WeRead Book Reviews – weRead stopped working for me


To Sell is Human – by Daniel Pink – The voice in your head and how it effects the ability to convince people – There is a lower limit and an upper limit.  Too many “atta-me” chants causes tone-deafness for the audience.  Too much critique makes it less likely to connect with a group. Too much positive emotion is as bad as too few.  On the too-much positive reinforcement, once the ration hit about 11-to-1, “Life becomes a festival of Panglossian Cluelessness, where self-delusion suffocates self-improvement.”  Some negative self-talk and self-criticism through the day causes reflection.  Too much inhibits successful approaches to problems, and too little critique traps people in sugary goo.

Free, The future of a radical price – My favorite in 2009. an excellent book on the topic of software and user acquisition and monetization, called FREE. The shortest possible book summary is that fremiums and upsell are commonly successful, and don’t count on a 10% upgrade/upsell conversion rate.

Chris Anderson (also wrote the Long Tail) covers the history and future of monetizing software on the internet. He mostly (but not exclusively) addresses pricing tendencies and approaches to pricing as it relates to software. The contention and evidence supports the conclusion that most consumer software will become free over time via commoditization. He does not address the “cloud” which is a gap I would like to see him address. His conclusion, and much of the evidence on software sales is to ensure that your business model reinforces the few critical, for-profit products. Do this by delivering free, excellent software intentionally. Make sure you’re creating unique, awesome, easy, and free software. Serve the consumer by providing so much free, beneficial software that the customers understand that the few fundamental pieces require some charge. Anderson also, incredibly, ties in one of my favs last year, Predictably Irrational, on the overconsumption of free, versus low priced-goods. Free is much, much different than cheap. Zero is a powerful price, and the buffet-effect is triggered in the brain on free items, not so with low or under-priced items. As a nice corallary on how for-profit companies are tapping into this element, Google and 3M have long had set-aside time for people to spend specifically on whatever they wanted (thereby removing the for-profit justifications). 3M got the post-it note, and Google has most of its most successful applications from it’s “20% Time” People react differently in these “free” situations. Free is one of the few recent books on the neuro-economics-meets-behavioral psychology topic

Smart and Gets Things Done – Knock, Knock it’s reality — if you want developers to develop, you need to read this. Joel has NAILED what makes rockstars run from managers (TEAMWORK posters!) and what actually attracts people who work all weekend, even if not metric is served by writing that killer code. Intellectual Diversity, Hiring methodology, and how to combat that creeping sense of dread that big companies give the smartest people…Thank you Joel.I have watched devs laugh openly and in groups at managers, for exactly the ‘sins’ Spolsky details in 150 pages. The 12 step program appendix is also excellent to ensure you’re shipping tight code.

The Long Tail – Very smart book. Following are a few of the points I enjoyed:

-TV/mass media always targets common interests, and that means sex, relationships, and stupid gameshows…this is not NOT! because people are dumb, but because in sex, relationships, and gameshows, mass-culture doesn’t vary much…whereas with many other topics (vacationing, food choice, historical interest, beer-making etc) people vary much more than about sex…which is why those become niche market/channels. very smart.

-Search filters improves the utility of the long tale, as people can then find their own niche interests. brilliant point.

-critical mass for niche/long tale is very low –very interesting implications for future.

-People don’t view stealing music/media as stealing anymore. especially true in GenY…this is scary, but as he pts out- must deal with this truth

Predictably Irrational – My favorite for 2008, The author explains a lot of things about our relative sense of pain, emotion, analysis, and bargains. He brings you to a hospital, where he is in a body-cast having been blown up at 18 years old. His year in bandages sparks curiosity: Why do nurses rip off bandages quickly? When we are slowly desensitized to pain. He then pulls us over to free chocolate vs. really cheap GOOD chocolate…People won’t spend 1 penny but will horde free candy. Anticipation of vinegar beer vs. beer has very surprising results too. And when people (his studies are on males) are sexually aroused, the decision making powers to acquire short term gratification (not just that!) actually heighten…and long term planning is shot…but the feeling passes quickly. Dan Ariely is really an economist on the wild side of studying human behavior. Good companion book is Stumbling on Happiness, as it’s Phychologist’s study of similar quetions.

