Death by Meeting is a surprisingly corny yet compelling book on how to run more effective meetings. It’s a business book couched in a terribly written narrative and yet I fell for one of the book’s premises - that an engaging story will keep readers hooked.
The TL;DR version of the book is basically - instead of having a long two hour weekly meeting, break it up into different meetings by type, such as a daily scrum, weekly tactical, monthly strategic and quarterly offsite meetings.
But, as you can imagine, doling out that piece of advice isn’t very profitable, so author Patrick Lencioni disguises it as the story of a fictional gaming software company that needs to shake up their meetings after they are acquired by a larger gaming software company. The villain of the story is one JT Harrison, who never says much but strikes fear into the heart of Casey, the founder of the smaller company. To the rescue is his good friend’s son Will. With Will’s guidance, the supporting cast of business unit managers change the corporate culture to impress JT Harrison and thwart any plans to fully absorb the company. If this sounds all incredibly dumb, it is. I read the short chapters (some are just two pages) right to the end, all to find out if Casey and Will can save the day. There’s a twist to the ending, which one might guess because...
Will’s educational and work background is in advertising, marketing and filmmaking. He happens to become employed at Casey’s company because he needs a break from school. Surprise! A maternity leave presents the perfect opportunity. Will uses his savvy to observe the terrible weekly meetings and institute change.
The corniness of this book made me roll my eyes so much that I thought they would fall out of my head! I used to work in web development and I don’t feel the portrayal of the software company to be very unrealistic. A company where everyone gets along so perfectly that they have to create conflict? Where they accept an outsider’s suggestions so easily? Haha, hahahaha! Truly, the fictional software company, Yip, is a figment of Hollywood imagination much like those perfectly beautiful homes in movies. But, I do have to give Patrick Leoncioni credit for creativity and trying to make a buck at it! The sticker on this book was $26.99 Canadian.
Oddly enough, the most offensive thing about the book is making light of Will's mental health issues - it seemed odd that it was included at all. For example, he goes off his medication and it's during that period that he can tell his boss that the company meetings suck, then he promises to go back on his medication. It really sounded like Will's criticism had to be justified somehow? I'm not really sure what the point of that was.
If you are looking for a practical book on leadership and organizational culture, this is not it. I imagine a fair number of readers would consider the book a complete waste of time for the little amount of information it contains.
I finished reading Fight Club recently for the first time. We saw the movie for the first time years ago and I was always amazed I never read the book or saw the movie when I was younger. They are such 90s artifacts and 20 year old me would have been all over them back in the day!
Some part of me can still relate to both, however. Since I left working at the public library all my jobs have been office jobs and they all came with their own sense of boredom, sitting too much and staring at a computer too much. Right now I identify with the nameless narrator's insomnia. Middle age insomnia is totally a thing and I wouldn't be surprised if I spawned my own Tyler Durden one of these days. The themes of loneliness and alienation are universal and somehow I found none of the violence shocking.
The book and movie compliment each other well - the movie ending is better, I think - so I couldn't say that one was better than the other. The movie gets some of the abstract stuff across and it's gritty textures coloured the book for me.
