Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of SuccessOutliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
on November 18th 2008
Pages: 309
Goodreads
My Rating: five-stars

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

I’ve read several of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. I know that he gets blasted for writing “pseudo science”, connecting unrelated dots, and publishing in a different way than scholarly articles. But these books aren’t meant to be scholarly articles. They are interesting stories and he’s a great storyteller. I listened to the first season of Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History and listened to this book on audio so have his voice echoing in my brain.

The story about the Beatles was really interesting. Our kids started learning musical instruments last year and that story helped me encourage them in their practice time letting them know to enjoy it, but also to know that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Give this a read to enjoy the stories and how Gladwell weaves together stories and uncovers connections that you may not have heard before.

This was book number 8 of 52 for 2017.

Across the Universe

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1) by Beth Revis
Published by Razorbill on January 11th 2011
Pages: 399
Goodreads
My Rating: two-stars

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship —tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I read this book because I liked the cover. It’s a cool image of almost kiss hovering over the expanse of space.

**Some spoilers you’ve been warned**

When I read YA it can go either really good or really bad for me. This book was the later. The book is set on a space ship and is in the “future”, but the future isn’t very well explained, and the tech is laughably poor.

Question: “How are we going to get people through hundreds of years of space travel?”

Author’s Answer: “Uh, we’ll freeze them, yeah! With tubes and liquid, and some other stuff. Sure.”

Then the population living on the spaceship are supposed to be able to physically and psychologically survive this flight. Yeah right. Maybe it’s because I read Stephenson’s Seveneves before this one, but every turn on this ship I was thinking “That’s not possible. Nope. Where did they get the resources for that? How do you make that up in space?”

Then there’s the inevitable hormones of YA. This one had it bad. A teenage boy seeing a teenage girl in cryosleep and he’s covered with the feels. The whole book just didn’t work for me. Other reviewers dig it, but I want to just bury it.

I originally gave this three stars which is my “Yeah go ahead and read it, but it’s not bloody Shakespeare” rating, but after writing this I dropped it down to two stars which is my “please don’t waste your time” rating.

This was book number 38 of 52 for 2017.

Inferno

InfernoInferno (The Divine Comedy #1) by Dante Alighieri, Anthony M. Esolen
Published by Modern Library on December 9th 2003
Pages: 490
Goodreads

Guided by the poet Virgil, Dante plunges to the very depths of Hell and embarks on his arduous journey towards God. Together they descend through the twenty-four circles of the underworld and encounter the tormented souls of the damned - from heretics and pagans to gluttons, criminals and seducers - who tell of their sad fates and predict events still to come in Dante's life. In this first part of his Divine Comedy, Dante fused satire and humour with intellect and soaring passion to create an immortal Christian allegory of mankind's search for self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.

I didn’t love this book or hate the book. I read it because it was available and I felt like I should have read it.

Probably the most interesting thing about this book was that it reminded me a ton of spending a week camping out in line to go into Britannia Manor in 1994- the personal residence of Richard Garriott.  Richard would host a haunted house and invite professional costume and set builders to come out. The experience was amazing and totally immersive and I’ve never been part of anything like it. Teams of four progressed through the house to find the Star of Palestine and save the Avatar. This story was a little from some of his video games and a lot from Dante’s Inferno. The house had a room of gluttons, imps running around the grounds, and a boatman. Really crazy stuff. For some pics and old video of the manor check out this super old page.

I didn’t give the book a star rating because who am I to rate a book that is still in print 700 years after being published. Dante you go boy!

This was book number 33 of 52 for 2017.

Dune Messiah

Dune MessiahDune Messiah (Dune Chronicles #2) by Frank Herbert
Published by Ace Books on July 15th 1987
Pages: 331
Goodreads
My Rating: three-stars

Dune Messiah continues the story of the man Muad'dib, heir to a power unimaginable, bringing to completion the centuries-old scheme to create a super-being."Brilliant...It is all that Dune was, and maybe a little bit more."--Galaxy Magazine

I read Dune in my teens and loved it. LOVED IT. I memorized Paul’s whole soliloquy “I must not fear, fear is the mind killer…” and really liked the planets as feudal houses makeup of the universe (literally). I adored the love story of Paul and Chani. Maybe this was the beginning of my attraction to strong willed women? who knows.

When I started this book I felt like I had read it before, but enough time has passed since my teens that it felt like a first reading. Re-entering the universe of The Spice Melange in book form was a welcome feeling. A re-watching of the Dune movie with my wife last year did not bring the same good feelings. It hasn’t aged well which is a shame.