An Unquiet Mind – A powerful personal description of life with bipolar disorder (the author is leading researcher, and prefers the term manic depressive disorder). In 200 pages she details the important role this plays in society, but more importantly she provides a view through her own clinical analysis of her own struggles and accomplishments through the range of mania and depression. She is a leading researcher and leader in the field, as also a strong spirit in explaining why lithium is a constant battle. A heroic personal account.

MoneyBall – Just read this book and don’t ask why. It’s a thing of beaty, even if you don’t think it will turn out to be fascinating.   Using statistics and analysis to dethrone the ‘good old boy’ network; Michael Lewis points out how poorly predictions using traditional baseball coach analysis is to predict whether a pitcher or hitter will do well in the future. This is an interesting sports analogy for the power of analysis and numbers. Also quoted by Microsoft in re-assessing the ‘old way’ of patent valuations; and a really clear attack on the good-old-boy approach to evaluating talent. The “he looks like a pitcher” is brutally mocked, and backed up by data as well as logic. Interesting tie-in covered in SWAY indicated the same bias on first round NBA picks holds true, despite the proof laid down on so many over-rated #1 round picks. I have recommended this book as a primer into stats and hiring talent. It has been well received in both areas. Hiring talent has a lot of echos in this book, especially actually looking at how people help a TEAM win…which is the goal when you hire into a team.

Why We Buy, the Science of Shopping – This is retail shopping exposed.  The book has some interesting observations (Butt Brush effect which prevents browsing, Threshholding the front of a store, and male-try-on rates for clothing vs buying behaviors). However, the sexist generalizatons about shopping seem to be unsupported in a lot of the text. I’d have preferred a thinner book with more data and less stereo-typing. There is interesting data on shppping, but you have to wade through some 1950s generalities on men/women shopping, which just don’t add much to the discussion.

Nudist on the Lateshift – Insanely good Po Bronson—great stories of techies in the Tech Bubble, and lovely told by a sympathetic smart-dude. UberGeek and GeekHaus are amazing, and the naked programmer story is just too funny to avoid. Bronson works his magic explaining the psychology of techie-weirdness without mocking the internet geeks.

Sketching User Experiences – Bruxton is very smart and creative and demonstrates how user interfaces (UI) can be built and tested for a range of products (from IPod to Bifocal computer UI). It is maybe 100 pages of text, and 150pages of “how to pictures” and it is an excellent read on the near future of UI design for both hardware devices and software.

The Dip A little book that teaches you when to quit – When to quit…wow, so smart a topic. Best quotation: “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.” Grodin’s 75 pgs are worth reading to see when pushing through adversity is beneficial (do others fail right at this same point for manageable reasons) or when to move on (is the block for most people actually the reason this fails, and why you will too). Continuing when you should see failure comes in 2 kinds – the cliff, and culdesacs, which certainly makes sense but he tells it in humorous, quick bites. Scattered examples also worth keeping. Situational leadership, a good course which coveres some of these same topics, could really benefit from this realization: some things don’t require a better leader, you should just quit doing them! People get this intuitively is Seth’s point, but we get coached out of quitting, to our own detriment sometimes.

Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us – Wikipedia killed Microsoft Encarta and Britanica isn’t competitive with Wikipedia. What motivation drives so many humans to create and contribute without any traditional financial reward model? For-profit businesses benefit by finding out why this happens. Drive is a guide on why Google’s 20%, 3M’s personal bootlegging time, and Wikipedia existence generate so much passionate and successful work. Pink repeats the answer several times: Science already knows a lot about motivation and behavior which most business have yet to understand about us humans. Pink then gives a summary of what science knows about human motivation.

Humans have 3 interecting motivations. Motivation 1.0 – Survival: sex, food, shelter, safety. Mo 1.0 had its hayday for most of human evolution, because we didn’t have enough food, safety or shelter (I will sidestep the obvious joke about sex at this point). Motivation 2.0 – Carot n’ stick of monetary rewards by external managers. Mo 2.0 really gets busy in the Industrial-Revolution. Motivation 3.0 – Once past the baseline money all people want, Mo 3.0 kicks into high gear and asks “do I LIKE doing this work?” 1.0 must be satisfied before it will give up control, then 2.0 takes over and will dominate until a baseline reward exists (making ‘enough’ money). After that amount, additional dollars do not matter nearly as much as our desire for”Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.” There are several convincing studies demonstrating our desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose – some even demonstrate that monetary awards in constricted environments produce *less* results than giving the same person less money and more control over how they accomplish work.

