Tuesday, January 25, 2011

59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, by Richard Wiseman

This book could be described as what should have been a collection of magazine articles about popular psychology.   It discusses experiments around what makes an individual likable, what to put in your wallet to increase odds of it being returned if lost (a photo of a smiling baby), and the like.

Given this topic set and that Mr Wiseman writes specifically about what makes people positive about something (e.g., negative gossip gives a bad impression of the gossiper) it was astounding to me that he chose to alienate more than 50% of his US audience.   How so?   A rude remark about former President Bush.

How does this bother more than 50% of the audience?   Part of it is because the author is British.   He's annoyed two groups, the "We liked Mr Bush,"  and the "He may not have been great, but he's our not great."   I assert that this covers a large percentage of his American readership.

This is a massive turn off.   Don't buy the book.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The God Hater, by Bill Myers

In an artificial intelligence (AI) program that competing businesses kill for, the avatars keep killing each other off -- amoral savages that they are.   A new avatar based on our atheist hero is injected into the program.  He concludes that only through the metaphor of bible stories can he save the AI civilization.

I get that the author is a writer of "Christian fiction," and must therefore find a way to proselytize.  So ignoring that:  the plot was thin, the character development thin, the computer, hacking and AI notions ludicrously not credible.


Black Faces in White Places, by Randal Pinkett, et al

I'm probably not qualified to comment on the quality of this book, being so far from its target demographic:  I am not Black.    I read it to try to gain a sense of the issues faced by my colleagues and employees who are Black.

The primary author, Randal Pinkett, won the prize on Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" TV show.   It seems to me from reading his resume that he has much to be proud of beyond having gained the approval of a wealthy narcissist on a TV show.   But presumably this is what sells.

The claim is "10 revolutionary strategies for playing, mastering, and changing the game for the current generation, while under taking a whole sale redefinition of the rules for those who will follow."    I'm not so sure anyone could call these strategies revolutionary, but they certainly seem reasonable.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

This is a terrific historical novel, a love story, a tale of good and evil.   The character development is excellent, the plotting interesting.   And in shear page count, a good return on investment.

Arts & Crafts Furniture Anyone Can Make, by David Thiel

I bought this book because I liked the looks of the Morris chair and bookcase on the cover.   Unfortunately, I didn't take the title seriously enough -- Mr Thiel really means it when he says anyone can make this stuff.  The approach that makes this true is a rough, unprofessional, inelegant construction technique.  I can't bring myself to do it.

On the other hand, I can adapt the nicer designs in his book to a more elegant approach, substituting mortise and tenon for pocket screws for example.   Still, I'm in no rush now to build these; I can find better plans elsewhere I'm sure. 

It isn't (just) snobbishness that causes my reaction:  I wouldn't be comfortable having someone sit in such a poorly built chair, and I'm not sure that heavy books wouldn't destroy the bookcase as designed.

Lethal People, by John Locke

This purported spy / mystery novel is the modern day equivalent of pulp fiction.  Or perhaps of a comic book (for those who remember the days prior to the phrase "graphic novel").

The hero is a former CIA assassin who makes a living now as a killer for hire with no scruples what soever aided and abetted by government agencies who cover up his gaffes in return for the occasional (illegal, probably immoral) jobs for them on the side.

If you can get past the cliched portrait of the hero, and past the implausibility (one would only hope!) of the plot, it is an interesting read.

Fifth Avenue, by Christopher Smith

The premise of this novel was the ramifications of a personal dispute between powerful people.  The title refers to the "view of the quite wealthy in New York" setting.   It was more interesting that I'd expected, a solid C+.