Wednesday, February 26, 2014

All Clear (Extra book)

And I just finished yet another extra book recommendation from a friend.  This one was All Clear by Connie Willis.  The book is actually a “part-two” of an award winning series by the author.  The story features historians who can “time travel” back in time with the caveat that there is sometimes some “slippage,” which means the travelers don’t always land exactly when they think they will into the past, nor can the always get to the places that they would like to get to at all.  And finally, once a time-traveler goes to a certain place, they can’t go back to that exact place again.  Who would have thought so many rules could be established for a “make-believe” adventure.  Hence one of the complications to this VERY long story.  (Just imagine if I read both parts – think I’ll take a pass on that one, though clearly I missed the foundation for this story.)  The characters begin trapped in the “Blitz” of London 1940 during World War II, and the rise of Hitler.  The story is one of survival and how will these time travelers try and help those they have connected with based on the information they have about the past and the destruction the bombs pose to the historical sites in London, especially St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The story jumps back and forth from the 1940s to 1980s, and back again.  There is a great deal of mistaken identity, characters who seemingly disappear, die, and then we learn they don’t.  There is connections made by the visiting historians that actually make their departure from London and the time travel impossible because they have connected to the people they have met.  I am not going to do justice to the story I know, which I apologize.  I can see how people who have a real interest in WWII from a historical perspective would enjoy the drama and race to help, but what was missing for me was the depth of character development.  The characters were themselves in the present, but faking their role to disguise what they were trying to do in the past.  So much moving back and forth, with characters who had multiple names/disguises, and to be honest, characters I never connected with myself.  The book became more of a game to finish than any connection about the story.  I wasn’t enthralled nor interested.  I guess I felt I should have been “moved” emotionally when Eileen stays with Alf and Binnie thee two orphans she stays behind to raise, but I didn’t…  Maybe it was just the time in which I read the book?  Never have been a history buff, which may also have not got me excited, who knows.  The travel and date changes each chapter were confusing me as well.  Boy did I bash this book.  Glad no RA recommended it J  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Decide (Extra book)

How often do you get an email from a former student staff member who lets you know about his first book coming out and oh by the way, it is coming out as the number 2 the week of February 16, 2014!  And I just finished reading it.  Well, nice to hear the true voice of the author, Steve McClatchy, in his book Decide.  It was almost like he was reading it for me.  Steve is one of the most motivated and energetic people I have met in my life.  Steve is “grounded” in success and it was merely expected that he would in fact have solid and transformative information to share with others in how to improve some aspect of our lives.  In this case, it is how do we DECIDE to improve our professional life.  The book, like a number of “self-improvement” books I have read over my life time, provides simple straight-forward 1-2-3 on how to strategize for the creation of plan to “make it work.”  Steve has an impressive listing of recommendations to read the book – leaders in business industries, best-selling authors, and researchers on leadership.  His main “deliverables” from the book include: work smarter, reduce your stress, and lead by example.  Well, how does he do it?  He does it through personal stories from his family and “spot-on” real –life examples from his work environments.  Very compelling examples that any living person could relate to, not just the top level execs.  Steve begins with a brainstorming exercise to have the reader think through our “dreams” – which is really applicable to my work as a life coach – yes, life coaches can gain a good deal by sharing this book with your clients.  In fact, life coaches could take their clients one step forward in the “only exercise in the book” by connecting your dreams to your value set – ok, I digress.  From motivation, to burnout/balance, prioritizing to valuing what you do in your life all of this is covered in the realization that we ALL have the same amount of time in a given day – 24 hours.  It is how we DECIDE to use that time to meet our “gain” tasks vs. “prevent pain” tasks and then the strategies of learning how to use your calendar, help others allow you to focus, and of course a method to hold yourself accountable.  It may have been helpful to have some sort of “focused” reflection process as well.  I did appreciate the shout-out to thinking about a mentor, or life coach to assist in the process.  Yes, so important to have someone who helps us FOCUS on what it is we say we want to do.  It was surprising that a number of the things Steve talks about are embedded in my practice of life coaching for clients, using some-what different nomenclature.  Reaffirmed my practice!  Knowing Steve, I will highly promote this work and also his ability to TELL the story in person with energy and commitment.  A great read for younger professionals.  My favorite stories were the “family meal options” and of course the staff meeting posting the times people arrive late at meetings.  This is a quick read, much in the same vain as Covey’s Habits.  So simple ideas that we have to ask ourselves, WHY AREN’T WE DOING THEM….  Thanks Steve for putting it simply.  I know what I will be purchasing for my sons and my AnBryce scholars…

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Extra book)

