Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reality Show by Howard Kurtz

Ever wonder what the major TV anchors like Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Dan Rather are like off camera?

Kurtz's book provides a good deal of insight into the backgrounds and passions of the network news anchors. With the possible exception of Dan Rather, just about all the anchors were portrayed favorably in this book. Brian Williams, in particular, comes off as an authentic, nice guy who is devoted to his job, co-workers and family.

This book is very well written and researched. It's a bit lengthy (434 pages) but there are very few dull spots so the reader is engaged from beginning to end.

The reader also gets an overview and history of the network news business at NBC, CBS and ABC. Plus there are a lot of stories about back office intrigue and politics to keep the reader entertained.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Write It When I'm Gone by Thomas M. DeFrank

The sub-title of this book is Remarkable Off the Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford.

My guess is that if you are not into recent history or the history of our Presidents that you may ignore this book.

However I was fascinated by ex President Ford's observations on Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Ford was more sympathetic to Nixon than most people. He felt that Nixon's biggest problems were the people around him. Ford particularly loathed John Dean.

Ford was not a fan of Ronald Reagan for political and personal reasons. Ford wanted to run against Jimmy Carter in 1980 and felt Reagan usurped his role in running for President. He also felt that Reagan was not intellectually up for the job.

Ford noticed that Bill Clinton had a wondering eye but admired his intellect and political skills.

DeFrank's book is an easy and interesting read about the candid feelings of Gerald Ford. His Presidency was short but Ford did restore integrity to the White House after Nixon and Watergate.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Now and Then by Robert Parker

This Spenser series novel was an easy read. Short chapters. Easy dialogue. Fast paced action. Some shoot-em-up and violence.

I usually finish a Spenser novel in a day or two. I knocked off this book in a few nights reading.

The book starts out like an episode of the TV series, Cheaters. Spenser is hired to follow a client's wife to see if she is fooling around. She is. She gets killed. The client is dead. Spenser cleans up the mess.

The villain does make the big mistake of targeting Susan as a means of intimidating Spenser. Big mistake!

The best feature of any Spenser novel is the dialogue among Spenser, Susan (his main squeeze), Hawk (his best friend and muscle) and any other allies and villains in the story.

I wonder why they don't have the old Spenser shows (with Robert Ulrich) on TV Land or A&E??

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Think Big and Kick Ass: In Business and Life by Donald Trump and Bill Zanker

I should start out by saying that I have not bought a book about or by Donald Trump. I have borrowed books about and by him from the library.

I have not found books "authored" by Mr. Trump to be informative or useful, particularly to my career or financial circumstances. I am not in his league or pedigree. (Very few people are...)

So when I picked up "Think Big and Kick Ass," I was not disappointed. I leafed through it in about 45 minutes. Trump's business advice escaped me. I can't relate to it, particularly now after 35 years of corporate life.

What amused me were his opinions on celebrities like Martha Stewart, Mark Cuban, Rosie O'Donnell etc. I give Trump points for his candid opinions on people.

I was particularly surprised at his comments on Carolyn Kepcher, who used to work for him and assisted him on the TV show, The Apprentice. I guess that relationship soured.

Trump is better on TV. He is a much better interviewee than author...

If you're looking for useful business or career advice, I'd pass on this book. If you like exploring the personality of "The Donald," you may find this book entertaining.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Race by Richard North Patterson

A white war hero Republican candidate for President? Dating a black actress who mirrors Halle Berry? Rejects the politics and support of evangelicals? Votes for stem cell research?? His closest confidante? A former black Secretary of State who seems a lot like Colin Powell.

You know this is a book of pure fiction but an interesting one.

Corey Grace is the Republican war hero who decides to run for President. You won't mistake Grace for George W. Bush or Mitt Romney. He does have similar family issues like Rudy Giuliani. (He is divorced and estranged from his teenage daughter).

Very good page turner. Excellent ending as I did not see that coming.

This book is much better entertainment than a Republican Presidential debate or a Fred Thompson stump speech.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Time, Time, Time, See What's Become of Me...

I read Stefan Klein's The Secret Pulse of Time: Making Sense of Life's Scarcest Commodity. I can tell you the book was not a waste of time. It offered some interesting perspectives from a number of disciplines plus some useful ideas on how one should spend and manage their time.

To save time, I did skip through certain sections of the book that did not catch my interest.

To be honest, it can take some time to read through the 277 pages of Klein's opus.

The best book I read concerning time and how to maximize it was Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I have kept a copy of that book in my personal library and frequently read parts of it that I have highlighted.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Bible by Karen Armstrong

I had looked forward to reading Armstrong's The Bible: A Biography when I heard it was about to be published. Armstrong has an excellent reputation as a religious scholar and writer.

I have a lot of questions regarding the writing and publication of The Bible that contains the new and old testaments. Armstrong seemed to possess the expertise and even handiness on such a controversial book.

However I don't think that too many of my questions got answered.

To be honest, it's very hard for any author to do any justice regarding a history or analysis of the original Bible in 229 pages.

I think what I read was a good outline for a future book. I found the book very dry and at times hard to follow.

Readers may find this book ponderous and slow. It reads like a textbook for a religion class.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Killing Rain by Barry Eisler

Is assassin, John Rain getting soft and sentimental?

Killing Rain is fourth in the series of John Rain novels. Rain botches an assassination and has the CIA and the Mossad gunning for him.

But fear not. Rain has his trusty partner, Dox covering his back and his squeeze (from Rain Storm) Delilah covering the rest of him.

Plenty of action. Great fight scenes. You'll read a more reflective and cerebral Rain as he battles various foes on a number of fronts.

