Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Everything Else by Daniel Coyle

The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Everything ElseThe Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Everything Else by Daniel Coyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was an interesting study of the source of human talent. I happen to be reading another book I received from a friend on creativity which I will hopefully write about here when I finish it. It was interesting that both books shared some of same examples.

The Talent Code focuses on neurosciences and discoveries related to myelin. Myelin does seem to be very important, but I can't help but think they gave too much credit to that biological factor in an attempt to prove that there is no such thing as natural talent. And yet, with as much proof as they offered don't we all know somebody who is naturally talented at something? That is hard to reconcile. One last criticism is that several of their data points seem to exhibit confirmation bias. For example, they point out how many great contributors to society lost at least one parent in their youth and say that is a motivator to their success. Yet, they don't talk about the millions that lose parents and struggle to achieve even mediocre success in life.

With all of that said, I liked this book. I do have the feeling that when I finish the book on creativity I would probably recommend reading one or the other but not both.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess BrideThe Princess Bride by William Goldman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book. I guess that I expected to experience a bigger and better version of the movie that we all know and love. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, and last year I read Cary Elwes book, As You Wish, about the making of the movie, and I loved it. Since most books are better than the movie, I expected an engaging, deeper plot that I would really love.

I didn't get what I expected. What I got was a near word-for-word retelling of the movie. The only material difference was the Pit of Despair, which was replaced by the Zoo of Death in the book. In some ways, this is what I always want from a movie based on a book. I want to hear and see the book I envision in my head on the screen. That is exactly what this was, so in that regard it was perfect. The downside is that it was in reverse, with the movie coming first, so when I opened the book I expected more, and it wasn't there.

If you love the movie like I do, this is a must-read. But don't expect something new. Expect the same dialogue, often word-for-word.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic EconomicsEconomics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Before I say anything else, let me just state that I agree with just about all of the principles in this book. No arguments here.

Having said that, this book was boring. Like claw my eyes out boring. But I'm the one who picked up the book on economics, so that's on me. As for the book itself, it does give a brief treatise on the basics of economics, embracing classic conservative philosophies. What it didn't do was convince the reader of the correctness of this view point. It spoke down to dissenting opinions, and didn't step to the opponents side at all to address rebuttals. It wasn't great, although it was a fair refresher on economic principles that I slept through during my undergrad degree.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Quest (Farseer Trilogy, #3)Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a journey that, while glad I undertook, I was not prepared for. This final volume of the trilogy was massive, and plodded along for most of it. In the end, you invest so much time in the characters, especially the main character, that you care about them, and their heartaches are your heartaches. And that is how this story ended for me. In heartache.

I can't say I liked the ending, even though I can say I "liked" the book. I just expected... more. More happiness. More resolution. More winning. Less compromise. Less sorrow. Less awkwardness.

I often like to include specific examples of things I did or didn't like in a book, but the scope of this one is just too big, so I'm not even going to try. I will comment on one positive thing I have gained from this book. This is a true fantasy, and is a great example of fantasy that is not just about elves or dwarves, or about a certain setting. It is about distinct people, battling the challenges in their lives. The time spent on the details of the main character's life is the main point of this narrative, not what we would call the plot. It is walking with Fitz through life that gives the reader a strong emotional connection to him when the plot kicks him around and abuses him. Without that, the whole thing would fall flat.

So that's all I have to say about that. Would I recommend this book? Maybe. If you have a lot of time, and are ready to immerse yourself in the mind and experiences of a character that does not get everything he wants in the end, then go for it. This book is for you. For anyone else I would suggest putting this on hold until the above qualifiers are true. If that never happens, then there are better books for you out there.

The more I have thought about it, the more I have disliked this book.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy, #2)Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was more of the same from Assassin's Apprentice, the first book in this series. Fairly slow going and detailed, it is hard to see how this book became so popular. Then as you near the end, the action begins to happen, and you find that you are very involved. You care about the characters, and you can picture the society you invested so much time to get to know. It is hard to see where that switch flips, but it does, and then this tired, slow story becomes a page turner.

A small criticism: Fitz has this power to repel people, yet he is in many situations where he is threatened but doesn't use it. I don't understand that. Near the end of the book you see him try to use that power, and then learn about the strength it takes, etc., probably because the author realized that the readers would ask that same question. But earlier, it just isn't a part of his repertoire. That seems like an oversight.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a classic fantasy. Slow, plodding, with just enough action to keep you reading, with most of the plot progression around politics and characters rather than action scenes. I'll be honest, it was a little hard to get into, but once I was involved it was enjoyable. For me it was analogous to a classical piano concert. Deep, slow, meaningful.  I enjoy those, but that wouldn't be my first choice for entertainment. I'm interested to see how the next books go, and if Hobb picks up the pace at all.