Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Art of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin

Mr. Waitzkin was a chess prodigy, about whom a book, Searching for Bobby Fisher, was written by his dad in 1988. It became a movie in 1993. As a young adult, Mr. Waitzkin moved from chess to martial arts, competing in Tai Chi's push hands tournaments (a large part of this book), and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

The conceit of this book is that Mr. Waitzkin can extrapolate from his experiences as a world class chess player and world class martial arts competitor to provide lessons about learning. Hence the title.

As an auto-biography, it is interesting although rather repetitive. As an instructional text, it is so far from useful as to be a zero.

So if you're curious about Mr. Waitzkin, then by all means read this (preferably by borrowing it from a free public library). If you want to learn about learning techniques, how to gain excellence in a field, etc., just cross this title off your list now. (The latter was my motivation for reading the book, and the reason for my poor reaction to it.)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Black Widow, by Daniel Silva

I was pretty negative the last book of Mr. Silva's that I read, complaining that the lead character, Israeli spy Gabriel Allon, was too long in the tooth and that the writing had gone downhill. With this novel, all is forgiven. Allon is back, age appropriate, in an interesting story that reflects today's headlines.

The plot considers the impact of western, recently converted Muslims who join forces with ISIS. And the terrorist attacks that these folks can facilitate. Not to mention taking a few dings at the US President's use of the phase "jay vee team" to describe ISIS; clearly Israelis and some of their neighbors would not take comfort in that dismissive description.

All in all a great book. To continue the series, I suspect that Allon will become less of the main character: he'll move into a more supervisory position, and Mr. Silva will need to choose a new spy to become the lead story. I look forward to his next novel to see how he does move forward.