Dec 29 2008

Books, Books, and More Books

I’m still roughly on my “book a day diet” through the end of the year.  The last few were really good, with one exception.  Here are my quick reviews in case you are looking for something to read soon.

Things I’ve Learned from Women Who’ve Dumped Me: This was hilarious.  I’ve only been dumped a few times (since I’ve only had a few girlfriends) so I mostly got to live vicariously through the people telling these stories.  There are some good life lessons, some excellent rants, some brilliant writing, and some really nasty breakups.  I’m glad I hadn’t read this book when I was in junior high school or else I probably would have become a monk.

Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement: Bill Duggan was the keynote speaker at Defrag this year and was dynamite.  Everyone got a copy of his book Strategic Intuition; I finally got around to reading it.  The book was a good as his presentation as is one of the best “medium format” business books that I’ve read in the last few years.  Duggan’s notion of Strategic Intuition is a fresh view on how strategy works for anyone that’s been living in the Porter five forces and value chain world for the past 20 years.

Imagining MIT: Designing a Campus for the Twenty-First Century: Whenever I think of the architecture of MIT, the things that come to mind are the Infinite Corridor, The Great Dome, The Green Building, Kresge, and Building 20.  William Mitchell, who was the Dean of Architecture and the special adviser to MIT’s President Chuck Vest during the great MIT building boom of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, has written (and illustrated) a beautiful book describing the history of MIT’s architecture going back to the inception of the Institute.  He then goes deep in his descriptions of the creation and the architecture of five new buildings: Zesiger Sport and Fitness Center (by Kevin Roche), Simmons Hall (by Steve Holl), Stata Center (by Frank Gehry), Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex (by Charles Correa), and the new Media Laboratory (Fumihiko Maki).

Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska: My wife Amy is from Alaska and we spend a lot of time there.  I’ve only been north of the Arctic Circle once for a disastrous canoe trip on the John River in the Brooks Range, but I’m been north of Fairbanks a couple of times and get a sense of both the massive scale and the emptiness of Northern Alaska.  Seth Kanter has written and illustrated one of my favorite books of 2008 about his life growing up and living as an adult in the far northern reaches of Alaska.  All I can say is “wow.”  If you think you know wilderness living, buy this book.

The World Without Us: I had forgotten how this book ended up in my infinite pile of books to read until Amy reminded me that she had bought it, along with several others, for one of our Life Dinner dates earlier this year.  It has an interesting premise; what would happen to “the world” if all humans vanished overnight.  I got about half way through it and got bored with the longwinded explanations.  Another book that if was was half as long would be twice as good.

I’m definitely starting to feel the need for some mental floss between now and the end of the year.