Books read in 1999
Reviewed November 15, 1999 by Jon. This book, by the editors of the Red Herring, is interesting for two reasons.
This one is easy to read and well worth the effort.
The US Marine Corps Book of Strategy
Reviewed November 13, 1999 by Jon. I just read this book for the second time. It is only 100 pages long and can easily be read in about an hour. This is the official doctrine for the U.S. Marine Corps. Although it is about military leadership, the lessons are easily applicable to business. The book defines strategy, operations, and tactics and their relationship. It discusses how to deal with uncertainty, the duties of leadership, and the need to decentralize power to enable "wars of maneuver" based on quick rapid motion and surprise. This is probably one of the best management books I've read and well worth the time.
Boom: A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity
Reviewed October 31, 1999 by Jon. I've read several reviews of this book, a couple started out in a very cynical fashion but later admitted that there was something interesting about the book. The authors postulate a long boom of prosperity based on globalization, baby boom demographics, and technology. They admittedly look at a very upbeat future scenario and come up with 10 "guiding principles" which seem trite but actually back up a lot of what they say in the book.
A fairly easy read and interesting if you are interested in the optimistic future scenario.
Rules: a Strategic Guide to the Networked Economy
Reviewed October 25, 1999 by Jon. This is destined to be a classic in technology strategy. Shapiro and Varian describe the economic "rules" that govern the "networked economy" - in particular the rules that govern "information goods". Their basic thesis is that "technology changes but the economic laws do not." They describe pricing, versioning, "lock-in", rights management, and managing technology in a world of increasing returns. A very readable and informative book for people interested in the convergence of technology and information. Extremely relevant to understaning today's internet economy.
Teams: Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration
Reviewed October 25, 1999 by Jon. This is a revised version of a book called Shared Minds that Schrage, a journalist and research associate at the MIT Sloan School and Media Lab, published in 1990. In No More Teams, Schrage outlines a theory of collaboration and describes the kinds of tools and environments needed to support collaboration. He basically takes apart the notion of collaboration, studying successful collaboration among a number of famous researchers and describes what is needed to support collaboration. As the title implies, Schrage is cynical about the notion of "teams" in corporate America. He is much more interested in ways to create environments and artifacts that help us share experience and work together. I read the original when it came out and recently read the updated version. Schrage has a new book coming out about modeling and prototyping as a vehicle to stimulate innovation. I expect that it will extend and enhance the notions established in this book. No More Teams is a must read for anyone who purports to be developing tools to help people work together.
The Builder's Revolution
Reviewed October 25, 1999 by Jon. This is a promotional piece by the founder of BuildSoft and BuildNet describing his ideas. It is organized into a series of Seminars that describe the Author's view of how technology can revolutionize residential construction. It is a bit dated and a bit "breathless" in the Tom Peters style - waxing eloquently about Virtual Reality and the Wonder of CD-Rom technology. Recently updated to talk about the Internet, it seems banal and dated. Brown almost talks down to his audience - the residential contractor. He sees "procedural-based project management" as the panacea for the builder. Despite the rather tiring style, there is some value in Brown's book - if only to provide insight into how one sells technology to the building community.
Reviewed August 27, 1999 by Jon. This book is about releasing value by breaking large corporations into smaller, independent units. Some good rationale for doing so and some practical advice for leading and implementing a breakup. I read this thinking it was about spin-outs, carve-outs, etc. but found that it is more specifically about large break ups like ATT->ATT, Lucent, NCR. Not directly applicable to the work I do but, nevertheless, some good pointers on separating one entity from a corporate parent. A very interesting discussion of the value of the corporate center. The authors draw upon their experience as consultants to describe the "value destruction" that some corporate centers can create.
Candy Reading. Reviewed August 27, 1999 by Jon. This is a typical Cornwall serial killer novel. Black Notice is very self-absorbed. The book spends far more time on the personal feelings and character of Kay Scarpatta and her compatriats, Detective Marino and niece Lucy and little time on the actual murder mystery. Also some very graphic autopsy descriptions. This is definately candy reading but Cornwall would have done better with a more balanced approach. More murder, less Scarpatta angst and autopsy gore would have made this a better book.
Reviewed July 5, 1999 by Jon. This is Schwart'z second book on web economics and provides some interesting insights about competitive strategies on the web. Schwartz uses Darwin's theory of evolution as a metaphor to describe how economics and business models are evolving (through mutation, brutal competition, and creative destruction) on the web. Like his first book, Webonomics, Digitial Darwinism is organized into seven "breakthrough business strategies":
Schwartz provides good anecdotal examples to illustrate each strategy and frequently draws upon the evolution metaphor. His examples - some familiar, and some new - illustrate both successes and failures. Although the strategies seem obvious as bullet points, there is actually some provocative thinking behind them. Schwartz is refreshing in that he tries to tie the web back into the "real world" and postulates that web frenzy will eventually settle down and the web will be totally integrated into the real economy - albeit a very changed economy.
