Saturday, August 30, 2014

Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

So this is one of my annual business reads.  I skimmed it in 2012, so I didnt count that as a read, but I reviewed it back in 2011.  I have committed to study this book every year with my team going forward, and it is amazing how many of these dysfunctions have crept in over the last few years.  It is easy to lose sight of simple behaviors that really contribute to success, even when you have seen them first hand.  It is just hard.  This book describe five "dysfunctions" that teams experience, and how to overcome them.  While I was tempted to give it 5 stars, I'm going to stick with my first review of 4 stars.  All the points I noted there are still valid. While Lencioni isn't going to be writing any best selling fiction any time soon, he is a solid writer and builds characters we can care about, that are real to us, and gives them a meaningful conflict.  That is about all it takes.  From that medium he teaches us his principles of successful teams.

One of the interesting things, for me, is how I still see personal application in the books we read as a team at work, even though I have read them all many times.   Things are better than they were, but I guess I need to read the Influencer book along with every other book I read to make the lessons "stick."  :)

For those who are curious, my annual rotation of books is this: Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Crucial Conversations, Leadership and Self Deception, and the Richest Man in Babylon.  The last book, Richest Man, could be replaced at some point with a more generally applicable business book, but my current workforc really needs to be exposed to basic personal finance principles. The reason Influencer isn't in the list is that I found it to be a method for implementing change, but not instructive on what changes to implement, which is what the other books do.  A lot of overlap exists in the set however, and I like that.  Im always open for suggestions for a Richest Man replacement...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold (Magic Kingdom of Landover #1) by Terry Brooks

Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold (Magic Kingdom of Landover, #1)Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book years ago, before I started keeping track of what I read. I remember it as an awesome, amazing story that caught at my imagination. Now, after a lot more reading, and probably some maturing, this book doesn't quite reach that expectation, but I did enjoy it for a few reasons.

This book was obviously a break-out novel for Terry Brooks. He was a lawyer, and his professional background is all over this book, from the characters to the conflicts and even in the resolutions. It makes sense, of course. We spend so much of our waking lives earning a living, how would a fully-employed professional find time to become a writer? The two would have to overlap. I don't hold that against him, but it was both obvious and distracting at times. I have thought about story ideas that also stem from my professional experience, and when I put them on a shelf and come back to them, they never sound as good as I thought they did when I first wrote them down.

I like the originality of the characters and the setting. While some of it is a bit cliche these days, I have to remember how old this book is. It shows how much fantasy writers have gained from the pioneering work of guys like Terry Brooks. Would a high-society lawyer really take to a medieval life so easily? From penthouse living to camping out in a barn without any complaining? Yes, some of that is hard to ignore. But his originality in giving life to mythology in a very consumable way is his strength. This isn't a Tolkien work where you wade through hours of detail every time you encounter a new village. This moves along at a good pace, providing a quick, fun read. I look forward to continuing this series and watching it progress.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In the end it was the story of one person, Katniss. The revolution and the conflict were really just apart of her biography. Secondly, it was the love story of Katniss and Peeta. Unfortunately, it was neither of those that kept me reading, even thought those were the key topics in the end. The overall external conflict and the action are what made it good, and so when then finale turned out to be 30 pages of internal struggle for Katniss, this whole series was ruined for me. I feel like I was watching an exciting movie, and then right before then big finish, the projector broke, and 20 mins later after the theater staff have it fixed I get to see the ending, but I don't care anymore. The moment and excitement were lost.

Also, the love triangle thing got worse in this book. While I like the twist of Peeta being hijacked, the competition between Peeta and Gale was just a distraction, and in the end it didn't matter anyway. At least Collins could have killed one of them off.

So one more thing... I read the Gregor series before The Hunger Games trilogy was ever released, and despite this review, I am a fan of Suzanne Collins. I saw parallels between the characters in the two books that can only be indicative of her personal style and voice (for instance she has a thing for younger siblings that need protection from an older sibling, but who come of age throughout the series...) I like that. I like getting to know the person behind the words, if only just a little. It adds to the story, and teaches me about what it means to be a writer. While I can only give this 3 stars for what I consider a disappointing ending, which we probably would disagree on, thank you for an excellent ride, and I look forward to where ever you will take us next.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book.  The revolution is happening, and Katniss's problems are growing. I'm not sure I like the love triangle part though. It smacks of an Edward vs. Jacob type conflict (yes, I read Twilight...) which I hated, and found distracting to what I considered the best parts of that series. I hope it doesn't get in the way here as well.

I'm also not sure about Katniss as a character.  She is supposed to be cold and evaluative of everything, but she strikes me as an attempt at a "logic-based" character by an emotional writer. That isn't a bad thing, but in the book she sounds logical and removed, but doesn't act that way. I'm not describing this well, since I think it was a subtle discrepancy to me. Did anyone else notice the same thing?

Of course, with this having a cliff-hanger ending I'm excited to read the next book. There is a lot of potential for awesomeness here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Your Doctor Won't Tell You about Your Lower Back: Avoid the Pitfalls, Scams, Shysters, Con Men, Charlatans, and Quacks by Bill Yancey

What Your Doctor Won't Tell You about Your Lower Back: Avoid the Pitfalls, Scams, Shysters, Con Men, Charlatans, and Quacks by Bill Yancey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good book on back pain. For me the highlights were on the alternate forms of handling pain and promoting healing with exercise and mind techniques. The downside of this one was that at the end I didn't really know what to do next. There was a lot of good information and suggestions, but I would have appreciated a section on creating an overall treatment plan. I know, I know, I have to see my doctor for that... (not convinced.)