Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top 8 Books of 2014

 Hi readers:

With the exception of maybe two books, you won't find the books on my list on any other major publisher or book review list.  All the books are nonfiction.  Some of these books were published prior to 2014. I have not listed the books in any particular order of preference.

I confess that as I get older ( I am now 62),  I find it harder and harder to be wowed  by a particular book. I don't have the same patience  with sitting down and focusing on a book for an hour or more that I did 10 years or more ago. Largely I blame that on the Internet and the lure of a quick  intellectual or entertaining fix when it comes to reading.

Here is my top 8 nonfiction books for 2014. Enjoy!

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
This book covers the relationship, sometimes acrimonious, but between William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. I find Roosevelt to be an interesting character on his own. I was not aware of the Taft legacy or details around his presidency. This is a long book but it's very interesting from the beginning to the end. Taft and  Roosevelt were political giants in the beginning of the 20th century. Even though Taft and Roosevelt had their political differences, the debate was largely civil and in the end, each man respected the other, genuinely.

The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Heads of Basketball's Best Players by Idan Ravin
 If you like basketball, you'll really like this book. Some very interesting observations about many of the players today including Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and others. The observations are not just based on what happens on the court but how the respective athletes handle things off the court particularly in terms of training and how they approach the game.

Living in More than One World:  How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life by Bruce Rosenstein and Frances Hesselbein
This was an interesting portrait of Peter Drucker, "the father of modern management." I enjoy reading stories of "Renaissance men." Drucker was a man of diverse interests, including business, literature, music and art.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents,  Two  Parties, and the  Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Todd Purdum
This is an excellent book about the people, personalities and politics around the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Though Presidents Kennedy and Johnson have received most of the credit for the passage of this bill from historians, there was incredible effort from senators Hubert Humphrey and Everett Dirksen to get this bill through Congress. This book should be part of every black history class in high school and college.

Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman
I am not a Lakers fan but I really enjoyed this book about the team that played in the 1980s. Some fascinating stories and portraits of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Lakers coach Pat Riley, owner Jerry Buss and others. This book was very interesting because it not only captured what happened on the court but some of the interesting activities off the court, particularly when it came to women and parties.

What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios that Keeps Scientists Up at Night by John Brockman
 I enjoy thinking out-of-the-box. This book provides a variety of experts in different fields and their observations about what we really should be worried about. Many are very surprising as they cover scenarios  in science, politics, culture and  technology. You will be informed. You will be entertained.  You will be surprised at some of the hidden threats that we may be facing.

The Billionaire's Apprentice: The  Rise of the Indian American  Elite and the  Fall of the Galleon  Hedge  Fund by Anita Raghavan
 This story about a major business scandal and insider trading reads like a novel.  Business people with the best of intentions caught up in greed and scandal.

 This book has generally received excellent reviews and is well-deserved.  It's an interesting biography,  an exciting spy yarn and very compelling history.  Ames was a CIA a operative with assignments all over the world but in particular the Middle East.  How Ames performs his responsibilities and his interactions with major political and intelligence figures makes for compelling reading. The lessons from this book in regards to Middle Eastern politics and how we deal with the various interest groups is very applicable today.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Smartest Thing I've Read About Work

From the The Friendly Anarchist Website....
"Work is a scam. It’s a forty-year sentence to wage slavery. Who would sign up for that? It turns out, almost everyone.
Belief in the twin lies that “the devil makes work for idle hands” and “work will set you free” is maintaining a terrible status quo, gradually destroying the natural habitats of the world’s diverse and abundant life forms, and trapping the well-meaning majority of us humans into lives of stale drudgery.
If you’re unlucky enough to have a job, you’ll know that work takes up all of your time: when you’re not actually at work, you’re probably travelling to or from work, preparing for work, or recovering from work. Quite often, you find yourself dreaming of work, only to be interrupted by the alarm clock waking you up to go back to work.
Your home–historically a safe haven for relaxation, husbandry and merriment–is reduced to a fuelling station for work. Work, work, work. Would it not be wonderful if we were no longer expected to go to work?...
The reason that the vast majority of us go to work is to make money to pay the rent (on property built on once-common land, no less) and to pay for material goods we’re told are needed for a good life. We do not work because we enjoy it and we do not work because it is virtuous, though maybe some of us have convinced ourselves to vaguely believe in a combination of the two.
Any semblance of dignity or craftsmanship has been bashed out of today’s work by the division of labour, by technology that allows anyone to do anything regardless of their abilities, and by the new consumer economy which preys upon our weakness and fatigue after work, and fills us with insatiable desire. There is no dignity in working for a supermarket or in an office or in a call centre. There is no dignity in finding conniving new ways of selling junk to your fellow human beings.
The majority do not work to grow food or heal the sick or push the envelope of what humanity is capable of. (We will always need farmers, nurses, and scientists and we should reward them better than we do). The majority now are dissatisfied wage slaves, conned or forced into doing what we do so that we can pump wealth back into the system, further feed the obese rich, and have cell phones and cars and cable television and all the rest of the grubby things that help to perpetuate our malaise."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Living in More than One World by Bruce Rosenstein

