Monday, December 05, 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
(David Sedaris, 3 hours)
Light, not fluffy, but still fun to fool about with.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pedro Almodóvar Masters of Cinema
(Thomas Sotinel, 104pp)
I loved early Almodovar, and this little book taught me much I'd not known of his life, starting back to his La Mancha roots, with a father who worked as a mule driver. I lived in Madrid when he was making La Movida, but I totally missed out on this scene until I came back to live in Boston, and fell into the thrall of Matador & Law of Desire. After Women on the Verge, which most consider his breakout, I lost my affection for him.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Steve Jobs
(Walter Isaacson, 24:55)
Necessary to read, but the writing is only at the snuff of a first draft. Occasional infelicities (a weird metaphor using pirouette, e.g.) drove home that Isaacson rushed this out. The raw material is of great interest, even though it's clear that Jobs is not a template for anyone else to emulate. Perhaps it's relevant if you are a handsome, clever sociopath who successfully vampires the talent of an engineering prodigy, enabling you to kickstart a revolution as torrential as the PC industry. Once that's accomplished, consider starting a NeXT-like hardware company to educate you more deeply about supply chains and object-oriented software. Flirt with becoming a movie mogul by picking up Pixar. Typically, Isaacson's account of how Jobs managed to get ownership from George Lucas is less interesting than other stories I've read. Notwithstanding the book's unhindered access to Jobs' personal life, readers will get very little sense of how he related to others as friends, as a husband, as a father, or even as a boss. Very little texture gets captured, even when the stories brim with incident. As one final proof of the book's slipshod construction, Jobs is reported to have had a girlfriend named Jennifer Egan, who argued with him that his Buddhist beliefs conflicted with his devotion to crafting objects of such covetable allure. Isaacson never mentions that this is the same Ms. Egan, at a much earlier stage of her life, who went on to win a Pulitzer for A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 4-Hour Body
(Tim Ferriss, 592pp - read about 350)
This is a big book, about how to bulk up, slim down, & then, because you'll still be hideously deformed by soulless ambition, you can also bone up on inflicting orgasms on women to bribe them to be objects in your life. In spite of Ferriss's psychopathy, narcissism, and near humorlessness, the robot sure can munge up a boatload of information. Although it is too fat to hide behind a respectable brown wrapper, I did sneak peek through much of the book. There's lots of ideas, and surely some of them are not rubbish.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It chooses you
(Miranda July, 224pp)
As a performance art project, running around LA interviewing people selling their junk does make the social scientist inside me think, "Why didn't I think of that?" It's a pleasure to meet these people, through the gaze of Miranda July, whose prose offers so many charms and insights. The only reviewer on Amazon remarked on the way this book is a complement to her current film, The Future. I'm not convinced that it's necessary to know the film, although anyone who enjoys the sorts of things that Miranda July confects would not be wise to deny themselves the pleasure of seeing the film AND reading the book. The New Yorker excerpted several of these stories, which can be read as a pretty strong shot of support for seeing the words as capable of standing on their own. I bought this book on pre-order, but it took a while to find time to read it. Ms. July's power, for me, is her capacity to speak so openly about the fragile hopes and awkward moments of quavering inspiration. Snarky poseurs often peg her as "twee", but to me, she's straight up painfully authentic. In this book, she openly discusses her own creative process, in terms of the angst and self-doubt that share mind space with her bounty of ideas. I hadn't realized she recorded CDs until she offhandedly mentioned getting to know a shoe repairman (who was the model for the main character in her first feature film), to whom she gave a copy of 10 Million Hours A Mile.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

