You know how sometimes you find a book that makes you feel all pumped and inspired all the while that you are reading it? Yes? This isn't one of those books. Personally I didn't really enjoy it and I only reached the end because it's so short. You can finish it within a couple of hours.
This book has been heralded a classic and must-read for any business leader but I find its principles to be the polar opposite to what I believe is good and fair. It condones leadership with absolute control over one's "troops". I feel Sun Tzu's text is designed to 'groom' a thick skinned, heartless leader who's only focus is winning regardless of the tactics used. I'm a 'let's make love not war' type of girl so amongst the lines that I didn't like are:
I think this is what they call a “modern day classic”. 100% original and remarkably perceptive of people’s motivations and behaviors. It’s extremely reminiscent of Orwell’s “1984” but is different enough to make it trés original. Thoroughly refreshing and I strongly recommend it as a must-read.
In the book a 'professional' thief goes into a coma and when he wakes up four years later the whole legal system has changed. Prisons no longer exist and in their place is a relearning/reeducation system designed to teach people the error of their ways. The protagonist Michael O'Connor is a guy with great intentions but each time he is out to help someone he uses the only skill he has: breaking and entering. He finds the whole reeducation system painful and wants a way out of it. I won't tell you how the story ends you can find that out for yourself but it will definitely get you thinking.
The book got me thinking about a lot of issues. For instance, the focus away from imprisonment to relearning civil skills; the difficulty of reeducating people that have gone too far down the wrong path; the importance of a good upbringing with two loving parents; the difficulty of catching white-collar crime; the inevitability of governmental control over us - with so many transactions recorded on loyalty cards, credit cards and on the internet the Government can more effectively control all of us - there no point in not conforming e.g. by avoiding taxes as you will almost certainly get caught.
The last book I read (Private London by James Patterson) took me a month because I kept finding something else to do, it didn't grab my attention. This one took two days although it was slightly longer and I work full-time!
A very insightful book that I would encourage everyone to read whether you are currently feeling happy or not. I enjoyed reading Bertrand Russell’s take on happiness more especially because it was written in the 1930s and allowed me to draw parallels between then and now.
I would say not very much has changed, however it is very clear that women had a certain ‘place’ in society at the time e.g. if they got married they were expected to leave work and bear children. Bertrand is rather forward thinking for the time as he expresses the view that he doesn’t think that is at all necessary. He states that a child of nine months can very easily be passed on to someone that specializes in child care allowing the mother to pursue her career and other hobbies.
I will probably write a few blogs this year related to this book but in advance of that below are a few of my favorite Bertrand thoughts, I paraphrase in most cases:
If something comes so easily the pleasure, I find, is less intense and fleets by quite rapidly. “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” It gives you something to work towards, it gives you a reason to wake up in the morning.
Please note that the kindle versions below are a "modern-day interpretation". The actual book is not currently available on the kindle store.
That said, this statement can be applied quite effectively to less developed countries where credit does remain scarce and hard to come by.
The only annoying thing about this book is that it is only available as a paper copy and as all my friends will know, I read all my books on my phone nowadays. It’s much more convenient because it’s portable, it’s quick and easy to find definitions or to highlight interesting words and phrases. In summary: buy.
I think this is one of the best poems ever written on what breeds happiness in life. Here's Martial:
Of what does the happy life consist,
My dear friend Julius? Here's a list:
Inherited wealth no need to earn,
Fires that continually burn,
And fields that give a fair return,
No lawsuits, formal togas worn
Seldom, a calm mind, the freeborn
Gentleman's health and good physique,
Tact with the readiness to speak
Openly, friends of your own mind,
Guests of an easy-going kind,
Plain food, a table simply set,
Nights sober but wine-freed from fret,
A wife who's true to you and yet
No prude in bed, and sleep so sound
It makes the day come quickly round.
Be pleased with what you are, keep hope
Within that self-appointed scope:
Neither uneasily apprehend
Nor morbidly desire the end.
An enjoyable read.