On to The Last Assassin, the next book in the Rain series....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On God: An Uncommon Conversation by Norman Mailer with Michael Lennon

Norman Mailer died today.

So it's ironic that I finish his book on his thoughts about God, religion, the devil, the soul and the afterlife.

To be honest, I did not understand Mailer's God. Mailer's God is not all powerful, all good and all knowing. Mailer's God makes mistakes. Mailer says that God is "not a perfect engineer."

Mailer's God is one that I have never been introduced or read about.

Mailer believes in the devil and argues that the devil is almost as powerful as God.

In this book, I read what I considered some wise and thoughtful observations. However I also found much of this book to be more high brow than my intellectual capabilities and interests. Mailer does 0ffer some unusual thinking about souls, reincarnation and the afterlife.

Not an easy book to read or understand....

Friday, November 9, 2007

Innovate Like Edison by Gelb and Caldicott

If you read and enjoyed Gelb’s previous book How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci, you’ll like this book also. You’ll pick up some great advice and strategies that will help you think better, organize and plan your business more effectively and generate creative ideas.

I love ideas to help me become a better thinker and there are a large number of practical steps offered in this book that can help you in the business world and in your personal endeavors.

You'll also read a brief bio of Thomas Edison and see how he was successful in generating ideas and products.

Hint: Edison was a voracious reader and kept notebooks (just like DaVinci) to track his thoughts, ideas and experiences.

P.S. The authors offer a website for additional information. I checked it out and other than the main page plugging the book, the other links only indicated that "More Was Coming Soon." Very disappointing given the topic of the book.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar by Cathcart and Klein

The subtitle of this book is Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. I'm not sure my understanding of the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Hume and Descartes are clearer but I enjoyed many of the jokes in the book.

It is a novel approach. My Greek Philosophy and American Philosophy texts in college were not this interesting or fun.

Carry this book around and impress your friends!

Sharing Some Career Advice with My Friends

For those of us who may be experiencing some "job" uncertainty, I pass along this bit of wisdom from Seth Godin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Elephant and the Dragon by Robyn Meredith

If you listen to the President and many of those who are running for President, you're told to worry about Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Meredith's book suggests that we have two other countries to consider that while not militarily threatening are threats to our economy, jobs and growth. China and India can knock the United States off the shaky economic pedestal it stands.

This is a very readable book. It is not an economic primer.

There are plenty of great illustrative stories on how both China and India are poised for even more growth.

China and India are starting to clean our clocks with outsourcing. Their workers can handle most manufacturing and back office responsibilities as well as Americans can and for much cheaper!

Learn the policies and strategies that are competing very well against ours!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Breaking Back by James Blake

My favorite tennis players were Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert and Monica Seles.

The tennis player that I will pull for now is James Blake.

This book is about a tennis player. It's not an inside look at the professional tennis tour or a tell-all about the other players.

Breaking Back is a story about overcoming adversities including the death of a beloved father, a broken neck and a long bout with zoster. Zoster is a virus that can create paralysis. In Blake's case, it paralyzed part of his face.

Blake is not a pampered professional athlete. What comes across in this book is his devotion to his family, friends and fans. Through overcoming his adversities, he has has gained the right perspective about life. He knows what are the right priorities. Losing a match is not the worst thing that can happen to you.

A very easy book to read. Inspirational. If you need a jump start to stop feeling bad about yourself, read this book.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Paolantonio Report by Sal Paolantonio

The sub-title of this book is "The Most Overrated and Underrated Teams, Coaches and Moments in NFL History."

I like Paolantonio's reporting on the NFL as an ESPN analyst and when he does commentary on sports shows in the Philadelphia area.

Sal's book is well written and researched. He has the stats and numbers to back up his opinions, many of them controversial.

I agree with his opinions that Joe Namath was the most overrated QB of all time and that Bart Starr was the most underrated. He showed his Philadelphia "bias" in selecting Bill Bergey as the most underrated Linebacker of all time, followed by Jeremiah Trotter. Bergey's selection, I understand. Trotter seems like a huge reach.

I found out some things that shocked me. Jerry Kramer of the Packers is not in the Hall of Fame??

If you're a football fan, you'll enjoy this book.

Get your friends to read it and "let the debate begin."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Skimming Off the Top

My reading regimen mirrors my exercise regimen lately. I'm not putting much effort in either one and I discourage easily when I lack motivation or am unable to enjoy the experience.

I have skimmed through three books in the past week:

Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain's Potential by Richard Restak has been accurately described as a "personal trainer for the brain."It is a very good book for those looking to unleash their creativity or to move away from stale thinking. I found the book very practical and I intend to incorporate some of the suggested mental exercises into my daily routine. It's a short book and easy to read.

The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan is not a short book (505 pages) and parts of it are not easy to read. I skimmed through the book to read about his impressions of the various Presidents that he served. (He found Bill Clinton to be the smartest of them all.) Greenspan discusses a number of economic topics that I have no interest in reading at all.

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself byAlan Alda was dull. I read the first five chapters and could not get into the book at all. I was hoping to find Hawkeye Pierce and instead felt I was reading Franklin Pierce.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Funky Winkerbean Comic

When I read the comics, I'm looking for some levity, some laughs. I enjoy Dilbert and Doonesbury as I also get some very cogent political, business and cultural commentary.

One of the other comics I have viewed lately is Funky Winkerbean. I've been following the losing fight against breast cancer by one of its characters, Lisa Moore. Lisa is a young woman with a five year old daughter. Her husband, Les teaches school.

