Books Read in September 2012


Systems Thinking, Systems Practice by Peter Checkland

Sadly, even though I read this book all the way through I remember very little of it in detail. It was a detailed exploration of systems thinking at the time. The biggest thing I took away was that at first systems thinking was about exhaustive predictive models and it was only after it began to be applied to social systems that it became more of a philosophy. I have an old copy from a used bookstore, so I don't know what is in the 30 year retrospective. I'm curious.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I was also curious about the acclaimed source of the rather mediocre movie - John Carter. The book was more contemplative and more of a journey. They'd hyped up the action, added an overarching enemy, and made Dejah Thoris more feisty, among other things. It was still recognizably the same book. It was good, although definitely not in the current style of writing. I took a look at the summary of the next one and think I'll not take the time right now.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'd enjoyed the movie and decided to borrow the book via Amazon Prime. It was very good. The movie followed the book very closely and the differences were a matter of pacing and shifting from being inside Katniss' head in a first person voice to following her story from the outside perspective of a camera. I'm looking forward to the other two.

Frank Bettger's How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling by Karen McCreadie

This was another good modern interpretation of a classic book. I let most of the positive words simply wash over me as I read. What struck me the most was when Karen brought up Frank's bringing up of Ben, Franklin that is, and his 13 themes of self-improvement, 1 per week, 4 times a year. I'd read these before in Franklin's Autobiography but it had somehow never occurred to me to make my own, which was the very good thought here.

Us Plus Them by Todd Pittinsky

The core idea of this book was stunning - that "diversity" is always about reducing negative feelings and not appreciating or fostering positive ones - an actual interest in and attraction to the different, which he dubs "allophilia". He spends a large portion of the book building the foundation for the idea (which was thankfully introduced at the beginning), explaining how like is not the same as not-hate, and then suggesting ways for individuals and government to increase allophilia.

The Cult of Lego by John Baichtal and Joe Meno

This book was just fun, seeing and reading about the different manifestations of adult Lego fandom.

The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide by Allan Bedford

Useful and detailed. It doesn't go into some of the interesting details that the Master Builder Academy kits do, but it elaborated a great deal more on the basics, including a section on sorting and storing that I wouldn't have expected but fits very well.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

This book was striking in its depiction of the horror within Neville's mind. It struck my gut in a way that no zombie movie ever did (although he calls them vampires). He's a much more flawed creature than they turned Will Smith into in the most recent movie treatment (the only one I've seen). The science was well integrated and believable. There were a couple spots where I wondered why I was reading this, but overall it didn't stop surprising, even after skimmed a plot summary beforehand.

The Power of Pull by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison

I remember this was interesting when I was reading it, but even a couple weeks later, nothing stuck. That's not so good. I'm not sure if I should read it again or set it aside.

Friendly Costs Nothing, But Changes Everything by Scott Ginsberg

I find Scott's position extreme, although in a good way. It's the kind of extreme that lends you to re-examine your assumptions and you can see how it could work for some people. Personally, I disagree that "professional is just a word for people who seek to sanitize the soul out of business." On the other hand, I agree with the general principles and that logic alone does not convince customers to buy.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I was very impressed again, although I think this one might be harder to make into a movie because of some of the timing issues. It certainly won't lack for drama. There was emotional gut punch after emotional gut punch and all were plot and character driven, not planted for thrills. 

The Mongoliad: Book One by Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, E.D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo, and Mark Teppo

An impressive and unusual story made more so knowing it was a collaborative work. The back and forth between the story lines was a bit frustrating and the abrupt stop before Book Two frustrating, but certainly not original to this book and did not distract from the excellent storytelling, distinctive characters, and unusual setting. I want to know what happens next.

The Black Stilleto by Raymond Benson

Since I got the Kindle version of this book for free, I was thrilled with how good it was. Some of the writing was simplistic, but that portion was intended to represent a young girl's diary. It was fantastic to see this unusual woman evolve into becoming a crime fighter. The emotions were realistic and not idealized nobility. And the story was much more interesting than a straightforward telling with the way it began with the voice of the grown son and had the past intersecting the present.

Bob Moore: No Hero by Tom Andry

Another free Kindle book well worth the time. I'm not a huge fan of the noir genre, although I've read a couple examples. But I was a fan of how it played out in this world with super-powered humans. The set-up took a little describing, but fit, and the solution to the mystery and the emotional implications, on more than one level, was stunning. Everything slowly peeled away to reveal the truth and it was great.

Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik

This is subtitled "A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style" or, in other words, the zinged up, modern, consider bending and mutilating the rules guide to writing. It was enjoyable and had some useful examples, but I won't be keeping it for a reference to sit beside the Strunk and White it's name is intended to evoke.

Badwater by Toni Dwiggins

This is the first book. I'd read the second first and enjoyed it but this one was better. The horror of the nuclear threat and how the forensic geologists helped solve the crime was believable and useful. The final reveal of the full scheme was surprising but very well foreshadowed.