I have never been a baseball fan, but I loved this book nonetheless. It's entertaining, but more importantly, gives you a perspective on how to think...moreI have never been a baseball fan, but I loved this book nonetheless. It's entertaining, but more importantly, gives you a perspective on how to think unconventionally. A truly valuable tool.(less)
**spoiler alert** My friend Roger Magoulas told me that Silas Marner is one of his favorite books; he re-reads it every few years. I thought I'd give...more**spoiler alert** My friend Roger Magoulas told me that Silas Marner is one of his favorite books; he re-reads it every few years. I thought I'd give it a try last month.
It's a perfect book to read during the current financial downturn, since it reminds us of what's truly important in life.
An old miser has his gold stolen, and is in despair. By chance, a golden haired child of two comes into his life and replaces his lost hoard. It's a wonderful affirmation of the transformative power of love.
It's not as rich as The Mill on the Floss - a simple morality tale. But it's captivating, and as I said, a singularly appropriate read at this time. Recommended.
By chance, I just picked up a novel from the thirties that is also about people struggling with lost fortunes, Roger Vercel's Tides of Mont St. Michel. (less)
I got this book from Rick Prelinger, who knows I love old, forgotten novels. This was a lovely one, without much plot, but with wonderful characters a...moreI got this book from Rick Prelinger, who knows I love old, forgotten novels. This was a lovely one, without much plot, but with wonderful characters and vivid, chewy writing. It focuses on a set of characters living around Union Square after the crash of 29, in the early years of the Great Depression. Many of the characters are young communists, idealizing the Russian revolution, imagining themselves as sturdy peasants.
But there are others: the cynical former poet now in the throes of alcohol, the young intellectual artist who still believes in the communist dream, the "sturdy" comrade with whom he is hopelessly in love, the pretzel vendor, the mad printer, the laid-off stevedore, the boss who picks him out from the team to be let go, the man who walks backwards, the wealthy but unhappy businessman, the young girl with the broken tooth and the frozen smile she uses to cover it, the proprietor of the local diner, the famous Crystal Lunchroom.
It gave me a vivid sense of the time: people living in cold tenements, heated by small coal fires, envying the people in apartment buildings with steam heat. I loved the characters, the vivid, evocative writing, the juxtapositions of internal and external experience.
"Cold air tore into the slums. Around the kitchen stoves sat families, and fed the fuel in sparingly, like handling scraps to hungry dogs. Those rooms which were not in use were locked off, to save the heat, and the rooms which had no doors had old, grubby blankets nailed to the tops of the doorways, and there they hung, like tent-flaps; that helped a little. On the Hudson River, Skipper Jim Hawkins, master of an up-and-back ferry, walked from stern to port side, thinking of a piece he had read in the papers some time ago which called upon all Americans, all loyal American citizens to take their money out of hoarding and put it into banks. Another ferry passed, going the other way, snorting, groaning. Looking aloft, staring at the wintry, evening sky, Jim Hawkins made his way toward the bow, trying to make up his mind if he should take his few dollars out of that White Owl cigar box in his Jersey City room and deposit in some safe savings bank. Waves slapped the side of the boat, ahead were the lights of Manhattan, glittering like a spray of radium beads."
I love reading old books that are now largely forgotten. They give so much insight into an age. It's as much the aspects of the books that are time-bound as those that are timeless that I find fascinating.
The irony in a book such as this, which casts such a keen eye on the passage of time and the obsolescence of our hold on society, even while we are still alive, is that, of course, the things that were new to Tarkington in 1918 when he wrote - the motor car, which was sweeping away the old ways, the old families, and anyone who stood in its way -- are now themselves on the edge of being swept away. He wouldn't be surprised, but it's still a poignant thread when reading this book.
I expected to like the book. I didn't expect to find Tarkington such a fine writer. Particularly in the first chapter, before the story starts, there is some absolutely brilliant prose describing, as if in a film run on fast forward, changing fashions in clothes.
The book is Trollopian in style, with less emphasis on story than on character. You can see from the beginning how it's going to end, but the journey is the point: the character who won't change, and won't notice the changes all around him until it's (almost) too late, and of course, that changing world itself.
A wonderful view of a time long gone, with a perspective that is perhaps uniquely valuable today as we go through our own wrenching changes, with so many of us blind to what's happening.