Lisa's character is scheduled to succumb to breast cancer in the October 4th strip.

Even though it's just a cartoon, one can imagine thousands of brave young women involved in the same fight.

The cartoonist Tom Batiuk has told this story poignantly, effectively without becoming too maudlin. Batiuk deserves "Cartoonist of the Year" for his public service.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rain Storm by Barry Eisler

One of my friends at work mentioned that Eisler gets better with each new book.

Rain Storm is the third book of the John Rain series. And this was a more compelling and exciting book than the previous two I read. Rain is a paid assassin with some scruples (no women, no kids).

Well researched. Great character development. Plenty of action and violence. The villains are deadly and many. Plus another lovely lady for Rain's charm. Much more thrilling than the usual spy fare on the shelves.

If you're a fan of the TV show 24, you'll love the John Rain series!

I can't wait to read Requiem for an Assassin next....

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush

Here are the good things about George W. Bush in Robert Draper's book. He is very athletic and fit. He loves his wife and daughters. He doesn't like to keep people waiting and insists on starting meetings on time. Despite popular perception, he reads books and may be more analytic and intelligent than he is currently portrayed.

Unfortunately the book also covers the not so good things about his Presidency and his judgment. The book largely revolves around Iraq and how the war was hugely mismanaged. Throw in the debacles of Harriet Miers for a Supreme Court nomination, the Hurricane Katrina fiasco, Alberto Gonzalez....well you get the idea.

Draper's book is a decent portrait of George Bush and how he has performed in his Presidency. If you're a "Bushie," you'll tend to dismiss it. If you are not a Bush supporter, nothing in this book will change your mind though I feel the author did not provide any additional ammunition for your distaste.

The book is 419 pages and it took me a week to read.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

From the Publisher:

"A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11.

For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives."

Very interesting book and theory. However at times, I found it very hard to understand what the author was saying or where he was leading me.

What I took out of it was a confirmation of my skepticism towards "experts", predictions, advice and what passes for knowledge.

I was thinking about some sports related black swans like the 1969 Mets, the 1980 U.S Hockey Team and the recent Appalachian State victory over Michigan in college football.

Taleb discusses black swan examples in religion, history, politics, business and philosophy.

A very deep book. Not a page turner. The book's theme challenges how you think, seek knowledge and experience the world.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh

Hanh's book was my moment of Zen (or Buddhism) for the Labor Day weekend. If you are not familiar with Buddhism or Far Eastern thought, this is a good book to read.

The focus of the book is on how you think and act now.

Hanh discusses the five spiritual powers of faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and insight. Hanh provides stories and anecedotes to explain his teachings.

A very good read for someone seeking meaning and perspective for their life.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

I viewed a number of very positive reviews and stories about this book prior to my reading it.

The story behind Suite Francaise is as compelling as the novel. Nemirovsky was rounded up and sent to a concentration camp in the midst of writing about occupied France in the early 1940's. She eventually died in the concentration camp. The handwritten manuscript of this book was found by her daughter about 50 years after the author's death.

The novel describes the personal turbulence, fear and disruption of routine French life caused by the invasion and occupation of France starting in 1940.

What struck me was the even handiness that Nemirovsky portrayed in describing the occupation. She did not make the German occupation forces to be monsters given her own precarious personal situation. This is an excellent war story not about soldiers and generals but about common people caught up in circumstances beyond their control.

Excellent reading for those that love a good story and for historians.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

No Excuses by Robert Shrum

If you are a daily diehard fan of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Tucker with Tucker Carlson and Countdown with Keith Olbermann or a devout political junkie then.....

You might enjoy No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (I love the sub-title) about Shrum's experiences running Presidential and other campaigns for Democratic candidates. Shrum had some Presidential campaign role dating back to George McGovern's run in 1972.

There are plenty of anecdotes about Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Shrum saves his praise for Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator John Kerry. Kennedy haters may be surprised about the Senator's decency and genuine interest in helping people, even at the expense of his political ambitions. Senator Kerry is also portrayed as an honorable man of integrity and intelligence. Someone who was very qualified and should have been elected President in 2004...

Shrum probably knows a lot more dirt than he writes about in this book. Shrum worked with John Edwards and seems to have mixed feelings about the North Carolina senator.

The book is very long (500 pages) and unless you are a total political junkie, may have a tough time slogging through all of it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One in four Adults Say They Read No Books

"One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Analysts attribute the listlessness to competition from the Internet and other media, the unsteady economy and a well-established industry with limited opportunities for expansion. "

Am I shocked? No. I'm not even mildly surprised. When I hear some of the business, political or religious views of some people, I realize they haven't cracked open a book or even read a newspaper.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Quickie by James Patterson

This book isn't my normal reading fare but I heard good things about it. It is a book that is hard to put down. I started and finished the book this weekend.

Consider this book as a "Fatal Attraction" story from the perspective of a wronged woman. I can see this book being converted to a Lifetime movie.

It starts out with a wife catching her husband accompanying a beautiful blonde into a hotel and moves quickly from there. Her desire for revenge backfires as events move quickly beyond her control. There are murder, mystery, and countless plot and story swerves to keep you thumbing quickly through the pages.

I couldn't guess the next swerve or anticipate the next change in the plot.

A great read for the beach or during a flight.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Want to Know How Business Really Works?

Check out this cartoon to find out how projects and problems are really handled in business.

I laughed out loud when I saw this. Most corporate types will tell you this is a familiar scenario in the business world.

Great instruction for all you MBA candidates.....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Watts New?

