How do ideas stick in our minds? What is it about those ideas that makes them so hard to shake? In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Di...moreHow do ideas stick in our minds? What is it about those ideas that makes them so hard to shake? In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath answer these questions and more in a way that's entertaining and easy to understand.
In the introduction the Heath brothers lay out the keys to making ideas stick. Ideas need to be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and contain a story. Each chapter that follows focuses on one of those topics.
One central idea to the book is the curse of knowledge. How do experts communicate with non-experts? In other words, how does our knowledge blind us to the perspective of a novice? The more familiar a person is with a topic or an area of study, the easier it is for them to talk abstractly and assume their message comes across. Meeting your audience in the middle ground is not the same as dumbing down your message.
Made to Stick is full of bite-sized chunks of research and anecdotes from classes and workshops the two authors have taught. This is a must read for anyone in a leadership or managerial role and especially those who depend on communicating a message.
At this point, I'm not going to say much about Blinkby Malcolm Gladwell, because much has been said all ready. Blink is about adaptive unconscious, ra...moreAt this point, I'm not going to say much about Blinkby Malcolm Gladwell, because much has been said all ready. Blink is about adaptive unconscious, rapid cognition, and thin-slicing. It is about those quick decisions, which are correct, but hard to explain. Gladwell also illustrates how thin-slicing works for people, and when it leads them astray by exploring stereotypes and prejudices. The writing is clear, engaging, and frank. If you're interested in cognitive psychology, or wish to learn more about thin-slicing in a way that is not only accessible, but enjoyable, I recommend reading Blink.(less)
When a baseball player steps up to the plate and wags his bat at the wall past outfield, it's a sign. Next pitch is a homerun. When someone, in this c...moreWhen a baseball player steps up to the plate and wags his bat at the wall past outfield, it's a sign. Next pitch is a homerun. When someone, in this case, Douglas Kenrick, entitles a book Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life it's the literary equivalent of holding a bat straight out to the centerfield wall.
The introduction begins, "You and I have probably never met, but you might be shocked to learn how well we know one another and how intimately our lives are connected." Kenrick goes on to say, "this is a book about the biggest question we can ask: What is the meaning of life?" However, he explores questions regarding the choices people make and how evolution may play into those decisions, without really addressing the meaning of life, or the other question he brings up, "How can I live a more meaningful life?" Instead, as if he were ready for critic's comments, Kenrick states, "Despite what you might have read in Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, first impressions can be misleading. If you do a blink-style speed-read of this book, you might think it is mostly about me...But if you keep reading, I am pretty sure you'll discover that this book is really about you, your family, and your friends and about the important decisions you confront every day."
It feels like Kenrick is putting the onus on the reader. If you think the book is about me, obviously you are not a close reader, obviously you skimmed my book. Balance those sentences with the powerful title and warning signs may begin to flare. In my experience, books are skimmed because they are not engaging. Let's look at the sentences with some modifications. "If you do a blink-style speed-read of this book, you may think I am not an engaging writer. But if you keep reading, I'm pretty sure you'll discover that this book is worth it." It's hard to get past "but if you keep reading." As I thought about it, my main impulse was to say, "But if you keep reading, I'm pretty sure you'll discover that this book is not really engaging."
Stripped away, Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life is a book centered around the author and his interests. The writing trends toward creating a persona of a New York City kid turned intellectual but still with his folksy, blue-collar charm. It comes across feeling as fabricated as Hillary Clinton having a shot of whiskey with rural constituents. Someone may say a scientist researches their interests, and thus Kenrick's interests are really the foundation of his research. That may be the case, but I didn't find Kenrick's interests and research too interesting. Instead, the tone of the book is soapbox. He's not looking to help people have a more meaningful life, but is defending evolutionary psychology against critics. Moreover, he is supplanting structure with stories from his life.
Overall, I came away having learned some concepts of evolutionary and cognitive psychology, but it was at a cost. The cost was wading through a tiresome narrative from a writer who loves spinning yarns, but is not a good storyteller nor an engaging writer. The cost was being placed in the middle of a brawl between a defensive scientist and the status quo without a background in experimental design. The cost was a writer who was ready to turn on his reader in the first few pages of the introduction. With a title like Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life, the reader expects a homerun and deserves at least a double play. Kenrick displayed his personality with a catchy title, then left the crowd disappointed with a grounder skittering along the infield dirt.(less)
Like all satirical reference books, I keep this one near at hand and offer it only to serious-minded university students as a source for their mandato...moreLike all satirical reference books, I keep this one near at hand and offer it only to serious-minded university students as a source for their mandatory English composition courses.(less)
The chapters are divided into: Classic Time, Long Time, Switchback Time, Slowed Time, Fabulous Time, and Time as Subject. Silber explains what each term means and illustrates how the writer created the desired effect through their approach of time.