P.S. I wish it were easier for Goodreads to show a blank book cover as one of the first page choices, and to provide your own metadata, rather than picking from the existing list. I did not read this book in the B&N Classics edition, but in the Pulitzer Prize edition from Grosset & Dunlap, most likely printed in the late 30s. (less)
My favorite of all the technical books I've written. While Jerry Peek did yeoman work on this book, and he and Mike Loukides wrote more of it than I d...moreMy favorite of all the technical books I've written. While Jerry Peek did yeoman work on this book, and he and Mike Loukides wrote more of it than I did, it was my conception from start to finish. I was trying to construct a book that would work like the world wide web, just then brand new, and I think I succeeded. It was also really fun to write.(less)
A fascinating, deeply flawed account of the Great Depression. I bought this on the recommendation of headbutler.com, and while I'm enjoying it, I'm fi...moreA fascinating, deeply flawed account of the Great Depression. I bought this on the recommendation of headbutler.com, and while I'm enjoying it, I'm finding myself astonished at its bold partisanship and resultant revisionist history. It seemed a bit odd to read the glowing praise of the 1920s not as a period of speculative excess but of great, misunderstood industrialists. The unease got worse when the future members of Roosevelt's cabinet were collectively referred to as "the intellectuals", depicted as a claque of Stalinist sympathizers.
As a corrective, I'm sure that there's some virtue in Shlaes view of things - the folks who bring on a crash usually do some good things too. And I'm sure that Roosevelt and his cabinet were swayed by the dreams of communism, without the cynicism that decades of additional experience But the book is way too biased to be read alone.
That being said, I got a lot out of the basic outline of the history of the depression, in particular the realization that it was much slower to come to a head than most of us think, with the image of the 1929 crash imprinted on the pop psyche.(less)
Farmer's book is more ambitious: it re-visions Islandia, brands Wright (who is described in the novel as having himself visited Islandia, romanced Dorna, and all the other things ascribed in the original novel to Wright's character, John Lang) as a hopeless romantic, and argues that Islandia was already industrializing at the time Wright/Lang visited in 1910.
Now, in 1944, Al Fairchild is sent to Islandia. What follows is a crudely written story, with none of Wright's eloquence or insight, yet one that is nonetheless compelling because it grapples with the idea of a place that has different values, makes them work, and in this case, eventually becomes a leader of the modern world, its own way.
If you love Islandia, this is worth a read, if you can find a copy, and if you don't mind someone stepping on the toes of the Islandia you already love.(less)
This is (I think) the third of the Swallows and Amazons series, with the second being Peter Duck, which I have not read.
I probably won't read more of...moreThis is (I think) the third of the Swallows and Amazons series, with the second being Peter Duck, which I have not read.
I probably won't read more of these, but I did indeed love S&A and this one.
They are a rare breed, wonderfully summed by a quote on the jacket of the wonderful old Jonathan Cape edition I read. Eric Linklater, in the Observer, writing about Great Northern, another of Ransome's books, wrote "It is perhaps, Mr. Ransome's happiest gift to dress all his invention in good workmanlike clothes. He makes a tale of adventure a handbook to adventure."
The books are carefully constructed to teach. I learned useful tidbits about sailing, camping, and cooking.
(I've remarked elsewhere that I've seen this quality in Captain Marryat's Masterman Ready and in Cory Doctorow's forthcoming Little Brother. It is a real gift. Ransome does it effortlessly.)
The books also have a wonderful approach to encouraging the imaginative life of children. The wilful suspension of disbelief, the sudden fears, the desire for independence and competency, are given rare outlet.
There are elements that seem dated today -- for example, the complete trust of strangers (not to mention the willingness of a mother to allow her children to run truly wild at a young age.) Most dated, but in a charming way, are the sex roles of the children. The second child, Susan, is characterized as the "first mate" of the ship, and is always seen practicing for her adult role as wife and mother.
But the younger sister is still given rein to play at the adventurer, so the novels aren't overtly sexist, and quite frankly, I can see how modeling different adult roles in play is actually a good representation of how children act.
Overall, these books are charming. I recommend, nay encourage, them for all children of an age able to read them. In fact, I ran out and bought a copy for my godson immediately.(less)
Steve Perry's martial-arts inspired science fiction novels are a guilty pleasure. This is one of the more enjoyable ones. I remember reading one many...moreSteve Perry's martial-arts inspired science fiction novels are a guilty pleasure. This is one of the more enjoyable ones. I remember reading one many years ago that caught my fancy (I don't remember if it was The 97th Step or The Man Who Never Missed) and then being somewhat disappointed that the others didn't live up to it. But this one was fun. It seems to be an alternate origin-story about the 97 steps martial art and its role in the revolution against the Confederation. (I don't remember the other books well enough to know if there are any connections beyond the most superficial, but it doesn't seem to me to match the others too closely in its history of how the martial art was developed.)
A good action read, nothing profound.
Thinking that Goodreads needs a separate rating system for "this was a fun read" and "this is a great book." I'm slightly embarrassed giving it four stars, given that it's not much in the way of literature. But if you're looking for an action adventure, it's a good one.(less)
The bulk of this short book might be characterized as "moral philosophy 101." It will be informative for moral imbeciles and those (many, by the measu...moreThe bulk of this short book might be characterized as "moral philosophy 101." It will be informative for moral imbeciles and those (many, by the measure of apparent business ethics) who don't believe that personal and business ethics have any connection. It's a basic outline of how to extend and create trust, and how to reciprocate when you receive it. Formulaic pop psychology.
