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Category: Non-Fiction

How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

I am getting organized, like in-general organized. I am creating to-do lists, setting goals, and closely tracking my progress. I am learning some new tools and working on building new habits and I am hoping that they will help facilitate some changes for the better.

I am starting with collecting all of the notes that I have scattered across many different hard drives and the Internet, so I thought learning how to take better notes would be a good idea.

I learned about the Hoe to Take Smart Notes book while learning how to use a note taking tool called Obsidian, many of the blog posts and videos I watched referred to it and made it sound like a great book.

I bought it from Amazon to read on the Kindle and read it in a day.

The title is “How to Take Smart Notes,” but I think it would have been better served with the title, “Why Take Smart Notes and How to Use Them.” Although it does cover the “How” of smart note taking, the majority of its pages are about the “Why.”

I found the why of it interesting, but very dry.

The references throughout the book may be the best thing about it, I highlighted and saved many quotes and references for future exploring, the bibliography is a great resource.

I plan on using what I learned and applying it to my daily note taking, task management, and other writing projects.

Form the author’s website:

This is the step-by-step guide on how to set up and understand the principle behind the note-taking system that enabled Luhmann to become one of the most productive and systematic scholars of all time. But most importantly, it enabled him to do it with ease. He famously said: “I never force myself to do anything I don’t feel like.” Luhmann’s system is often misunderstood and rarely well explained (especially in English). This book aims to make this powerful tool accessible to everyone with an interest in reading, thinking and writing. It is especially helpful for students and academics of the social sciences and humanities and nonfiction writers.

I rate How to Take Smart Notes a 6 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking to build a solid system of note taking, but be ready for the book to be a slog.


Kindle Paperwhite

amazon kindle paperwhite book reader

While studying for the Amateur Radio license exams I decided I wanted a new Kindle to read them on. Looking at the different versions of Kindle’s available I chose the Paperwhite for its price, size, backlighting, and water resistance. We have an original Kindle Keyboard and it still works, but it is larger and heavier than the Paperwhite, is not water resistant, does not have a backlight, does not have a touchscreen, and is awkward to hold. I was hesitant to buy a new Kindle as I had not been using the old one very often until I started studying for the license exams which is what got me to use the old one a lot.

Now that I have the Paperwhite Kindle, I use it a lot. It is small enough to fit the pocket of my hoodies, light enough that with a Pop-Socket installed on the back of it I can hold it for hours, when there is enough light the screen without backlighting is easy to read and when there isn’t much light the backlight does a great job making it readable. It would be great if the color of the backlighting was something other than blue, I would prefer an amber color, but that would probably require more power from the battery than the blue.

I like to boost the font size up pretty large, that allows me to read much faster than when I am straining to read smaller text. I have mostly read technical manuals and fiction novels with it, I have tried to use it to read PDF files, but with PDFs you cannot adjust the font size, so I mostly stick to Kindle formatted documents.

The battery lasts a good while for me, I usually charge it one a week or so when using it for a couple of hours a day. Yesterday I read on it for about 10 hours, finished an entire book, and that used around 30% of the battery. The brighter you have the light and the more you use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functionality the shorter the battery life will be.

I am now also subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and am using that subscription to read a lot of different science-fiction books. Its really cool having so many books available at my fingertips, but I think the $9.99 a month price will probably make me cancel it after a couple of months.

Here are my 3 favorite things about Kindle

  • I can read the books I get from Amazon for the Kindle on iOS or Android phones and tablets along with Kindle devices
  • The waterproof Kindle Paperwhite can be used while in the bathtub or at the pool without wrapping it up to keep it dry
  • I don’t have to find space to store or go through the process of selling all of the books that I have read


I live in a house with multiple tablets, phones, and even Kindles. I really appreciate that I can pick any of them up and continue where I left off for any book that I have been reading. It is not perfect, there are times when a device will screw up and send me to the wrong place in the book, when that happens with an audio book it is really annoying to find my place again, but with an ebook, it is not so bad.


I like to soak in water… a lot. I regularly sit in our bathtub for 3 hours at a time. With most of my devices I have to put them in a Ziploc bag before taking them into the bath with me, but with the current iPhone and Kindle Paperwhite I don’t have to do that anymore. I am careful with them and haven’t submerged them yet, but Apple and Amazon claim that they would be find if they took a plunge into the bath.


We have 8 bookshelves in our house and a couple in the garage and they are all full. The large “Science Fiction” bookshelf and the “Travel” bookshelf are so full that the shelves are 2 deep in books. This is after we have gone through the books multiple times giving, trading, and donating hundreds of books. Buying more physical books to fill the house really doesn’t interest me. Using the Kindle and big iPad Pro to read has been a fantastic experience for me. But of course there are physical books I just have to have, usually the big electronics or other technical reference books, because I do love spending time pouring over them and turning to random pages and learning something new.


The Phoenix Project by George Spafford, Kevin Behr, and Gene Kim

It’s been awhile since I used Safari Books Online, O’Reilly’s online subscription service, to read something, so I picked The Phoenix Project which was recommended to me on my login page.

The Phoenix Project is a “novel” about DevOps and all that entails being implemented in manufacturing and retail environment where IT had always been seen as a necessary evil. I think a lot of people, both inside and outside of IT can relate to that. The back of the book is full of resources and information about where to learn more about DevOps, continuous deployment, and automation tools.