*** Spoilers ahead you’ve been warned ***

This book picks up where the first one leaves off. Paul Atreides, or Muad’dib, has conquered Arrakis and the Empire. He’s reached god-like status and has an army of super killers. Given how omnipotent and omniscient Paul’s powers seem to make him as the super-being it is difficult to imagine any antagonist challenging his authority. Any possible plot against him should be seen coming a mile away and thwarted right? Or any that got too close would be quickly defeated by his super powers. That’s a tight corner for the author to paint himself out of.

The book weaves some political intrigue and “challenges of nation-building” into the plot that make it plausible. The threat from far-off turns out to be a reanimated Duncan Idaho who may or may not be an assassin, but is presented to Paul as a gift. Once that happened I kinda detached from the story and finished on auto-pilot.

I won’t be continuing with the series, but am glad I read this one.

This was book number 10 of 52 for 2017.

My Business Mastermind

I listen to the Fizzle Show podcast weekly and this summer they had an episode titled “How to Create a Fail-Proof Mastermind Group.” The episode has some great insight about some of the pitfalls that can happen with mastermind groups.

As a response to that episode I wanted to share my experience with masterminds.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Edible Herbs: 26 Herbs Everyone Should Grow and Enjoy

The Beginner’s Guide to Edible Herbs: 26 Herbs Everyone Should Grow and EnjoyThe Beginner's Guide to Edible Herbs: 26 Herbs Everyone Should Grow and Enjoy by Charles W.G. Smith, Edward C. Smith
on April 17th 2010
Pages: 145
Goodreads

Nothing tastes better than herbs fresh from the garden. Discover how easy and rewarding it is to grow your own! Simple instructions, tempting dishes, and beautiful full-color photographs will inspire you to grow, harvest, preserve, and cook with 26 of the most popular kitchen herbs, including basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and tarragon. Your pantry will soon be filled with seasoned salts, Provençal vinegar, and caraway cookies.

This was a quick read to learn more about herbs to help when choosing what to plant in our edible garden. Most of our herbs died during the hot summer when we went on vacation and they didn’t get watered. So it goes.

This was This was book number 9 of 52 for 2017.

Daemon

DaemonDaemon (Daemon, #1) by Daniel Suarez
on January 8th 2009
Pages: 432
Goodreads
My Rating: five-stars

Technology controls almost everything in our modern-day world, from remote entry on our cars to access to our homes, from the flight controls of our airplanes to the movements of the entire world economy. Thousands of autonomous computer programs, or daemons, make our networked world possible, running constantly in the background of our lives, trafficking e-mail, transferring money, and monitoring power grids. For the most part, daemons are benign, but the same can't always be said for the people who design them.
Matthew Sobol was a legendary computer game designer—the architect behind half-a-dozen popular online games. His premature death depressed both gamers and his company's stock price. But Sobol's fans aren't the only ones to note his passing. When his obituary is posted online, a previously dormant daemon activates, initiating a chain of events intended to unravel the fabric of our hyper-efficient, interconnected world. With Sobol's secrets buried along with him, and as new layers of his daemon are unleashed at every turn, it's up to an unlikely alliance to decipher his intricate plans and wrest the world from the grasp of a nameless, faceless enemy—or learn to live in a society in which we are no longer in control. . . .
Computer technology expert Daniel Suarez blends haunting high-tech realism with gripping suspense in an authentic, complex thriller in the tradition of Michael Crichton, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson.

I started this book about six times and each time put it down. It’s not that I was dis-interested in the book or it was bad, but I really wanted to enjoy it and have the brain space to dedicate to enjoying the book.

Now that I’ve finished it I’m glad I waited until I could focus on it!

I enjoy the type of thrillers and after getting a footing in the world after the main characters were introduced I really enjoyed how the multiple plot lines unfolded then intertwined.

** Spoilers ahead you’ve been warned **

I enjoy sci-fi for its visions of the future, of “what could be”, even if those visions aren’t pretty. Daemon takes very recent and future possible tech and uses it to weave it’s story. A friend called it “WOW in the real world” and it felt like it. The book came out in 2009 and some of the tech that would have seemed like a moon-shot back then now seems almost inevitable only eight years later. Specifically, the armada of self-driving cars that is used by the Daeomon to attack the government compound and protect Brian Gragg at the end of the book is probably possible today.

What doesn’t seem possible today is character Jon Ross’s ability to stay anonymous and hide his identity from government agencies.