The book may be a little slow for some. It's about a middle aged man who discovers that he wants more out of life than just money and beating the stock market. He wants to develop a relationship with his son who he's never got to know since his divorce when the child was about four years old. He wants to interact with people. It takes a near heart attack to make him realize these things.
He goes on to form new friendships with interesting characters: an Indian donut shop owner, an actor, an author, a woman that he meets in the grocery store. In the same vein, he becomes more altruistic. Sometimes it is good to read a book that reminds us that life is basically about other people and how we interact with them, it's not just about one's own world!
Overall, I think the book was not appropriately titled, because the book won't save your life but it is still worth a read. If you just want to relax and see life from another person's perspective, try this.
OKay, so I watched this when it debuted at the cinema last year but I watched again on TV a few days ago and I was completely dying with laughter.
A lot of British films I watch are either too silly to be funny or they are unsuccessfully trying to be American and it's just painful to watch. This didn't fall into any of those categories, it was pure authentic British humour. In fact, it's probably so British that some won't fully appreciate the humour.
I say watch this and decide what you think for yourself. This film achieved what very few manage - it made me switch my laptop off and concentrate on listening rather than watching and surfing at the same time.
Favourite quote: "rubber dinghy rapids" (said with a Yorkshire accent) - classic.
Definitely worth a read, I felt very hyped as I was reading this book. I much prefer to a read a book written by someone with tonnes of experience rather than reading a multitude of theoretical mumbo jumbo. Richard Branson also has the benefit of multi-sector experience. Personally, the fondness with which he speaks of Africa is endearing, however, some of the awful scenes he described were experienced in a rich African country. I wonder what he would make of the really poor countries like my own dear Malawi. It would be totally radical if he visited. I was encouraged that he didn’t portray his business experiences as plain sailing and explicitly talked about the hard times. Personally, I am not all that interested in space travel so I skimmed over those pages rather rapidly and although I am pro-environment, that section got a little technical and I skipped a little.
Here are some of my favourite quotes. I won’t write every single one because that would pretty much have me typing the whole morning and that’s just not practical:
“Never mind Dragons’ Den: if you want to meet entrepreneurs, come to Africa.” True dat!
“business has to give people, rewarding lives, or it’s simply not worth doing”
“I’ve sat drinking with people who have abused their gifts – and others who have made absolutely the most of some pretty dubious talent.”
“I’d advise every owner of a company to keep a notebook and jot down the things that need doing.” I do this for every interesting thought that I have, if I don’t have notebook to hand I email myself a one liner and put the thought into my notebook later!
“Success one day does not give you a free lunch every day thereafter.”
“You can spot negative people and stultifying institutions a mile off. Have the courage of your convictions, and ignore them.”
“If I was a happening band on the cusp of success today, I wouldn’t go through a conventional record company. I’d...release it myself.” I would say the same of books. Publishers and record companies eat most of your profit AND you lose control over the final product – they probably mean well but there’s a lot to be said for autonomy in artistic output.
“One business mantra remains embedded in my brain – protect the downside.” So many ignore this one rule. When the London riots happened a couple of weeks ago in August 2011, so many shopkeepers were revealed to be uninsured. Insurance isn’t all that expensive. This also applies to hedging liabilities with simple derivatives like interest rate caps and swaps. People often forget that choosing not to hedge is a hedging decision in itself. Think about it.
“You’ll need stamina and patience to deliver well – especially when everybody is out to kill you.”
There was plenty of good stuff about keeping on the right side of the law which is something my dad always tells me. I also laughed at the business idea that Virgin received of three-legged women’s tights, one that you tuck away and use when you get a ladder. Virgin turned that idea away but you know what – I would buy those!!
His definition of success is the best I have seen yet and it will totally help me to explain a little venture I am working on. He said for him money and celebrity are a poor guide to success. "Success for me is whether you have created something you can be proud of" he surmised - this is the perfect definition, some friends have questioned the point of the project I am working on because they can't see how I will make money from it and I haven't been able to answer their queries to my satisfaction. I say it's not about the money, because it isn't, however, I would be happy if I did make some money doing it because that would be one gauge of success. That said, ultimately it is something I will be proud to have done and that's what matters. Importantly, I cannot expect someone else to visualize my visions. It's best to just execute.
