This was a fun read, the 2nd Stephen Mark Rainey book I've read. (The first being The Nightmare Frontier, which I also enjoyed.) This story focuses on...moreThis was a fun read, the 2nd Stephen Mark Rainey book I've read. (The first being The Nightmare Frontier, which I also enjoyed.) This story focuses on a pair of couples out for an enjoyable New Year's Eve dinner and celebration. While at dinner, they meet an interesting stranger who sets events in motion for a horror-filled evening. Who will survive the night? What is this stuff about the Gods of Moab? Well, that's spoiler territory, so I'll steer clear.
One of the details I particularly enjoyed about the story was the use of hijacked smart phone technology to move the plot along a bit. It made it especially fun as a bridge between ancient culture and modern technology.
It's a quick read. Less than a dozen easily digestible chapters. I especially appreciated that, as I currently find myself with only tiny blocks of time to read. This fit the bill perfectly, letting me set it down and pick it up as my schedule demanded. But, after about 1/3 of the way through, I found it increasingly hard to set down. Fortunately, that worked well with my schedule.
I don't know much about Lovecraftian horror, but this is apparently a good example of it. After having read this, I will be exploring the genre further.(less)
This book has been recommended to me several times over the past few years. I've always been interested in checking it out, so I added it to my librar...moreThis book has been recommended to me several times over the past few years. I've always been interested in checking it out, so I added it to my library hold request list and when it became available, I jumped on it.
The first thing I'll point out is that the book is really only about half as long as the Kindle progress bar indicates it is. About halfway through, I found myself surprised to be reading the Epilogue, even more surprised when the Epilogue wasn't very long. It turns out that the second half of the book was devoted to Q&A with the authors, reprinting several newspaper columns by the authors, reprinting a book review, and a very extensive index of searchable terms specifically formatted to be useful in an eBook. When I had finished the book, most of the supplemental material wasn't interesting to me (the review and columns pretty much rehashed a lot of the info that was in the main text, e.g.). So all in all, it turned out to be a quicker read than I expected.
The book itself presents what I'd classify as "pop economics" (and I don't think I'm alone in that classification). That is, the authors use economic theories to address questions that are more interesting than what economics is usually used to address, and they do so in a non-threatening, non-academic fashion. For example, they present a case study related to drug trafficking to explore why if drug dealing is such a lucrative business, drug dealers still live with their mothers. One of the most "in your face" theories they present deals with how legalized abortion in the US in the 1970s is the primary cause for the dramatic decrease in crime in the US in the 1990s. The way the authors took outlandish and bizarre questions, broke them down into pieces that could be reasonably studied, and followed the trail wherever it led them made for compelling reading. I was especially intrigued by the chapter dealing with cheating, where they examined how teachers can (and do) cheat for their students on standardized tests and how cheating is apparently rampant in the sport of sumo wrestling.
More than anything, this book shows that it's worth actually taking the time to think about things, and to think about them in unconventional manners. Ask questions, don't necessarily accept that the questions can't be answered, or accept the standard pat answers. But instead, really think about the questions and explore all sorts of possible solutions. I'm not an economist, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time thinking about questions like they ones explored in this book. But I do spend a lot of time in the course of my job thinking about all sorts of questions that can stand to be examined in unconventional ways. So in addition to being an enjoyable read, this is the kind of book that helps me think about the way I think. I like that.
Should you read this book? Absolutely. The case studies are generally interesting, no matter what field of work you are in. Additionally, the writing style is compelling, keeping what could otherwise be tedious material fresh and fun to read.(less)
I've had my eye on this book for a little while, then I saw the movie and pushed it to the top of my reading list. This is a very cool book. Make no m...moreI've had my eye on this book for a little while, then I saw the movie and pushed it to the top of my reading list. This is a very cool book. Make no mistake, it's a baseball book, but it's also a business book. The book chronicles the real-life story of the Oakland Athletics' quest to field a winning team despite their tiny payroll. Impressively, the A's were highly successful because, under the management of Billy Beane, they were successful in purchasing players who were dramatically undervalued in the baseball market. This was largely possible because Beane quit paying as much attention to the traditional baseball offensive stats (notably, batting average) and started paying attention to on-base percentage. The tactics that the A's pioneered changed the way baseball is played, as more teams have started to adopt similar strategies.
I mentioned this is also a business book. It is, because it examines the business of baseball. It demonstrates what every business wants to do: be successful (however you define success) with the lowest possible cost. The main point the book makes about how to achieve that is to discover what the market undervalues and exploit it. It's a simple business principle, but one that is worth going back and being reminded of. Surprisingly, in baseball, as the A's were generating great success by using this method, they were laughed at and dismissed. It really did take a little while for the rest of baseball to catch on to what was happening, and in those few years, the A's were able to take advantage of their visionary strategy.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, as true in "real life" as it is in baseball:
"Managers tend to pick a strategy that is least likely to fail rather than pick a strategy that is most efficient," said Palmer. "The pain of looking bad is worse than the gain of making the best move."