This was book number 42 of 52 for 2017.

Modern Romance

by Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg
Published by Penguin Press

I read this book expecting it to be an extension of Ansari’s stand-up or some other form of comedy writing. I found the comedy that I looked for wrapped in a scholarly research program. Ansari teamed up with a sociologist to study, actually research, what it looks like to seek out love today. (Ansari starts the book explaining that due to cost and time limitations he constrained the research to a defined group of urban, heterosexuals.)

The findings of the social science was very interesting to a married guy with kids. The stories that were shared about online dating experiences sounded like a sequence from America’s Funniest Videos. I laughed several times while reading people’s dating stores. From reading this book I feel like I have some compassion and understanding of what it’s like to be in that dating scene which is very different from my dating experience.

I met my wife in 2002. We met in person. We dated and courted for 1.5 years. During that time we met in person, talked on the phone, and emailed each other often. Then we were married in 2003. This year we’ve been married 14 years. Ours isn’t a ‘modern’ romance as defined by this book, but it is a great romance.

 

This was book number 12 of 52 for 2017.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of LessEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Published by Crown Business on April 15th 2014
Pages: 260
Goodreads
My Rating: four-stars

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Are you often busy but not productive? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas? If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist. The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not  a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter. 
By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.
Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism  is a movement whose time has come.

The problem with writing a book review a few months after reading a book is that you’ve forgotten those initial thoughts you had after reading the book! This could also be a good test to see what really made an impact. This one is leaning to the “Woah I’ve forgotten what was in this book” direction.

I’ve been running a business for 10 years and am a sucker for any non-fiction business book that promises a way of doing things better. We also went through a season of reducing our “stuff” a few years ago (aided by a house fire, but that’s another story). We’re big fans of reducing down to the essential whether that’s in house possessions or the things we allow into our schedule.

I really enjoyed the book’s focus on the importance of sleep, choosing what you’re going to be about instead of letting things happen to you by saying “no”, and conscious editing. Some of the contents were things I already know, but the book was a worthwhile read for new things and some review.

This was book number 30 of 52 for 2017.

Change Agent

Change AgentChange Agent by Daniel Suarez
Published by Dutton Books on April 18th 2017
Pages: 416
Goodreads
My Rating: four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Daniel Suarez delivers an exhilarating sci-fi thriller exploring a potential future where CRISPR genetic editing allows the human species to control evolution itself.


On a crowded train platform, Interpol agent Kenneth Durand feels the sting of a needle— and his transformation begins. . . .    In 2045 Kenneth Durand leads Interpol’s most effective team against genetic crime, hunting down black market labs that perform "vanity edits" on human embryos for a price. These illegal procedures augment embryos in ways that are rapidly accelerating human evolution—preying on human-trafficking victims to experiment and advance their technology.   With the worlds of genetic crime and human trafficking converging, Durand and his fellow Interpol agents discover that one figure looms behind it all: Marcus Demang Wyckes, leader of a powerful and sophisticated cartel known as the Huli jing.   But the Huli jing have identified Durand, too. After being forcibly dosed with a radical new change agent, Durand wakes from a coma weeks later to find he’s been genetically transformed into someone else—his most wanted suspect: Wyckes.   Now a fugitive, pursued through the genetic underworld by his former colleagues and the police, Durand is determined to restore his original DNA by locating the source of the mysterious—and highly valuable—change agent. But Durand hasn’t anticipated just how difficult locating his enemy will be. With the technology to genetically edit the living, Wyckes and his Huli jing could be anyone and everyone—and they have plans to undermine identity itself.

I really enjoyed the first Suarez book I read (Kill Decision) so was excited when I saw this was published.

This book takes from the same playbook in that it is a near-future thriller where the author takes a current technology and extrapolates a possible future. The result is a fun ride through a tech fun house. This book tickles my tech taste bud, but also heaps on a helping of international locations as the main character is based in Singapore and travels through Southeast Asia.

This is a fun book read or something to listen to while doing house chores.

**Spoilers ahead you’ve been warned**

I hadn’t heard of CRISPR technology, but did some research on it after reading the book. I found a few articles and a TED talk about it. It looks cool, but boy howdy will it spur some heavy debate because of what it does. As with most technologies the application of the tool is more important than the tool itself. This tech could be used to make food that feeds a growing population, or, as in the book, as a camouflage technique for an international criminal syndicate. Who knows.

This was book number 29 of 52 for 2017.