Monday, March 27, 2017

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters by Thomas Nichols

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It MattersThe Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters by Thomas M. Nichols
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe that we live in a "dumbed down" country. So Nichols's book just reinforces my current thinking. Politicians, business executives and just about every facet of our culture are steeped in ignorance, exaggerations, spins and lies. There was a period of time were most people would be shocked by lies or exaggerations spouted publicly. Not anymore! If one reads the comments sections from news blogs or social media sites, one questions the rationality of many of the writers. It seems that many Americans have lost the ability to filter truth from bull shit. There are some good insights in this book – – not sure people will find them surprising--- definitely worth a read.

Listed below are some insights from the book that attracted my attention:

"Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: no longer do we hold these truths to be self evident, we hold all truths to be self evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every
opinion on any subject is as good as any other."

"Not only do increasing numbers of laypeople lack basic knowledge, they reject fundamental rules of evidence and refuse to learn how to make a logical argument. In doing so, they risk throwing away centuries of accumulated knowledge and undermining the practices and habits that allow us to develop new knowledge."

"The most important of these intellectual capabilities, and the one most under attack in American universities, is critical thinking: the ability to examine new information and competing ideas dispassionately, logically, and without emotional or personal preconceptions."


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When the cheering stopped: The last years of Woodrow Wilson by Gene Smith

When the cheering stopped: The last years of Woodrow Wilson (Time reading program special edition)When the cheering stopped: The last years of Woodrow Wilson by Gene Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 What happens when a President becomes disabled and is unable to fulfill the responsibilities of his position? That was the dilemma in 1919 when Pres. Woodrow Wilson suffered a variety of health maladies including strokes and found himself bedridden and unable to perform his job. His wife and his doctor essentially carried out and managed Presidential duties. Ordinarily the Vice President steps in and carries out the presidential duties – – however Wilson's vice president had no interest in being president. A grumbling Congress and Cabinet offered little resistance.

What struck this reader was how implausible this scenario would have been today. Wilson would never have been able to stay in the White House given his health situation. Mrs. Wilson has been credited with actually being the first woman President as she made a number of policy and personnel decisions. And like Nancy Reagan, she strictly managed the President's schedule and travels.

Woodrow Wilson was obsessed with the creation of the League of Nations. Obsessed to the point where he sacrificed his own health and life. He even considered running for a third term despite his failing health. Interesting history – – very well researched.


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Unfinished Business: On and Off the Court With the 1990-91 Boston Celtics By Jack McCallum

Unfinished Business: On and Off the Court With the 1990-91 Boston CelticsUnfinished Business: On and Off the Court With the 1990-91 Boston Celtics by Jack McCallum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you ever wondered what it was like to play with Larry Bird or Kevin McHale this book will answer your questions. McCallum covers an "aging" Celtics team. Larry Bird is hampered with a chronic bad back. Kevin McHale suffers a number of injuries. This book also provides an insight into the coaching of Chris Ford and how he was able to motivate this team and earn their respect. What is even more interesting than the actual games on the court is the locker room and off court dialogue among the players. This book is enjoyable if you like basketball, particularly if you like the Boston Celtics. But it's also valuable for those who are interested in becoming coaches – – some great insights into building and managing a team – – particularly those with diverse personalities.


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Monday, February 27, 2017

Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi

Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 CircusInsane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 For me, this book was a modern day horror story. As someone who has lived through 16 presidential election cycles, I could never imagine the events and results that took place, many if not most, with the complicity of the American voter. Taibbi does not present a pretty picture of Donald Trump or many of his supporters. If you are a Trump supporter, this book will not interest you in the least…

From the Taibbi book..

"The country, in other words, was losing it. Our national politics was doomed because voters were no longer debating one another using a commonly accepted set of facts. There was no common narrative, except in the imagination of a daft political and media elite that had long ago lost touch with the general public.

What we had instead was a nation of reality shoppers, all shutting the blinds on the loathsome old common landscape to tinker with their own self tailored and in some cases highly paranoid recipes for salvation and/or revolution.

They voted in large numbers, but they were voting out of loathing, against enemies and against the system in general, not really for anybody. The elections had basically become a forum for organizing the hatreds of the population. "


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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Last Days of Night By Graham Moore

The Last Days of NightThe Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 I have been reading more historical fiction lately. If this was not the best book I have read in that genre, it was one of the best. The book centers around the legal battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse regarding the patents and use of the electric bulb. The story is told from the perspective of a young and inexperienced attorney who is George Westinghouse's advocate. It shows his struggles dealing with the egos and personalities involved with this case. And just to throw in another complication, young Paul Cravath, the attorney for Westinghouse, finds he has challenges outside the law with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who he falls in love with.

There was not a dull page in this book. The story moved along very quickly and the characters were very interesting, particularly the eccentric Nikola Tesla. There was also a surprise ending that I did not see coming. Just when you think you have all the answers – – the questions change…

I got this book from the library but it's well worth the investment to buy it. I look forward to reading other books by the author.