It's been awhile since I last read a book by Alan Watts. I read and enjoyed The Wisdom of Insecurity a few years ago. Watts was a writer, philosopher and an authority of comparative religion. Though his books were dated, he wrote in the 40's, 50's and 60's, his ideas are not.

I found his ideas on various topics like religion and happiness challenging and thought provoking. Listed below is one of the many paragraphs and sentences I underlined from The Wisdom of Insecurity.

"The more one studies attempted solutions in politics and economics, in art, philosophy and religion, the more one has the impression of extremely gifted people wearing out their ingenuity at the impossible and futile task of trying to get the water of life into neat and permanent packages."

Books written by Watts tend not to be easy reads. I was happy to receive a copy of The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. Again, not an easy read, but it offers direction and unique ideas about our identity, the meaning of life and human behavior.

My fundamental religious friends may find their ideas and beliefs challenged (but in a nice way, not like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins).

Good reading for those with a more spiritual perspective than formally religious....

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bonds of Decency

Clap. Clap. So Barry Bonds broke Henry Aaron’s career home run record. I thought the most appropriate gesture that fans should have offered Bonds is what Bud Selig did when Bonds hit 755. Selig simply stood with his hands in his pockets and averted his eyes from the field.

As you can tell, I’m not a Barry Bonds fan. I’m not a fan of Mark McGuire, Jose Canseco and Sammy Sosa either. My opinion of Bonds was largely formed when I read Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams a while ago. In fact, I can’t remember when I’ve read or heard anything positive about Bonds as a teammate or human being in any media.

Bonds is the current poster boy for bad athletes and that says something given recent competition from Pacman Jones, Michael Vick and Tim Donaghy.

If you want to read about a great man who was also a great ballplayer, read Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

NYT to Scrap Online Fee for Op-Ed Columnists?

According to an article in the New York Post, the New York Times is reconsidering its decision to charge online viewing of their op-ed columnists. I'd gladly welcome that decision as I think the writings and thoughts of Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Thomas Friedman are the best parts of the paper. I never understood the decision to charge to read a fee for online viewers particularly from the view of the writers. How did they benefit? In a time where major newspapers are suffering from declining subscriptions, this didn't make a lot of sense.

Locally the Philadelphia Inquirer and Courier Post are delivered to me. Monica Yant Kinney has written some very good articles in the Inquirer. I'm not thrilled about the quality of thought, content or writing in many sections of both papers.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Change Your Thoughts- Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

I bought Dr. Dyer's book but I could have saved myself about $20 by just watching his PBS special last weekend on the same topic. I got more from watching his PBS special than reading the book.

Dyer examines the teachings from Tao Te Ching, written by Lao-Tzu before the age of Confucius. Tao Te Ching is described by many as the wisest book ever written. Dyer attempts to update its ancient wisdom for our use today.

I find Dyer a compelling speaker. His PBS specials are usually worth listening to. However Dyer, the author, wrote a book that was too long (389 pages) and too abstract for me. I also did not relate to many of his "Do the Tao Now" exercises.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My Two Daily Must-Reads

I can skip the sports pages. I can skip the stock and weather news. I can even ignore the headlines on the front page.

However I won't skip my daily fill of Doonesbury and Dilbert.

Fifty years from now on, when historians are looking back at the political and cultural events from the 1970's through today, they can find no better authoritative guide in Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury cartoons.

And if you want to understand the absurdities of business and corporate life, there is no better resource than Scott Adams's Dilbert.

Each cartoon is usually dead on when ridiculing hypocrisy and puncturing government and business absurdities.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Why Do Men Prefer Blondes and Other Human Nature Questions

Best article that I have read this week. It comes from Psychology Today. One of the ten politically incorrect truths about human nature suggests that a man's midlife crisis is a result of their wives being middle-aged and at the end of their reproductive cycle. The middle age man then buys a fancy car to attract younger women. Hmm...

I can't say that I necessarily agree with all the ideas presented in the article (e.g. It's natural for male politicians to risk everything for an affair) but it was thought provoking.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Company by Max Barry

This business satire may be the best book I've enjoyed this summer. At minimum, it's the funniest.

Barry satirizes a company which has no customers or real business purpose. The CEO masquerades as a janitor. The receptionist is not who you think she is. The entire IT department gets fired. There are constant cliffhangers involving people and entire departments that are outsourced and fired.

You'll recognize similar people and situations that you can relate within your own company or business experience.

Bad bosses, greedy senior management, a creepy HR department, watercooler gossip and the complications from office romance are chronicled.

The book is very well written and moves fast...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Reagan Diaries Edited by Douglas Brinkley

I had a few hours to kill today so I skimmed through the 693 pages of The Reagan Diaries.

This is a good book if you want to know more about Ronald Reagan, the man, the husband, and the father. However it doesn't provide you great insight into Reagan, the President.

The reader will discover that Reagan obviously adored his wife and had a genuine good heart for friends and people he met that had needs.

You'll learn a bit about his White House schedule, who he met and maybe some brief capsules of conversations in those meetings.

My sense is that Reagan's diary entries were not unlike how he governed--not involved with a lot of detail.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Books of Great Personal Influence: Career

There were a number of books throughout my life that influenced me greatly. These books created change in how I acted, performed, thought or lived my life. I will list and describe their influence periodically in this blog.

The first book changed how I viewed my career and relationship with my job and employer.

