Last Words – by George Carlin

Last Words – by George Carlin (with Tony Hendra), 297 pps., 2009

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What I liked about this book

Okay, full disclosure first.  I am a life-long fan of this man.  Although I never had the opportunity to see him LIVE, I did see many of the HBO specials and listened to many albums from childhood into adulthood.  It is no wonder that he and comedians like Richard Pryor were “joined at the hip” during their first days of comedy.

Carlin mastered the English language and had a unique (and overpowering) delivery.  He makes mention of his natural “ability” (understatement) to grab an audience and compound the humor on them.  He had an amazing ability to engage with his audience.

 

What I disliked about this book

It sort of got a little slow in the middle of the book.  Though I’m not against slowing the pace to build on the plot, it almost seemed like there was repetition of the same portions earlier in the book.  Perhaps it was either intentional (as reinforcement) or because this book is derived from his compilation of notes.  Nevertheless, my mind wandered a bit – only to be “rescued” by a strong finish.

 

To whom would I recommend this book

I would definitely limit my readership to 18 and  older.  Repeated discussions on the “7 words you cannot say on television,” along with George’s general delivery of all information would be the reasons.  Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable ride for a mature/ adult audience.  It’s easy to miss this guy.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

Flash Boys – by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys – by Michael Lewis, 271 pps., (2014)

 

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What I found most amazing about this book

This book is pertinent because it highlights a segment of the financial world that seems to have a great propensity to make money regardless of consequences.  Just the concept of spending the time and investment to install a “super speedy” stock trading line from (Point A to Point B) Chicago to New Jersey is amazing.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

It’s not something I didn’t like about the book, but rather the unlikeable tendency we humans have.  That is – the built-in greed button to “WIN at all costs” and the extent to which we can risk everything we have in order to satisfy that urge to make a buck.  It ends up costing ourselves and others (who entrust us with their investment capital).

Whom would I recommend to read this book

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in working in any capacity in the stock trade.  It is both eye-opening and a great discourse (as always in Michael Lewis books), on the “game within the game.”  It is both any exciting read and makes the reader twice about what might be going on in his or her trusted trader’s investment strategy…

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

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Rise of the Robots – by Martin Ford

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Rise of the Robots

by –  Martin Ford, 286 pgs.

What I found most amazing about this book

The most amazing thing about this book is the stark realization that many forms of human labor as we know it is on the tail end of its very existence.  It’s no accident that corporations have seized on both the efficiency and profitability that robots – when built and operated properly – can offer them.  Unlike humans, there are no sick days, vacations, health insurance, etc. that otherwise “inconvenience” the 24/7/365 profit machine mindset

That may seem fine in a money-making sense, but it far from solves every potential problem.  In fact, it may prove to create some brand new ones.  Unless new methods are derived to figure out how all of the millions (up to even tens of millions) of displaced workers are going to miraculously afford to buy those state-of –the-art, robotically-built products and services, then we may come to regret outsmarting ourselves in our technological prowess. 

It is something to keep in mind in our quest for perfection.  In fact, the author proposes a few interesting options with respect to how we could compensate those of us who may pay the ultimate price in this process – that of losing our careers to robots.  As one pretty insightful scientist (Isaac Newton) once put it, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Let’s hope that we’re mindful of our actions as we move to the next generation.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I thought this book was the most eye-opening I’ve read in several years.  As advanced as the concepts are, the author did a fantastic job in wording it in a way that even a very young person could relate to.  It is a game changer, a disrupter, and it will most certainly be cited often in the coming years.

Whom would I recommend to read this book

This book is (like it or not) a “must-read” for all working adults who may not even realize how close they are to being replaced in their occupation.  Yes, yours!  I would also strongly recommend it to all college students who are at the point of declaring majors and career-planning for the next stage of their lives.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

Conspiracy of Fools – by Kurt Eichenwald

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Conspiracy of Fools

by –  Kurt Eichenwald, 675 pgs.

What I found most amazing about this book

It was interesting to revisit the new millennium – a time when the U.S.A.’s company heads were spending like drunken sailors, startups were hideously overvalued and debt- laden without revenues, and the world appeared to be at everyone’s feet.  This was termed the dot com boom days. Of course, it didn’t last.  Nothing this hedonistic could have lasted long.  Within a few years of 2000, most were brought to a grinding halt – as a result of economically unwise strategies and reckless errors. 

It is now 2017 and history appears to be repeating itself.  Despite the fact that we recently experienced two economic crises – the dot com bust in 2000-02, AND the Great Recession in 2008-09 – we have yet to fully learn from the error of our ways.  What should have changed our ways permanently seems to have eluded us in favor of more greed and arrogance. For the most part, our collective capitalist memories seem to have been wiped clean after each recovery – only to repeat similar (and sometimes worse) actions in later years. 

We should try harder to never forget that we are not the only economic empire to ever exist in history.  It’s so easy to become complacent with the belief that we can always “pull through the next one.”  I guess we’ll only truly realize this when we experience the event that becomes too catastrophic from which to recover.  At any rate, this book is a great reminder of what happens to those who operate without thinking about the consequences of their actions.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I liked pretty much everything about this book.  I think it was interesting, well researched and a smooth read. 

