Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bloodfever, by Karen Marie Moning

I resolve to be more selective about books I grab off the library's new releases shelves. Since I tend to complete books that I start, this impulsiveness leads to me reading books like this one. Which, other than not being my favorite genre, being too goofy for me, containing odd names for odd fantasy things that I don't care to learn, means I've spent time on this book which could have been spent on something that would have elevated my understanding of the world - or at least amused me more.

Really, though, since it takes a genuinely awful book to get me to stop unfinished, I guess this was tolerable after all.

Here's the test: will I read the next volume in - gasp - the series?

7th Heaven, by James Patterson

Since I got sucked into Patterson's series, aka "women's murder club" (yuck, what a morbid name!), I've felt compelled to keep going.

I guess this is what happens to collectors. You don't really need that 18th item in the set of miniature KLM houses (see the Wall Street Journal 31 May 2008; unfortunately a for-fee online subscription so not easily linkable), but at this point you're just too invested in the experience to quit.

So the book: not bad, better than most. Still not a big murder mystery fan though (a bad attribute for someone committed to this series).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, by Daniel H. Pink

The full title of this book is, "The adventures of Johnny Bunko: the last career guide you'll ever need."

I believe this is pretty close to accurate.

Sometimes people ask me for career advice. Since reading this book, I just tell them to get a copy for themselves.

Six simple lessons presented in manga (think comic book) format. No need to keep you in suspense:

  1. There is no plan.
  2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
  3. It's not about you.
  4. Persistence trumps talent.
  5. Make excellent mistakes.
  6. Leave an imprint.

(In fairness, these lessons are more simple to state than to execute. But hey, there's no free lunch. And, if you really want to get into it, see what other folks are saying as they interpret the lessons, etc., you can check out the associated web site, at

Also check out the cool video.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida

I heard about Professor Florida's work because he was a guest speaker at IBM's Forum on Global Leadership held in London this month - I was able to watch a video of his talk, which unfortunately is not available outside IBM's firewalls.

To me, there are two key points to the book:

First, it refutes, or at least tempers the argument made by Friedman in "The World is Flat." Telecommunications and technology may have removed the barriers of location from participation in commerce today, but there still are clusters of population that often dominate a particular domain.

For example, film making in LA or Mumbai. Investing in NY or London. Music in Nashville or Detroit, or for starting out in music, Austin. Computer technology in Silicon Valley, Bangalore, and to some extent (mostly semi-conductor), Austin.

Second, it gives weight to an important life decision - the "where" factor. On life's big decisions, the obvious items are "what" - what do you do for your career - and "who" - with whom you'll spend your life (i.e., significant other). Florida argues that where "... has an equal, if not greater, effect on our economic future, happiness, and overall life outcome."

This isn't only in the context of locating where the work is. Sure, if you're heart's set on being an investment banker, then El Paso offers few choices compared to New York. But there are other factors at play. I found the Powdthavee study [p87] to be of particular interest; it estimates the monetary value equivalent of seeing friends or relatives frequently. According to this University of London study, "seeing friends or relatives in person almost every day is worth more than six figures in additional income."

For example, "if you relocate from a city where you regularly see your family and friends to one where you would not, you would need to earn $133,000 [more] just to make up for the lack of happiness..."

Presumably this explains why I live in Austin Texas (even when my office has been - and continues to be - in other cities).

Some of the interesting insights from the studies that inform Florida's writing include the importance of an artistic, bohemian community to making a city livable. Openness is particularly important - "a communal sense of tolerance and acceptance of diversity." This is, along with its especially high invention rate (measured by US patents), why Austin Texas is one of the desirable cities in Florida's lists.

Austin places high in rank for both "all households" and "gay and lesbian" households in best places for families with children, for empty nesters, for singles (because there are so many young people in their first jobs), and in all these categories, it scores equally well for gay and lesbian as well as all households. On the other had, for retirees over 65 years of age, Austin fell off the list. Guess the key is to be like Willy Nelson - the age isn't the issue, just make sure you don't retire.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's Not About the Coffee, by Howard Behar

This book is like macaroni and cheese. There's nothing wrong with it (well, cholesterol worries aside), but it can be bland, and it certainly isn't all that interesting.

You couldn't argue with any of the management advice in this book, but is is bland and not all that interesting.

Full disclosure: I have a personal problem with the author, as he's the (dingbat) who convinced Starbucks to move from manual espresso machines to automatic ones. In doing so, he removed the romance of Starbucks and made their product and more importantly their experience no different than what you'd have at home.

Timing is tough for folks who write management principles books based on their business experiences at household name firms like Starbucks. They're not doing as well as shareholders would prefer, the former CEO's come back to fix things, and things aren't as rosy for the folks who put them where they are today (namely, the author of this book) as one might hope.

Not a surprise to me though: if I were the type to short stocks, I'd have done so the day I first saw an automatic espresso machine replace my barista's manual efforts. That is, though, the point at which I migrated to my own, home automatic machine, and relegated Starbucks to the occasional road trip or meeting place instead of a daily habit.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quickie, by James Patterson

Since I've been reading Patterson's other series, when I saw this one I figured it would be worth a read.

The writing isn't very sophisticated, but there are some good twists and turns - not particularly well developed - and it is a very fast read. You could call it a quickie. Ha.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Eclipse, by Stephanie Meyer

Finally got to read book three of the series. This was the best written of the series thus far. I look forward to the next installment.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Shalimar the Clown: a Novel, by Salman Rushdie

Here we have a book of critical acclaim. All the smart people find it clever and fascinating.

Oh boy.

So I read this in the last few hours stretch of a 25 hour trip returning from Asia. Maybe that's my excuse. Brilliant allegory about the politics of Kashmir are tough when you're eyes are glazed over to begin with. But I'd already used up my easy-reading mystery novels on the way to China.

If interrogated by the pseudo-intellectual police, my excuse will be my travel fatigue. But just between us, I wasn't so impressed by the dense writing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The 6th Target, by James Patterson

Okay, I'm beginning to realize that when you read a murder mystery about a homicide detective, yes, people must be killed off. Still though, kind of puts a damper on things...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The 5th Horseman, by James Patterson

I'm continuing to read all the books in this series. Getting a bit bummed out though by the author's insistence on killing off people close to the main character (oh no, did I ruin the surprise for anyone?).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

New Moon, by Stephanie Meyer

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Twilight, so I read the second. I liked this one too, so looking forward to volume three next!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz

At first I didn't know what to make of the narrative structure of this book. Then, it grew on me. Finally, I enjoyed this book very much.

But then, I turned the book over and glanced down at the blurbs. "Comic drive..." "...hilarious..." "...rollicking adventure... hysterically funny."

Did I read the right book? Was there some weird printing defect that put a different novel's sales quotes on the back cover?

I didn't laugh once. But I did like the book. Then again, it is set in Australia, so maybe there's some cultural humor that I simply didn't get.