One thing in particular that I enjoyed about this book is how the plot narrative was structured throughout the story. The book was more a case study than a plot-driven book, but there are several plot-like threads that run throughout: Beane struggling with his personal demons, the A's working to build a successful team, and the rise of the importance of different baseball statistics. The author skillfully wove all these themes together in a way that kept me engaged, providing a narrative framework that kept the reading from becoming dry.
If you love baseball, you need to read this book. If you don't love baseball, go see the movie instead.(less)
I decided to read this book because every time I stumble across the TV show "The Unit," I really enjoy the show and I thought I would enjoy reading th...moreI decided to read this book because every time I stumble across the TV show "The Unit," I really enjoy the show and I thought I would enjoy reading the book that serves as its basis. I was not disappointed, this was a very enjoyable book.
As a memoir, there's no real formal plot to follow, but Haney does a great job of creating a narrative flow that makes sense. The reader is guided through the creation of Delta Force from the perspective of a member seeking admission. Readers learn about how the selection process works gradually, just like Haney does as he's going through it. Once on the force, Haney guides the reader through the intense training required to prepare for real-world missions. Finally, Haney takes the reader through several early Delta Force missions, demonstrating how all the selection and training was essential to creating a team that was able to effectively respond to worldwide threats.
I'm not a military buff, and I appreciated that the book was written in such a way that was accessible to me. I learned enough about the military to properly frame the events described, but not so much that it was completely overwhelming and took away from the narrative. Additionally, much of what Haney describes with respect to discipline, training, honor, dedication, etc. is not limited to military life -- these principles are directly applicable in business settings or anyone's personal life. From that standpoint, there is much in that book that is generally inspirational.
As I read, I highlighted several passages. Haney's matter-of-fact observation on winning versus losing battles struck me as interesting and true:
In combat, there are no winners. The victors just happen to lose less than the vanquished.
The book is full of statements like that, where Haney makes an observation and moves on without getting mired in attempting to discuss deep philosophy.
Haney's observation on how to improve an organization struck me as applicable to a business setting as to the military:
There is no better way for an organization to improve itself and move forward in a professional manner. But it is a process that must be fundamentally rooted in trust and mutual respect. The very instant it becomes a weapon rather than a lens for diagnostic analysis, the process is dead.
This observation was made after describing the process of an "after-action review" where "each man's actions were gone over in complete detail... mistakes were analyzed and successful methods were noted." It seems that Delta Force was able to successfully perform self-analysis -- including detailed examination of errors -- without using that analysis as a way to punish the low performers. This is how teams are successfully built and strengthened, and is something that the business world would do well to take note of.
Finally, one of my favorite quotes from the book came as Haney discusses the problems encountered when decisions were made and/or overruled by top officials who didn't have a good understanding of what was actually happening:
Nothing is impossible for those who don't actually have to do it.
I see this mentality all the time.
A note about the Kindle edition: the book contains a selection of photographs. For the print version, I don't know how the photos are presented in the book, but it's somewhat awkward in the Kindle version. They photos are stuck at the very back of the text, with no explanation or indication that they are there, and appear to simply be a direct representation of the photo page. I think the formatting of those photos could be improved. As far as the text goes, it was formatted for the Kindle just fine.
Do I recommend this book? Unquestionably yes.(less)
I read "The Help" after having it highly recommended by several people I know, and after noting that the reviews for it are generally good. After havi...moreI read "The Help" after having it highly recommended by several people I know, and after noting that the reviews for it are generally good. After having read the book, I think my expectations were too high for it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book and am glad to have read it, but I don't think it's all that.
Quick plot synopsis: It's the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi. Racial tension exists. High(ish) society white women treat their black domestic help with various degrees of respect. One young white lady decides to write a book about the relationship between the white women and the help. This is not initially received as a good idea. She has a hard time getting the help agreeing to tell real stories about their experiences, because they are afraid they will be fired, hurt, and/or killed. Eventually, she gains trust and cooperation. The book is written.
What I thought: When I finished reading it, I wished that I had read the book they were writing in the book instead of the story of writing that book. While the characters are putting the book together, the reader gets some insight into some of those stories, and they sounded much more interesting than the story of writing the book.
Is the story believable? Probably. I don't know, I was born in 1972 and had more exposure to race issues from closer to an "inner city" perspective than to a "rural" perspective. Was it a compelling story? Yes. Were the characters believable and interesting? Mostly.