How does a novel that takes place over a school year (Harry Potter) differ from a novel that takes place over a lifetime (Love in the Time of Cholera)? How does Alice Munro convey decades in the span of a few pages? What happens in surreal stories where time seems to exist outside of normal experience? Silber addresses these questions and many more. As actions and consequences exist (in most cases) as a temporal experience, it's important for writers to consider time. While writers who are just starting out may be more concerned with basic mechanics, these questions and discussions are wonderful for people who have been writing for years and thinking about fiction. Moreover, if the reader is familiar with many of the works Silber references it makes the book even more enjoyable. The Art of Time in Fiction is a quick read, but worth reading for writers interested in the subject.(less)
Grandin introduces us to a cast of rogues, visionaries, working men, and thugs involved in the creation of Fordlandia and the operations of Ford's state of the art factory, the River Rouge. We see the stubbornness and tyranny of Henry Ford, mixed with his wish to provide for the well-being of his workers and those in the Amazon, as well as his urge to promote an idea of America that no longer existed.(less)
In case the reader is not getting a point, Lanier seems to return again and again to the same issues. The discussion is thoughtful, but redundant. While it's led me to being more critical about technology and design, Lanier's message could have been more succinctly communicated.
A few areas on which Lanier focuses include:
Social media, specifically Facebook
The hivemind (Wikipedia, wisdom of the crowds)
Devaluation of people and creative expression
While reading this book, I found myself thinking, why am I using a specific technology (Facebook)? What does it mean to enter information according to someone's database design of social interaction? How has that changed my relationships with people?
On a broader level, I thought of the use of Google Analytics for this website. Why am I writing a blog post? Am I writing it as an expression of myself, or am I trying to generate page hits? Imagine being at a party and having an engaging conversation with someone. Now, imagine analyzing that conversation based on someone else's, in this case Google's, statistics. My friend only spent 35 seconds making eye contact. That person followed the conversation up to this point, and then walked away.
Why do I care how long someone spends on a blog post? I don't use ads on my website. I care, because I've interpreted it as a sign of how interesting a post may be. A better measure may be blog posts that have created worthwhile comments. An alternative I prefer is to not care, to not be caught up in worthless measures, but to enjoy the process.
Largely pessimistic You Are Not a Gadget is a loud voice in the debate over technology. Lanier is not anti-technology, but pro-humanity. He has a vision of technology that is unbound creativity. More than anything, You Are Not a Gadget is a call for users and creators to be more aware, to not be dictated to, but to have a voice in the shape and power of the Internet and technology in general.(less)
While I'm sure there are a lot of great insights for people in this book, most of it seemed like common sense flavored with anecdotes from Ralph Nader...moreWhile I'm sure there are a lot of great insights for people in this book, most of it seemed like common sense flavored with anecdotes from Ralph Nader's childhood. Also, I wonder who the audience is for this book? The writing and ideas seem like they were washed down for the comprehension of someone in eigth grade. So, it left a lot to be desired in that area. Another point is that I felt like Ralph Nader was being patronizing in this book. Others have had a different reaction, but I came away with this message of "My family is so great, and if everyone raised their children exactly as my parents had, then your family would be great too." There is nothing that says, this method would work or that broadens the conversation. Even when he says, We were not perfect, he is still basically saying but we were better than you as a family.
If you can get through the treacle there are a few kernels of wisdom, and if you lack a lot of common sense, then there are probably more than a few. (less)
This book was unsettling. By now, you've heard the blurbs regarding the movie and there isn't much to say probably. It seems like people either hate C...moreThis book was unsettling. By now, you've heard the blurbs regarding the movie and there isn't much to say probably. It seems like people either hate Chris McCandless or are inspired by him. He's a contradictory figure and that can be difficult to deal with. Is he to be seen as a selfish, awful person for not contacting his family in three years, or as an independent idealist who would not be constrained by society?
While I disagree with his choices regarding his family contact, I find his lifestyle inspiring. He set his mind to attempt something and knew what success or failure would mean. Is it selfish to live out your dreams? No. I think for many of us there is a desire to escape and embark on some journey. McCandless does that and shows us the perils and rewards one can encounter(less)
Perhaps I'll give this book another chance later down the road. But it's been migrating from end table to end table, to window sills and bookshelves r...morePerhaps I'll give this book another chance later down the road. But it's been migrating from end table to end table, to window sills and bookshelves rarely spending much time in my hands. The problem? There are more interesting books to read. Everytime I open this book, I get a little bored and a little annoyed with the frenzied tone of the author. So instead, I started reading Gravity's Rainbow, and before that I read Foucault's Pendulum, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Into the Wind, and Do Androids Dream of Eletric Sheep. My point is there has to be something going on with this book if all it makes me want to do is read something else.(less)
This combines a sense of nature's inherent beauty with a sense of conservation and environmentalism. It took me time to read this, probably a period o...moreThis combines a sense of nature's inherent beauty with a sense of conservation and environmentalism. It took me time to read this, probably a period of six months. I found it thought provoking and enjoyable.(less)
I'm going to call this an airport read. Must have been where I picked it up flying back for Christmas last year. I found entertaining and light. Bryso...moreI'm going to call this an airport read. Must have been where I picked it up flying back for Christmas last year. I found entertaining and light. Bryson doesn't touch on some of the heavier environmental issues regarding the Appaliachians, and that's fine. It's really not that kind of book. It's more along the lines of a travel guide and perhaps two middle age men looking for something more in their lives.(less)