The Way of the Ronin by Beverly Potter seemed ahead of its time when I read it in the early 90's. It wasn't a book aimed at employees who wanted to climb the corporate ladder or learn how to find security in their jobs.
Potter correctly pointed out there was no security working for a company. There necessarily wasn't security in what you did for a living either.
The book changed how I viewed my relationship with my job, my employer and the people I worked for. In my 30+ years of working, I had been downsized and fired five times. Today I view myself as a "hired gun" similar to how the ronin was perceived in feudal times.
I don't have a job; I have projects or assignments. I work "with" people, not "for" them.
Potter's book promoted my image as a "free agent" not an employee.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Best Damn Sports Books

It's been awhile since I read or looked forward to a sports related book.

Here's my list of books (many from distant memory) that I have enjoyed.

Almost anything by John Feinstein including:

* The Last Amateurs

* A March to Madness

* Season on the Brink

* Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL

Other excellent sports books that I have enjoyed:

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team and A Dream by HG Bissinger

Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer (I think this is one of the best sports books I have ever read. Kramer, a right guard for the Green Bay Packers provides a lot of insight into 1960's football and Coach Vince Lombardi).

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey C. Ward

The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx (This book was extremely influential in promoting running and jogging in the 70's)

The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty by Adrian Wojnarowski

Seven Days to Sunday by Eliot Asinof (Out of print- detailed a week in the season of the NY Giants under Allie Sherman long ago)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Where Have All The Leaders Gone by Lee Iacocca

I wasn't sure I would like this book. I borrowed it from the library as opposed to buying it.

It was very readable and I enjoyed (and mostly agreed) on Iacocca's rants on politics, business, retirement, Chrysler and other topics. He was preaching to the choir with this reader.

His business insights on leadership are what's most interesting. He obviously did not harbor any favor for his chosen successor at Chrysler. Iacocca does not sugar coat his criticism.

Iacocca isn't fond of the current Administration. Who is?

There is nothing earth shattering in the book. Iacocca is in his 80's and still has things to say.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Forced Reading: Books from Summers Past

The Spy by James Fennimore Cooper

The Hounds of the Baskerville by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

It's been about 40 years ago that I had to read those books as part of my summer reading for high school. The Spy, in particular, was a challenge. I think I read that 2 or 3 pages at a time. I don't remember too much about the stories. I remember the chore it was to read those books.

Somehow through all those books, I maintained my passion for reading. I see as I walk through the book stores that they have tables for summer reading lists. I hope the books for the summer reading lists are more inviting for a high school audience today than they were in my day (gulp 40 years ago).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker

This novel is part of the Spenser series. Spenser is a hardnosed Boston P.I. who with the help of his friend, Hawk, who is great with his fists and a gun, solves mysteries and handles problems for his clients.
I guess I have read about 10 of the Spenser books. They are an easy read. The stories move fast and the dialogue among Spenser, Hawk and Spenser's gal, Susan offers wit, humor and entertainment.
I'm not sure what purpose Susan plays in the series. It may be time for her to move on...
Spenser's fidelity to Susan has held him back from more interesting pursuits and plot lines.
Some readers will remember the Spenser For Hire TV show with Robert Ulrich as the detective.
I don't purchase the Spenser novels. I wait till my library gets them and borrow them. It's not classic literature but they are generally fun to read.

I was disappointed with the plot and the sudden ending to Hundred Dollar Baby. I hope for a better effort in the next Spenser book.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Books by Joshua Ferris and Bernard Goldberg

Two quick book reviews:

I tried to read Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. The reviews on the novel were very good and I looked forward to reading it. It deals with employees in an ad agency and how they deal with one another, particularly in a business downturn. I could not get into it. I read about the first twenty pages and then I came to the end of my interest in finishing it. Even with
over thirty years business experience, I could not relate to the employees, their actions or the company.

I skimmed Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right by Bernard Goldberg. This book is mostly a diatribe against the Left though Goldberg does take some shots against Republicans and supporters on the Right. My friends on the conservative side who read O'Reilly and Hannity will like it. What Goldberg has written, I hear on Fox all the time...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

The author who outsources a variety of business and personal tasks may be happy to find out that I bought and read his book on my own.

I liked it. He taught this "old dog" a few business tricks. Now I'm not saying that I can reduce my work week to four hours but he does offer some very good ideas on being more productive.

This book is more geared towards those entrepreneurial souls who are willing and capable of taking career and financial risks. So this book was a bit of a fantasy for this 50+ year old with a wife to support and retirement close by.

Ferriss recommends a rigid information diet. He suggests reading a fiction book before bed (and his book). He advises the reader to avoid daily newspapers (ask a waiter if anything big is occurring today) and news from the web, periodicals etc.

Ferriss does offer some very good tips on the following business issues that any employee or entrepreneur should consider:

* scheduling and attending meetings
* reviewing and responding to e-mails
*prioritizing tasks and projects
* time management
It's an easy read with plenty of anecdotes and lists of resources....

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hard Rain by Barry Eisler

Hard Rain by Barry Eisler was a great read and hard to put down.

I think I have definitely found my successor to the James Bond series written by Ian Fleming and Raymond Benson. John Rain is a harder edged assassin than Bond. There is plenty of action, swerves and intrigue. Rain's villains are as dangerous and formidable as 007 had to combat.

Bond had gadgets and weapons to fight the bad guys. Rain uses his head and martial arts. In this book, Rain combats a merciless killer named Murakami who is more dangerous and evil than Oddjob from Goldfinger.

I recently bought Eisler's third book in the John Rain series, Rain Storm that I look forward to reading.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

This was the first book I read by Child. Not too bad. A lot of action. Some swerves. Jack Reacher is not your conventional hero. He travels by bus. He eats at Denny's and dresses like a street person. But boy can he fight and handle a gun. He's joined by members of his old group in battling arms dealers and international terrorists.

