The Hague, Netherlands | Member Since 2007
Tuchman is one of my favourite history authors and I particularly enjoyed her other WW I book 'the Guns of August'. This book is slightly further down in time, when in 1917 Woodrow Wilson's US is extremely restraint in its actions and still striving for a diplomatic solution to the great war.
As is usual for Tuchman, she not only outlines the events as they occured (read Wikipedia, and you know them), but she mainly describes the main characters in all their marvelous and sometimes hilarious detail with all their adventures, misunderstandings, hubris and courage.What to think about the german 'Lawrence of Arabia' being chased all over Iraq, or the english spy general. But also the main political figures: the Kaiser, the president, the PM and the Mexican president or his adversaries do not escape Tuchman's sharp pen.
One of the good things about this book is its relative brevity. It outlines how the British got into the position to get their hands on the poisonous Telegram, and all the mechanisations of the Germans to keep the Americans otherwise occupied which finally led to the sending of the Telegram by Zimmermann in the first place. But it does not delve too deep in the state of the war, as 'Guns' did but which would lead to a longer and less focused book.
Thus, if you want to know more about a critical moment in the First World War, read this book. And enjoy not only your increased knowledge, but mostly how real history can be so much more entertaining (100 years in retrospect, without the hurt) than a fictional novel.
There are two things to say about this book: one is about the intellectual content, which is brilliant and thought-provoking. The other is its tone and character, which is nauseating at times and simply boring at most others. Enough is said about that in other reviews, suffice to say that he does it even more in this book than in his previous tomes.
Back to the content then: Taleb asserts that we cannot KNOW the probability or risk of certain events, that is why instead we should focus on its consequences, bad or good. Almost all relevant events are 'non-linear', meaning that the potential benefits far outweigh the potential costs or vice versa. If we focus on reducing the potentially large negative consequences of events and expose ourselves to potentially large positive consequences of others (at little cost) than we are really progressing. He advocates a barbell strategy, of limiting your biggest risks while exposing yourself to the biggest upsides.
Some interesting elements:
(1) the 'via negitiva' or subtractive way of doing things. It is easier to predict the things that in the future will no longer be there (the fragile), then the new things that will arise and be successful. The old is more likely to stay around than the new (it has been around longer). (2) The small, decentral is less harmful than the big central which drags everybody along. (3) 'stressors'. Minor stressors (pains, damage) due to volatility are good for strength. Too much stability creates comfort and lack of strength. This is true for humans: no effort, no strength. But also for government monopolies.
And finally (4) his main point: let us try to intervene less in society, economy and human beings, because practically all intervention has large negative and unknown consequences. Only intervene when not intervening ends most likely very bad. This could be a policy for the military too?
I for one can recommend the content of this book if you can stomach the tone, and am myself still digesting its consequential conclusions.
The basic premises of the book is good: what is required to make ideas happen. This is not simple, as it requires both internal discipline, processes and organisation. The problem is in the logic or better, lack of it. There are just many things that are needed for making ideas happen. So this book ends up with an endless list of things to be doing, considering etc. This doesn't aid in easy listening, how valuable each lesson might be.
Nowadays there seem to be many books like this, such as 'Rework'. If the book is actually not more (or less) than a collection of lessons, it is better to have it in writing than on Audible. In this way, it is an easy reference.
Overall, the content is not bad, although a bit too much.
So, this is the second book of the series and maybe the longest. As second books go, they tend to stretch out a bit too much as the writer doesn't want to haste to the end. Also here. But this is not bad, as this is not an adventurous roller-coaster of a book with tension and excitement following one after the other. If you want that, take your coin elsewhere.
Instead, this is a book of a writer. Rothfuss mingles beautiful metaphors with lavish descriptions. Pages are filled where hardly anything happens, but they are just beautifully written. I would compare this to Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, where the main character is also mainly walking through the land interspersed with minor adventures. But what a beauty! As an example, I try to relate a piece of dialogue between Kvothe and Ari I particularly liked:
Kvothe: "Sorry that I am late, Ari"
Ari: "I am very proud of myself. I was as patient as two stones."
Kvothe: "Yes, you were Ari. But here I am."
