Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: December 2013

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers BookI received this hardcover book from Zappos while on the Zappos Insights Tour.

Outliers has been on my reading list for a long time and I am really glad that I finally got around to reading it. There are a lot of great insights in this book and I feel like I learned a lot.

My plans for my child’s education have changed significantly because of this book. The information about the differences in learning among children that are taught year-round versus children that take a long summer break makes a lot of sense to me and I now plan on teaching our child year-round.

There has been some negative talk about the findings in this book, many that attack Malcolm Gladwell on a personal level. I don’t understand why, most of the content in the book is more of a reporting on other people’s research and not Mr. Gladwell claiming ownership of those ideas or even an interpretation of the findings. If you feel there is something being wrongly analyzed in the book take a closer look at where that information is coming from, I think your time would be better spent reading the reports and studies that brought those ideas to the author’s attention.

I really like Outliers and feel like I learned a lot from it. I agree that success, as measured by our culture, takes good timing, being in the right-place at the right-time, recognizing an opportunity and taking advantage of it, and a lot of very hard work.

From the publisher:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend to anyone.


The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World by Robert Garland

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone.

I was looking for something non-fiction and stumbled upon The Great Courses on Audible. After browsing around a bit I found The Great Courses: Ancient History which led to "The Other Side of History." I was intrigued by the idea of learning about the lives of everyday people in medieval times.

This audiobook consists of 48 half-hour lectures given by Professor Robert Garland in a classroom environment. He does a fantastic job conveying the material to the listener with a voice that really resonated with me; he comes across as a professor I would enjoy learning history from.

One of the highlights of the book are the examples professor Garland provides of what we don’t know due to the lack of surviving records and the ideas and beliefs that have changed in recent years due to new discoveries. What we know of ancient history is always changing due to new findings and re-interpretations, but not all professors or historians will openly acknowledge that as readily as professor Garland does.

From the publisher:

Look beyond the abstract dates and figures, kings and queens, and battles and wars that make up so many historical accounts. Over the course of 48 richly detailed lectures, Professor Garland covers the breadth and depth of human history from the perspective of the so-called ordinary people, from its earliest beginnings through the Middle Ages.

The past truly comes alive as you take a series of imaginative leaps into the world of history’s anonymous citizens, people such as a Greek soldier marching into battle in the front row of a phalanx; an Egyptian woman putting on makeup before attending an evening party with her husband; a Greek citizen relaxing at a drinking party with the likes of Socrates; a Roman slave captured in war and sent to work in the mines; and a Celtic monk scurrying away with the Book of Kells during a Viking invasion.

Put yourself in the sandals of ordinary people and discover what it was like to be among history’s 99%. What did these everyday people do for a living? What was their home like? What did they eat? What did they wear? What did they do to relax? What were their beliefs about marriage? Religion? The afterlife?

This extraordinary journey takes you across space and time in an effort to be another person – someone with whom you might not think you have anything at all in common – and come away with an incredible sense of interconnectedness. You’ll see the range of possibilities of what it means to be human, making this a journey very much worth taking.

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

I rate this audiobook a 9 out of 10 and recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning more about medieval history.


Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

I bought this audiobook from and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone.

I am not sure why I purchased this book, on the surface it sounds like a book I would enjoy, I guess…

I think if I had read it as a paperback I picked up from somewhere I may have enjoyed it much more, but as an audio book it just didn’t work for me.

The narration by MacLeod Andrews is full of character, maybe too much character. I found his speech patterns and accent distracting and interesting at the same time. It just never clicked for me, I was distracted enough that I never got into the story.

The story itself is pretty good, the plot is anyways, the details are kind of boring though…

From the publisher:

When he was 19, James Stark was considered to be one of the greatest natural magicians, a reputation that got him demon-snatched and sent downtown – to Hell – where he survived as a gladiator, a sideshow freak entertaining Satan’s fallen angels.

That was 11 years ago. Now, the hitman who goes only by Stark has escaped and is back in L.A. Armed with a fortune-telling coin, a black bone knife, and an infernal key, Stark is determined to destroy the magic circle – led by the conniving and powerful Mason Faim – that stole his life.

Though nearly everything has changed, one constant remains: his friend Vidocq, a 200-year-old Frenchman who has been keeping vigil for the young magician’s return. But when Stark’s first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head that belongs to the first of the circle, a sleazy video store owner named Kasabian, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than he counted on, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

©2009 Richard Kadrey; (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

I rate this book a 5 out of 10 and recommend it only to those who have run out of other books to read.


METAtropolis edited by John Scalzi

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone, but it looks like Audible is no longer selling it.

METAtropolis is a collection of stories from multiple authors set in the same universe that they agreed upon before writing. It is a fine idea, but most of the stories are kind of a bore.

John Scalzi and Michael Hogan were the big draw for me, I love those guys, and they both did a fine job for their part, but the book as a whole does not pay off.

My favorite story is John Scalzi’s "Utere Nihil non Extra Quiritationem Suis" which means something like "Everything but the Squeal" which is about being a slacker and a pig farmer. The rest of the stories spend way to much time explaining everything, sometime in painful and useless detail.

From the publisher:

Five original tales set in a shared urban future—from some of the hottest young writers in modern SF

A strange man comes to an even stranger encampment…a bouncer becomes the linchpin of an unexpected urban movement…a courier on the run has to decide who to trust in a dangerous city…a slacker in a "zero-footprint" town gets a most unusual new job…and a weapons investigator uses his skills to discover a metropolis hidden right in front of his eyes.

Welcome to the future of cities. Welcome to Metatropolis.

More than an anthology, Metatropolis is the brainchild of five of science fiction’s hottest writers—Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Jay Lake, Karl Schroeder, and project editor John Scalzi—-who combined their talents to build a new urban future, and then wrote their own stories in this collectively-constructed world. The results are individual glimpses of a shared vision, and a reading experience unlike any you’ve had before.

I rate this book a 4 out of 10 while the one story, John Scalzi’s "Utere Nihil non Extra Quiritationem Suis", is a 9 out of 10. I recommend only if you have run out of other things to read.


Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore

Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
I bought this hardcover book used from the Book Nook in Marietta Georgia.

I loved Dirty Jobs so much that I keep hoping that Christopher Moore’s other books would be as good, but sadly the ones I have read are not. Don’t get me wrong, this book is OK, I enjoyed it overall, although some of the narration in supposed gothy-teenage slang really got on my nerves, the story itself is solid.

But it just didn’t have the zing or depth of Dirty Jobs.

From the publisher:

The city of San Francisco is being stalked by a huge shaved vampyre cat named Chet, and only I, Abby Normal, and my manga-haired love monkey stand between the ravenous monster and a bloody massacre of the general public.

Whoa. And this is a love story?

Yup. ‘Cept there’s no whining. But there is everybody’s favorite undead couple, Tommy and Jody, who’ve just escaped from imprisonment in a bronze statue. And now that they’re out they’ve joined forces with Abby, her boyfriend Steve, the frozen-turkey-bowling Safeway crew, the Emperor of San Francisco and his trusty dogs Lazarus and Bummer, gay Goth guy Jared, and SF’s finest Cavuto and Rivera to hunt big cat and save the city. Really.

I rate this book a 6 out of 10 and recommend it to Christopher Moore fans.