Drive is careful to point out that Motivation 3.0 may only operate in creative, heuristic-based work. This analytical, creative work requires self-direct and very smart people. 3.0 does not want to follow step-by-step toward a preset algorithm producing more widgets. We want to create, not follow. Mo 3.0 is happy when work provides 1) autonomy in our efforts; in work which 2) provides the ability to progress toward mastery of a subject; and 3) serves a purpose we can see, understand, and support. Pink also spends a good deal of time explaining the mental zone this puts us into, called “flow.” This concept of intentional practice is covered well in Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” Gladwell concludes that becoming an expert in virtually any field requires 10,000 hours of intentional practice; where intentional practice is doing work with the conscious intent to get better at the skills you are using. Gladwell also agrees with Pink’s conclusion that people will only sustain this intentional practice if there is a purpose which is clear and interesting to pursue.

Back to Google and 3M – Their unstructured employee time is always spent on heuristic solutions to problems people are insterested in solving. This is where true creativity and interest get unlocked and motivation reaches peak performance. For people: metrics boards or productivity reports will always lose out to interesting software problems or better ways to solve a basic human need. Google and 3M are finding a way to take that reality, and include it within their business. They’ve had a lot of success. Other companies are doing some very smart things to free employees from ‘if you do this, then you get that’ reward systems. Altassian created “Fed-Ex Days” where employees are free to choose their teams and work on any problem *they* want to solve 1 day per quarter. This is called “Fed Ex” because you have to deliver the idea, code, or whatever next day. The results at Atlassian were so good that very quickly it justified moving to a full 20% of engineering time moving to Fed-Ex. This removed managers’ direction, allowed engineers to choose whom they associated with, and only had results as the requirement! Atlassian has zero engineering turnover. Google has 50% of its offerings coming from its “20% time.” We humans are more productive when we have freedom to work on projects we care about; and we also get better and better at the work we do when we work on projects we care about. It is a virtuous circle which requires little management to shepherd into the for-profit business model.

One question which Pink did not ask in Drive, but I think he should have is whether 3.0 emerged because of the Internet age. In the last 20 years, finally, we’ve started to have a group of people focused on work where the ‘boss’ may not be the expert. The differences between the assembly line and software development are pretty easy to see. Henry Ford’s managers knew the work better than the assembly-line workers. The managers wrote the manual. That is not true in a highly differentiated company, where the technical expert is the person closest to the problem. This difference has actually reduced the difference in wages/income between front line work and managers. This rise in income for front-line workers has been excellent in many ways, and also may be driving the emergence of Mo 3.0. I wish Pink had investigated this question.

Personality Test to see where you fall on Drive’s continuum of motivation.

If the topic of human motivation in the Internet age or software creation is interesting, you should read Drive. If you do not think people will organize outside of direct-profit motive, you have missed out on what is happening, and you should immediate go and buy a copy of FREE, summarized here. Chris Anderson will do an excellent job of explaining how the future is already arriving, and you need to understand creative people a lot of software development is already finding ways around the direct “if I do this, then I get that” payment models. Both models will continue to exist, so paying attention to the new one seems very important.

One Second After – Asks a very interesting question: At 350M people, can we maintain freedom without modern technology, and how would post-technology world look. Especially interesting as I learned what threat is #5 on the Terrorist Watch List, given that I’d only heard about EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) from James Bond. It is a very fast read, and interesting how little we focus on survival in comparison to the world he creates…also interesting to read in light of Seth Godin’s blog http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/12/how-far-away-is-your-future.html

Chasing Daylight, how my forthcoming death transformed my life – Eugene O’Kelly learned he had very little time left on Earth, due to incurable brain cancer. His reflections on what it means to be alive, and responsibilities to people you know, love, or/and lead are incredibly simple and pointed – listen. speak honestly. tell them the truth they need to hear. don’t regret the life you have lived by skimping on responsibilities. Truly a moving 100+ page book.

the Diving Bell and the Butterfly – If you want to stop feeling sorry for yourself, this book will correct that feeling. Bauby loves his life, and misses much of what you’d expect, but also points out how much he misses being able to digress into humor mid-sentence and relax when communicating. His discussion of humor inspires anyone who thinks humor doesn’t help to lighten pain. I have not seen the movie, because I fear ruining the piercing images his book delivers. maybe one day.