What the book did right: The racial tension was appropriate and obvious throughout the entire book. The pacing was nice -- I was never bored reading it, and I never thought it left me behind. Telling the story from multiple 1st person points of view was awesome. I love how the author told the story in chronological order, but switched point of view every few scenes. The voices were distinctly different and believable. It was nice to be able to get in the head of several of the characters as the story progressed.
Where the book could have been improved: My biggest complaint is that the book wants to think it's a commentary on race relations, but it confuses the issue by throwing in some class tension in the mix. The main tension is between the white high(ish) society women and their domestic help. But they also have tension with a "white trash" lady. The whole situation seems pretty realistic, but the underlying tension gets terribly confusing because it's not explored well enough. The "white trash" storyline adds a lot to the story, especially showing that it's not as simple as black and white (haha). But it falls flat in my eyes. Also, like I already mentioned, I would have enjoyed more stories about the actual relations between the employer and employees.
Overall recommendation: It's good, but it's not all that.(less)
Several people have recommended it to me, and the Kindle version was recently on sale at a great price, so I picked it up and...moreI really liked this book.
Several people have recommended it to me, and the Kindle version was recently on sale at a great price, so I picked it up and put it in my "to-read" pile. When it bubbled to the top of the pile, I was glad to read it. For me, it was quite a page-turner and kept my attention well. I managed to read it over the course of just a few days.
Quick plot synopsis: The book focuses on the main character: Jacob. It follows him in two timelines: the "present," where he is an old man in a nursing home, and the "past," where he is a young man who joins the circus for a season after a tragic situation completely disturbs his idea of normalcy. I like how the author goes back and forth between the timelines. In the present, Jacob is excited about the circus visiting town, which brings back a flood of memories from his past. The main story is the story of Jacob in the circus. It's a hard life, but he manages to fit in well enough. During his time in the circus, he makes friends, he makes enemies, he falls in love, he deals with success, he deals with failure. His job is with the animals, and a big part of the book (especially the 2nd half) deals with his relationship between a newly acquired elephant, the performer who works with the elephant, and her husband (who is also Jacob's boss).
What I liked: The characters were believable, as was the plot. I loved going back and forth between the two timelines, and seeing how they related to each other. There were enough twits and turns in the story to keep me engaged, but not so many to become confusing. It's pretty obvious that the author did some research on how circuses worked in the depression era, and the details that she includes provide great color to the story. It's really a behind-the-scenes look at a circus, so it's pretty raw and rough around the edges. This kept it interesting.
What could have been improved: After the book was done, there was a Q-and-A piece with the author where she indicated that the backbone of the story was based on the biblical story of Jacob. I didn't see it. After a bit of internet searching, I saw some discussions that included some explanations on the parallels. After reading them, I can kinda see it, but it's a stretch. It doesn't change how much I enjoyed the book, but it left me feeling that the author was trying to do something with the story that she wasn't quite successful doing. *shrug* If you read the book, go into it looking for those parallels. You'll be more successful finding them if you know to look for them, because it's not at all obvious.
Should you read it? Yes, it's a very enjoyable read.(less)
This was a quick read, and written from an interesting perspective. The author is trying to get the point across that meetings are generally a waste o...moreThis was a quick read, and written from an interesting perspective. The author is trying to get the point across that meetings are generally a waste of time and effort. Instead, he advocates a "modern meeting" where the purpose of the meeting is to make decisions and act on them. The modern meeting is focused, only includes people who have a stake in the decision, and requires participants to be prepared. The thing that made the perspective of this book interesting to me is that it reads as if it were handed to me by someone at my company. The author talks about "our organization," and how we need to fix things. It's pretty subtle at first, but soon enough I realized what was going on. It's a nice touch.
Will my company reach a culture that supports the Modern Meeting? *shrug* I don't know. But I do know that I will be applying some of the suggestions in my daily work flow. One of the critical suggestions is to not have a meeting when a conversation will suffice. I like that -- conversations are active and not nearly as disruptive to my schedule as meetings are.
Here's a choice quote from the book:
I used to come to work with a promise to myself, a commitment to do work that matters. But having been unsuccessful in fulfilling that promise in the short windows between meetings, I now come into work with the hope of surviving the day.
Should you read this book? If you're part of a company that has lots of meetings, especially ones that appear pointless, then it's worth the read.(less)
I picked up this book because I was finding myself trapped in corporate red tape and dead ends with respect to career advancement. Someone recommended...moreI picked up this book because I was finding myself trapped in corporate red tape and dead ends with respect to career advancement. Someone recommended this as a good book to help with thinking about leadership outside the confines of the corporate world.