I have yet to work somewhere where DevOps is a reality, not sure that I ever will, but a boy can dream. I have worked somewhere that was able to deploy multiple times a day, which was pretty great. But most places I have worked only deployed once a month, or a quarter, or in one instance only once every 18 months, when they were lucky. It really shouldn’t be like that.

From the publisher:

Bill is an IT manager at Parts Unlimited. It’s Tuesday morning and on his drive into the office, Bill gets a call from the CEO.

The company’s new IT initiative, code named Phoenix Project, is critical to the future of Parts Unlimited, but the project is massively over budget and very late. The CEO wants Bill to report directly to him and fix the mess in ninety days or else Bill’s entire department will be outsourced.

With the help of a prospective board member and his mysterious philosophy of The Three Ways, Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. With the clock ticking, Bill must organize work flow streamline interdepartmental communications, and effectively serve the other business functions at Parts Unlimited.

In a fast-paced and entertaining style, three luminaries of the DevOps movement deliver a story that anyone who works in IT will recognize. Readers will not only learn how to improve their own IT organizations, they’ll never view IT the same way again.

I rate The Phoenix Project an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone in IT, anyone who manages people in IT, and to everyone who is sick and tired of late-night deployments that always seem to have a lot of problems.


The No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide by Dan Romanchik

To legally use a 5.8GHz video transmitter in the U.S. you need at least a Technician Amateur Radio license. It is not a hard test, but I wanted some study aids to make sure I only had to take the test once.

A little bit of searching on Amazon led me to The No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide (2014 edition): For tests given starting July 1, 2014 [Kindle Edition] for a very reasonable price.

It is a very good book covering only what you need to know to pass the test without a lot of fluff that many of the other study books include.

I rate this book a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who wants to quickly learn what it takes to pass the Technician license.

I passed my test only missing 2 questions after reading this book twice and using an iPhone app to take around 100 practice tests.


Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux by Peter Membrey and David Hows

This is the Raspberry Pi book I have been looking for. Instead of trying to push some advanced scripting language or Linux distribution, this book shows you how to use the most widely used distribution, Raspbian, and good old Bash scripts to do useful things with a Raspberry Pi.

Now 3 years old the lessons in Learn Raspberry Pi still hold up. Raspbian has been through some major updates and the new Model A+ and B+ computers have added to the Pi’s capabilities, but the Linux/Unix commands, SSH and VNC techniques, network information, Web Server installation (LAMP), and a decent chapter covering compiling XMBC on your Pi.

This book does not cover any topics in depth, but it includes enough information to give you an idea of what to enter into Google to find out more. This is one of the greatest features of Linux and the Raspberry Pi, once you know what to search for, there is more information available for free. The community is made up of millions of people from all over the world that want to share what they have learned and what they have created.

From the publisher:

Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux will tell you everything you need to know about the Raspberry Pi’s GUI and command line so you can get started doing amazing things. You’ll learn how to set up your new Raspberry Pi with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and you’ll discover that what may look unfamiliar in Linux is really very familiar. You’ll find out how to connect to the internet, change your desktop settings, and you’ll get a tour of installed applications.

Next, you’ll take your first steps toward being a Raspberry Pi expert by learning how to get around at the Linux command line. You’ll learn about different shells, including the bash shell, and commands that will make you a true power user.

Finally, you’ll learn how to create your first Raspberry Pi projects:

  • Making a Pi web server: run LAMP on your own network
  • Making your Pi wireless: remove all the cables and retain all the functionality
  • Making a Raspberry Pi-based security cam and messenger service: find out who’s dropping by
  • Making a Pi media center: stream videos and music from your Pi

Raspberry Pi is awesome, and it’s Linux. And it’s awesome because it’s Linux. But if you’ve never used Linux or worked at the Linux command line before, it can be a bit daunting. Raspberry Pi is an amazing little computer with tons of potential. And Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux can be your first step in unlocking that potential.

What you’ll learn

  • How to get online with Raspberry Pi
  • How to customize your Pi’s desktop environment
  • Essential commands for putting your Pi to work
  • Basic network services – the power behind what Pi can do
  • How to make your Pi totally wireless by removing all the cables
  • How to turn your Pi into your own personal web server
  • How to turn your Pi into a spy
  • How to turn your Pi into a media center

Who this book is for

Raspberry Pi users who are new to Linux and the Linux command line.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it to anyone looking to make a project with a Raspberry Pi.


There & Back Again To See How Far It Is by Tim Watson

I think a review in CycleWorld led me to buy this hardcover book; it tuned out to be the most disappointing “motorcycle” book I have ever read.

The full title is “There & Back Again To See How Far It Is: Cultural Observations of an Englishman Aboard a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Across Small-Town America”

Just a really boring read with lots of semi-interesting tid-bits pulled from Wikipedia and Google Maps. I found very few “Cultural Observations”, information about a “Harley Davidson Motorcycle”, or feel that the author and his wife had travelled very far throughout the book.

Take a pass on this one.

I rate this book a 1 out of 10 and do not recommend it to anyone.


What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

I was looking for a book to read and found What the Dog Saw on the office bookshelf. I have really liked the Malcolm Gladwell books I read in the past so decided to give it a try.

This book is a collection of articles that Malcolm Gladwell wrote for the New Yorker covering a wide variety of topics.

