2018 Book Reviews

Books Jon read in 2018:

Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption

Geoffrey A. Moore

Reviewed February 18, by Jon. Geoffrey Moore is known for taking management theory and making it accessible and actionable. Zone to Win is no different. In this book, Moore talks about zoning they your business into four zones performance, productivity, Incubation, Transformaton - which map to horizons in horizon planning. Productivity is the only zone which does not and it relates to systemetizing the business. This book is actually a detailed managment playbook for plaing zone offense and defense - built upon a lot of Moore's other ideas. Some of it seems overly simplistic and prescriptive, but it is actionable, nevertheless. As usual, Moore creates a clear framework for his ideas. Worth reading and considering how to apply to your organization.

Zone to WinPurchase Zone To Win from Amazon.com

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Reviewed February 16, by Jon. The title is derived from a book on black political leadership right after the slaves were freed post Civil-war, but is actually (as expected) about he Obama years. Coates writes about the black experience and the years under Obama. He talked a lot about he feels about the legacy of slavery. I found I could empathize but it was unclear what action he wanted to take to rectify. He admired Obama but felt that he put too much emphasis on personal responsibility vs. systemic issues. I agree that the systemic issues are there but not sure how to resolve. Personal responsibility at least seems actionable. The book concludes with a discussion of Trump as a white reaction to the first black president. There is a lot of truth to what he says but I think things are more nuanced than that. I’m glad I read this book but it left me wishing for something more substantive or conclusory.

We Were Eight Years in PowerPurchase We Were Eight Years In Power from Amazon.com

The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure

Henry Petroski

Reviewed February 16, by Jon. Petroski is one of America’s most lucid writers on engineering. In this book, he covers American infrastructure- how it historically evolved from an engineering, political, and financial viewpoint. He covers lots of gritty details about how roads, drainage, and bridges work and are funded. The writing is fluid and easy to read. He makes a topic which could be boring interesting. I have always felt we underinvested in infrastructure, and came away from this book with a sense of hopelessness. There is much that needs to be done but powerful political forces – ideological, not pragmatic, that will prevent it from getting done. The book is worth the read. It was a bit one-dimensional – focusing mostly on roads and bridges (with a little water a rail thrown in). It would be nice if it covered other forms of infrastructure – including power and digital communications. Perhaps for his next book.

The Road TakenPurchase The Road Taken from Amazon.com

candyFire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Michael Wolff

Reviewed Feb 12, by Jon. This is controversial tell-all book about the Trump White House. While it has been regaled as a piece of gossip writing, it still has value. It does give some idea of the tone that is also visible to the outside world. Although the writing is meant to be titillating and provocative, if half of the stuff is true, the country is in the reckless hands of a deeply troubled and unqualified individual and the sycophants who surround him.

Fire and FuryPurchase Fire and Fury from Amazon.com

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else

Geoff Colvin

Reviewed Feb 12, by Jon. Colvin is a Fortune editor who has studied peak performance. His book both amplifies and modifies the assertion that Malcolm Gladwell and others have made that top performance comes from 10,000 hours of practice. Colvin asserts that context matters a lot, too. It is not just blink practice, but purposeful practice. Also support in the form of family, coaches, mentors, teachers, … While Colvin believes that practice is important it is too narrow a view. There are other factors at play as well.

Talent is OverratedPurchase Talent is Overrated from Amazon.com

Wherever You Go, There you Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Reviewed Feb 12, 2018 by Jon. This is a classic on mindfulness and meditation written by a well-known expert in the field. It is written in very short chapters, which makes it easy to pick up and read sporadically. That is just what I did. I wish I read it in a more continuous setting to better get the lessons. I did find it useful however as an expression of an approach and philosophy. I already know something about the topic so got something out of it. Another style might be better if someone is looking for a “how-to” manual.

Wherever You Go, There You ArePurchase Wherever you go, There you are from Amazon.com

The Economist’s Diet: The Surprising Formula for Losing Weight and Keeping it Off

Christopher Payne, PhD and Rob Barnett

Reviewed Feb 11, 2018. Payne and Barnett are economists who worked together at Bloomberg. Both were obese and lost and maintained lots of weight by applying economic principles. Their fundamental thesis is that excess weight is caused by abundance – abundance of cheap, high calorie food. Not a surprise. Their view is that the only way to lose weight is to eat less – also no surprise. What is different about their approach is that they do not advocate for or against specific foods or calorie counting. They try to take a behavioral approach. Their core recommendation is to weigh yourself every day and become aware of what works for you and does not. They don’t try to prevent feasting, but say you will need to pay the price by fasting. They claim you cannot lose weight and maintain it without learning to live with going hungry sometimes. Their approach really is about learning how your body responds to food and then making behavioral adjustments. They have some credibility for their approach – they both were obese and lost a lot of weight, each getting into a healthy zone and maintaining it. The book makes a lot of common sense. Although I have not yet become as disciplined as they would advocate, I have tried monitoring my weight on a daily basis (I have on a weekly basis for years) and have seen a correlation. In contrast to various fad diets – this book is very straightforward and common-sensical. I’ll try its advice and see how well it works.

Economist DietPurchase Economist's Diet from Amazon.com

What's The Future and Why It's Up to Us

Tim O'Reilly

Reviewed January 15, by Jon. Tim O'Reilly, like me, is a technological optimist. This book is fundamentally about how artificial intelligence will shape society. Rather than taking a dystopian view, so common now int he press, O'Reilly shows us how this can benefit society - if we take control of it. He views technology as a force to improve productivity but also says we should harness it rather than let it happen to us. There is a lot to like about this book. I found it a complete and cogent manifesto that organizes and gives voice to many of the things I believe. O'Reilly ranges far and wide through a bunch of topics - including the over financialization of our economy, which leads to investing in technology to the exclusion of workers. He shows that the obsession with "shareholder value" to the exclusion of human values is at the root of the dystopian visions and how we can address by valuing and developing people. This is a big book that is well worth reading.

WTFPurchase WTF from Amazon.com

JavaScript&jQuery: Interactive front-end web development

John Duckett

Reviewed January 7, by Jon. In redesigning the all new ribee.com, I found John Duckett's companion book to JavaScript&jQuery, HTML&CSS really valuable for its welldesigned format and informative style. As I got into designing rizbee.com behaviors - menus and Google maps, I found that I needed to program in JavaScript and jQuery. Like its companion book, JavaScript&jQuery, is really well designed. I have a lot of programming experiences, but it is not recent. I found this book was a great reference in helping me come back up to speed. I referred to it frequently in writing the initial behaviors for rizbee.com, then skimmied it later to give me an overview of what is possible. If you can only read one book to learn JavaScript and jQuery, this is the one I'd recommend.

Javascript&jQueryPurchase JavaScript&jQuery from Amazon.com

candyThe Hollow Man: A Novel

Oliver Harris

Reviewed January 5, by Jon. This is a detective novel about London reprobate detective Nick Belsky. Belsky has absolutely no moral compass. He finds a Russian mobster who was killed and moves into his mansion and assumes his life. The book is about Belsky investigating the murder of the Russian's young assistant who turns out to be a teen hooker in a relationship with another cop. In sort of the Harry Bosch tradition but with no seeming redeeming moral fiber, Belsky lurches from one crisis to another throughout the book. This is an easy, entertaining read and I did find myself identifying with Belksy as he novel progressed - as horrifying as that might seem.

Hollow ManPurchase The Hollow Man from Amazon.com

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