Lerman’s sense of humor has been compared to that of Philip Roth (who is three years her senior), but in God’s Ear the humor also employs the traditional Jewish irony and Eastern European Jewish folklore of Isaac Bashevis Singer, especially his short stories. Most of Lerman’s Hasidic folktales in God’s Ear are too long to quote, but the following paragraph gives a taste of her wit:
“Totte, you hear about the old Jew who walked into the SS recruiting office before the war? He comes in half-blind, crippled, palsied. He goes up to the Nazi recruiter and says, ‘I just came in to tell you, on me you shouldn’t count.’” -- from my review of God's Ear by Rhoda Lerman in New York Journal of Books
Throughout the book one can’t help admiring Assadi’s handsome prose, such as this excerpt from a page long paragraph:
“Sometimes I cannot locate any one night as if my life in New York were but a flood of nights. An eternal room of empty wine bottles, ashtrays overflowing, the maze of screeching trains, Laura at the window, Dylan and his parties, filled with fur and cocaine and moderate celebrity, and the cab rides home, the drunken swipes of credit cards with fifteen-dollar balances behind drivers whose faces I never remembered come morning, dinners with Laura alone, Thai food, not finishing our plates, ordering more to drink, someone at the piano, someone holding the guitar, strumming chords, singing songs, concerts in the beginning, neon flashing, rich acquaintances in Soho lofts, next stop Williamsburgh, living in the dark, living in the night, making it through the day only to afford the night.” -- from my review of Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi in New York Journal of Books
About ten years ago I started reading a lot of business type books. I don't know if it had to do with turning 30 or that there was just a wave of popular business books around that time that were accessible to average people. Think books like Freakonomics.
I decided to start reading through our little book collection at work because I haven't read anything in ages, I love new ideas and it started to bring some relief to my work day. I really enjoyed Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Some of the concepts were not new to me because of all the change management blah blah blah thrown at me over the years during buyouts and re-orgs. What makes Switch so amazing is the warm, encouraging and conversational tone that the Heaths bring to the book. It's a very empowering tactic, especially as they profile everyday people trying to make their workplace safer or improve student relationships.
Change is hard. People don't like change. That much is obvious! The brothers lay out a framework that we're all Elephants being goaded by Riders on a Path. This gets a little tiresome, but the gist is that the Rider is controlling, easily exhausted and can be too analytical. The Elephant is big, strong and guided by emotion. Obviously the Path is the road to change. The book is broken up into short sections in three parts detailing each concept. When all three ideas are aligned, magical change happens :)
The book has so many a-ha moments. You can find a great summary here. Barriers to change include end goals which lack clarity, a lack of direction, focusing on the wrong problem, lack of appeal to emotion and asks that are too big. Loads of anecdotes about how ordinary people influenced change are the huge strength of the book although if you are looking for concrete directions, this isn't the book for you. Basically the authors offer suggestions because of course there is no one size fits all solution.
I highly recommend this book - it's great for one's personal life along with work life too.
Hi peeps, I'm kind of curious about essential oils and I was wondering if anyone could suggest a practical book on how to use them. I'm mostly look for a book that is low on woo and doesn't make any oddball or miracle health claims.
"At first glance Israeli novelist David Grossman’s new novel, A Horse Walks into a Bar, which as the title suggests recounts a stand-up comedian’s performance one evening at a night club in the coastal city Netanya, appears to be a complete change in tone and direction from his previous two fiction books To the End of the Land and Falling Out of Time (the latter reviewed on NYJB), emotionally heavy works that either indirectly or directly deal with parental grief.
"But initial appearances can be deceiving, and though the new novel is seasoned with jokes it is a serious work that addresses emotional pain as a source of all art, even a genre as coarse and vulgar as stand-up comedy." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books
"Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s (One Night, Markovitch) second novel Waking Lions starts as a moral drama in its first 14 chapters and becomes a suspenseful crime thriller in its final 11. Its strength lies in its third person narration’s shifting perspectives that develop its characters’ backstories and dramatic situations in the first part and its page turning pacing in the second part, in which the novel’s unanswered questions are resolved." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books
"With its universal themes of healing, recovery, creativity, and finding one’s vocation The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping should engage the wide readership Appelfeld’s prose deserves. Readers may want to buy extra copies and donate them to VA hospitals." -- from my review inNew York Journal of Books.
Every now and then I find this book on my book shelf and every time it feels like the moment I found it at the bookstore back in 2009. This sturdy, pocket sized manual is many things - how to book, pattern book and a peek into people's lives and hobbies from the pages of Popular Mechanics. In some ways it's not a proper "craft book" as the patterns are quite small, but the ideas are often sound. As with many vintage craft and recipe books, the materials may have been renamed or are not as readily available today. You might have guessed that there is a "boy edition" but I'd be willing to bet that it is as gender neutral as this book.