My takeaways from this book:

“The answer is to spread out your time and talents on more than one activity, and to live and work among different groups of people, so that you are not overly reliant on any one thing for your happiness, sense of worth, and so on.”

“The effective people I know,” Drucker said, “simply discipline themselves to have enough time for thinking.”

“The more worlds you inhabit, the more networking opportunities you have”

“Diverse interests contribute to being well rounded and make you a more interesting person. They stimulate your creativity, which nourishes and enriches all areas of your life”

“Drucker integrated his outside interests into the fabric of his life. His love of reading, his extensive travels, and the study of history, literature, music, art, philosophy, and religion were expressed in his writing and his teaching.”

“Being really good at something—providing a high-quality service or product—has to be at the core of what you do, backed by a solid set of personal values.”

“Microsoft’s Bill Gates has made profitable use of what he calls “think weeks,” when he goes away for reading, reflection, and planning. The point is to have time built into your schedule to get away from work to think deeply about where you have been and where you are going.”

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Should We be Worried about? By John Brockman

Sooner or later bye intent or by accident we will face a catastrophic breakdown of the Internet. Yet we have no plan B in place to reboot a rudimentary, low bandwidth  emergency communication network if the high-bandwidth system we've come to depend on fails.
George Dyson

I know that my own perception of time has been changed by technology. If I go from using a fast computer or web connection to using even a slightly slower one, processes that just take a second or two longer seem almost intolerably slow.... Because our experience of time is so important to our experience of life, it strikes me that these kinds of technology induced changes in our perceptions can have broad consequences
Nicholas G. Carr

If we have 1 million photos, we tend to value each one less then if we only had 10. The Internet forces a general devaluation of the written word, a global deflation  in the average words values on many axes. As each word tends to get less reading time and attention to be worth less money at the consumer end, it naturally tends to absorb less writing time and editorial attention on the production side.... But it any rate, the Internet drivel factor can't be good and is almost certain to grow in importance as the world fills gradually with people who have spent their whole lives glued to their iToys.
David Gelernter

We should worry about losing lust as the guiding principle for the reproduction of our species. Attempts to manage reproduction through biotechnologies and screenings of eggs, sperm, partners and embryos will interfere with the lust dominated process.
Tor Norretranders

We have nothing to worry about but worry itself.
Virginia Heffernan

Don't worry about the end of the universe or the earth falling into a galactic black hole. But if banks leverage to the hilt again, then you should worry about hearing another big sucking sound.
Seth Lloyd

I've given up worrying. I merely float on a tsunami of acceptance of anything life throws at me and marvel stupidly.

Terry Gilliam

If the population of less educated, religiously conservative individuals increases and continues to vote as they have been voting, funding for education and scientific research is also likely to decrease. A less educated population could contribute not only to an upward shift in population size but also to a downward economic spiral... A higher performing intellectual class is also associated with better developed and freer economic and political institutions... According to my colleagues from other countries, the American educational system has an unimpressive reputation through the university level but is regarded as the top of the heap when it comes to training at the highest level...
Douglas Kenrick

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Resonating Quotes and Ideas

Money is poor compensation for all the time we lose in making it.

The serenity that often comes with age consists primarily of the realization that we can’t do much about anything anyway.

The art of writing is the art of knowing what to leave out.

The fox knows many tricks; the hedgehog one good one. Archilochus

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." Victor Frankl

It’s simple: if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it. Richard A. Friedman

"The boldness of middle-aged seducers shouldn't be mistaken for confidence; it's just an increased fear of death." Alain de Botton

"The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading in order to write." Samuel Johnson