Whom would I recommend to read this book

This book is a great read for any adult who has an interest in learning about the true story of a seemingly normal Fortune 50 company which was hijacked by corporate greed and steered into destruction. It’s easy to forget about all of the family members of every employee who are affected by such incompetence and selfishness.  Retirement accounts are squandered, college plans vaporize and innocent futures are never the same again. This is all the result of self-inflicted wounds and the inability to stop deviant behavior despite combined years of executive education and experience.  By not having (or choosing to circumvent) a system of “checks and balances,” it is easy to get so many people (innocent and not so innocent) become ensnared in a colossal and deadly spiral. 

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

The Broker

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The Broker

by – John Grisham

What I found most amazing about this book

The book first grabbed my attention while on winter vacation in Hawaii last month. Of course, it has the traditional “spy-flare” for which Grisham is well known.  But, it also retains the reader’s attention with his excellent ability for detailed description.  He always makes us feel like we are literally on the main character’s shoulder – obtaining a bird’s-eye view of each move in every suspense-filled chapter.  In this sense, Grisham continues to deliver as always.  I’m glad I ran across this book.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

Nothing. It was the right reading length, it was exciting and it is the ideal vacation getaway novel!

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

This book is fine for most ages and reading abilities.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

Carsick: John Waters hitchhikes across America

 

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Carsick: John Waters hitchhikes across America

by John Waters

What I found most amazing about this book

I liked the author’s ability for vivid description. He is such a professional in understanding the “thoughts behind the thoughts.”  In the social psychological sense, it probably leans somewhere in the examination of ideas on the subconscious.  Either way, it is easy to see what has made John Waters a storytelling legend of his time.  He has many talents that leak into the pages simultaneously that provide us an entertaining literary cocktail to savor. Eloquence, objectivity, hilarity – just to name a few!  It’s all “in there” and this was a nice overall read.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

The story did tend to slow down somewhat in the middle portion (nothing horrible, just a notation).  Perhaps the fact that it is on the topic of hitchhiking alone may have been a contributing factor.  However, with Mr. Waters’ wonderful wit, he was always able to recapture the reader’s attention and lure him or her back into a new twist.

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

I would definitely limit the audience to mature adults only.  This book has very graphic references to all of the “bad” stuff. Not for the timid.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

After Snowden: Privacy Secrecy and Security in the Information Age

After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy and Security in the Information Age (by Ronald Goldfarb, Edward Wasserman, and David Cole)

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What I found most amazing about this book

I found it equally amazing and disturbing that in our constitution nothing was mentioned on the topic of ‘privacy.’ Not a word, nary a mention…NOTHING.  This is problematic because where there is no mention, there are no rules. Herein lies the premise of this book.   Because there are no rules applying to privacy, there is a tendency of the government to “stretch” the powers of information gathering in the United States and on its citizens.  When every telephone call, email, text message, Facebook post or tweet is subject to interception and interpretation (let alone, occasional misinterpretation), we find ourselves sort of cast at sea without a paddle.  This is causing us to question everything that is going on for the purpose of “security.”  Those who have questioned these policies and practices have done so because they feel it is the most sensible thing to do and that we have the right as citizens to know.  It is a subject that will be debated over for years to come!

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I cannot find much to dislike about this book.  I suppose the only thing I could say is that I wish the people in charge of some of the covert programs that are currently in operation would take a moment to seriously reevaluate the potential long term damage this may be causing to the American people.  I would also like to for them to be more forthright concerning what our rights are turning into during the Information Age.  I imagine that they have some ideas, but are hesitant to share because of the anticipated backlash (or, perhaps they just don’t feel we need to know).  Regardless, I just think it might be better for us all in the long haul. Constant paranoia and pessimism is probably not a healthy state of mind in the nation’s big picture.  I think it’s fair to say that George Orwell (author of 1984 and the ‘big brother’ concept) is probably doing somersaults in his grave.

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

I would certainly encourage anyone and everyone to read this book.  No age is either too young or unsophisticated to realize that most of our ‘technological engagements’ – from smartphone calls, texts, Facebook and Twitter posts, and simple emails ALL may be subject to review and even more.  We may think that we don’t have any “friends” that are under surveillance, but THEY may have second or third degree “friends” who MIGHT BE.  So, if we are all just fine with the likelihood of falling prey to unwanted surveillance – like Edward Snowden, Bradley (a.k.a. “Chelsea”) Manning and others have claimed) – then perhaps we are overreacting.  If we’re not fine with this, then perhaps we’re not overreacting one bit.

Any thoughts?

 

The Invisibles

 

By Jesse J. Holland (published, 2016)

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This book focused on a topic that most of us have never come across in our many years of American History book reading and study.  It delves into the contributions made by African slaves living and serving their masters in the U.S. White House.  At first, it may seem to many of us that this couldn’t have been possible (mostly because it was omitted from our education lessons), but given the era in which it took place and the financial constraints the U.S.A. was under in its infancy, it is obvious that this was one of the ways which our founders used to build up a nation “on a financial shoestring.”

