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.