(Tibor & Maira Kalman, 224pp)
What a wonderful whirl. The photos are almost entirely stock, and there's next to nothing but pictures gleefully arranged to show the brio with which humans adorn themselves. Many of the most fascinating turn out to be from PG (Papua New Guinea), but there's delightful shots of people in all phases of life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sacred Treasure: The Cairo Genizah
(Mark Glickman, 8:21)
A fascinating trove of documents, championed by Solomon Shechter after he was exposed to them in the late 1890s. This book is rather pedestrian in its exposition, and although I learned things, I was never once excited by the way ideas and history were framed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inside the Apple: A streetwise history of NYC
(Michelle & James Nevius, 384pp)
A very enjoyable way to catch snippets of NYC history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Marriage Plot
(Jeffrey Eugenides, 1st chapter)
Meh. Double meh.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Better Angels of Our Nature
(Steven Pinker, 37+ hours)
Amazingly powerful thesis, demonstrated with great taste and power. I am relaxing a little about the fate of the world, now that Pinker's argued so clearly for embracing the process of civilizing impulses.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

What investors really want : discover what drives investor behavior and make smarter financial decisions
(Meir Statman, 286pp)
A pretty good tour of the literature of behavioral finance. Statman's very clear about the non-financial reasons people get involved in investing. Not nearly as indispensable as Poundstone's Priceless -- I just tried to link to my review of that book, but discovered it was never written up. Priceless was very interesting, full of details that I'd not known before. This book is better organized, but not as penetrating.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quantum Man
(Lawrence Krauss, 9:32)
Great, gritty, detailed account of Feynman's physics. Instead of elaborating the tales that Feynman himself spun, Krauss discusses how hard he worked, how devoted he was to building up physics in his own style, and how frequently his informal approach caused him to stop once he understood an idea, even though it ended up being another physicist that proved his hunch. At the same time, there's several people who criticize Feynman for being so addicted to being original that he ended up being marginalized. It's a great pleasure just to hear of how his mind wended through the years. (I hadn't realized that his sister also was a physicist.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the Plex
(Steven Levy, 19:58)
Levy had amazing access, and I've wanted to read this since he spoke at the Hillside about this right when it came out in April. The most interesting secrets unveiled: 1- Details on the scanning mechanism used in the Google books; apparently, their scanners use 3 lenses, so that the books needn't be flattened. 2- The intrigue behind the years Google spent in China, and their retreat upon being hacked by some arm of the Chinese government. 3- The revelation that neither Brin nor Page are gifted programmers. 4- The effort that Google has invested in building their data centers. Throughout, the record of their innovation (delivering great search results, granting gmail users 25GB of disk space, experimenting with open source Android & Chrome, trying to slay the orphan copyright gremlins) is a testament to the incredible intelligence of the founders. Some aspects of the Googly organization are not documented, e.g., whether Marissa Mayer's reign as the good witch Glenda of UX was in fact a distortion in the power structure. She was clearly a major source for Levy, and in the audible version, the book ends with an interview between Levy and Mayer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Practically painless English
(Sally Foster Wallace, 128pp)
This is a basic grammar exercise book, written by the mom of DFW. It's pretty sad. What kind of person wants to teach grammar? The kind of pedant who insists that you should never say "ain't." Oy. This sells for about $100 used on Amazon, for DFW groupies. It encapsulates the worst part of DFW's nerdy need to over-explain.

Monday, October 24, 2011

60 Stories
(Donald Barthelme, 16:46)
I first listened to this 2 years ago, but I honestly could listen to this over and over. His stories repay endless attention and would surely be among my desert island library.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The sacred sites bible : the definitive guide to spiritual places
(Anthony Taylor, 400pp)
This does not live up to its title. One of the most holy spaces I've ever directly experienced was Kyoto's Zen garden Ginkakuji. Other places that amazed me, but aren't listed here: the Bahai Temple in Wilmette (the book only lists one Bahai temple), and Maybeck's Christian Science Church in Berkeley. Listed, but probably only for purposes of political correctness, are sites like the Vatican & the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. I did admire the book's ability to let you travel from an armchair, and its method of organization is cogent and helpful. The photos from Tibet and Australia do transport the viewer to another realm.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Game over : how Nintendo zapped an American Industry, captured your dollars, and enslaved your children
(David Sheff, 445pp)
I just skimmed this, but it's a little too dated to draw me in. The book was written when Japan was still an economic threat, and Steve Jobs was just a one-shot wonder. Nolan Bushnell streaks through as a maniac, but the rest of the story didn't compel me to read it in depth.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