What I found most amazing about this book

I learned that 12 of our first 18 U.S. presidents had slaves actively serving them and their families in the White House.  It is a stunning statistic, but also a sobering exposé on a topic that needs to be discussed much more often than it has been in our time.  We must remember that these slaves were in no better or privileged position than slaves serving in any other area of the country.  They simply served their masters in what is considered the single most treasured landmark in America – the White House.

What I did NOT like about this book

In my opinion, there was nothing to dislike about this book.

Whom do I recommend should read this book?

This is a great book for almost all ages.  I would have liked to have known many of the facts and seen the gallery of photos exhibited in the pages of this book when I was a young man.  As painful as some of the events could be to some readers, it is still very important to be aware of and acknowledge.  The author, Jesse Holland, does a wonderful job in taking us methodically (to the extent possible) through the era.

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Phishing for Phools Book Review (by George Akerlof and Bob Shiller)

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The gist of this book is the myriad ways in which our culture is directly and/ or indirectly affected by those who may  (or may not) always have our best interests in mind.

What I liked about this book

One of the interesting references the book makes is concerning the marketing ideas conceived by a company you may be aware of, Cinnabon, as an example of luring weary (and often times hungry) air travelers by the delicacy’s notorious “scent” and how strategically placing kiosks near airport gates became an easy means of trapping the traveler while at his or her weakest emotional moments.  This makes for easy prey – and astronomical profits!  This would hardly be a problem but for the fact that if the traveler were thinking straight, they might realize that they are about to scarf down over 800 calories per treat!   Not a good trade-off for a momentary fill.

It’s funny, but this reminds me of a similar situation I encounter often when I pick my children up from school in the afternoon.  I noticed about 10-15 minutes prior to the bell ringing, I see an old, rickety blue ice cream truck ripping around the corner to secure the most strategically-located spot for the schoolchildren (soon to be excused by the bell – which I’m sure he knows the exact time it is scheduled to occur).  What is even more peculiar (and a bonus to Mr. Ice Cream) is  not only how easy the pickings are with the kids,  but because we live in a very hot and dry area, he even corrals more than a few of the “big kids” (i.e. the parents) who cannot resist the chance to grab some ice cold sugar for a quick fix.  Well, so much for that early morning workout in the park, right?

Whether we are talking about a multi-million dollar franchise pushing high fat, sugary items our way at our weakest moments, or a barely solvent ice cream pusher capitalizing on our child-like tendencies, both are clear examples of how to enact a sneaky yet highly effective method to lure us into parting with our money and blowing up our bellies in the process “without thought.” Though all is perfectly legal, it is proof of the concept of  baiting the weak and  “phishing for phools!”

What I did NOT like about this book…

Nothing! It’s an excellent read with many interesting points made.

Whom do I recommend should read this book

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys a quick and enjoyable read.  It is good for all ages and would even work well entered into a bibliography for any book or book report in the area of psychology or the use of subliminal marketing techniques with respect to how we are easily ( and often negatively) influenced by others in our daily decisions.

 

The Third Wave – by Steve Case

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What I liked most about this book

The most interesting thing about this book is how the author tied together our most significant technological advances since the 1980s with the political, economic and social issues these advances most affected. Because he has had influence on the highest levels in both the private (business) and public (government) sectors, he was able to explain all of the nuances that only an insider could.

What challenges (or dislikes) about this book

I suppose the only challenge was trying to understand how someone could build a company (AOL) into a monster valuation and then be “unhappy” with how the circumstances turned out during and after the merger with Time/Warner.

For a reader (like me) who is also an entrepreneur, it’s strange to think that anyone could be unhappy with the results he achieved. Entrepreneurs traditionally work so hard and diligently for such a long time – and often with less than satisfactory results – that one never envisions the potential for any unhappiness in this process.  It was certainly both an eye-opener and a reminder of the cold realities of our complex business world.  That said, all entrepreneurs (satisfied or unsatisfied) should thank Steve Case for being so honest with his feelings in “letting us in” to experience a moment with him that most successful businesspeople are too proud to ever let us see.
Why and to whom would I recommend this book

This book is an outstanding read for anyone and everyone who is alive and well today.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all living in the Third Wave that is described in this book.

In the beginning of the book, I was very enthusiastic about sharing this information with my pre-teen children.  They are now in what I coined their iPod stage (in obvious hopes to rapidly accelerate into their iPhone stage).  But I often wonder how unaware they are of what we had to endure in the “old tech days” (i.e. the 90s and before).

I recall (as late as 2001) making daily references to the old AOL online process: which included modem screeches, awful delays and call drops.  However, as Steve Case properly explains, it was not only all we had, but just the starting point of so many monumental gains to come.  All of our children would feel cheated if they had to climb into a time machine for a day and revert to those days, but then again, what did we say to our parents with all of their “tech troubles?”  We should be very proud of our tech advancements and in introducing it all to the next generation.