My favorite articles include Cesar Millan the “Dog Whisperer”, the story of Grey Poupon, and Enron.

Gladwell’s writing is superb, witty, and never strays to far from the point even when it is taking a winding path to get there.


What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?

Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer” who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and “hindsight bias” and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.

“Good writing,” Gladwell says in his preface, “does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.” What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.

I rate What the Dog Saw a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone.


Tips from a Pro: Travel Photography by Nicole S. Young

This Tips from a Pro book from Nicole S. Young (Nicolesy) about Travel Photography.

I have known about Nicolesy for awhile now, she has been on various Leo Laporte podcasts and radio shows that I listen to, and I have always liked what she has had to say.

I read this book using Safari Books Online as a part of my subscription but at only $8 it is an easy one to pick up. It is very short with only 67 pages. I read it while eating lunch and watching my son play at a Chic-fil-A playground, probably an hour-and-a-half altogether.

I enjoyed it and think it is well worth the money.

I rate Tips from a Pro: Travel Photography a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking for some quick photography tips.


The Art of Conflict Management by The Great Courses

These academic things always have such ridiculously long titles <sigh>, the full title is " The Art of Conflict Management: Achieving Solutions for Life, Work, and Beyond ".

I was looking for a non-fiction book to give a listen-to and I always give The Great Courses on Audible a look when searching for such a thing. I have listened to some of the Great Course lectures that I did not enjoy but a couple of them have been surprisingly good, so I am always willing to give them a try.

At 12 hours and 20 minutes this is one of the shorter lectures in the Great Courses, and that is a good thing. This course get right to the point and does a good job of keeping on track. The amount of self referential babble is minimal compared to most other lectures. I do not understand the need to constantly tell the listener about what will be talked about in later lectures, it is distracting and counter productive.

Professor Michael Dues does a great job presenting the material. I found his voice easy to listen to, easy to understand, and he kept my attention throughout the lectures.

I enjoyed the way that multiple styles of conflict management were presented instead of trying to propose a one-size fits-all approach.

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

From the publisher:

In 24 lectures brimming with practical tips, tools, and techniques everyone can use to better manage conflict in his or her professional and personal lives, gain the essential skills of conflict management. As presented by Professor Dues, these lectures will show you how to effectively deal with conflicts of all kinds, using the “win-win” model that has dominated the field for the past six decades.

You’ll gain effective techniques for handling conflicts in your workplace, other organizational settings, or your personal life, whether you’re dealing with supervisors, coworkers, acquaintances, close friends, or family members. You’ll learn the best ways to analyze conflicts and work through the steps toward resolving them, including clarifying goals, handling difficult emotions, and negotiating agreements. And you’ll grasp the fundamental tricks of the trade that experienced negotiators have long used to deal with even the most seemingly intractable moral and cultural conflicts.

While drawing on the latest groundbreaking research, Professor Dues has designed these lectures to be as practical as possible. Requiring no background in conflict management, negotiation, or psychology, they offer you not just knowledge, but strategies and tactics you can put to work in your own life right now. Best of all, you’ll be able to see those strategies and tactics in action through 70 professionally acted dramatizations that illustrate different conflict situations at home and in the workplace.

You don’t have a choice about becoming involved in conflict. You do, however, have a choice about learning to manage it successfully by using the invaluable tools these lectures can give you.

©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses

I rate The Art of Conflict Management a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking to improve their conflict management skills.


Getting Started with BeagleBone by Matt Richardson

After seeing a really cool telepresence robot using a BeagleBone at an Atlanta JavaScript Meetup I just had to get one.

I ended up buying a Beagle Bone Black (BBB) from MakerShed in a kit that included some components and a paperback of Getting Started with BeagleBone.

While waiting for the BBB to arrive I started reading the book on Safari Books Online and ended up never reading more than a couple of pages from the printed book. I was more comfortable reading the book on an iPad using the Safari Books Online app.

This is a very good “Getting Started” book. Its purpose is to build familiarity and confidence for someone who has not used a BBB before, and it does that very well. So well that even before I was done with it I had a ton of plans for my BBB including updating the OS from Angstrom to Debian, adding an NTP server, and a lot more.

Now I am planning on creating a remote home automation system for our garage doors.

From the publisher:

Many people think of Linux as a computer operating system, running on users’ desktops and powering servers. But Linux can also be found inside many consumer electronics devices. Whether they’re the brains of a cell phone, cable box, or exercise bike, embedded Linux systems blur the distinction between computer and device.

Many makers love microcontroller platforms such as Arduino, but as the complexity increases in their projects, they need more power for applications, such as computer vision. The BeagleBone is an embedded Linux board for makers. It’s got built-in networking, many inputs and outputs, and a fast processor to handle demanding tasks. This book introduces you to both the original BeagleBone and the BeagleBone Black and gets you started with projects that take advantage of the board’s processing power and its ability to interface with the outside world.

I rate Getting Started with BeagleBone a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone as a first exposure to the BBB.


One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Man-o-man, I like me some Bill Bryson. I think I would buy audio recordings of his compilations of the nightly news…

Oh wait, I think I just did.

"One Summer" really does feel like a compilation of newspaper articles from around 1927 sprinkled with insights and ideas that only come from hindsight.

I enjoyed this book more than At Home, but less than A Short History of Nearly Everything.

