For those of us who grew up reading Peanuts, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy seemed like real people. They were, in reality, products from the imagination of Charles Schulz. Michaelis does an excellent job of revealing the man behind the strip.
It is a three dimensional picture of a very talented man who found his true love, cartooning, at an early age. He had a difficult time dealing with the messier aspects of life, and retreated from them. In the end, the Peanuts characters seemed more real to him than the people who surrounded him. It is a sympathetic portrayal, but it does not canonize Schulz.
IIRC, the book was somewhat controversial when it came out, as it covered two extramarital affairs by Schulz and his oldest daughter's abortion. These are discussed.
Of more interest is the description of the characters from the strip and their real life influences. Lucy, for example, was representative of his first wife. In her relationship with Charlie Brown, she berated him and pulled the football away from him. With Schroeder, she smothered him with love, but he was oblivious, and quite happy without her. Both of these were aspects of their married life. An excellent listen, and the reader is good.
This follows the author from his hire when Google was a startup until the IPO. It's a parallel story of Google the company and his personal odyssey from being a key player at the beginning to slowly becoming marginalized, and finally shown the door.
Recounting successes and failures, it's fascinating to hear the accounts of when AOL and Yahoo! were the big fish, and Google had to swim carefully to keep from upsetting them.
It's also a fascinating account of being in a company when it's an infant and there are no walls, and watching the company become a corporation. Anyone who's been in an organization during a growth phase has been in the situation where it goes from being this wide open playing field and you can talk to the "big boys and girls" anytime you wish, to watching walls spring up, things start to divide, and finding yourself boxed on the wrong side of the wall. The previously friendly faces are replaced by new people that make power plays to take your authority and slide you into the outer circle until the day you sit across from some person you don't know, being informed you no longer have a place at the company where you were once a key player.
I don't know how much you'll learn about business from this book, except that the founders of Google believed strongly in certain things. They pushed hard for their beliefs, but as much as they tried, Google eventually became another corporate entity. It was still different in a lot of ways, and they challenged a lot of traditional business thinking.
There's more there, I think, than the author intended.
Neverwhere is more compact and interesting. Gaiman does an excellent job of creating strange underworlds that coexist with the normal world. In American Gods, I believe he descends into grossness for the sake of grossness, and gratuitous sex for the sake of gratuitous sex. There's also a delight in the darkness that bothers me.
It could have been his best work, but it is marred by these flaws.
It's definitely worth a listen, but I found myself being too embarrassed to listen to some parts of it, thinking, "why am I wallowing in this?"
The book is spooky, yet childlike. It's quite similar to the movie, although the secondary character "Wybie", was not in the book. Gaiman reads his own books, and does an excellent job. The background music was produced for the book, and suits the mood far better than the canned music used in many books.
If you like spooky fantasy stories in the thirteen+ age range, this is an excellent choice.
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