I was surprised to see that the text invited girls to saw and craft with their parents help. The variety of crafts, toys and games is pretty astounding and I wish my parents had been more the maker type to build a few things from this book like the basement golf course or weaving loom. From braiding to mold casting, doll houses to a full size backyard merry go round, I can only imagine how many hours of fun these plans provided.
Hey I can do book reviews, promos, and giveaways at http://www.weeditty.wordpress.com so if you have (or know of anybody who has) a book to promote, hop on over and have a look or contact me directly at mruttleysz at gmail dot com!
Wow, I have not read a book in ages! I just couldn't get started on any books I already had, so I downloaded some Mary Roberts Rinehart titles from Project Gutenberg.
The Case of Jennie Brice was quick to read, but I sense that it was also quickly written. It felt like it wasn't a cohesive story but more like a collection of events with a few pieces forgotten :) But, I also suspect that Rinehart took "write what you know" to heart and just added a murder or two. In this case , busybody landlady Mrs. Pittman suddenly finds herself intrigued with the possible murder of one of her tenants during Pittsburgh's flood season. I had no idea flooding was so bad back then.
Rinehart launches into great detail about life when your main floor is flooded, including tying up a boat to your banister! Suspicion is cast everywhere but mainly on Jennie's husband. While the police search for Jennie, who might be still alive, a subplot involving Mrs. Pittman's niece and her beau unfolds.
I decided to clear some books out and try my luck at the second hand store for a buck or two - and decided to let go of a little square book by Annette Blaugrund, The Essential John James Audubon. Like many pre-Internet book purchases, this one was a must have for all the colour pictures. The amount of text is very small and is about Wikipedia article sized in length. Audubon's famous pictures are definitely what this book is about! I'm hoping I didn't pay the suggested $18.95 for this book, but I'm sure it can find a new home with another bird lover.
"Bae’s prose alternates between detailed descriptions of everyday life and ruminative passages on music, ideas, and her character’s mental state. The late American poet William Matthews once described his taste in literature as a preference for prosy poetry and poetic prose. A Greater Music exemplifies the latter category; it requires and amply rewards rereading." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books
"On the surface the new novel is about feminism and the right of women to choose not to bear children. But an underlying theme is whether liberal nationalism is an oxymoron, whether the rights of the individual (the essence of liberalism) can be reconciled with the needs of the nation." -- from my New York Journal of Books review of The Extra by Abraham B. Yehoshua. For an excerpt from the novel see my examiner article.
"Max’s Diamonds, Jay Greenfield’s debut novel published last week by New York publisher Chickadee Prince Books, is a guilty pleasure, a book I enjoyed and could barely put down for its suspenseful serpentine plot despite its pedestrian and occasionally heavy-handed prose." -- From my examiner article. Also see my New York Journal of Books review, which concludes "with Max's Diamonds readers are rewarded with a fun and absorbing read whose fortuitous May publication date makes it a felicitous beach or airplane book."
I put off reading this epic novel for years, because I didn't think I would enjoy it. It turned out, I was very wrong - after a slow start, I found myself enjoying it a lot and caring immensely for its three main characters, Jean Valjean, Cossette and Marius.
Jean Valjean is introduced as a petty criminal, and at the start of his storyline, he is (to his amazement) given shelter by a bishop, after most of the town has shunned him because of his criminal tendencies. Although he seems like he should not be a sympathetic character, he immediately becomes a loveable rogue, even when - unable to suppress his kleptomaniac tendencies - he steals the Bishop's silverware. He ends up as a character who seems to be trying to prove that he is no longer a criminal, and can be seen as a valued member of society, although he has to constantly change his identity. Every time that he seems to have vanished completely, he shows up again, and on some occasions I didn't realise a new character was in fact Jean Valjean again until the book made it really obvious.
