is one of those books that, as I read it, I kept quietly saying to myself, "yes!"
At times, I felt like Pink had been inside my mind when recount...more
This is one of those books that, as I read it, I kept quietly saying to myself, "yes!"
At times, I felt like Pink had been inside my mind when recounting certain anecdotes, or drawing certain conclusions. So, take this review with a solid dose of confirmation bias in action.
Throughout A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink looks at, and addresses, issues of interest, dare I say passion, for creative thinkers and knowledge workers the world over. Sure, for those folks, it's pop psych, pop sci, self-affirming stuff. But for the creative knowledge worker - those of us who rely on our minds as our most powerful tool and source of inspiration - Pink has drawn together many of the burning issues and biggest (even wicked) problems and dealt with them. He offers us as a community a number of ways to deal with our often complex and frequently misunderstood work styles, personalities and obsessions.
A Whole New Mind isn't a cornucopia. It leaves more questions unanswered, and matters glossed over (this isn't a negative, by the way), than it adequately deals with. But as people who work with our minds, we ought to be able to deal with that, right?
If knowledge work, solving problems and uncomfortably wedging yourself into corporate life is your lot, it's definitely worth your time and effort to read this.(less)
A useful explanation of what makes for design thinking.
As a design thinker, having some of Martin's articulate words in your head will no doubt be of...moreA useful explanation of what makes for design thinking.
As a design thinker, having some of Martin's articulate words in your head will no doubt be of use when you need to explain what it is you do and how you do it to the more reliability-oriented, deductive thinkers you'll encounter almost every day.
Martin goes to great effort to distinguish the validity-centric design thinker's abductive, "what if" mindset as a key tool, balanced against the reliability-centric mindset of most of the world, focused on ensuring repeatability and low levels of variation. So too, he makes a powerful point that for many design thinkers, the tools we trade in - understanding and empathy, language, context - are something that in working with clients or in the businesses that employ us, we allow to grate rather than seeing that in itself as a design thinking challenge. Clever!
Not a book of practical, try this, tools for design thinkers, Martin's book, rather, seeks to explain the nature of thinking and working this way for those curious as to what design thinking IS.
For the design thinker, there will be many "Yes!" moments, but an equal number of "Why is he explaining this?" ones. Remember, this book is not for you, the design thinker, but a tool to help you explain why and how you do what you do. Get your boss to read it.(less)