(Salman Rushdie, 7:39)
Loved this. It reminded me of Grimus, the fantasy novel that was Rushdie's first. Great fun, whimsy, and an understated erudition. I don't recall loving Haroun, it's older brother prequel, as much. Maybe I'm just at the right stage to appreciate the genre of weaving mesmerizing stories for children.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Creative space : urban homes of artists and innovators
(Francesca Gavin, 256pp)
Nothing of exquisite interest. The book was cobbled together via the author's social network, and bops from London to Berlin to Tokyo and such places. No eye opening spaces that inspire or even incite envy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts on design
(Paul Rand, 95pp)
This was recommended by an interaction designer at the CCAC. But I found every design so ugly I couldn't believe how dated and irritating the examples were. I'm not a Randian, even of this design sort.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Intelligent Investor
(Graham, 2:45)
Not worth scanning, in this abridged version, which dates to the mid-1970s. The book may be a classic, but when cut down to conclusions w/o the technical details of how the famous search for fundamentals works, it's too thin to feed on.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Old Jews Telling Jokes
(Sam Hoffman with Eric Spiegelman, 240pp)
Better than the website, because it's much easier to skim. I mainly jumped toward the punchlines. I loved "Two Beggars in Rome" (p37) Also, Mom's Cooking (p135), 3 Old Jews (p199)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Driving on the Rim
(Thomas McGuane, 2 out of 12:44)
Not the best of McGuane's work, but since it was read to me, for me, without me doing much effort, I gave this a spin. But the plot elements felt too tenuous to persist.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to shoot video that doesn't suck
(Steve Stockman, 256pp)
No way can I recommend this. It's all about staging and crafting an edited video, when what I wanted was an explanation of how to shoot spontaneous footage that will look more interesting. I just watched the video trailer on Amazon, and I'm making the head-smacking gesure right this second, because the 3 minute clip is more useful and engaging than the book was. The tips I wanted were highlighted in the video, when I found the book's tone and writing so off-putting that the message didn't sink in.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas
(Rebecca Solnit, skimmed around but couldn't possess in totality)
Love this book, and then, upon poking around, realized how many of Ms. Solnit's books are treasures of the highest order. I've read some of "A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster," and scanned "A Field Guide to Getting Lost." The SF Atlas is chock full of fascinating lenses on the city, and although she corralled others to write some of the chapters, it is a hugely fascinating work. Alas, it was called home to the library before I could finish it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad
(Jennifer Egan, 5 hours out of 10)
Left me cold, and it took forever to get past the opening, about a klepto confessing to her shrink her lack of agency over the way she steals from friends and casual sex partners. I tried again, and did find the thread on the soul-less record producer a tad more involving, particularly when it spun back to the Mab Gardens in SF in the proto-punk '80s. But really, I'm no hipster zombie, and I just could not care about any of the people heaped up in this book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where's My Jetpack?
(Daniel Wilson, 3:41)
Fun, quick tour of the nostalgia for the past's version of the future. Fine writing, about an interesting jumble of topics.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The End of Overeating
(David Kessler, 7:00)
Appetizing is a technical term, as I learned here, for any food whose consumption leads to an increase in appetite. Paradoxically (but not really), listening to this book on how to regulate the power of food unleashed a real binge of hunger for me. Good ideas, but nothing profoundly original. Still, like Weight Watchers, it would help if the ideas were pursued.