Ari: "That is good, I couldn't have been as patient as three stones."
Nick Podehl does a fabulous job in characterizing all the different personae in the book. Some found his accents annoying, I found it very cleverly done and excellently executed: people from certain regions of the world share the same accent (the Adem, the Sealdish, the Modegan) but each person with a specific twist in his voice so they can be recognized. For example Willem and Kilvin, but also the various Adem warriors. I applaud him!!
As an avid reader of fantasy, there for sure are some familiar elements in the story, and also some annoying ones like he is so clever but cannot see that Denna likes him, or what the Lithany is in essence. Overlooking this, in this book there were some new concepts and twists that I have not seen before, like the Cathay. There are also stories within stories within stories, as the story is about old Kvothe telling the story about younger Kvothe who tells or hears a story. Although this sounds contrived, for me it worked quite well as you slowly get a deeper appreciation of Kvothe's world and companions.
I am anxiously awaiting the final volume of the series!
I had heard of Zappos as the online shoestore, but never as the company that sees its culture as its core competence. The book outlines Tony Hsieh's (the owner/CEO) personal business biography and combines it with the steps he and his team took to build Zappos.
Tony shows that success is also a matter of luck: Zappos hovered on the brink of bankruptcy for a few years and only his own wealth prevented it until finally some investors put money on the table, and even then it took 4-6 years before Zappos was out of the danger zone.
The book is a very nice story, and although Tony is not a narrator (he speaks a bit fast) his enthusiasm and personal touch make him the ideal storyteller nonetheless. I am not much for biographies, so the book for me became really interesting when he starts to describe how he build the culture of the company step by step. Not planned or methodical, because that's not how it works, but purposeful with deep commitment from his colleagues, co-workers and the extended Zappos family.
For any organisation that wishes to strengthen (or make explicit) its culture, this book gives plenty of ideas and suggestions on how to do it and what might result from it. Not only for startups or internet companies, but for any organisation bigger than 25 people. Some ideas that Tony shares:
- hire only people that share your values: that way, the live what the company stands for instead of following their own agenda
- teach company values in a intensive introductory training
- live the company values also with your suppliers (it is easier with your customers)
- have your employees co-determine the values of your organisation. Re-iterate them regularly, to see if the culture is still where you want it to be. A 'culture book' helps to both verify the culture as well as share it with new employees
- encourage community and getting to know other employees outside your own department: this fosters a 'we' feeling (instead of departmental kingdoms)
- share, commit and take risk also as managers.
The culture of Zappos might not be the culture you wish or have, but that is not the point. The key is that a strong culture can strengthen your position and can be purposefully built. Try it yourself!
A book that sounds a bit 'dorky' like this one I normally leave alone for fear of empty words. But I am very happy to have picked this one up!
Rummelt is a very senior strategist to big and smaller firms, and have seen where they can go wrong: confusing objectives with strategy ("our strategy is to grow revenue"), strategy with excel sheets or (worst of all, and very hot right now) confusing leadership ("a will to succeed") with strategy.
Instead, he outlines a simple yet powerful method of building a strategy:
1. diagnose the situation and determine the key challenge for the organisation/firm
2. develop/create a guiding policy (Porter would say, competitive strategy) to overcome the challenge or reap the opportunity
3. develop and execute a coherent action plan.
He goes on the enrich each of these parts, which to a certain extent have been discussed elsewhere (Porter, Ansoff, Hamel, Kaplan) but not in such a concise and easy to follow way.
The strength of the book is not only in how strategies should be build and executed, but also how many companies go wrong: e.g. that your strategy needs commitment from the organization is ruthlessly attacked: if the entire organisation agrees with the strategy, there is no 'hard' choice involved. A strategy that pleases all in the end does not deliver. Though provoking and pragmatic at the same time.
What I personally found most pleasing is that Rummelt does not say that planning is better than execution, or leadership is superior or not, but that all are parts in a chain that need to fit together. You need strategy AND execution AND leaderhip AND creativity/innovation AND ...while simultaneously focusing your energy.
If you are in a leadership or management position in any organisation, private or public, I highly recommend this book for its framework, coherence and ease of understanding, combined with its focus on the essential elements and pitfalls.