If you enjoy learning about history, about the United States, and about trivia then I think you will love this book. Bill Bryson does a wonderful job narrating the book, bringing history to life, and making it interesting.

From the publisher:

One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country – a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge). It was the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things and came of age in a big, brawling manner. What a country. What a summer. And what a writer to bring it all so vividly alive for us in this certain best-seller.

©2013 Bill Bryson (P)2013 Random House Audio

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone interested in history.


Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills by Professor Steven Novella

I believe that critical thinking is going to be the most important skill my son will ever have. The ability to think for himself and make good decisions quickly based upon what he knows while being able to change his decisions based upon new information when it is available.

Your Deceptive Mind is a part of The Great Courses: Professional series and is made up of 24 lectures given by Professor Steven Novella.

There are some nuggets of wisdom in these lectures, but I do not feel like there were any breakthrough ideas or innovations. Just a lot of reasons why most people have such a hard time thinking critically and being rational in their decision-making.

The contents are interesting and the professor is a very good speaker, but I do not feel like my ability to think critically has been much improved by listening to these lectures.

From the publisher:

No skill is more important in today’s world than being able to think about, understand, and act on information in an effective and responsible way. What’s more, at no point in human history have we had access to so much information, with such relative ease, as we do in the 21st century. But because misinformation out there has increased as well, critical thinking is more important than ever.

These 24 rewarding lectures equip you with the knowledge and techniques you need to become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life. By immersing yourself in the science of cognitive biases and critical thinking, and by learning how to think about thinking (a practice known as metacognition), you’ll gain concrete lessons for doing so more critically, more intelligently, and more successfully.

The key to successful critical thinking lies in understanding the neuroscience behind how our thinking works – and goes wrong; avoiding common pitfalls and errors in thinking, such as logical fallacies and biases; and knowing how to distinguish good science from pseudoscience. Professor Novella tackles these issues and more, exploring how the (often unfamiliar) ways in which our brains are hardwired can distract and prevent us from getting to the truth of a particular matter.

Along the way, he provides you with a critical toolbox that you can use to better assess the quality of information. Even though the world is becoming more and more saturated information, you can take the initiative and become better prepared to make sense of it all with this intriguing course.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

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

I rate this audiobook a 6 out of 10 and only recommend it to those who are looking for a scientific take on the mistakes people make when making decisions.


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.


13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks

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

This book did not impress me. To me the narrator, James Adams, sounds really bored throughout the book.

Maybe it has to do with my own opinion that "Science" knows a lot less than it thinks it does and that much of what is currently accepted as irrefutable truth will soon be recognized as being wrong. So a book of 13 things that science does not know is not very impressive to me.

I am not sure why I bothered buying this book, it is obviously not something that I would be interested in, but for some reason I thought it would be.

From the publisher:

Science starts to get interesting when things don’t make sense.

Science’s best-kept secret is that there are experimental results and reliable data that the most brilliant scientists can neither explain nor dismiss. In the past, similar "anomalies" have revolutionized our world, as in the 16th century, when a set of celestial anomalies led Copernicus to realize that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the reverse, and in the 1770s, when two chemists discovered oxygen because of experimental results that defied the theories of the day. If history is any precedent, we should look to today’s inexplicable results to forecast the future of science.

In 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, Michael Brooks heads to the scientific frontier to meet 13 modern-day anomalies and discover tomorrow’s breakthroughs.

©2008 Michael Brooks; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

I rate this book a 4 out of 10 and don’t recommend it to anyone.


Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites by Syl Arena

I read this book on Safari Books Online using the Safari Books app on an iPad.

I am not a big fan of using flash in the type of photography I usually do, but I am trying to improve my skills with speedlites and strobes. I have an old Canon 550EX and a pair of Yongnuo cheapo flashes with Yongnuo wireless triggers.

The Yongnuo flashes work great when I have a lot of time to set them up and experiment with settings since everything is manual with them. But where the Canon flash is 95% reliable the Yungnuo flashes are more like 75% reliable, so they get the job done, I just have to pay closer attention to them and double-check every exposure.

So that is where my interest in this book began, but this book delivers so much more than what to do with your flash. The first 5 chapters are about how to see and capture light and are absolutely fantastic, a must read. It is so well written, where the book "Light Science and Magic" feels like reading a schoolbook, the Speedliter’s Handbook is much friendlier and more conversational. I really enjoyed it and expect to read it again and again until I have soaked it all up.

In the appendix of the book is a great resource of websites about photography, I filled up my news reader with more than a dozen of them.

From the publisher:

Getting your Canon Speedlite to produce the light you need can be a real challenge. For those new to flash photography—or for anyone who has previously given up out of frustration—Speedliter’s Handbook is a revelation. Photographer Syl Arena takes you on a journey that begins with an exploration of light and color, moves through a comprehensive discussion of the Canon Speedlite family and all of the accessories and equipment available to the Speedliter, then settles down to crafting great light in one photo shoot after another. Whether you want to create a classical portrait, shoot an event, or simply add a little fill light to a product shot, Speedliter’s Handbook shows you how.