At the start of her story, Cossette ends up being sent away to a cruel foster family, headed by the main antagonist, Thenardier. His treatment of her is one of the most heartbreaking parts of the story, particularly the portrayal of how Thenarier's daughters are spoiled, and won't even let Cossette play with their dolls.
This book is very long, and is partially padded out by diversions from the author, who sets the scene largely through essays regarding the real-life events and places that influence the plot line, from the Napoleonic wars, to the Parisian sewer system (actually more interesting than it sounds). Victor Hugo also takes a somewhat roundabout way of introducing characters; the entire first chapter is about the Bishop who takes in Jean Valjean, describing his entire life; the bishop only appears right at the start. Likewise, to introduce Cossette, the book first of all includes a chapter about four female characters who arrive in town, one of whom is Fantine, later Cossette's mother. Later in the book, Thenardier saves the life of a soldier, who later on turns out to be Marius' father.
Although the breaks in the narrative got a bit annoying at times, I found that when the main plot was moving forward, it was actually very enjoyable, very exciting at times (mostly seeing Jean Valjean escaping the clutches of his erstwhile nemesis, Javert, who starts off as a dislikeable character, before ending up as someone who I felt surprisingly sympathetic for). There were a lot of bits that were very sad, and moving, particularly towards the book's denouement.
Overall, I was glad I did take the trouble to read this novel, and may well give the musical and/or the recent movie a go as well.
In my New York Journal of Books review of Youval Shimoni's A Room I write: "A Room is strongly recommended to readers of post-modern and experimental fiction who enjoy stream of consciousness narratives and who are willing to delve deeper than a thin plot’s surface level."
"Looking for a brainy yet breezy novel that addresses gender, race, and class issues with levity and has a happy ending? Try Nell Zink’s Mislaid, her second published novel following her critically well-received debut The Wallcreeper in 2014." -- from my New York Journal of Books book review: Mislaid: A Novel by Nell Zink
William Makepeace Thackeray's darkly comic novel is mostly about the anti-heroine Becky Sharp and her efforts to climb the social ladder. Becky is very different from most female lead characters in classic novels in that she really is quite selfish, and I got the impression at times that she wasn't meant to be a likeable character. The book also revolves around various other characters, such as Amelia, Captain Dobbin and the vile Marquis of Steyne.
Most of my knowledge of the book came from the 1998 BBC adaptation, and I found the book quite hard going at times, mostly because it was a bit long-winded, with a lot of long sections without dialogue. However, I found myself liking Thackeray's quirky writing style, particularly the way that he constantly addresses the reader. While sometimes it was hard to engage with what was happening, some of the chapters were very enjoyable, particularly the vivid portrayal of the battle of Waterloo.
The book was a mixture of comedy, romance and tragedy, and it seemed to get a good balance between the three. It is quite a long book, but at the end I was satisfied and glad that I had kept going with it.
In my New York Journal of Books review I praise Perec’s first novel as “a fully realized and mature work of fiction.” For a fuller discussion of Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere read my New York Journal of Books review
Portrait of a Man (The Condottiero) by Antonello da Messina (1475,Venice, Italy), Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up is an account of the 2000 murder of 21-year-old British national Lucie Blackman, who had been working as a hostess in the Roppongi area of Tokyo when she disappeared. I got this one on audiobook, on a two-for-one sale I believe, and figured a true-crime book would be a respite from my mega-depressing listen at the time, Douglas A. Blackmon's Slavery by Another Name. Not by much, as it turned out.
Despite the disturbing subject matter, People Who Eat Darkness is a well-written and enjoyable book. Parry brings his subjects out in wonderful detail without sensationalizing or stereotyping. He depicts Lucie Blackman as a full human being who had a life outside of the way it ended, with family and friends who are also complex people in their own right. The author also does a good job with the social nuances including the complexities of the hostess' trade and the proceedings of Japanese law enforcement.