Problem Solving 101  A simple book for smart people – Good outline for a book, but lacks enough examples or difficult problems to prove his outline on breaking problems down into possible causes, most probable causes, and workarounds vs. root cause solutions. Watanabe did write this as instruction for high-school, and I would recommend it there, but would like him to include samples for kids to work/discuss with teacher/mom/dad etc. very short book, so worth the investment to start discussion with kids on how to diagnose and troublshoot issues.

The Starfish and the Spider – Two topics are well-covered in this book. The concept of Catalysts (similar to Gladwell’s Connectors in Tipping Point). These are people who’s combination of loose social ties, broad interests,high trust, and no risk aversion. These people build self-organizing groups capable of producing loosely ordered but productive teams. The other concept is rejecting 1950’s command/control enterprises, because of their failure to respond to knowledge-workers principles, and therefore orgs which loosely associate on few, core principles with a mostly-defined objective beat the crap out of 1950 mgmt style. His examples are excellent, his metaphor does get somewhat tiring (enough spiders…they suck!).

Wikinomics, how mass collaboration changes everything – Excellent book, especially because of the many examples of companies embracing collaborative content creation and enabling cooperative development/solutions…the reference to Boing Boing and firestorm around IBM were good too, as speaks to how quickly the webinati can move things along. Excellent coverage of Peer-Created work, in open formats, not just wikipedia but the OS creation of Linux Kernel work being collaboratively done. Second half of book is a bit preachy and future-casting but the first half, and the details of modularity in production for motorcycles in China and Boeing’s core business focus (most of Dreamliner is partner created)…these details were fascinating to demonstrate the authors’ points on how important OPEN software and OPEN supply lines have come in 10 years. Great points to couple with content creation, especially when some view these types of detail oriented work as ‘too hard’ to be done with remote, self-selecting Subject Matter Experts.

The “Net-Gen” is another critical concept. People under some age or experience who are radically different than people who view the computer-age as basically a new kind of telephone/video device. This is more about how you view the web, than your chronological age. Net-Gen on the other hand is mostly interested in read/write web (where contribution is peer-created without huge barriers…think wikipedia, peer review movies, facebook commenting, or other easy to change/add sites). THe read-only web is still useful to gather info, but the higher rating you have with read-write, the easier it is to include the intellect of Net-Gen people. The influence of NetGen goes up every day. obviously.

but note to self: repeatedly telling me how successful GM is going to be because of their Globalized IT and decision-making structure doesn’t seem to look very good…mid-bailout in 2009.

Twilight – 500pages; and nearly 250 good ones! I am 40, reading it to reassure my wife that my 12 year old could read it. It’s not a bad book, just a little slow and bland for me…but I did finish it, and it is not a bad vampire book. I prefer Bram Stroker (of course!) but again, a clever spin on an interesting topic.

Generating Buy-in – A delight at <150 pages. Of all the management books on presenting ideas, this is the first and foremost in my opinion; explaining everything from motivations to creating reality for others. I am amazed this book isn’t standard reading. So glad I picked it up. Give 3 concrete examples in any forward looking story; paint visual stories about how life gets better; focus on people, not things; and remain focused on the vision, and step over quibbling. all very important.

Gut Feelings, the intelligence of the unconscious – This is background research for Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Blink fascinated me (why do we like ice cream more in a round container?!) Turning to Gut Feeling, it is a little deeper than Blink, but not much. His main point is that we’ve evolved unconscious ‘rules of thumb’ over 30K years which rational/logical thinking post-dates. These rules of thumb explain trust, love, and other emotions which run contrary to logic. While perhaps true, not much additional research escaped Gladwell’s summary of this investigation. I’d recommend Blink many times over as broader than ‘Gut’ and Gut isn’t much deeper than Gladwell’s survey.