Monday, September 05, 2011

(Dubner & Levitt, 7:04)
It took 2 years for this to reach me. This book is more annoying than its earlier version, and it's not just because they touched the third rail on climate by plumping for geo-engineering. The advocacy for ideas fostered by patent troll Nathan Myhrvold's ideas exposes how their contrarian approach leads to trayf proposals. I can't get mad about their interest in escorts' earnings, but I also don't find that their need for oppositional thinking leads to great insight.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wild Horses, Wild Dreams
(Lindy Hough, 301pp)
I bought this after falling into the long unpublished essay written by her husband, Richard Grossinger, on his very complex patrimony. Reading this book of poems was just a way to triangulate into the mysterious/moist/beckoning body of work of Lindy Hough's daughter, Miranda July. Miss July's emotionally raw, searching work, delicately expressed via maximally twee situations, is distinct from her father's open anxiety & energy, as it is also unlike her mother's light demotic poetry.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Anton Chekhov - A life
(Donald Rayfield, paused after 2 hours)
Interesting to find out that Chekhov's bad grades would have barred him from ever working for Google. The remote world of tsarist Russia is explored inside the tortured family dynamics of Anton. I could imagine reading the whole of this very long biography, but it just seems too weird to spend more time on an author's biography than I have yet to spend on his oeuvre.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Nick Tosches reader
(Nick Tosches, 500pp, only skimmed)
Potent and interesting writer. The encounter he has with George Jones fascinated, and his reporting uncovers just how Klans-people inhabit the twon George grew up in. I didn't have time to read enough of this. I have an APB out on his "Country: The Twisted Roots Of Rock 'n' Roll."

Monday, August 22, 2011

RadioLab podcasts
(Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich, 40+ hours)
I feel as if I can celebrate a siyyum, as I've just made it through the back log of RadioLab podcasts. The approach these guys take is often immensely rewarding, even when they're speaking on topics I'm familiar with. Favorites include: Words, Parasites, Stochasticity, The Ring and I, Stress.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Stuff of Thought
(Steven Pinker, 9:36)
Phenomenally lucid exposition of how language matters, and how the language of thought can be seen through cognitive science. Loved Pinker's description of Google as being in the business of selling noun phrases, and his wry observation that plurals appear to cost more than singular nouns. The book opens with the legal wrangling over the insurance of the World Trade Center, and the $3.5 billion question whether the attacks were one or two events. Every page shimmers with intelligence (and not nearly as jokey as his earlier compendium, How the Mind Works.) There's even an inscribed love note to his current partner, Rebecca Goldstein, when he mentions asking his new friend the meaning of "sidereal."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alice in Wonderland
(Lewis Carroll, read by Cory Doctorow)
Great fun, and a boon from the gift economy that Cory Doctorow participates in. He does a fine job narrating, and even sings the Lobster Quadrille.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pale King
(DFW, just read the end notes)
I carry no brief for the most prolix and self-indulgent of authors, one who I've continuously attended to, but whose verbal tics have repeatedly repelled me. I find it revealing that Jonathan Franzen, his best friend, believes that DFW killed himself at least partially as a career move. There was almost no chance I'd want to read a sustained instantiation of boredom. What I did enjoy were the notes on architecting the book, the little scribbles that could not themselves be spackled into a novelish editorial feat. In the notes to himself, DFW reveals a little more humanely the aims and plans he harbored.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Confidence Man
(Herman Melville, 11 hours, stopped at 9)
This Librivox recording got me much further than I ever reached with the book on paper. The concept of a multifaceted faker has some rich veins, but it's also an oddment. The reader, mb, by the way, is quite gifted at conveying the hysteria and near panic in the text.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio
(Bob Dylan)
I've now listened to the first 30 of these, and there's so many ahead. It's quite surprising to learn how much he esteems Western Swing. Every episode is full of interesting angles, and it's a pleasure to discover that he's renewed his contract to churn out more. Bob Dylan could make these shows for the next 20 years, and not exhaust his profound knowledge of the wellsprings of music.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

San Francisco Then & Now
(Eric Kos, 144pp)
Interesting, although the pictures don't usually evoke a sense of surprise at the disparity. Even when it's clearly the same horizon and landscape, the change over time presents two different worlds, rather than making it seem as if one's discovered the hinge of destiny. Fun, and I did learn that Maxfield Parrish has a mural worth checking out in SOMA at the Palace Hotel.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