The book was also refreshingly free of victim-blaming and moralizing--it was easy to see why Lucie Blackman's family gave Parry the kind of access that made much of the book possible. I admire the exhaustive research, balanced morality, and skilled writing that went into Darkness, and I am glad to have read it. It certainly gave me a lot to think about.
"Alexis Landau’s cinematically descriptive, character-driven debut novel explores ethnic identity via an intermarried family in WWI and Weimar era Germany, i.e. before anti-Semitism became official state policy legally codifying ethnic definitions." -- frommy New York Journal of Books review in which I praise the book as “handsomely written” as well as a “powerful and compelling novel.” My additional remarks and excerpts from the book appear in examiner.com.
“...recommended to readers who enjoy interior prose and psychological literary fiction.” -- from my review of Five Selves by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein in New York Journal of Books. My additional remarks and excerpts from the book appear in examiner.com.
I'm re-reading Mockingjay before I rent the movie. I think I know when to stop reading, where part one of the movie ends. Can someone who has seen the movie confirm for me when it ends. Don't worry about spoiling, I already know the story.
This is a book that I was keen to read for a while after I read about it.
To explain this one, I have to give some background, regarding the character of Professor James Moriarty, regarded as the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. For the benefit of any Sherlock Holmes newbies who might wish to read the books without being spoiled, I'll put this behind a spoiler cut, although what it reveals is quite well known. This is just a fail safe to make sure I don't get complaints.
When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes books, he decided to kill off his main character in a story called "The Final Problem". This story introduced Professor Moriarty, and ended with the apparent death of Holmes, plunging down the Reichenbach Falls in a struggle with Moriarty.
Following the public outcry, Doyle eventually resurrected Holmes, with the story "The Empty House". This book fills in some of the gap between the two adventures.
The story is certainly set within the canon of the Sherlock Holmes novels, only here the main characters are Frederick Chase and Athelnay Jones. Moriarty is apparently dead, which might make it seem strange that the book is named after him (you'll have to wait and see - it all becomes clear).
Following the discovery of a body believed to be that of Moriarty, Chase and Jones are required to track down a new criminal mastermind, who is now replacing Moriarty in his arch-villain role.
Right from the start, I found this book to be gripping, with sharp dialogue and well-rounded characters. I enjoyed the writing style, told in first person by Chase, and it gives a good sense of his personality right from the start. It also made the story feel very true to the original stories, which were mostly narrated in first person by Doctor Watson.
I enjoy reading any story of Sherlock Holmes, including versions by modern-day writers (Stephen King has also written a Sherlock short story, "The Doctor's Case"), and I loved the way that Anthony Horowitz made reference to other stories in the series (word of warning: there are a lot of spoilery references to "The Sign of Four"). I also loved the gritty way that London in the 1800s was portrayed.
I also loved the fact that, when it looked like things could go nowhere, the ending took me completely by surprise and also felt completely right and satisfying. It really is something you won't see coming.
The main story was followed up by a short story narrated by Doctor Watson, involving him and Holmes, which was loosely connected to the main story, and felt just as authentic.
Overall, I loved this book and now want to read Horowitz's Sherlock novel, "The House of Silk".
"There are books that make us feel intensely and others that make us think deeply; one that does both is Gail Hareven’s opalescent and psychologically complex eleventh novel Lies, First Person (in the original Hebrew Hashkarim Ha’aharonim Shel Hagoof which literally translates as The Body’s Last Lies), which is only the second (The Confessions of Noa Weber) of her 13 books for adults to be published in English in Dalya Bilu’s fine translation." - From my New York Journal of Books review
"Lies, First Person, Gail Hareven’s second novel to be translated into English (the eleventh of her thirteen adult books published in Hebrew), which is published today by Open Letter Books, is both an emotionally compelling narrative and a novel of ideas. Its characters find different ways of coping with the emotional aftermath of an unreported and unpunished crime, and the novel invites its readers to consider such questions as the nature of evil and the justification of vengeance and retribution." - From my examiner.com article
“The Betrayers succeeds by combining thought provoking ethical dilemmas with dramatic tension in an engaging prose style and is enthusiastically recommended.” - from my New York Journal of Books review(which includes spoilers). For additional remarks, excerpts, and an exploration of the novel as a roman a clef see my examiner article.