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Monday, January 30, 2017

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II JapanKilling the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O'Reilly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think a more appropriate title for the book is Killing the Rising Sun: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb On Japan. I think the authors made a good case that the dropping of the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was regrettable but necessary. The Japanese Government through its Emperor showed very little inclination to surrender even when its occupied islands (Okinawa, Iwo Jima) were invaded and recovered by the Allies.

The book also covers the atrocities committed by the Japanese on Chinese civilians and US prisoners of war. Documented are stories of heroism on both sides. The horrors inflicted on the citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are grimly told too.

There are far better history books about the end of the war against Japan but this is very readable and well written.


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Thursday, January 26, 2017

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western FrontAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 I read this book in high school and I have probably read it three or four times over the years. I've also viewed the movie based on the book probably a half a dozen times. It is a very depressing book about war, human nature and the slaughter of young men. Unlike today's combat, World War I was often fought hand-to-hand and in the trenches. The language and emotions in the book are simple yet profound.

Old men send young men to die. The reader follows the of Paul Baumer, a German university student turned soldier and views the carnage through his eyes. He sees his friends killed and wounded. He sees the worst in human nature. He becomes inured to the violence and carnage.

The feelings that I had reading this book 50 years ago are still with me today as I reread the story. Profound sadness. And less than 20 years after the end of World War I, Europe was engulfed in violence again.


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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Limehouse Text (Barker and Llewelyn #3) by Will Thomas

The Limehouse Text (Barker & Llewelyn, #3)The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Barker and Llewelyn series book that I have read. It mirrors the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and also takes place in turn of century London. Thomas does not write the book as "dry" as Arthur Conan Doyle." There is plenty of action and mayhem. Cyrus Barker is the "Holmes" copy but while he seems less cerebral, he is much more dangerous with his martial arts. Llewelyn has a past (prison and widower) that I may gather when I read earlier books from the series. There are a number of interesting characters who add to the mystery and action in the book.

Barker has been trying to solve the murder of his late assistant and there are a number of events that propel him into finding his murderer. The appearance of an ancient Chinese martial arts book provides danger and opportunity for Barker in his quest.

I look forward to reading additional stories in this series.


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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon ValleyChaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book about some interesting career choices. Martinez started off at Goldman Sachs on the East Coast. He moved West and worked in Silicon Valley. Most of the drama in his book centered around his efforts with two other men to start up a software business. He offered some interesting anecdotes about various venture capitalists and investors including Chris Sacca. it was a long book – – I skipped around sections that did not interest me. Martinez's personal life was a bit interesting – – he had two children with a woman nicknamed BritishTrader. He also offered some interesting insights into his stint at Facebook – – especially as it relates to its culture.

I've read a couple books on working in Silicon Valley. My personality and energies would never fit in with a Silicon Valley business--- sounds like working within a slave camp. I also would never have had the balls to try to start a business and beg for money. I give Martinez a lot of credit for how he pulled off starting his company.

I agree with some reviewers who thought the book could have been shorter and more condensed. Like I said, I skipped a lot of the book.


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide To Thriving In The Age of Acceleration by Tom Friedman

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide To Thriving In The Age of AccelerationsThank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide To Thriving In The Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Tom Friedman's articles in the New York Times and his observations and comments in various other media including the new shows. It took me a while to read the book ( 460 pages) but it was well worth my time and effort. What this book was about mostly was "change." Changes in technology, culture, climate change, politics and globalization have been overwhelming, particularly in the last 10 years. Friedman uses 2007 as a jumping off point for his review and observations regarding change. 2007 was the release of the iPhone and various other technology changes occurred during that year.

I particularly enjoyed Friedman's thoughts on careers and jobs. Young people must prove themselves to be very adaptable to change, market themselves effectively and pursue lifelong learning. A college or high school degree will not get you very far in today's business world or in the future.

In some ways I am envious. I have retired so I have no way of testing how well I would or will do in this type of accelerated change. This is a great book for young business oriented people and college graduates to read.

Regrettably I think that the election of 2016 proves that too many Americans are not adapting to change or the realities affecting their careers and life.


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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class PerformersTools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ferriss's book is a smorgasbord of ideas, strategies, philosophies and resources on how to live one's life. They were culled from a variety of business, entertainment, athletic and cultural leaders including Scott Adams, Kevin Costner, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Sam Harris, Tony Robbins, Chris Sacca, and Peter Thiel. This is not the type of book that you read from cover to cover but one that you sift and skim through for ideas and thoughts that interest you. The book is over 670 pages and I found about three quarters of it to be interesting even for an older reader like myself who does not really rely on career and business advice like he used to.

I judge the value of a book like this by how much I highlighted it and took notes. I can tell you that I did a lot of both. I highly recommend this book for individuals who are just starting their careers or are considering starting their own business.

Very good information and ideas resource to start 2017.


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