A fantastic in-depth resource illustrated with over 500 images, Speedliter’s Handbook covers:

  • how to see the various characteristics and properties of light itself, as well as the differences between how your camera sees versus how you see
  • all the buttons and dials of the entire Canon Speedlite family
  • the basics of on-camera flash…and the necessity of getting your flash off the camera
  • how to beautifully balance flash with the existing ambient light
  • all the equipment necessary for great Speedlite shots
  • how to get amazing shots with just one Speedlite
  • how and when to use E-TTL versus manual flash
  • the use of color gels to balance color, as well as create dramatic effects
  • how to tame the sun—or any really bright light—with hi-speed sync
  • and much, much more

Whether you’re shooting portraits, events, or sports, Speedliter’s Handbook is an essential resource that teaches you how to craft the light you need for any type of shot you want.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to any photographer.


The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott KelbyI read this book on Safar Books Online using an iPad and the Safari Books Online App.

This is the 4th Scott Kelby Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Photographers book I have read, and they all have been worth the time.

These books have been where I have gotten most of my personal photography workflow from and why I made the switch from doing all of my post-production in Photoshop to doing it all in Lightroom. In fact I only open up Photoshop to do quick panoramas (I have other software I use for large intricate panos) and for extensive retouching or composites.

About Stars, Labels, and Flags

I do not use stars at all, I have no reason to rate pictures on a scale. I use labels only to identify pictures that are part of panoramas or composites. I am a firm believer in using flags exclusively to identify the value of pictures.

A picture is either “Rejected” and deleted forever, not flagged because it is an ok picture that I may need at some point in the future, or it is a “Pick” and I have big plans for it.

Scott does a much better job of explaining why than I do and I hope he doesn’t take offense at me quoting him here:

“When you boil it down, our real goal is to find the best photos from our shoot, but we also want to find the worst photos (those photos where the subject is totally out of focus, or you pressed the shutter by accident, or the flash didn’t fire, etc.), because there’s no sense in having photos that you’ll never use taking up hard drive space, right? Lightroom gives you three ways to rate (or rank) your photos, the most popular being the 1-to-5-star rating system. To mark a photo with a star rating, just click on it and type the number on your keyboard. So, to mark a photo with a 3-star rating, you’d press the number 3, and you’d see three stars appear under the photo (shown here at the top). To change a star rating, type in a new number. To remove it altogether, press 0 (zero). The idea is that once you’ve got your 5-star photos marked, you can turn on a filter that displays only your 5-star photos. You can also use that filter to see just your 4-star, 3-star, etc., photos. Besides stars, you can also use color labels, so you could mark the worst photos with a Red label, slightly better ones with Yellow, and so on. Or, you could use these in conjunction with the stars to mark your best 5-star photo with a Green label (as shown here at the bottom).”

“Now that I’ve mentioned star ratings and labels, I want to talk you out of using them. Here’s why: they’re way too slow. Think about it—your 5-star photos would be your very best shots, right? The only ones you’ll show anybody. So your 4-star ones are good, but not good enough. Your 3-star ones are just so-so (nobody will ever see these). Your 2-star ones are bad shots—not so bad that you’ll delete them, but bad—and your 1-star shots are out-of-focus, blurry, totally messed up shots you’re going to delete. So what are you going to do with your 2- and 3-star photos? Nothing. What about your 4-star photos? Nothing. The 5-stars you keep, the 1-stars you delete, the rest you pretty much do nothing with, right? So, all we really care about are the best shots and the worst shots, right? The rest we ignore.”

“So instead, I hope you’ll try flags. You mark the best shots as Picks and the really bad ones (the ones to be deleted) as Rejects. Lightroom will delete the Rejects for you when you’re ready, leaving you with just your best shots and the ones you don’t care about, but you don’t waste time trying to decide if a particular photo you don’t care about is a 3-star or a 2-star. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people sitting there saying out loud, “Now, is this a 2-star or a 3-star?” Who cares? It’s not a 5-star; move on! To mark a photo as a Pick, just press the letter P. To mark a photo as a Reject, press the letter X. A little message will appear onscreen to tell you which flag you assigned to the photo, and a tiny flag icon will appear in that photo’s grid cell. A white flag means it’s marked as a Pick. A black flag means it’s a Reject.”

I really love Lightroom and I think this book is one of the best ways to learn how to use it.

From the publisher:

Since Lightroom 1.0 first launched, Scott’s Kelby’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers has been the world’s #1 best-selling Lightroom book (it has been translated into a dozen different languages), and in this latest version for Lightroom 5, Scott uses his same award-winning, step-by-step, plain-English style and layout to make learning Lightroom easy and fun.

Scott doesn’t just show you which sliders do what (every Lightroom book will do that). Instead, by using the following three simple, yet brilliant, techniques that make it just an incredible learning tool, this book shows you how to create your own photography workflow using Lightroom:

  • Throughout the book, Scott shares his own personal settings and studiotested techniques. Each year he trains thousands of Lightroom users at his live seminars and through that he’s learned what really works, what doesn’t, and he tells you flat out which techniques work best, which to avoid, and why.
  • The entire book is laid out in a real workflow order with everything step by step, so you can begin using Lightroom like a pro from the start.
  • What really sets this book apart is the last chapter. This is where Scott dramatically answers his #1 most-asked Lightroom question, which is: “Exactly what order am I supposed to do things in, and where does Photoshop fit in?” You’ll see Scott’s entire start-to-finish Lightroom 5 workflow and learn how to incorporate it into your own workflow.
  • Plus, this book includes a downloadable collection of some of the hottest Lightroom Develop module presets to give you a bunch of amazing effects with just one click!