The value of the book for me was in the first chapter. It makes the case for trust as a business value, that high trust increases speed and decreases cost. Covey gives the example of the acquisition of a $20 billion dollar business from Walmart by Warren Buffett, done in a two hour meeting, and with complete legal approval in less than a month, as a demonstration of just what a difference trust can make. On the reverse side, he points out the increased cost and inconvenience of air travel since 9/11 as an object lesson in the costs and penalties of reduced trust.
I remember when we started O'Reilly's publishing business. We would take orders on the phone, tell people to send us a check, and send out the books immediately, without waiting to receive payment. We did get stiffed a few times, but overall, it was a good plan.
Today, we offer our ebooks without DRM for the same reason: we trust our users not to screw us. It's good business.
Interestingly, I first heard about this book from Dave Wennergren, the CIO of the Department of Defense. It's an idea that really resonates here for government, and it's one that I've been passing on in my talks about gov 2.0.
In that regard, there's a great quote about Craigslist in the latest issue of Wired:
“If most people are good and their needs are simple, all you have to do to serve them well is build a minimal infrastructure allowing them to get together and work things out for themselves. Any additional features are almost certainly superfluous and could even be damaging.” --Gary Wolf, Wired Magazine, Sept 2009
Even though I gave this book only three stars, it's worth reading for the first chapter.(less)
What a fascinating woman! How little she is known. Read it just for that, but also for the beauty of the excerpts from her own book, The Desert and th...moreWhat a fascinating woman! How little she is known. Read it just for that, but also for the beauty of the excerpts from her own book, The Desert and the Sown. I've been looking for it for years, finally found a copy but haven't read it yet.(less)
I'd heard of this book for years, but hadn't picked it up till the publisher sent me a copy of the new paperback edition for review. It's a compelling...moreI'd heard of this book for years, but hadn't picked it up till the publisher sent me a copy of the new paperback edition for review. It's a compelling, albeit light, read. The history of the telegraph provides much food for thought. There will definitely be a time when today's technology seems as quaint as the telegraph does today. The book does a fabulous job of bringing the excitement of the time to live. It's hard to believe that people once gushed that the telegraph would bring about world peace. Reminds us of the overblown rhetoric of the internet today.(less)
A brilliant exposition of what works in architecture and why ... but more importantly, how abstracting the patterns of "what works" can give us rules...moreA brilliant exposition of what works in architecture and why ... but more importantly, how abstracting the patterns of "what works" can give us rules for successful buildings, towns and cities. And of course, this book is the origin of the much later concept of design patterns in software.(less)
A lovely, thought-provoking portrait of England before the First World War. Like 1599, it is a biography not of a person but of a year. I loved the wa...moreA lovely, thought-provoking portrait of England before the First World War. Like 1599, it is a biography not of a person but of a year. I loved the way it brought together people whose names we all know (Churchill, George V, Nijinsky, Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf) with others less well known, authors like Elinor Glyn and Vita Sackville West (the author's grandmother), early union leaders Ben Tillett and Mary Macarthur, tattle-tale butler Eric Horne, and Churchill's fierce political enemy but dearest personal friend F.E. Smith.
The style is compulsively readable, full of clever juxtapositions that give a wonderful sense of the time. It's a bit like the style of Harper's Index, the news of the day that, in sum, gives a sense of the day.
And as the granddaughter of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West, Juliet Nicolson seems to have access to some fabulous stories and materials that are humble in their content but piquant, and used in devastating juxtaposition to the news of the day.
This is a book that made me laugh out loud, and frequently read passages to anyone around me who would listen.
P.S. I'm a sucker for forgotten authors because I find that the "second tier" books often give a better sense of the day than the classics that have stood the test of time. They are of their time, passed over because they are "dated," but it is that very fact that makes them a clearer window into the past.
Now I have to dig up those Vita Sackville-West and Elinor Glyn novels I have buried somewhere in my library :-)(less)
I've long been fascinated with parallels between the late Roman Republic and contemporary America. This is a great refresher on the history. I've just...moreI've long been fascinated with parallels between the late Roman Republic and contemporary America. This is a great refresher on the history. I've just started it, and it's a really engaging read.
The parallels between Rome's "pirate crisis" and America's "terrorism crisis" in ending civil liberties are frighteningly instructive.(less)
My brother Sean's book. It's a surprising, offbeat retelling of Aristotelian philosophy, and in particular, the nature of virtue, which, as my brother...moreMy brother Sean's book. It's a surprising, offbeat retelling of Aristotelian philosophy, and in particular, the nature of virtue, which, as my brother James' noted, is really about knowing what you really want, and sticking to it. (Aristotle: the management of the appetites by right reason.)
The title was a gamble that didn't really pay off, as it put off more people than it attracted, but nonetheless, this is a worthwhile read.(less)