Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bookpile: November 2009

The Name of this Book is Secret - Big fat kids book that was fairly entertaining despite borrowing heavily from Lemony Snicket (with the whole, I shouldn't tell you this, stop reading because it's dangerous, tone to it right down to the fake author name. Sigh.) Kevin and I read this one out loud to each other, which meant it took forever to read, but enjoyed working our way through it. It took a while to get going at the beginning (a downside for slow readers), but picked up as we rolled along. Left the ending open for a sequel (and there is one), but I'm not rushing out to read it. Enjoyed the characters Bosch created - plucky kids with interesting quirks and some good over-the-top villains that were a bit creepy actually.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - No, I don't know why it was on my list. And really had no clue once I started reading. This is a book of philosophy, not a book about zen nor motorcycles. Which lead to a number of reason why I struggled with it and in the end didn't finish (although that's mostly to blame on having to return it to the library because I would have eventually made it through.) I thought I was getting a non-fiction book - part of my quest to read more of those - but it opens as a narrative of a motorcycle trip, interspersed among this guy's really deep thoughts while he's riding. It confused my brain. Because of the narrative parts, it wanted to whip through like I do with most fiction. But the deep thoughts - those were not exactly scannable. In fact, this was a book best taken at a slow and plodding pace with a lot of discussion to help process all the things he said. I have a good grasp of his argument about classic vs. romantic thinkers (kind of agree with him) and some of what he was trying to say about quality. But I couldn't read it steadily or quickly enough to maintain a grasp of the threads most of the time. Sigh. Adding back to the list as a "someday" book.

The Innovator's Dilemma - This is becoming a classic business book, at least with people running small tech companies like ours. It lays out the basic premise that by creating and improving current innovations, we can fall behind and become extinct. So the game-changing innovations (disruptive technologies) often come from the least expected places, not the market leaders, no matter how innovative they are. My boss suggested I pick up Christensen's book on disruptive education as well since that's the space we're in.

To Shield the Queen by Fiona Buckley - First in a series about Ursula Blanchard, who becomes one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies at court after the death of her husband. She becomes involved in trying to keep Amy Dudley (wife of Elizabeth’s favorite Robin) alive, which opens the door to a larger plot to over throw the queen and bring a Catholic royal back to the throne. Now, there are several different mystery series featuring the Elizabethan court, including at least one where Elizabeth is the one playing sleuth. They’re all fine, but apparently not that memorable since I can’t remember who writes them. Boo. But they all make for fine entertainment, and I especially like Ursula in this one, so I’ll be pursuing more of this series. Ursula is strong, resolute, intelligent and courageous, something I’d like to see in more people. And the series works with the constraints of the time, not against them ways that are unbelieveable. (Hate that in historical fiction. Some of the past sucked. Get over it. Use it. Don’t re-write it to suit today. Boo.)

A ton of Italy guides - In preparation for our trip this month. (Yea!) I did the usual pull-everything-off-the-library-shelf to decide what might be worth buying and taking with us. Ended up just getting Rick Steves' Italy 2010 guide to be our one reference on the trip. Need to get back to these because an itinerary doesn't plan itself.

Not Quite Dead - I made it halfway through this guy before I just had to give up. I’m sure he was going to bring the two stories together. There had to be some kind of connection here between the Irish Brotherhood development and Edgar Allan Poe faking his own death. Surely it was going to happen. But I was so unengaged in either of the threads that I finally figured it wasn’t worth continuing. Either of them might have been of interest to me – the Irish challenges in America or the life of Poe – but together, just a confused mess that I couldn’t get excited about.

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