I like how the author presented this in the context of a story, instead of a typical dry business leadership book. It's all common-sense stuff, but it's nice to read it in the digestible format presented here. The author takes the position that leadership is not something that is compartmentalized to business settings. Instead, leadership characteristics are pervasive in every area of our lives. By focusing on incorporating leadership ideas into every aspect of your life, it can make you more successful all around.
The book provides a fresh inspirational take on leadership. I enjoyed reading it to help me think about a big picture view of leadership, not just trying to figure out how to get ahead army job. I plan to retread it every few years. (less)
A quick read covered the basics. It seemed that much of the first half of the book was designed to convince me that the Paleo Diet is a good idea. I w...moreA quick read covered the basics. It seemed that much of the first half of the book was designed to convince me that the Paleo Diet is a good idea. I was convinced early on, and it just felt repetitive after that. The diet sounds reasonable and logical to me. I intend to see if I can incorporate the principles described into my daily diet.(less)
Full disclosure: the author of this book is an executive manager in the company that employees me. We've been taking "leadership workshops" at work an...moreFull disclosure: the author of this book is an executive manager in the company that employees me. We've been taking "leadership workshops" at work and they mentioned this book as part of the workshop. I decided to check it out.
Summary: Obviously, as a business book, there's no plot. Well, not quite. There is a bit of plot in that de la Vega chronicles his career throughout the book. Keeping up with his different positions, projects, and goals provides a nice framework for him to impart the business advice he wants to impart. Mainly, it boils down to this: work hard, make sacrifices, get outside your comfort zone, and you will be happy with your advancements at work. It's pretty standard fare as far as this kind of advice goes, the thing that helps keep it engaging is how de la Vega interweaves his own personal story and passion throughout the book. I came away from the book feeling more like I had a conversation with de la Vega instead of simply reading a dry business book.
What I thought: Meh. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't outstanding. As I mentioned before, the advice was commonplace. There really wasn't anything new. The main thrust is reduced to the cliche "obstacles are opportunities." It's really about finding ways to overcome the obstacles, turn them into opportunities, and capitalize on them. When you strip away the fancy words, you're left with working hard and making sacrifices.
I'm glad I read the book, and I think it may have given me some inspiration to try things differently at work to help advance my career the way I want it to advance. There are no easy answers here, but good food for thought.
Here's some quotes from the book that I found interesting:
I was learning, at a much younger age than most people, the meaning of sacrifice . . . and the power of making sacrifices in the present for the sake of a better future.
No matter who you are, or what you do, there are going to be obstacles that you will need to face.
As you will understand by now, “opportunity” to me usually means a difficult situation that many people would think of as a problem and avoid if possible. Avoidance is a mistake.
When disaster hits, put your own people first. That’s the surest way to take care of your customers and get the business back up and running as fast as possible. In fact, I believe it’s the only way.
If you feel underutilized in your current situation, change it! If your boss has treated you in a way that cuts off exciting possibilities you want to pursue, find a new boss. That’s a tough message, I know. But when someone stands in the way of your dreams, drastic action may be called for to get past the obstacle.
I never read this book as a kid. My familiarity with the story stems mainly from the Disney adaptation and general knowledge. The Kindle version of th...moreI never read this book as a kid. My familiarity with the story stems mainly from the Disney adaptation and general knowledge. The Kindle version of the book was free, it was pretty short, and I decided I'd give it a shot.
I'm sorry I bothered.
This book is definitely *not* my cup of tea. I enjoyed the wikipedia entry about the book more than the book itself. It noted that the book is classified as "nonsense literature," and I cannot agree more. The book is utter nonsense. I just could not get into the spirit of the writing at all.
If you love this book, more power to you. I'll stick with the film adaptations. And I won't be reading "Through The Looking Glass."(less)
This book is a bit outside the genre I typically read, and I think I'll be back for more.
Summary: A guy from the city comes to a rural West Virginia t...moreThis book is a bit outside the genre I typically read, and I think I'll be back for more.
Summary: A guy from the city comes to a rural West Virginia town to help his sister bury her son, who was killed and torn apart by someone (something?) wild. Things start to get pretty creepy pretty fast. The family in town that seems to get away with every bad deed they do appear to be behind the creepy. Mostly because they seem to have a connection to some interdimensional aliens who are attempting to move into earth. Lots of people start getting killed. The heroes try to save the say.
I enjoyed the plot -- enough twists and turns, without becoming overly-complex. The characters are believable and worth caring for (or hating, in the case of the villains). The conflict feels real, with plenty of tension to keep the story moving. Especially as the story progresses, it becomes hard to put the book down. There's not much fluff in this story. The action starts right near the beginning and doesn't let up.