There's even a love interest for Jack. Thankfully it's brief. Let the violence begin.

The villian(s) get their comeuppance in the end and how!

This is a very good beach book for guys.

Bob Atchick, a friend of mine, also recently read and enjoyed the book. Bob is an aficionado of mystery and spy stories.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Sopranos Finale

Imagine that you've been reading a mystery novel and when you get to the end of the book, the last two pages are ripped out that identified the killer, how the crime was committed and whether the killer gets justice.

You contact the author who says that he left enough clues for the reader and figures that the reader could use their imagination as to how the story should end.

That's how I felt about the Sopranos finale.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Alex's Lemonade Stand

I don't read children's books. But if I did, Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand by Liz, Jay and Alex Scott is what I would read.

Alex Scott was such a courageous little girl who fought and ultimately lost to cancer. Her story is an inspiration no matter how old you are. She lived a very short life but she contributed so much to the best of the human spirit.
Bravo to the Scotts for keeping Alex's dreams alive!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Blame It on The Sopranos

I struggled with two books this past week. I just could not get into them and each new page wasn't an invitation to enjoyment as much as it was a chore. Sometimes the books suck. Sometimes I'm not in the right frame of mind or receptive for reading.

I usually give an author 30-40 pages to hook me (maybe more if I bought the book).

I sped read Black Maps, a John March novel by Peter Spiegelman. March is a hard boiled NYC PI who is as comfortable using his fists as he is understanding the intricacies of the financial world where this case occurs. I wouldn't say this is an easy beach read as it slows in certain spots. The reader will get an education in financial services operations and practices as well as a good mystery story. I fast forwarded to the end of the book...

I hope to return to Buddha Is As Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living by Lama Surya Das. I just wasn't receptive to the Buddha's teachings this week...

I have to admit that I'm much more interested in seeing the finale of The Sopranos than I am in reading....

Saturday, June 2, 2007

An Un-Spun Review on Un-spun by Jackson and Jamieson

We can find "spin" everywhere. From our candidates and politicians chasing office. From advertisers wanting us to buy products and services. From our doctors in providing us a diagnosis. From our bosses in telling us why we can't get a raise or how the company is doing.

Un-Spun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson will help you translate and handle the various spins that you experience daily. This book provides the reader lessons in reasoning and critical thinking, particularly when reading an article, watching a debate or hearing anyone express an opinion.

The book is relatively short (185 pages) and easy to read. I finished it within three days.

Most of the book focuses on examples of political spin. The authors did a reasonable job of avoiding partisanship so Republicans and Democrats won't necessarily feel put upon or singled out.

My own bias is that the current Republican administration is awful at spin. Even if they told the truth, very few people would believe it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Eric Goes to the Library

I picked up three books from the library tonight that I am looking forward to reading:

un-Spun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Black Maps by Peter Spiegelman (I had read and enjoyed Death's Little Helpers by the author about a year or so ago)

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child (This book was recommended to me by a woman who noticed me skimming the pages and front flap)

I tried to avoid choosing books with topics in politics, religion and current events though un-Spun might be considered a politically related book.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Man in the Middle by Brian Haig

I generally do not read books that are 450 pages, particularly fiction. They require a commitment of time and interest that I usually lack.

However I really enjoyed Man in the Middle. Excellent story. It starts out as a murder mystery and then moves to a spy story. It offered political intrigue based on events that had or are continuing in Iraq. It also offered a unique perspective on the US involvement within that country. So I found the story informative, entertaining, and thought provoking.

The main character, Sean Drummond, a CIA agent, is sardonic, vulnerable, roguish, and incorruptible. He survives by his wit, not by his fists or any secret gadgets. If there is a movie version of the book, I think Bruce Willis can play his character very well.

Drummond finds a love interest and challenge in Bian Tran, a beautiful and mysterious Army Military Police Officer who is also involved in the case. I like Lucy Liu to play her character.

There are plenty of swerves. You'll need a scorecard to track the good guys and the bad guys. It's a great book for the beach...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reading My Mind

What I can and can’t claim about my life of reading...

*It hasn’t made me smarter, but it has satisfied my curiosity on various subjects

*I’m not sure how (or if) it has helped my career. I bet I have read more business books than my boss or my boss’s boss (probably combined) and yet they make 2-3x the money I make

*I may have developed more questions than answers from all my reading

*Though my reading did not substitute for my father when he died, it did provide me certain inspirations, models of conduct and literary role models in my formative years

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Reading and Book Buying Tastes

I won't pay more than $15 for a book that has less than 100 pages in it.

I rarely read books in business, politics, science and current events that were published more than three years ago. I like to read recently published books to stay on the cutting edge of knowledge and best practices.

I don't buy a book just because Oprah recommends it.

I rarely read fiction authored by women writers. I will gladly read non-fiction books by women authors.

I rarely read books "authored" by politicians and celebrities as most of them are dull and not really written by them anyway.

Friday, May 18, 2007

My One Minute Review on One Minute Manners

One Minute Manners by Ann Marie Sabath promises quick solutions to the most awkward situations you'll ever face at work including:

  • *Being unsure of how to address individuals higher in rank than you.

*Showing up for a meeting with your manager and clients only to realize that you are underdressed.