Watch you Bleed –  I am a sucker for misunderstood genius, but Axl was over the top even for me. Axl Rose treats many people amazingly badly. Details within. There are some interesting stories regarding Aerosmith and Rolling Stones; and a very raw sequence about how hard the band manager tried to keep this group together to allow the talent onto records…but the group was a timebomb, and everyone seemed to sense it.

Facing Down Evil – This book had so much promise, and did not deliver. The author has been at the center of many national crises, and essentially founded the HRT and hostage negotiation team at the FBI. But, sadly, the stories drag on without any of the tension I am sure actually existed. All in all, a let down for me.

The Number –   Quick read on retirement plan. 4% and what DellWebb knows about what we enjoy in retirement.

The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King – 100-200K Hold’em private tournament with famous poker players ‘ganging up’ on a very smart rookie-banker. Surprising result, and excellent history lesson from 2001-2005 as Poker started to take off nationally. Good insight on gambler-psychology as well

Choke – Palahniuk’s book reads at a furious pace. It is too edgy for me, and has way too much porn (I didn’t know best-sellers would have porn?!) But, there are some positives – he has mastered writing the way we think, which speeds it…and his characters are compelling, if extremely tragic. The dudes trapped in 1780’s historical amusement park, and collecting rocks, and cruising sex-addicts anonymous for dates. So it is off the wall but turns pages. More graphic and SouthPark-ish than I expected from the summary/blurb and thumbing thru it. that said, fun 2 day adult-only read.

Useless Arithmetic – This book has an agenda. However, it does ask a series of vary interesting questions on multi-variant models used to predict the future. From learning about Atlantic cod (nearly wiped out) from wolves, to wave-erosion…many of our existing models on multifactorial equations where the variables are interdependent is basically just crap…we don’t predict stuff very well, and often salmon, cod, or beach front property is wiped out in excess etc. Neither author is a mathmetician, and yet their commendary and observations about faulty predictions and common modeling mistakes is very clear.

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe – Dr. Firlik is a neurosurgeon, who is interested in the logic and emotions involved in treating head trauma and chronic brain problems. She is very clear in her style (short book) and is crystal clear on the processes involved from accident/stroke/growth through to correction or death (or somewhere in between). She GETS what crisis means, and writes to pull you into her operating room. crisis-people may cuss a little, be self-assured, and have a loud sense of humor, she explains why wonderfully two different times in the book.

How would you move Mt. Fuji – How the world’s smartest companies select the world’s most creative thinkers – 50 pages long. excellent hiring book – alpha risk discussion and good honing hiring questions to avoid bias and help prevent people from hiring clones of themselves. The section on avoiding snap judgments and the detailed answers pointing out the important ways to ensure intellectual diversity while driving a very high bar on analytical skills.

Built to Last, Successful habits of visionary companies – 2 things in the book are smart, the rest is bizbook speak. Hedgehog: Do what you are good at, and not the other stuff…and when taking on a new leadership position, get the bad apples off the bus, then get the good apples ON, then decide the detailed direction of the bus…The order is important.

Turing’s Delirium – A nightmare-ish sci-fi about a kafka-esque compsci gov’t hack in Bolivia who is debating retirement from Cryptogrophy. Overall, it was too dark for me, but I admit that his daughter’s cyber-space escapades kept it perverse enough to keep me reading:) End was a little less than the rest of the book.

Guns, Germs, and Steel – The best read I had in 2007 –  Seed packages travel with humans, fruits are HUGE because we poop huge-seeds because we prefer huge fruits, and latrines are 4000 years old…we’ve self-selected apples, berries, oranges because they grew out of the outhouses in clumps. Cross-polination and self-polination blend to form the best surviving plants. And, we domesticated all ungulates before Moses…the buffalo is too wild to be demosticated for farming…Corn took forever to grow into stalks we could eat (Maize) but 2000 yhears ago even maize hadn’t become worth eating from caloric standpoint. How can you not want to know these facts that drove evolution laterally (because seeds survive that way).