You must go & win
(Alina Simone, 244pp, skimmed)
I pre-ordered this, based on these two slender rationales: 1) Alina Simone is an amazing singer, emotional almost to the point of hysteria, whose velvet voice bursts with raw power; 2) the book publisher was the illustrious Farrar, Straus & Giroux, so it ought to be good. I now adduce that she may well have mesmerized an editor with her charismatic wiles. (Neil Gaiman blurbs the book as well, & again, knowing her personally may have caused him to not notice the words on the page.) Her prose is not at all distinguished, and as proof, let me just quote the dedication to her (experimental philosopher) spouse: "For Josh: I couldn't love you more if Jesus flew out of your mouth." I'll leave it to another hermenaut to find an intelligible way to parse that. Trust the song, not the singer....

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tremble: Poems
(CD Wright, 60pp)
I've a friend who admires a different poet, last name Wright (James?), but I read through this trying to understand how this writer could have a real hook. For me, she didn't, but I did give it a try.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(Daniel Pink, 5:47)
Somewhat skimpy, and yet it deserves to be read. As a grad student of Mark Lepper's, I'm amazed that both Alfie Kohn 20 years ago, and Pink today, have re-mined Mark's research (along with the work of Deci & Ryan) in a way that continues to astonish the business-y behaviorist types. This short book begins to repeat itself toward the end, when the "exercises" reprise ideas already (or just recently) covered, without much in the way of transformation, just repeated exhortation (e.g., Have FedEx days!).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Unfamiliar Fishes
(Sara Vowell, 7:40, stopped after 4)
It's a crime that America hijacked the Hawaiian state. Up until this book, I've cheered on Ms Vowell's nerdy fascination with history. But, perhaps because I've never been to HI, this book fatigued me before I reached the end. I just couldn't care about the little state, even though her writing continues to encode loads of wry humor and wisdom.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bob Dylan in America
(Sean Wilentz, 11:50)
I read half of this before, on paper, but it was a pleasure to revisit the entire work. I was persuaded this time to buy Blind Willy McTell (both the song by Dylan, and the oevre by the original bluesman).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Little Brother
(Cory Doctorow, 11:54)
This was free from Sync, an audio community. The book is preferable to its alter ancestor, 1984, and has an energy and hopefulness that is synonymous with Cory Doctorow's unique voice.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Founding Documents
Paine, Madison, Jefferson (1:54)
Interesting to listen to the original pretexts for the Declaration of Independence, as well as the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Not as persuasive as I once found them, but they've taken a few body blows in the past decade or so (starting with Bush coup in Supreme Court).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Joseph P Kennedy Presents
(Cari Beauchamp, 17:52)
An impressive personality, as well as a very driven Alpha male. The intensity of his drive to make money occasionally caused Joe Kennedy to be horrifically cavalier about the people he swindled. His attack on the film industry was brilliant: he posed as a banker, and he definitely knew accounting and finance better than any studio head. He then used his contacts at Harvard to craft a course in the Business School about the film industry, and used this platform to woo the big names he didn't already know. His accomplishments as a film-maker are not of lasting importance, although the sustained affair he had with Gloria Swanson does make for an eyebrow lifting adventure. From the moment he was appointed ambassador to Britain, and began espousing isolationist slogans, his life quality begins to stink. He definitely did an estimable job raising his first 3 sons, although Joe Jr. died in a war the father opposed, after which JFK took over. RFK is harder to judge, and surely no one can distinguish between Ted Kennedy and all the other weasels that have been in the family line since.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Existentialism Kierkegaard Nietzsche Sartre
(Walter Kaufman, 3 hours)
The lecture on Kierkegaard is delightful. The 2nd, on Nietzsche, is less pungent, more even tempered, even though Kaufman was the superb translator of the entire body of Nietzsche's work. The third, on Sartre, reminds the listener that in the time of the 1960s, everyone really was talking about philosophy. Kaufman rightly points out the failure of authenticity as a basis for all morality, since one could clearly be an authentic racist, psychopath, or murderer. Irrelevantly, I also tacked on one of the lectures on Hegel by Leo Strauss, and his manner struck me as terribly pedantic.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Free to Choose
(Milton Friedman, 12:16)
Written in 1980, this has aged quite well, even though it doesn't have any way of addressing the problems unleashed post-Prop 13. The advocacy for unregulated airways, as well as trucking and railroads, signally demonstrates where dereg can generate wealth. The fastidious attention to freedom, the very sensitive feeling about arbitrary constraints, has a particular poignancy as we decay into being forced to kowtow to ignoramuses in TSA or securitat positions. Very interesting, well worth thinking over with the dead little scrapper.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chemical History of a Candle
(Michael Faraday, 4:32)
Delightful, and free from librivox. Faraday was the genius dyslexic who invented field theory, which was later "mathematicized" by Maxwell. I wouldn't have supposed so much could be learned from acute attention to the phenomenology of burning. But then, Faraday explains things so concretely that one comes away fascinated by all that fire imparts.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Pregnant Widow
(Martin Amis, 14:09)
Took a year to go into this deeply enough to be drawn in. The 1970s aren't as interesting as the latter days. The moralistic streak of rage at the libertine spirit apparently traces to Amis's witnessing his sister destroy herself as a slatternly alcoholic. That would indeed be grim. Nicholas maps to Christopher Hitchens, and has some interesting behavior. My favorite line, clearly autobiographical, gives account of Keith as inhabiting the 'much-disputed territory between five-foot-six and five-foot-seven.'