Scott knows first-hand the challenges today’s digital photographers are facing, and what they want to learn next to make their workflow faster, easier, and more fun. He has incorporated all of that into this major update for Lightroom 5.

It’s the first and only book to bring the whole process together in such a clear, concise, and visual way. Plus, the book includes a special chapter on integrating Adobe Photoshop seamlessly right into your workflow, and you’ll also learn some of Scott’s latest Photoshop portrait retouching techniques and special effects, which take this book to a whole new level. There is no faster, more straight-to-the-point, or more fun way to learn Lightroom than with this groundbreaking book.

I rate this book and its predecessors as a 9 out of 10.


Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers. By Zack Arias

I bought this book from Safari Books Online and read it using the Kindle app on my iPad.

I really like Zack Arias as a photographer and a person. He is very open about what he does, why he does it, his triumphs, and his troubles.

Photography Q&A is full of questions that amateur and professional photographers have asked Zack with his honest and heartfelt answers. So much good information here, it is an amazing amount of information.

If you don’t know who Zack is, take a look at his website at and really take a hard look at this video "Transform." I think after watching the video you will want to hear much more from Zack.

I really enjoyed reading "Photography Q&A", I learned a lot, I laughed a lot, and have decided I need to buy a light meter pronto!

From the publisher:

For years, editorial and commercial photographer Zack Arias has been a respected and trusted voice in the photography industry. Known for his photography, his teaching, and his ability to connect with photographers, Zack has long had an "open door" approach to discussing his career–the ups and the downs–and in so doing has provided a straightforward and candid look inside the industry. By consistently showing great work and offering helpful advice, he has built a large, loyal readership that looks to him for guidance in navigating the currents of a difficult and dynamic industry. Now, Zack finds yet another way to cut through the noise and offer truly valuable information to those struggling to make their way through the twists and turns of an ever-changing landscape.

In Photography Q&A, Zack answers over 100 questions that he fielded directly from the public. These are questions that range across all aspects of the photo industry: gear, marketing, street photography, vision, pricing, branding, light, models, work/life balance, technical advice, and much more. From how to "put yourself out there" and start to get jobs, to how to get paid for those jobs when the client is slow to cut the check–and everything in between– Photography Q&A answers many of the pressing questions that photographers are asking, but until now have not been addressed. The book also includes intermittent "Visual Intermission" sections–where Zack discusses individual images that were milestones in his development as a photographer–as well as worksheets on topics such as pricing and costs that help photographers to "know their numbers."

With all this material, and with insightful, honest answers that come straight from Zack’s experience as a photographer who has seen it all (or at least a lot of it), Photography Q&A is an essential resource for any photographer looking for the real answers to the real questions in the industry today.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10. It would have been a 10 if there had been more photographs.


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

I bought this book on audible and listened to it on my iPhone using the Audible app while traveling from Atlanta to Portland.

I have been working on loosing weight and getting in better shape over the last year. So far I have lost around 30 pounds, I am very happy about that. As a part of getting in shape I have been doing some running, mostly the run/walk/run thing, but for now I only average a 15-minute mile, a bit slower in the summer heat. So this is where my interest in running has come from.

"Born to Run" popped up in an email about new books from Audible and the rating and reviews were so high that I couldn’t pass it up. A lot of the reviews stressed that the book would be enjoyed by anyone, even those who do not run, and boy were they right.

Many years ago I went through a lot of books about mountaineering, I enjoy hiking, but never really had any intention on doing anything close to real mountaineering, but I really enjoyed the books. John Krakauer’s "Into Thin Air", "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills", and "The Burgess Book of Lies" are some of my favorites. I put "Born to Run" right up there with those books.

It is a great read. There is a lot of information for those who love to run, relationships and emotions for those looking for a good story, and controversy for those who like that sort of thing.

After reading this book I have decided to give barefoot or minimalist running a try. When I was in the Navy, many years ago, I spent a year running on a regular basis and injured my left foot. After that I was told to always wear stiff soled shoes and not to run so much. Lately I have been running in New Balance running shoes with high-end insoles and have not had any foot problems, but this book has me excited to give a try at strengthening my feet by wearing minimal footwear. I’ll let you know how that goes.

From the publisher:

Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?

In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence.

With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a 50-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons.

Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

©2009 Knopf; (P)2009 Random House

I rate this book a 10 out of 10 and recommend to anyone who is interested in running or enjoys travel stories.


Maintainable JavaScript by Nicholas C. Zakas

Maintainable JavaScript by Nicholas C. Zakas
Maintainable JavaScript by Nicholas C. Zakas
I read this book using Safari Books Online using various laptops and an iPad.

This is an amazing book.

Following a style guide while programming is common in many languages, but for me it is a new idea in JavaScript. Reading Douglas Crockford’s Style Guide can teach you a lot, but Maintainable JavaScript teaches you not only the how, but also the why.

This book does focus on following a style guide but it also includes how to set-up and use a build system with your JavaScript. I can’t wait to start putting that information to use. As a front-end developer I have not used a build system.

Nicholas also has a great presentation available that covers many of the topics in the book on SlideShare at

From the publisher:

You may have definite ideas about writing code when working alone, but team development requires that everyone use the same approach. With the JavaScript practices in this book—including code style, programming tips, and automation—you’ll learn how to write maintainable code that other team members can easily understand, adapt, and extend. Author Nicholas Zakas assembled this collection of best practices as a front-end tech leader at Yahoo!, after completing his own journey from solo hacker to team player.

