Category: Books

Alexsander Isayevich

  I would have to agree with Tim Bray: Aleksander Isayevich was an influential writer for me. Funny to think about my past reading habits. I grew up in a house where reading (and reading a lot) was just the norm. I constantly read. I remember my mother having to come into my room and turn off the lights past midnight as I was still reading. As I was not a good listener (surprise, surprise) my mother went as far as banning having lights on past a certain hour. Of course that was easily remedied with a flashlight and a cover!

All this to say that the year I picked up One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was transformational for me. I remember reading it and thinking this is amazing, this is amazing…And I was just a kid. I go back to the book every once in a while and I never get tired of reading it. It should be on your bookshelf if it isn’t already.

As I grew up I did not agree with most of Solzhenitsyn’s views but as Tim Bray said so nicely: "But the silly things artists often say shouldn’t be held against the works they leave behind them". I will miss Solzhenitsyn’s writing.


Catching up on my reading I came across this little nugget from Canadian Business writer Rachel Pulfer writing in Leadership:

Limit, simplify or prime a person’s choices in a particular way, and you can influence their decisions.

Pulfer’s article talks about embracing nudging in leadership and change:"Putting fruit at eye level is a nudge. Banning junk food is a kick in the teeth." I can see that Thaler’s book Nudge: Improving Decisions is going to make it somehow into my reading pile!

Keep those neurons working!

Carol Dweck and Mindsets via Guy Kawasaki

From Publishers Weekly
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: Mindset is "an established set of attitudes held by someone," says the Oxford American Dictionary. It turns out, however, that a set of attitudes needn’t be so set, according to Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford. Dweck proposes that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as… well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.

One more book for the reading pile!

Pile O’reading!

I used to read 2-4 books a week. My lack of reading these days is driving me crazy so I decided to do something about it: read more. This of course will require discipline, ie pry myself away from my laptop screen to sit down and read! It is possible. I have done it before. So here is what’s on my reading pile for the rest of the week:

  • Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. By the way, this is a fantastic book. I will post a review later this week. The publisher has made two of the interviews available online for free: Joel Spolsky and Steve Wozniak. Not my favourite interviews but it will give you an idea of what to expect from the book. The full list of interviewed founders is here.
  • Inside The Tour de France by Eric Delanzy. I don’t know why but I am fascinated by The Tour de France…Why are there no women in the Tour de France?
  • The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works–and How It’s Transforming the American Economy by Charles Fishman. Don’t ask… a friend of mine handed this to me and since it looks fascinating I am compeled to read it.

Made to Stick

From Made To Stick:

Mark Twain once observed, “ A lie can get halfway around the world
before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings
true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health
scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important
ideas—businessmen, educators, politicians, journalists, and
others—struggle to make their ideas “stick.”

Recipe for making your ideas stick: "curiosity gaps", simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. A good, easy read it seems. I just started it and I am planning on making it my airplane book for tomorrow’s NYC one day trip. Good reading folks! oh and they blog too.

The Architecture of Happiness

Lake GenevaIn the spring of 1137 the Cistercian monk St Bernard of
Clairvaux travelled all the way around without noticing it was even there. Likewise, after four years in his
monastery, St Bernard could not report whether the dining area had a vaulted ceiling
(it does) or how many windows there were in the sanctuary of his church
(three). On a visit to the Charterhouse of Dauphiné, St Bernard astonished his
hosts by arriving on a magnificent white horse diametrically opposed to the
ascetic values he professed, but he explained that he had borrowed the animal
from a wealthy uncle and had simply failed to register its appearance on a
four-day journey across France.

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

A year of ideas

From the New York Times Magazine:
"This month, as in the past five Decembers, the magazine looks back on the passing year from a distinctive vantage point: that of ideas. Our editors and writers have located the peaks and valleys of ingenuity — the human cognitive faculty deployed with intentions good and bad, purposes serious and silly, consequences momentous and morbid. The resulting intellectual mountain range extends across a wide territory. Now it’s yours for the traversing in a compendium of 74 ideas arranged from A to Z."

I love these ones, but you should really take the time to read them all. Fascinating!

The Diplomat-Parking-Violation Corruption Index –"In an ingenious study published in June, however, the Columbia University economist Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel of the University of California at Berkeley argued that culture plays a powerful role. The two scholars studied parking tickets that were racked up in Manhattan by diplomats from 146 countries who were posted to the United Nations. In a situation in which every diplomat essentially received an invitation to be corrupt, diplomats from nations with “clean” governments said, “No, thanks.”

Empty-Stomach Intelligence
— Hunger makes the best sauce, goes the maxim. According to researchers at Yale Medical School, it may make quadratic equations and Kant’s categorical imperative go down easier too. The stimulation of hunger, the researchers announced in the March issue of Nature Neuroscience, causes mice to take in information more quickly, and to retain it better — basically, it makes them smarter. And that’s very likely to be true for humans as well.

The Visage Problem — If you suffer from prosopagnosics you will find "most human faces to be about as distinguishable as stones in a driveway."