*Handling a person seated next to you on a flight who is talking your ear off while you want to relax

*Going out to lunch with someone who talks with food in their mouth

I think Ms. Saban's book is an adequate introduction to business protocol for recent grads and young people getting their feet wet in the business world. It doesn't take long to skim through the book. You can probably finish it while waiting for your flight in an airport. You'll be prepared how to handle a talkative neighbor, if you are unlucky to have one.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Saw It, Read It, Could Hardly Believe It

Fox News is sponsoring the Republican Presidential Candidates debate currently. As the candidates were introduced by Brit Hume, the candidate's religion was shown on the screen. Their religion???? Why????

How come their height and weight weren't listed???

Maybe this was a tribute to the recently departed Jerry Falwell.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

You can read the high brow New York Times review by Michael Kinsley or read what I have to say below....

First, if you are a devout Christian, Muslim, Catholic or Jew, you will not like this book. Hitchens is an equal opportunity oppponent of all religions. Avoid this book if you don't want to see your motives, critical reasoning, and beliefs attacked.

Hitchens finds arguments in history, science, politics and philosophy to refute religion.

Hitchens doesn't seek a knockout punch to win his argument. Instead he offers what he thinks are a large number of cuts to arguments and dogmas offered by religions now and in the past.

He doesn't just pick on the religious institutions. He offers criticism of religious icons such as Gandhi and Mother Teresa also.

Secularists and atheists have found their most effective spokesman....

I'm looking forward to reading or hearing the refutation of this book by God's chosen spokesperson...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oldies but Goodies 2

More mini-reviews of recently read books...

Politics Lost: How American Democracy was Trivialized by People Who Think You’re Stupid by Joe Klein The book is an excellent analysis of the Presidential elections since 1972. Klein featured a speech by RFK in Indianapolis the night of Martin Luther King’s death as one of the highlights of his political reporting. Kennedy spoke from the heart and showed great courage in speaking before a largely black audience without police protection. I was a great admirer of RFK and was devastated by his early death.

Killer Instinct by Joseph Finder is a fast and interesting fictional read concerning business intrigue and deception. It was a great story with an interesting ending and plenty of twists and turns in the plot. A page turner…

Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire by Morris Berman. The book answers the question posed by many of us right after 9/11, “Why do they hate us?” Berman discusses our foreign policy towards the Middle East and our obsession with oil, in particular. He views Bush as a puppet leader and a mediocre man with a mediocre mind. I doubt you will hear about this book on Rush Limbaugh’s show.

Rise and Fall of ECW by Thom Loverro. This book is an excellent history of the Extreme Championship Wrestling. This is one of the better books I have read on professional wrestling. Loverro benefited from the cooperation of Paul Heyman (ECW CEO) and a lot of the ECW wrestlers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

If you want to be more organized and more productive at work, read Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-Mail Overload by Mark Hurst. The book is much cheaper than a seminar on organizing your desk and computer files and probably a lot more informative.

I gleaned some great tips on accomplishing the following:

*Managing and organizing my e-mail inbox

*Labelling and identifying files, particularly work documents that I create, revise, distribute, and publish

*Storing work files

*Developing strategies for a "media diet" (controlling the amount of information I receive and read)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Oldies but Goodies

I was reviewing entries I wrote last year from a Journal I kept. Here are some books that I read, reviewed and recommend.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. A number of people told me it was better than The Da Vinci Code. It started a little slow but picked up dramatically from the middle of the story to the terrific ending.

Serpent on the Rock by Kurt Eichenwald. This tale covered the 80’s and early 90’s scandal at Prudential Securities. What fascinates me is how a large number of employees allowed themselves to be bullied and blackmailed into condoning and even promoting fraud on investors, mainly elderly. What also fascinates me is how a significant number of incompetents managed to get executive and leadership positions at Prudential.

Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O’Kelly. O’Kelly was the CEO at KPMG who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died within three and a half months of the announcement. The book was primarily about the art of dying though O’Kelly did offer some advice about how to live. O’Kelly did describe his goal of pursuing Perfect Moments and Perfect Days. For example, he described having a four hour dinner, good wine and conversation with friends as a perfect moment.

Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four by John Feinstein. Feinstein had a number of great anecdotes, particularly about coaches involved in the Final Four tournament. I enjoy Feinstein’s writing and story telling talents.

Friday, May 4, 2007

I Was Afraid of This....

Three Republican candidates for President (Brownback, Tancredo and Huckabee) raised their hands in response to the question, "Who doesn't believe in evolution?"

My response: Thank you for coming in for the interview, gentlemen....NEXT!!!!!"

These guys would be responsible for NASA??? weapons technology??? health care???? education??????

They are probably content with US students falling behind in science and math. Look how far these guys have failed in science!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Going on a Diet...a Media Diet

While reading Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload, by Mark Hurst, I was struck about his admonition to go on a diet, a media diet. (I will write a review of Mark’s book shortly.)

My craving for information has carried me to the extremes in media overload. I have two local papers delivered daily that I dutifully skim from front to back pages. I subscribe to and read three magazines weekly (Business Week, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News.) In addition, I will usually buy and read the following magazines:

Men’s Health
Best Life

I have about two dozen news and information websites on my Internet favorites that I view for current news on business, current events, sports, culture, books, politics, and assorted subjects of interest. I also have a list of about 20 blogs that I skim through on a routine basis.

I view segments of a number of news shows daily (Hardball, Tucker, Scarborough, Larry King, PTI and ESPN.) I consider shows on Fox as propaganda, not news, so I rarely watch them.

On top of all that, I knock off 1-2 books weekly….

I’m so busy collecting information that I’m not spending enough time to assimilate, analyze and use it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Banned from the Bedstand

Two books are getting a lot of publicity this week. I won't read either one.