I rate this book a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who has moved beyond beginner JavaScript.


Adobe Fireworks CS6 Classroom in a Book: The official training workbook from Adobe Systems

I read this book on O’Reilley’s Safari Books Online using personal and work laptops along with the Safari Books app on an iPad.

I really like the Adobe Classroom in a Book series and have read many of them. They are great because they are based on real-world use and come with all of the files needed to build the projects used in them.

Back in the day I did the Photoshop Classroom in a Book and completed all of the tutorials, followed every step, and wrote out the answers to the quizzes at the end of each chapter. Since then I pretty much just read through the book and absorb as much as I can, returning to the book when I get stuck in the project I am working on.

I am working with a designer that uses Fireworks to build his web site designs and was completely befuddled by Fireworks. Getting the images I needed to build a demo web site seemed incredibly hard and inefficient. So I grabbed this book and spent a couple of days reading it.

This book did not disappoint, it has already helped me figure out how to get the content out of Fireworks more efficiently. It still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me just how hard it is, but most of that is just how Fireworks functions and I am still not a fan of it. Fireworks is a through-back to the Macromedia days and I don’t feel like it has been updated the way it should be for modern web design. It may be a good tool for designers to build prototypes and designs to show clients, but for the people trying to implement those designs it kinda sucks.

One of the cool features of Fireworks I learned form the book is the creation of CSS3 properties that closely mimic the Live Filters such as drop-shadows, with some tweaking this has worked great for us and really saved a lot of time.

I only have one real complaint about this book, the design used in the tutorials feels very Y2K to me, it is very dated. It is not Web 2.0, responsive, or anything that I would consider "modern."

From the publisher:

Those creative professionals seeking the fastest, easiest, most comprehensive way to learn Adobe Fireworks choose Adobe Fireworks CS6 Classroom in a Book from the Adobe Creative Team. The 14 project-based lessons in this book show readers step-by-step the key techniques for working in Fireworks.

Readers will learn what they need to know to design and mock up Web pages or interfaces for rich Internet applications or tablet apps. In addition readers will learn how to demo a design for a client in real time, export the design as an interactive PDF, and export vector design elements as CSS3-only markup for use in websites. This edition, fully revised for CS6, covers CSS extraction using the CSS Properties panel, jQuery Mobile skinning, and sprite creation. It also includes instruction on working with the Styles panel and several new enhancements to the Properties panel, including the new color selection and gradient editing features. The companion DVD includes lesson files so readers can work along with the book.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10, anyone who needs to or wants to learn Adobe Fireworks can learn a lot from it in a short time.


Pro jQuery by Adam Freeman

I read this book on Safari Books Online using Firefox.

I am doing more and more with jQuery and went looking for a book that could show me the ins-and-outs of it and "Pro jQuery" is definitely that book.

I do not agree that this is a “Pro” book as it does not cover professional techniques for programming in JavaScript using the current best practices that you would find in a production environment, but this book is a great reference for jQuery and I could find none that were better.

This book has taken my jQuery skills from advanced newbie to a solid understanding of what I would use jQuery for and what I would not. I expect to use it as a reference for a long time to come.

From the publisher:

Query is one of the most popular and powerful JavaScript libraries available today. It’s widely used to create rich user experiences and to simplify website and application development. It is the tool of choice for web developers everywhere and sets the standard for simplicity, flexibility and extensibility.

In Pro jQuery, seasoned author Adam Freeman explains how to get the most from jQuery by focusing on the features you need for your project. He starts with the nuts and bolts and shows you everything through to advanced features, going in depth to give you the knowledge you need. Getting the most from jQuery is essential to truly mastering web development.

What you’ll learn

  • Understand the capabilities of jQuery and why it is special
  • Use the core of jQuery to enrich HTML, including tables, forms and data displays
  • Use jQuery UI to create rich and fluid user experiences
  • Use rich interactions such as drag and drop, sortable data and touch sensitivity
  • Use jQuery Mobile to create touch-enabled interfaces for mobile devices and tablets
  • Extend jQuery by creating custom plugins and widgets

Each topic is covered clearly and concisely, and is packed with the details you’ll need to learn to be truly effective with jQuery. The most important features are given a no-nonsense, in-depth treatment, and chapters contain examples that demonstrate both the power and the subtlety of jQuery.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about jQuery.


Canon 5D Mark III: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Ibarionex Perello

I read this book on Safari Books Online using a web browser and an iPad.

I have read the "From Snapshots to Great Shots" for the 7D and the G12 and they were pretty good. So I decided to give the one for the 5D Mark III a try and it did not disappoint.

Unlike the books "Canon EOS 5D Mark III by James Johnson" and "Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide by Charlotte K. Lowrie" this book tells you not only about the features and functions of the Canon 5D Mark III but also tells you why you may choose one setting over another.

This book, and the series in general, did not blow me away or provide any mind-blowing insights. But it does contain a lot of information to get you starting working with your camera.

I really like the idea of the assignments at the end of each chapter, anyone who works through each of them will have a very solid understanding of their camera.

