Disclaimer: I really like Gladwell's books. I have somewhat of a man-crush on the man's intellect. Read this review with that understanding beforehandDisclaimer: I really like Gladwell's books. I have somewhat of a man-crush on the man's intellect. Read this review with that understanding beforehand.
The Tipping Point is a fun read that explores how word-of-mouth epidemics spread. You will be taken on a journey that parses Paul Revere's ride, as well as see how Hush Puppies came back from the brink of irrelevancy to be one of the best selling shoes in the country (among other topics). He explores how different types of people are capable of spreading data to the rest of society utilizing the Law of the Few (Mavens, Salesman, and Connectors). He envisions environmental factors having an impact on human behavior (the Power of Context - my personal favorite revelation of the book), and he explains how the particular content of a message, and the way it is presented, can embed itself in our minds (the Stickiness Factor). I personally enjoy the method in which Gladwell describes the people he interviews. He introduces his real-world characters in such a way as to make you, the reader, feel as though you are sitting with the person actually speaking about whatever subject they are discussing.
Gladwell's insights are revolutionary. He takes simple situations, previously thought to be explainable, and parses them to their base elements to bring new understanding to the value of human interactions. I strongly recommend this book, as well as his other works. ...more
Basic Economics is the authoritative text to gain a baseline understanding of the way economic systems work. It is an especially important written wo Basic Economics is the authoritative text to gain a baseline understanding of the way economic systems work. It is an especially important written work given the context of the looming election season since the Democrats and the Republicans espouse different visions of the economic role of the federal government. The book covers such subjects as: tariffs, outsourcing, subsidies, socialized medicine, international trade, free markets versus command economies, the role of government in economic systems, national debt, efficiency in production, and many other related and important subjects. If you tire of being told how to think along party lines, and wish to form your own informed opinions about the economy, this is the book for you. The USA would be better if just a fraction of the population were well-versed in these tenants of responsible economic governance. ...more
Animal Farm and 1984 are two books that should be required reading for students, politicians and anyone interested in learning more about autocratic Animal Farm and 1984 are two books that should be required reading for students, politicians and anyone interested in learning more about autocratic political systems. The books are particularly attuned to the evils of totalitarian states and the methods those governments employ to gain and retain centralized power. The writings are similar in content but the mode of information conveyance is quite different with Animal Farm presented as a "softer" story with an almost flippant presentation and 1984 more attuned to the violent nature of dictatorship and oligarchy. Both books deserve separate attention to explain their specific content, as I will detail below.
Animal Farm tells the story of a group of animals who become disenfranchised with the human farmer and his methods to operate the farm where they live. The animals rebel, the farmer loses, and the farm animals adopt a form of socialism to rule their new domain. The pigs, and one nasty cabal in particular, maneuver themselves into positions of supreme dominance over the other animals over time which leads to corruption and abuses. This book is roughly based on historical facts in Orwell's lifetime of which he was a firsthand observer; think Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. His character projections are not perfect, and it does leave some major archival events out, but he does manage to capture the rise to prominence of power-hungry men and the dangers of unrestricted political power disguised in the name of socialist equality.
1984, while similar to Animal Farm in some content, is a different animal altogether. The book is set in Oceania, a dystopian society where Big Brother and the Thought Police are an omnipresent reality. The protagonist is Winston Smith, an outer tier worker for INGSOC, the political party of the ruling junta. The story follows his travails as he attempts to rebel against a political system that controls every waking moment of its citizen's existence. This story is much more violent than Animal Farm and may induce an actual feeling of fear in some readers. Words such as Thought Police, Big Brother, thoughtcrime (et al) were originally found in this book and have now become part of the common lingo. It can not be stressed enough the importance of this book as relates to its contributions to Western political thought.
These two books should be read to gain a firm understanding of the evils of unchecked political systems born of revolution and disguised as socialism. Both books have a practical relevance to autocratic regimes present in the world today by detailing the methods they employ to maintain the levers of power at the expense of their populations. I read in at least one location that both books are stilled banned reading in some parts of the world ruled by strongmen and small groups of the politically privileged. They are, however, both entertaining just for the telling of their respective tales, if this is your sole interest. I strongly recommend both books. ...more
Heart of Darkness is a classic book that is a must-read for all avid students of "great" novels. This book, however, is not an easy read. Conrad's masHeart of Darkness is a classic book that is a must-read for all avid students of "great" novels. This book, however, is not an easy read. Conrad's mastery of prose can not be disputed, but his transitions are sometimes difficult to follow and the story seems to get lost in itself which leaves the reader victim to the darkness. On reflection, this may have been his intent, but it nevertheless paints a portrait that is more akin to Picasso versus Da Vinci; the picture is beautiful while at the same time disjointed and difficult to comprehend. Conrad weaves an interesting tale that at times is not easy to follow, but is always interesting. I recommend this book to a reader that has the time to research Conrad's particular use of language and a reader who is also willing to reread passages in order to understand the hidden meanings and nuanced insinuations. ...more