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov
(Vladimir Nabokov, translated by his son Dmitri, 31:43)
This hasn't been as fun as I'd supposed. I've been gnawing on this for months. I still have 5 hours left. I was surprised that his early stories sound almost gothic (one is about an artist who can inhabit a painting). There's plenty of (deserved) grudges against the Soviets.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How we decide
(Jonah Lehrer, 9:40)
Excellent discussion of decisionmaking. Initially, I was put off by the opening chapter, which discussed football quarterbacks, but once I made it over this hump, there was a trove of fascinating and incisive information. He's the anti-Gladwell, since rather than reach for the compelling analogy, he does the flat-footed work to understand the actual science.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude
(Neal Pollack, 336pp)
I'm a fan of the man, and I also enjoyed reading this. But the book was sadder than I expected, since Pollack's trying to be his nicest self. His interpretation of what that entails has all but negated the sharp lampooning humor that first drew me to his work. As a self in progress, he documents his efforts to be wiser, more tolerant and compassionate. Larry Shainberg's Ambivalent Zen manages, while being super funny, to cover a deeper set of questions about spiritual ambition.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mindless Eating
(Brian Wansink, 6:26)
This is my second time reading this rewarding analysis of the behavioral cues that make us feel full or hungry. Get smaller plates now!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My passion for design
(Barbra Streisand, 320pp - skimmed)
A joke book, really, that I picked up at the public library on my way to the Stanford d-school. Her sense of "design" is rather curatorial, basically buying pretty things and arranging them in her mausoleum homes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Born to Kvetch
(Michael Wex, 10:30)
I had a lot of data entry to do for tracking mishloach manot, and this was a delicious snack to revisit. A biography of a language lends itself to aleatoric jumps between passages.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Living a Mythic Life
(Menachem Creditor, 5:19)
Not as muscular, and the audio quality is inferior, to Dynamic Judaism. Still, the themes engaged me entirely.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Collected Ficciones
(Borges, 5:14)
Too skimpy, too many boring stories, but some gems as well. Many of my favorites were not included.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

How to Sell
(Clancy Martin, punted before 2 hours)
Written by a UMKC prof, and commented upon for its sneaky deployment of philosophy, this demonstrated that I need more hooks to hold onto a story about family jewelers