On the Wealth of Nations – PJ O’Rourke gives you crib notes on economics. very useeful (and funny) summary. Most important point is that Adam Smith has VERY LITTLE to do with today’s conservative movement. Smith was advocating that we enable consumers to succeed, instead of today’s conservatives focusing on CORPORATIONs succeeding.

Blink – Blink highlights situations in which we are suseptible to overthinking or misplace our trust in modern technology. ‘Blink’ moments occur when our intuition is in fact correct, such as fight/flight or trust/distrust decisions. Gladwell observes that our ‘thin slice’ is only useful under some circumstances. hemistry and fake documents led art historians astray and left them believing a forgery was accurate,because “science confirms it.” A panicked policeman or bodyguard resort to more primal instincts under pressure, when evaluating friend vs. foe. Complex logic evades people at 180 heartbeats per minute. The unconscious mind operates in the background, and this wiring predates modern human society; it remains, even if the reason it exists is long gone. For example, we have a flight response immediately upon seeing fur and fangs, even if we don’t recognize it’s a wolverine. We simply react to the teeth/claws. If we train our body to stay calm capacity to think under pressure. Being shot at makes the novice lose control of his bowels (and stop thinking!). with practice, soldiers and bodyguards learn to control their blood pressure and retain their logical mind, even when wounded.

THINK! Think! is primarily written to vent LeGault’s rage at decisions made in a ‘Blink.’ More generally, he tells us that TV, Media, and Americans are headed to intellectual hell because we are not thinking enough. LeGault makes the following observations: People do not use logic as much as they should. TV and the Media have degenerated even lower than we thought was possible; and Survivor isn’t even in syndication yet! LeGault’s research also confirms that most people would rather feel happy and accepted than be forced to think through difficult problems. To this we can say… Duh! When confrunted with a choice, most people prefer to tune in and drop out of intellectual excercises. Tuning out makes LeGault mad. And lastly, LeGault has noticed that when he rants at society for being stupid, few people send him thank-you notes. My suggestion would be to read Stumbling on Happiness instead of this book, or any number of books which touch on the topic of thought.

The Long Walk – Slavomir survived Stalin; barely. Escaping the Gulag, he found individuals who helped, and cared, even at risk of their own lives. The small band crossed Lake Bikal,Mongolia, China, Nepal, and India. They saved a young girl from certain death. They preserved human dignity and purpose in face of starvation and death.  There is a lot of debate if this actually happened – whether it did or not, the morals in this book are better and clearer than most leadership books.  Maybe it isn’t suprising that the best leadership book is a fable?

The Good Women of China, Hidden Voices. In 2006/7 someone told me about this book and I was getting ready to travel to China.  I read it.  One of the hardest books I have read, but presents the history and current conditions across different areas of China, specifically the lives of China’s women. Some of this is very dark, and scary, and repressive, and backwards but again, it is an area that opened my eyes to mistreatment happening today behind another iron curtain.

The Selfish Gene –  This book introduced two concepts very well: natural selection operates ‘as if’ genes wanted certain things; and writing science texts that interested non-science people…for that alone Dawkins deserves many stars. Hawking was right behind him I believe in time. If you enjoy this topic, also check out “Your Inner Fish” which is a more modern look at the last 30 years of science since the Selfish Gene was written.

The Mind of the Market – The Mind of the Market by Michael Shermer. The biology in the brain when we evaluate exchanges or proposals. Why humans evolved to trust and verify, why misunderstandings of economics made sense in 12,000 BC, and how misguided ‘folk economics’ is today. Also a tour de force on the modern neurology tools used to distinguish areas of the brain which are active/passive when people lie, choose, enjoy, or evaluate others’ motives.

