Thursday, October 28, 2010

Art of Choosing
(Sheena Iyengar, 331pp)
Excellent tour of the research covered over the past 15 years by this generation's most interesting experimental psychologist. It's a tribute to Iyengar's penetrating curiosity that all of her work can be regaled as instances of choosing. The opening chapter is quite self-revelatory, and then, it felt as if each chapter was even better than the last. I was fascinated to learn (p106) that she "leadthe design and implementation of a new permanent feature of the MBA at Columbia, in which all entering students would receive 360-degree feedback... Over 90% of the students found significant discrepancies between how they saw themselves and how others interpreted their actions." Iyengar has crossed through many worlds, starting with the suddenly re-unified Germany during college, Kyoto during grad school, then on through worlds of food, finance and fashion.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Art of Game Design: A book of lenses
(Jesse Schell, 489pp)
Schell's talk on the Gamepocalypse, reprised for the Seminar of the Long Now foundation, was so eye-opening that I had to read his work. This book uses "lens" as a technical path to just throw in one damn thing after another, so long as it would help illuminate some aspect of playing or designing games. If you didn't already know this stuff, it would be a fine source for learning about it. But very little is original, so my attention was mostly snagged on what part of this fat book traces to the author's own ideas. The concept of "interest curve" (pp247ff) is worth knowing about, but even there, most of the observations are commonplace.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Take the Kids Paris & Disneyland Resort Paris
(Helen Truszkowski, 256pp)
I brought this, and found some very helpful tips (e.g., Paris' best tea house is at the Mosque, below the Jardins des Plantes). This could have been half the size, if I'd ripped and tossed the 2nd part, which is focused on Euro-Disney. Still, it fits in a backpack, and helped me find lots of enjoyable places to visit with my sons.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lonely Planet Italy

This was the one guide I brought. I didn't bother to use it for Venice, but I wasn't really trying to do anything in Venice except survive and wander around with my young sons. Since my base was Pordenone (for the Cinema Muto Festival), this guide tipped me to visit Udine (a nice little town with a very interesting center). I also relied on this guide when we went to Padua & Trieste. Though we were only barreling through Milan, the book gave me teaser descriptions of where I would have hurtled myself had I ended up with a spare hour.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

City of Falling Angels
(John Behrendt, punted after 2 hours)
I thought I'd re-read this, since I was visiting Venice for the 2nd time in my life, after my first trip (and reading of the book) 5 years ago. But I wasn't as intrigued. Another huge difference today: I traveled with twins, just under 4, and they demanded so much attention that used to be available to listen while wandering.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Rick Steves' best of Europe 2010
(Rick Steves, 1312 pages)
I skimmed the Venice and Paris chapters, since these great hits were my primary destinations. It's mean spirited (and blazingly obvious) to carp that Rick Steves is middle brow in his focus. He has some useful observations, esp'ly about how to economize via buying museum passes.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Access. Florence & Venice, plus * Tuscany and the Veneto.
(Richard Saul Wurman, 288pp)
Not terrifically eye-opening. There's weird features, claiming to provide encapsulations of insider perspectives, but none of the tips motivated me. Mostly, the capsules sounded more like bragging rather than inside information.