At The Center of the Storm by former CIA director, George Tenet describes the role of the agency, particularly post 9/11. Tenet has been doing the talk show circuit defending what he did and said prior to the Iraq invasion. Enough of the juicy part of Tenet's book has been written on the web and in the blogs. Based on what I have heard from Tenet on the talk shows, the book is a CYA (cover your ass) attempt for his role in pushing the Iraq invasion. I'll pass on Tenet's literary apology.

By the way, four years ago today, George W. Bush landed on an aircraft carrier with a big sign announcing, "Mission Accomplished."

Silent Partner: A Memoir of My Marriage by Dina McGreevey recounts details of her marriage to former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey. This is the kind of story Oprah loves and she dutifully had Mrs. McGreevey on her show. I find the entire tale sordid and disgusting. No offense to Mrs. McGreevey, but people in NJ are sick of hearing about her husband. For the sake of her daughter, this was a book and a topic not writing.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Recommendation: Great Book for Grads!

You Inc. The Art of Selling Yourself by Harry Beckwith and Christine Clifford Beckwith offers well written and informative career and business advice. There are hundreds of books on career strategy and getting ahead in business. This book offers the best roadmap based on my 30+ years in the business world. The advice is based on reality, what really works and matters in business.
In fact, I wish I had followed one of the authors' sage advice concerning being a jack of all trades vs. a specialist.

The authors argues correctly," Try to appeal to thousands, and you will appear strongly to no one."

There are plenty of other maxims equally valid.

So if you are just starting out in the business or corporate world or are looking for some great business ideas, I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Borders vs. Barnes and Noble

Tale of the Tape (Receipts)......
No fee membership card: Advantage-Borders

Reader friendly website: Advantage- Barnes and Noble

Discount on hardcover books: Advantage: Barnes and Noble

Online newsletter: Advantage-Borders

Display of New Books: Advantage-Borders

Frequency of discount coupons- Advantage- Barnes and Noble

I enjoy shopping in both stores. Borders is a 100% better shopping experience in South Jersey than they were 2-3 years ago. Customer service and product knowledge between both retailers is basically a draw.

The slight advantage to Barnes and Noble is they have done a slightly better job in e-mailing me discount coupon offers of 15- 20% on top of the membership discounts.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cutting to the Chase

I'll cut to the chase regarding Cut to the Chase and 99 Other Rules to Liberate Yourself and Gain Back the Gift of Time by Stuart Levine.

Rule #1. If you're just starting out in the business world or you are a new manager, this book may be useful for you. If you've been in the business world for five years or more, very little in this book in terms of advice should surprise you and you may not find it particularly new or informative.

Levine offers the following tips to improve your career prospects:
  • Get in early and go home on time
  • Don't hide your passion
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Know what's being asked of you

If I borrowed this book from the library, I would not have been as disappointed. However I made a financial investment purchasing the book (hardcover price less store discount) and my return regarding knowledge and ideas was low.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

1960's Book Series Trivia

Anybody remember who wrote the Hardy Boy's series? Chip Hilton? Tom Swift? Frank Merriwell?

I loved reading those books. I could finish books in those series in less than two days when I was 9 or 10 years old. The characters in the book served as role models for this young boy whose father died when I was seven.

Those books spurred my love of reading that continues to this day.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Laying the Smackdown on Mick Foley

My cultural and reading tastes are rather eclectic. I would not readily admit to being a fan of professional wrestling.

The Hardcore Diaries by Mick Foley is the type of book that I would not buy but I'll take it out of the local library and read it.

Mick Foley is an icon in professional wrestling. In the ring, he terrorized opponents as Cactus Jack or Mankind. He was known for his very dangerous stunts and falls in the ring. He once lost part of an ear while wrestling as it got caught in the ring ropes.

Out of the ring, this book captures Foley, the family man and sensitive soul. As adept as he was with a closeline in the ring, he writes with a light touch including self deprecation and charming wit. This book is more a portrait of Mick Foley, the man as opposed to Mick Foley, the WWE wrestler and entertainer.

Unless you follow WWE wrestling or are already familiar with Mick Foley, you probably won't enjoy this book and you won't understand the inside jokes the author makes about his fellow wrestlers.

I haven't read a great or even very good book on pro wrestling or any of its performers. The worst book I read was written about Dusty Rhodes. (It had countless spelling and grammar errors). Even "rasslin" fans like good grammar.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Seth Is Best!

I am a big fan of Seth Godin, his books and his blog. His books and blog are well-written, witty and full of creative business ideas. His blog entries rarely disappoint. I get a lot of great ideas particularly in the areas of marketing, customer service and communications.

I recently read Free Prize Inside! The Next Big Marketing Idea. You can tell how well I enjoyed a book by how much I underlined passages to gain new information or ideas. The pages are coated with yellow underlinings.

He offers great advice for a wide business audience including executives, entrepreneurs, doctors, inventors, marketers and college students.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Pistol" Shoots an Air Ball

I was a big fan of "Pistol" Pete Maravich in my youth. I remember the game between LSU and Kentucky where he dueled with Dan Issel. The Pistol had a great game but LSU lost. I tried (miserably) to copy his shot and passing skills. I did wear floppy socks liked Pete did but it never helped my game. I think Pete is one of the three best "white" players I ever saw on the hardwoods.

So I looked forward to Mark Kriegel's Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich. While the book captured the demons and flaws that plagued Pete Maravich in his career and life, I never sensed that the author appreciated the Pistol's basketball genius or style, particularly in his days at LSU. I found the book very dark and joyless.

The book was like a 3 for 10 shooting night, OK but not spectacular....