This is a very easy book to read. It is about 200 pages long and can be read in an afternoon or cross-country airplane flight. Thanks to Dominic Gallello for recommending it.
Reviewed July 18 by Jon. A finance book on using option pricing to value real options, or events in the real world. Option pricing is a new method that is claimed to be more effective than discounted cash flow models to value situations in which multiple choices, or options exist. This is a reasonably good, non-technical book describing the process. However, it may not have enough meat to actually do the valuation calculations without some help from other sources. It does provide a number of case study examples. A spreadsheet illustrating the models is available at the authors' web site - www.real-options.com.
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
Reviewed July 26, 1999 by Jon. Friedman is the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times. He also wrote From Beiruit to Jeruselum. The Lexus and the Olive Tree is about the economic effect of a globalized interconnected economy. Freidman typically covers politics and culture. To write this book, he expanded his scope to cover national security, financial markets, technology, and environmentalism. Friedman believes that the collapse of communism and the interconnected technological world - which leads to an interconnected finanical system has led to a new way of running the world economy. He postulates that the global market-driven economy will thrive and countries and businessess who try to resist will succumb to Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction". This book is similar in message to William Greider's One World Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, but is more optimistic. Friedman is an excellent writer who brings an interesting perspective as a foreign affairs columnist to bear on the economic system. The book is very readable, an amazing feat for a subject which could easily be dry and boring.
Reviewed July 8, 1999 by Care. Like other Thomas Harris readers, I anticipated the release of the next novel featuring Dr. Hannibal Lecter ever since my first introduction to his evil character in The Silence of the Lambs. Although Harris attempted to engage me in Lecter's palace of the mind, neither Harris nor Lecter provided the suspense or portrayal of evil which I experienced previously. Dr. Lecter is the ultimate refined fiend but the emphasis on his cultural environment overshadowed the creation of a well developed sequel. Nonetheless it is a quick summer read.
Jon's Comments - July 25, 1999. I was also disappointed. The ending was a suprise but, as the book wore on, the premise became increasingly less plausible. Candy reading - but don't expect too much.
Reviewed July 8, 1999 by Care. This is an excellent fictional work and a pleasure to read. It is tightly written yet presents fully developed images and characters without excess. The setting is Saigon in 1965. The story is not focused on a military war but rather the conscious and morals of a small group of civilians, each of whom has a larger internal conflict to resolve regarding the Vietnam fight.
This story is like a shining nugget in the flow of conventional modern fiction.
Reviewed July 10, 1999 by Care. October 3, 1993 Mogadishu, Somalia where U.S. Special Forces stage a daylight mission to capture two of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid's lieutenants. What was designed to be an afternoon in-and-out ops turned into a bloody overnight siege leaving 18 Americans dead and over 500 Somali killed. Black Hawk Down captures the personal perspective of those who participated in this intense over-night combat.
Excellent journalistic approach. Even-handed and well researched.
Other recommended reading.
Reviewed Jan 28, 2000 by Jon. Care read this and really liked it. Jon found it long and rambling - but interesting. Stephenson weaves together a complex story taking place in several threads at several very disconnected places in time. An interesting read but difficult to follow. Tough to put down and later pick up and keep track of what is going on. Nevertheless a pretty good book.
A Man in Full
Candy Reading. Reviewed July 10, 1999 by Care. Rather than an engaging fictional work, Wolfe provides a description and commentary on two disparate faces of our late 20th Century society. The first being Atlanta's entrenched white society including its historical trappings intersecting with a developing economic and viable black community. And the other is the description of the west coast multi-racial cultural and prison environment. The contrived plot was the backdrop for the localized stereo-typical characters and their vernacular. However, Wolfe's dialog is engaging and his detail and interplay of the modern cultural elements from both regions is very readible.
This is a poolside or airplane book.
Reviewed July 10 by Care. A novel about a hospital staff which has more than the practice of medicine to focus on in its daily functions. Auerbach is a practitioner of emergency medicine and he conveys a sense of reality in the book, particularly in the early stages of plot development. However, the story does not have the same level of develoment and believability as provided in its medical descriptions.
I don't recommend reading this on your way into a hospital.
The Tuscan Sun
Reviewed July 16 by Care. I ignored this book's sustained position on the best seller lists until Jon brought it home. When I finally read it I experienced a book about living. It immediately soothed and slowed my metabolism while I consumed the sensual contexts of the Tuscan countryside of Italy. I became a guest in the the author's home and shared her experiences in restoring her country villa, enjoying the seasonal food offerings, and partaking of the wonderful lighting, flora, local history and culture.
1999-2017 Pittman. All rights reserved.