From the publisher:

Now that you’ve bought the amazing Canon 5D Mark III, you need a book that goes beyond a tour of the camera’s features to show you exactly how to use the 5D Mark III to take great pictures. With Canon 5D Mark III: From Snapshots to Great Shots, you get the perfect blend of photography instruction and camera reference that will take your images to the next level! Beautifully illustrated with large, vibrant photos, this book teaches you how to take control of your photography to get the image you want every time you pick up the camera.

With Canon 5D Mark III: From Snapshots to Great Shots, you’ll learn not only what makes a great shot work–you’ll learn how to get that shot using your 5D Mark III.

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone interested in reading about the Canon 5D Mk III, especially beginning photographers who want to get the most out of their camera.


Two books about the Canon 5D Mark III

I read both of these books using Safari Books Online by O’Reilly Media.

They are very similar books and both of them are very similar to the owners manual that comes with the Canon 5D Mk III. But they do present the information in a way that is much easier to understand and retain than the manual.

What is missing here is an answer to the question, “Why would I use that setting instead of the other?” You will have to find some other book or better yet books to explain that. Even better, get out there and experiment like crazy. Buy a cheap mannequin off eBay to use as a practice subject and take pictures until your camera stops working.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III by James Johnson
From the publisher:

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the latest in Canon’s line of full-frame DSLR cameras. Its impressive array of capabilities and advanced controls allow the photographer ever more influence over the final image. With this comes more menus, buttons, and dials that the photographer must learn how to use to take full advantage of the camera.

This book explores the features and capabilities of the 5D Mark III in a way that far surpasses the user’s manual. It guides readers through the camera features with step-by-step setting adjustments; color illustrations; and detailed how, when, and why explanations for each option. Every button, dial, switch, and menu configuration setting is explored in a user-friendly manner, with suggestions for setup. The informative text is illustrated with screenshots and example images throughout, making it easy to follow along.

Author James Johnson covers everything from the basic features of the camera to the numerous advanced photographic options as he discusses topics such as focus and exposure, lenses, lighting, custom settings, and more. With this book as your guide, you’ll learn how to get the most out of this powerful camera.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide by Charlotte K. Lowrie
From the publisher:

Guides readers step-by-step through the functions on their new Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III features an impressive 22.3 megapixels, a 3.2-inch LCD screen, 6 fps continuous shooting, Live View, an ISO range of 50 to 102,400 and full HD 1080 resolution movie shooting. Here to help you get the most out of these remarkable features?

Offering you more in-depth coverage than the standard manual, this full-color Canon 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide provides you with a better understanding of your camera. Delivering information in an easy-to-understand format, this portable guide features more than 200 inspirational photos by acclaimed photographer and veteran author Charlotte Lowrie. The handy trim size allows this guide to go where you go, allowing you easy access to information quickly so you can get the exact shot you want when you want it.

Helps you make the most of your Canon 5D Mark III and get the shots you want

Offers inspiration with more than 200 lavish photos from the author’s own portfolio

Provides step-by-step explanations on techniques and tips, all aimed at getting you comfortable and confident with your new Canon 5D Mark III

Ideal reading for both amateur and professional photographers alike, you’ll reference Canon 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide again and again.

I rate both of these books a 7 out of 10 and recommend either one of them, no need for both, to anyone who finds the owners manual of the 5D Mk III hard to read.


Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous by Brian Smith

I read this book using Safari Books Online from O’Reilly Media.

Brian Smith is an amazing photographer and has a personality to match. He is able to quickly make a personal connection with people from all walks of life and create photographs that highlight their personality and emotion.

"Secrets of Great Portrait Photography" gives us insight to the methods Brian uses to get close to his subjects and capture images that make the client, usually magazine creative directors, and the subject happy with the results.

This is not a book about how to use your camera, how to pose a subject, or how to make them feel comfortable. It is a book about many of Brian’s favorite pictures and what he did or did not do to achieve them. It does not go very deep into anything, instead choosing to keep things light and easy. The only thing that bugged me was the amount of repetition, definitions and ideas are often repeated.

This photography in the book is fantastic and the writing is very conversational. I read the entire book in a few hours and spent much of that time dissecting the pictures.

I plan on taking his challenge of taking 50 portraits of total strangers seriously and maybe some time in spring or fall setting myself up somewhere very public and making myself ask strangers to let me take their portrait. Interacting with people like that is very hard for me; maybe doing that will give me some sort of insight to myself and make it easier for me in the future.

From the publisher:

In this sexy, bold book, Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Brian Smith tells the stories behind the photos and lessons learned in 30 years of photographing celebrities and people from all walks of life. Smith’s long list of famous and infamous subjects includes pro basketball players Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal; billionaires Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Donald Trump; tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams; actors Anne Hathaway, Antonio Banderas, Christopher Walken, Taye Diggs, Jane Krakowski, and William H. Macy; and many more.

You’ll get the inside scoop on what goes on at a celebrity photo shoot in this gorgeous guide to making professional portraits. Smith has mastered how to make a meaningful portrait on a magazine’s budget and on a celebrity’s schedule, which can sometimes be 15 minutes or less. Smith reveals his tips on connecting with people, finding the perfect location, telling a great story through portraiture, getting the ideal pose, capturing emotion and gestures, arranging unique group shots, and lighting the scene just right. You might not be photographing the rich and famous, but after reading Smith’s tell-all guide, you’ll know how to give everyone who makes their way in front of your camera the star treatment.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone with an interest in taking photographs of people.