Nuggets worth evaluating:
Majority of people fear losing 10 dollars 2 times more than they value gaining a new 10 dollar item. We share this common fear of losing with higher order monkeys. Most people work 2 times harder to save what we have, than to gain some new thing, of similar value. It makes sense (in evolutionary terms) that majority of people are like this, and we also need the rare person who reverses this math. Shermer posits this to explain clinging to losing stock and most people rejecting new ideas.  If the Science of Fear is interesting, check out the book of the same name, or at least take 4 mins to look at how “hardwired” our fear responses are, and learn about the 2 pathways involved.
Humans evolved different systems for wanting something (food, sex, security) and liking something (spicy food, marriage, housing). The ‘Want’ system is shared with nearly all mammals. The Liking system we only share with the highest order relatives. Addictions tap into our wanting system, which makes them hard to break.
Trust is required for market economics. Humans are the only species he found willing to trust-and-see into the future. this behavior involves risk, but also enables huge rewards to the species. Social networks and public institutions recently (12,000 years or so) have enabled us to institutionalize trust with people we do not know. This expanded trade and trust greatly. The 2% of populace which break trust easily, “Psychopaths”, actually play an important role in punishing people who cannot trust accurately, says Shermer, using an interesting proof.
The productive origins of ‘group-think’ and effectively combatting its destructive powers when mob-rule occurs to kill people or ideas.
If you like this book, you might also like analyzing: Stumbling on Happiness (Psychology on why people incorrectly predict what we will like), Freakonomics (economist’s analysis on behavioral correlations and beliefs ranging from drug dealer-business structures to faith in child safety seats), Blink (survey book), and Why We Buy (analysis of purchase decisions by field researcher).

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy – Younger friends ask me about pregnancy, and my only advice is don’t read! It will just make you paranoid.  But, since you are going to buy a book, buy this one.  This book is as funny as any on the topic. Of all the books my wife ‘read me’ while she was pregnant, this one caused the most laughter and answered the most common questions…without causing panic for my wife. Though I am sure there are more detailed or more researched books out there, this one balanced humor into this very serious topic.

Animals in Transition, using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior – The author has autism, invented several global standards for dealing with animals, and shares how autism and animals view the world. She does generalize a bit I believe, as there are such ranges of autism, but her insight into autism is singular. Her successes with animals is also legendary (USDA uses her suggestions, as do corporations to speed processing of animals). Well written, and she helped me understand some of the challenges which Autism poses to sufferers. She presented her autism and its effects while teaching me about how she analyzes animals behavior.

Shadow Divers – an excellent, fun, and exiting book (and I do not dive). The clarity and purpose of the divers here is amazing. I sincerely wish I hadn’t learned about “dirt dart” where divers rocket to the bottom, and decompression/death are nearly assured upon recovery. Thanks to the kindness of Shep Shepard, I’ve been introduced and spoken with both of the divers (John Chatterton and Richie Kohler) – they are incredibly generous with their time and also wonderful story tellers.  Their ability to describe handling crises underwater is so compelling I am half temped to re-read this book as an instruction manual for crisis handling.

The God Delusion – Some very harsh (but cogent) questions about what the major world religions do to hurt humanity. Dawkins is very hostile to religion (which he is honest about) so while his attacks hurt me to read, it is useful mentally to face some of the horrors which organized humans/religion has tacitly or openly caused. It would help if Dawkins believed smart people can disagree with him, but his tone gets in the way of his points sometimes. Still, it is useful inquiry.

 Fast Food Nation –  Interesting book, good case against eating badly. too conspiracy-driven for me, but the observations he makes are really smart…it is only the ultimate solutions he draws which scare the free-marketeer in me. The coverage of ‘de-skilling’ within fast-food market was really compelling reading, to see that McDougall’s measures Time-To-Competency for new fry-cooks in minutes.

What Should I Do With My Life – WARNING: This book may not help short-term happiness. Po Bronson’s next quick-hitting book. He reveals profiles of people who chunked their current job to do something which excited them. Bronson’s characteristic smart questioning means you get to learn more than ‘why’ but what aspects of it drove you to become a…. It is a great book to work through getting to a job that you love, rather than survive.
Give this as a gift to folks who want to read about happiness in occupation. Po Bronson loves people and their logic of what makes them happy, and he writes beautifully. Each person gets 3-5 pages on what drives them

On Bullshit – Worth reading (short) for the clarity regarding crap we hear today, and why people think they can lie to generate people buy-in and how that ultimately backfires.

The World Is Flat – worth the proofs on the deflationary effects of Walmart to an economy, and the value-chain of export/import jobs. The supply chain being nible examples of sourcing was good. The book did drag though. UPS and its drive to provide supply chain services from financing, to drop shipping to handing computer repairs for customers ws also very interesting.


About paulscho36

I like to simplify software. I love people who actually deliver software.
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