Chris Anderson is widely known and respected for his editing of Wired Magazines and a few well-known books about the internet (long tail, freemium) which altered the way people see the internet. He now tries to do the same for the world of 'making'.
First he outlines what he describes as 'the maker revolution': the possibility of every individual to design, create and manufacture single or low-volume products due to new technology and the power of the global internet community. Anderson then goes on to detail each of these steps, with an emphasis on 3D printers and other manufacturing tools.
I particularly liked the various stories and applications, but overall the book is a bit thin on content. The maker revolution seems to be very much in its infancy, with interesting concepts and a few hits, but mostly still too complicated and too much in the hobby-stage (DIY) which it might never outgrow. That means there is definitely a market for home-manufacturing, but technology needs to advance further to make it a mass trend. Anderson says so himself. This doesn't mean it will not happen, it is just too early to tell.
Anderson ends the book with a lot of references: the best electronics, best software, best hardware, best outsourced manufacturing and websites. This is nice for starters (like me), but is still a bit limited, particularly if you live outside the US.
Why read this book? It describes the beginnings of what someday might be big, and the signs are described well enough so you can spot whether it will or will not materialize. Best parts are about how 'regular manufacturing' could use the concepts, tools and community of the internet to improve its own process of innovation and reproduction.
But don't expect deep insights or a strong story. It is a nice book, but not special.
Apparently, the 'lean startup' has a large following. I had never heard of the book or the concept, but lean inspired me ever since Jeff Liker's book about Toyota.
The Lean Startup in my opinion is a totally different approach, although it borrows the concept of waste. But how waste is avoided is a different route altogether.
First, it is 'lean' under a cloud of uncertainty. The more uncertain the future (of sth) is, the better this approach works. Basically, to avoid waste is to have a clear understanding of your key assumptions, and then testing these assumptions as fast and with as little effort as possible. And of course, with a good monitoring system to understand the results of what you tested. Topline growth is not. Cohort/group and split testing is.
The book is written as a guide to startups, but it is valid with anything innovative. And thus for any business that tries to innovate something, anything. Many organisations are dissatifsfied with their innovation efforts, and this book guides you to how to improve the process.
Well worth the read. The author is not really a narrator, though. He should have left this to a professional. Not bad, but not great either.
It is a silence of three parts. First, the inn. Second, the man who does not speak. And third in the way the man is. It envelops the silence of the others inside itself. It is the silence of a man waiting to die.
This is (sort of, I had to do it by head) the start of the book. And it outlines what is to come: beautifully written, full of metaphors and nice phrases and nuggets of wisdom. But also slow. Take your time at 27 hours of story which - as others must have mentioned - could easily be cut in half. But saying that it is easy doesn't mean it should be done. On the contrary, the slowly developing story with its interruptions ('interludes') and occasional spikes of action should be consumed as it is served.
It has kept me occupied for the past weeks on my many car trips and my thoughts never wandered away as I listened to Kvothe relate his life's story. As a young boy up to his year in University.
What I liked, but that is subjective, is that names of days are odd (no Saturday, but Hepton or sth), names of functionaries are odd (tinker) and languages and countries of course do not resemble our world. It would be nice to get a map with the Audible edition, that would just add a bit more color.
The narrator does an excellent job portraying the different people with their different accents and even a strong dialect is (just) understandable enough. Brilliant!
If you are into Fantasy, go for this one.
Alexander the Great is of course one of the major historical figures. In a short 12 hours Pressfield describes his ascent as king of Makedonia to conquering an empire and finally succumbing after being transformed by his experiences as the supreme warlord.
Originally 'simply' an incredibly brilliant war strategist and brave warrior, his decades long wars with increasing confrontation with more advanced civilizations changes Alexander, and alienates him from his erstwhile comrades.
The book describes the war tactics of Alexander and his adversaries, how Alexander whips up but also makes mistakes with his warrior group that is further and further away from home. And describes his own feelings of being the lonely man-god that is not allowed to fail. It is a world very distant from ours, in its brutality/barbarism, its honor code and its interpersonal relationships. But still close enough to understand and enjoy.
John Lee as always is a brilliant narrator.
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