Monday, March 29, 2010

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (Book Review)

Rework cuts through a number of accepted business practices and notions and, in their place, provides clear, untangled opinions about working better and faster. For example, in one passage, the authors contend that meetings and detailed procedures often waste time and don't yield that much value.

You may not agree with everything in Rework and possibly find parts of it reductive or even discomforting. But it's worth reading and, at its best, inspiring. It's also hard not to appreciate the authors' openness and willingness to reveal what's worked for them, personally and in their business.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (Book Review)

Checklists are at once so simple and utilitarian that it's hard to conceive of them as aids in the resolution of complex procedures and problems.

Yet help they do, as author Atul Gawande contends, in complex and wide-ranging procedures, like flying a plane, performing surgery, and assessing an investment. There's more research to be done to show the utility and versatility of checklists, and to demonstrate what they can and can't do, but with this readable and accessible book, Gawande begins the discovery.

For my part, this book intuitively felt right. I use checklists regularly, and I am a fan of simple project tracking software, like Basecamp, that orients toward simple tasks and checklists.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Book Review)

Malcolm Gladwell is like that brilliant, lively guy at the party who is able to articulate and make accessible a number of complicated ideas to a large group of people huddled around. In Outliers, Gladwell presents some interesting ideas, mostly concerned with notions of success.

Gladwell examines both the traditional drivers of success, like hard-work and practice, as well as other contribuing factors, like luck and opportunity, to try and establish some conclusions about success and why some people achieve it and others don't.

Outliers is thought-provoking and worth reading, but it's worth noting that the research is limited and Gladwell tends toward oversimplification. It's hard to fault him too much, though. His natural function and style seems to be to present ideas and problems, not do the research and solve them.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore (Book Review)

Kristin Cashore continues to soldify her reputation as a top fantasy novelist with Fire, an imaginative novel about "monsters" -- beautiful but mutated versions of various animal species.

Fire is also the name of the main character, who is a human monster with the ability to manipulate minds. The book portrays Fire's struggle to accept herself and her extraordinary abilities while helping out a kingdom at war.

I enjoyed the novel and recommend it, but I had a few nits. Specifically, I felt the explicit tie-in with the villain Leck from Cashore's previous novel, Graceling, was forced and unnecessary. It was enough to set the novel in the same world as Graceling without bringing back the character.

Beyond that and a few other small things, though, the book was great, and I look forward to many more good things from this author.