I am a big fan of this author and glad I was suggested to read this book, titled Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami. I’ve read about 4 of his other books, and this one, like the others doesn’t disappoint.  This is one of his earliest books and you can tell it serves as a pre-cursor to how his style has been perfected over the years.  The book is actually two stories which are going on simultaneously (using the two different names to the book)! In the odd chapters, the story focuses on where the lead characters subconscious is used as an encryption key.  It is a government system vs. the people, though it appears one man is leading the government’s program.  They are also experimenting to have “sound removal” and the man who is narrating the story learns he only has a day and a half to live before he goes into a world that is created in his subconscious (which I guess could be good, huh?).  The End of the World story is the focus of the other chapters of the book set in a mysterious Town, which is surrounded by a large wall.  The lead character, only known as the narrator, learns he has lost his shadow – as have all of the other people he is associated with in the town.  The narrator is brought to the town as the latest in a long line of “dreamreaders,” which is a process that sets to remove the memory of the town.  The town, we learn is actually the world inside the subconscious of the narrator in the other chapters of the book, ah, sound confusing?  Welcome to the world of Murakami!  The narrator and his shadow plan to escape the town before the day and a half in which he will lose his shadow and be stuck in the town for good – without a history.  During his stay he falls in love with a Librarian, oh yeah, none of the characters have names outside of their role in the town, except the “Chubby Girl” who is the granddaughter of the Scientist who placed the narrator into this situation.  In the end, the narrator decides to stay in the Town and let his shadow fly away when it becomes a bird and leaves for good.  Murakami delves deeply into the conscious choices and those we do not have the ability to think through (just respond).  He also presents sex as a physical activity, rather than an emotional connection (as he does often in his other books) and is enamored with American culture and how it affects our society.  He often presents sub-messages regarding music and how it affects the psyche and our behavior.  Of course choice and our identity are central to his stories.  The stories are more surreal and fall in the genre of science fiction.  His imagination and depth of presenting how we behave under stress are some of the reasons I enjoy his work so much.  Creative writers who engage in a non-traditional way, but strongly influenced by authors like Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and Thomas Hardy can be found throughout.  He even has his characters reference these icons of literature.  If you are looking for a linear beginning, middle, and end, you may be disappointed.  It is the journey that makes us think. I really love his work!  Keep them coming RAs!     

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nuclear Navy

My last RA Favorite book that I finished until the 2014-15 RAs are hired.  This one was from one of the School of Engineering students, so not surprised it was an industry “historical” book called Nuclear Navy by Richard Hewlett.  The book traces the growth of the Navy’s attack potential by adding nuclear vessels to the operation.  The lead visionary for this endeavor was Admiral Hyman G. Rickover who shepherds the process of getting his supervisors to first appoint him to a position of influence and second give him the tools to make the process happen.  Rickover, on the precipice of being overlooked for a promotion, works the system, gets his position, and then sets out an amazing course to help change the world in terms of tools of destruction to keep the US safe.  The book goes into great detail using memorandums and other documents that were owned by the government to illustrate the depth of Rickover and his staff’s ability to lead the charge.  There are numerous lessons in “how each propulsion engine” or part was created and tested, the companies that served as contractors in the building of the parts, and finally all of the political pull necessary to receive funding to complete each step along the way.  The book provides year to year growth and opportunity that Rickover accomplished.  There are some rather in-depth details into nuclear creations, much of which honestly bored me to tears… the historical reflections on the thoughtful vision Rickover had and how he bullied anyone in his way was somewhat interesting.  This is clearly a book for engineers, or maybe military strategist.  Either way, it was a long read, which I completed during my ACUHOI trip to Columbus – being stuck an extra night let me finish it before returning to NYC.  I would not wrap this book up as a present to anyone, unless insomnia can’t be cured.  Hard read….

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The New York Trilogy

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster is a three part book all revolving around intrigue, missing people, writers scribing books, and strange departures of people from their home and each book has some level of connection to the same story, or does it??  The book is lauded as a “detective fiction.” In the first book, City of Glass, an unassuming man answers his phone late one night and is “mistaken” by the caller as a world renowned detective who needs to help find the missing father of her husband.  The man answering the phone decides he will assume the role of the detective, though he was actually a writer who has since stopped writing novels and begins working to find the father, whom we are led to believe that the new detective is the father (who does one search for self, well adopt a new identity)!!  He spends months searching and waiting for the "missing father” and becomes a bum, losing his home and all of his works.  Fast forward to the second “book” – Ghosts, all of the characters are named colors.  The same “detective” search process occurs with the lead character (Blue) faces off against his nemesis, Black.  The final book, The Locked Room, adopts a similar theme.  The main character (Fanshawe), an author, disappears and is assumed dead.  His friend takes on his works, which become profitable.  The friend also marries Fanshawe’s wife and adopts his son.  But like all good mysteries, Fanshawe is not dead as he reveals himself to his friend, who has to battle him and his ghost.  I enjoyed the first and third books, while Ghosts was a duplication with characters named colors, pretty farcical…   the books, while have some common themes present don’t exactly “fit” together (if that was the intent), otherwise some repetition and missing elements.  Hard at times to keep track of whom is who.  Loved how I was toured around NYC during the first book, walking through Washington Square Park and across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Ah how NYC impacts the world!