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.