Finally, he reminded me that “in business, as in life, you can’t afford to be afraid of doing the wrong thing.” If you’ve got an idea, go for it.
I bought this book thinking it was going to be deep, perhaps prompting me to think about God on a deeper level. However, it didn't take long to discover the book was so called because the protagonist had a rabbit called God...after this realization why did I go on? Well, I had ditched my previous book so I wanted to give this one a fair chance so I ploughed on expecting the book to get better.
It was a bad decision. I don't feel like I learnt anything by the end of the book. It tries to deal with too many topics such that in the end you really haven't got a clue what the book is actually about: the molested child or her best friend who we find out later was also molested? The lesbian aunt or the gay brother or even the 9/11 attack of the twin towers that caused the protagonist's brother's to become amnesic? Or was it about the errant old man that she stumbles upon in the forest and ends up living with her family for the next two decades?! You get the drift - the book was about everything and in the end, I would say about nothing in particular.
I didn't enjoy it bar the last 30 or so pages (which had a general feel good factor), so I wouldn't recommend it.
I haven't been to the cinema in months although each time I go, I tell myself that I should do it more often - not least because the cinema is officially the only place I can watch a full-length feature film without simultaneously playing on my laptop. I also only pulled my iPhone out once to make a note. I think that's totally excusable though, good thoughts have to be noted before you lose them for when you lose a thought there's no simple way of retrieving it.
Humour is the best format within which to relay a serious message and I have to say that Bridesmaids did have several of those. The most important message I got was, 'no matter how many times life comes to bite you in the ass, get up, move on'. The groom's sister was serious comedy, the whole way through. The addition of two Brits, one of which was Matt Lucas (of Little Britain) was icing on the cake. My favourite line from Matt Lucas was "There's a needing it today kind of situation" when he was chasing his flat mate for rent, said in an oh-so British cum American fashion.
I didn't realize that Maya Riperton was mixed race so I was a little confused by the fact that her father in the film was black, but a little research this morning sorted that issue out. Her mother was the African-American Minnie Riperton, famous for the song, "Lovin' You". She unfortunately died from breast cancer in 1979 when Maya was only seven years old.
If Bridesmaids was a book, I wouldn't read it but as a film it is most definitely worth a watch for both guys and girls. I laughed A LOT and came out feeling relaxed and renewed.
Mary Ann Shaffer very effectively manages to use an epistolary format (a series of letters) to tell her story of the time Germany occupied Guernsey island. The experience of Todt workers saddened me the most, these young boys were worked and starved to death - the strategy was to extract as much labour from them using minimal food resources. The Todt boys were allowed to forage for food on their own at night so that the German soldiers didn't have to waste too much of their own (again, limited) food on them. The islanders guarded their highly limited foodstocks against theft but one night as a Todt worker is stealing food he falls over and is too weak to get up again so two islanders harbour him and nurse him towards health leading to their imprisonment and worse...there was only one line I hated in the book, "Naturally curly is a curse, and don't ever let anyone tell you different." Ugly opinions like this have got a lot of women thinking they have to straighten their hair to look acceptable. I dislike all anti-curl propaganda, I love my Afro curls, they look cool, they feel great and they have far more character than boring straight hair and I'm not gonna let anyone tell me otherwise!
The writing of this book is ultra-English but written by an American. She portrays the German occupation of Guernsey through the Islanders' eyes and unlike most novels where the enemy is the enemy and you hate them, she also brings out the softer side of the Germans. In the last twelve months I have read several books on do with war or a restrictive political regime: Birdsong, The Book Thief and to some extent The Moment and I think this was the best, closely followed by The Book Thief.
The bad news is that the main author died shortly before or after the novel was published so we will not see anymore written by her; when she took ill her niece Annie Barrows, herself an author, took on the task of completing the piece. The good news? This is an excellent read both for the style and the content. Although it is fiction, it's based on real events and it comes off as being well researched and written in an easy to absorb format.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
Time allowing, I love to read. If I read anything interesting, I will blog about it here.