I was keen to read this book shortly after watching the second season of Game of Thrones, which is based on it.
Ned Stark and his fate are something that we are constantly reminded of throughout the book, and at times I thought maybe this was referenced a bit too much, although it The title of this book comes from the main plot regarding the number of claimants to the iron throne of Westeros, following on from the first book:
[Spoiler for the first book] In A Game of Thrones, King Robert Baratheon died, and asked his hand, Ned Stark, to be king until the heir, the obnoxious Prince Joffrey, was old enough to be king. Joffrey had other ideas, and became king anyway, having Ned Stark executed. made sense for the story to look at the effect his death had on his widow, Catelyn Stark.
So, in this book, there is a sense that a large confrontation is going to take place, and that leads to the book’s climactic battle of Blackwater Bay, which described in vivid detail.
Like with the previous book, the story does not actually have a lot of fantasy elements, with the story focussing mainly on politics, which sets this apart from other fantasy series. The only supernatural elements here are Danaerys Targarean’s dragons and a chapter involving a supernatural shadow (and a mention of a ghost later on).
The one thing I noticed a lot more than with the first book, was that the TV series took some artistic license, mostly with the order of events, presumably for dramatic reasons and finding the best way to translate it into a ten-part serial.
In particular, I noticed that there wasn’t as much of Danaerys as I had expected, and that she hardly appeared in the first half of the book, whereas she seemed to take up a significant part of the TV show. Her dragons seemed to be less significant than they were on the show too, and her storyline (which doesn’t really seem to connect much with the others at this stage) seemed a bit harder to follow; the sequence where she enters the mysterious tower near to the end actually seemed a lot darker than it appeared on screen.
As for the other stories, I remember there was a good storyline towards the end involving Jon Snow and one of the Wildlings, which the TV series made a lot more of than it is portrayed in the book. I particularly enjoyed the sections involving Arya Stark, who spends her time pretending to be a boy and who ends up serving Tywin Lannister in Harrenhal.
Overall, I thought this book was an enjoyable sequel, which made me want to keep reading the series (as well as watching the TV show), despite the usual grittiness and unflinchingly violent scenes that make George R.R. Martin’s work a lot more adult in nature than other fantasy books I have read. The book has a good way of hinting at things that are to come, with references to “the dead walking” and one mention of the phrase, “White Walkers”. I noticed the concept of “Wargs” introduced here, which I initially found confusing, mainly because in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, a Warg is a wolf-like creature; I did find out from the DVD special features that this means a person who can spiritually inhabit the body of an animal, and from what I’ve seen of the third season so far, they play a greater part further on in the series.
One other thing I noticed was that compared to the TV series, the ending seemed a bit abrupt; it is actually a good chapter, following on from atrocities committed by the psychotic Theon Greyjoy, but I was expecting it to have the same ending as Season 2 of Game of Thrones, which was absolutely epic, and chilling. I am assuming this was more creative license on the part of the TV show, and that this was in fact from the next book: A Storm of Swords Part One: Steel and Snow.
"Stephanie Feldman’s debut novel The Angel of Losses, which was published last week by New York-based HarperCollins imprint Ecco Press, is a welcome addition to the Jewishfantasy fiction genre." --examiner.com
In my New York Journal of Books review of the novel I write, “The Angel of Losses is recommended to nerdy (in the best sense of the word) secular Jewish and philo-Semitic readers whose genre interests include the confluence of contemporary and fantasy fiction.”