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

36 Arguments for the Existence of God
(Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 15:34)
Good, but not great. I have spent a little too much time dallying with theology of late, but I couldn't resist this. Ms. Goldstein encodes roman a clef with intimate knowledge of academia. Her first book, the Body-Mind problem, played with Saul Kripke in an alternate universe. This starts with a pompous faker Jonas Elijah Klapper (surely based on Harold Bloom in his acts of ledgerdemain and self-arrogating disdain for science "after Freud.") Napoleon Chagnon is also shadow-sketched, as are others in the small world of giant egos in academia. The tale gets more engaging in the last half, since the focus on a child prodigy shows Ms. Goldstein's true reverence is for genius incarnate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts
(Martha, 416pp)
Block potato printing, botanical pressing, French mats, decoupage, and soap making. Sound fun.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Crowdsourcing: The Coming Big Bang of Business and How It Will Change Your World
(Jeff Howe, 9:44)
Very interesting although occasionally too rah-rah. The prose was more vigorous than Wikinomics, which I read at the same time, and the content overlapped about 75%. Of the two, this is a better book.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
(Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams, 13:40)
I read about 2/3 of this, but it's not quite as good as Crowdsourcing. It was published in 2007, rather than 2008 for the latter book.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
(The Heath brothers, 7:42)
Very smooth, very interesting. A little deceptive (or should I just say, Gladwellian) as it focuses on cases where hard behavioral changes can be facilitated by small tweaks. Certainly there are success stories to inspire, but there's an analogy to NP-hard problems: while it's easy to recognize their solution, it's very very difficult to find that solution, until you are presented with it. Loved the concept of 'action triggers', and I probably will start using the term "inch-pebbles" to build up "milestones." Here's a very cool map of the book

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger
(Laurence Leamer, 8:04)
Impossible to not find fascinating. Even Gray Davis admired Arnold for his capacity to subvert the political process. The discipline he exhibited in high jacking the election is well documented. Arnold's tagged as a butt-man who had to admit to inappropriate rough housing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

(Bocaccio, read by Frederick Davidson)
I only listened to 6 of the 30 hours, intoned by an inimitable old school narrator, the man of a half dozen audio-pseudonyms. The tales were occasionally quite funny, and the images pierce, in spite of the archaicism of the translation. There's an instructive metaphor that one can bite back, either like a lamb or like a dog, which is useful for interface design. I didn't know that gossip once meant something like god-sib, a close female friend. The paramount fear of cuckoldry made over half the stories tiresome. If one removed the majority of these, the remaining tales could repay close attention.

Monday, January 24, 2011

As A Driven Leaf
(Milton Steinberg, 2 hours before I bailed)
I read this almost exactly 5 years ago, but this time I gave it a second chance because Josh Kornbluth and Rabbi Creditor included it in their current course. Only thing added in the second listen: This book appears to be the DC comic book to many rabbis, and their weakness for it traces to having devoted too much time to familiarizing themselves with the historical background of the talmud.

Friday, January 21, 2011

True Grit
(Charles Portis, 6 hours, punted after 3)
I just never cared. It seemed so clear that I was reading a book written by a man, in the late 1960s, who was ventriloquizing a girl from a century before. I haven't seen the Coen brothers film, but thought the book would be foreplay. Instead, I just decided to not see the movie.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

500 Handmade Books: Inspiring Interpretations of a Timeless Form
Unfortunately, these mostly foreground the covers and bindings of books. I am intrigued to learn more about coptic stitching, but few of the included examples gave much feeling for the love of books as objects to fondle.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
(Siddhartha Mukherjee, 20:49)
Not that enthralling to me, although many people celebrated it as one of the best books of the year. Learned about the Jimmy fund's original mascot- he had an unpronounceable Scandinavian name, which transformed into a cute ad pitchable "nickname." The verbal trick of "radical" mastectomy has a profoundly unfortunate history. Nerve gas, from WWI, turned out to be the first effective chemo for leukemia.