**NOW: Playing Hurt – by John Saunders

Quick click: The late ESPN announcer provides in-depth revelation on his lifelong battle with depression.

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Playing Hurt – by John Saunders, published 2017, ~295 pages

What I learned from this book

I learned the same message we’ve heard from childhood that still rings true – “You never judge a book by its cover.”  Or, “Not all things (or people in this case) are as they appear.”  Who would have ever thought that the sportscaster we watched and enjoyed for so long was having such a difficult time even as we watched him?!  

John Saunders really drove home the point that we must all take a step backwards to understand the depths of depression and its effects on an individual.  It is not our place to judge or attempt to “lighten the person’s load.”  This only exacerbates the person’s condition and circumstances. Mr. Saunders explained it as the equivalent of “encouraging someone without use of their legs to get up and run around to improve your outlook on life.”  Hopefully, this is something we all should agree on NOT to do.

What I liked about this book

I liked Saunders’ transparency in detailing his entire experience.  I thought that the book would not have impacted me as much had he held back in any way.  He divulged painful details from dealings with his physically and emotionally abusive father – and an insecure, enabling mother.  The dysfunctional family is no stranger to those of us who grew up in the same era (the 1970s).

However, he managed to do his best to survive as long as he could and made a pretty decent situation out of a disastrous start.  He put to use the same courage that it takes for all of us to rise above a wall of adversity. It’s just a shame that he still ended up passing away in 2016 – still very productive at the age of 61.

What I disliked about this book

This book contains very little for the reader to dislike.  About the only thing I can think of is it was a bit repetitive in the middle section.  However, I’ll give Saunders the benefit of the doubt because he was very committed to divulging “the entirety of everything.”  We all can get a bit wordy when attempting to drive home a point to our reader, right?

Whom would I recommend to read this book

Of course the main demographic I would recommend to read this book would be those who either are suffering from depression or have loved ones who are.  Though disturbing to deal with, I agree wholeheartedly with Saunders in that mental illness is unfortunately considered a “taboo subject matter” in this world that only drives the problem underground and causes more damage than it should in the end.

Any thoughts?

A.N.

**NOW PLAYING: The ‘No Asshole Rule’ – by Robert Sutton

The ‘No Asshole’ Rule – by Richard I. Sutton, publ. 2007, approx. 185 pp.

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What I learned from this book

I learned that no matter how talented, experienced or confident an employee or employer is, there is no reason to hire someone who creates a toxic office environment for all of the other team members.  This is a tough call because oftentimes the biggest a**hole in the room tends to be the most productive and or aggressive.  However, the author does an amazing job in convincing the reader that there is never a “good enough reason” to bring in or retain someone who makes the others insane.

What I liked about this book

I liked the case studies that the author brought into his work.  He even used an example from inside of his family when he and his wife came across a dilemma in whether to “unload an a**hole from her law practice.  This added a nice personal touch to the book and made it a more enjoyable ride.

What I disliked about this book

The only thing I can think of is that I just took too long to discover it.  It has a been a best seller (especially in the business world) ever since its release in 2007.  I may have been able to sidestep an a**hole or two had I known about it back then.  However, as they say (whomever “they” are) better late than never!

Whom would I recommend to read this book

This is an excellent read for anyone in the business world.  I might suggest that those who are leaving college and entering the work world would most benefit by learning how to identify and then steer clear of neighboring a**holes in adjoining cubicles or office suites.  However, it is extremely helpful to any and all ages in the professional world.

Any thoughts?

A.N.

 

 

 

 

 

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Nuclear Showdown – by Gordon Chang (publ. 2006)

Nuclear showdown: North Korea takes on the world – by Gordon G. Chang, approx. 225 pp. (publ. 2006)

 

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“Today he can hit most of the continent of Asia and even parts of the American homeland. In a few years–probably by the end of this decade–the diminutive despot will cast his shadow across the globe: He will be able to land a nuke on any point on the planet.”

Quiz: When do you think the aforementioned was said?

  1. Last week
  2. Last month
  3. Last year
  4. Several decades ago

The correct answer, believe it or not, is “D.”

It’s mind-boggling to realize that the above statement was not made describing current DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un by the present administration, but rather about his predecessor – and father – Kim Jong-Il, way back in the 1990s.  It sheds serious light on how long we have been stuck in this pattern with North Korea and its leadership.  No one in any U.S. presidential administration has been able to successfully “move the needle” at all.  The reason given has been something to the effect of “…it’s complicated.”  And, yes, it certainly is complicated.

What I liked about this book

I liked the way the author laid out the complex history of both North and South Korea and their relation to the situation we still wallow in today.  Gordon Chang clearly “did his homework” on this work – presenting all of the events that have led up to today’s standoff.

What I learned from this book

It is jaw-dropping to learn that the U.S. and Korea never formally ended the Korean War in the 1950s It has been passed around like a hot potato to each subsequent administration to “figure out” – supposedly with cooperation from border countries like China, South Korea and/or others. One thing the “historically-naïve reader” learns is that each country has differing interests in this “game.”  Unfortunately, this contributes to providing North Korea with excuses to continue to build and refine its nuclear arsenal; while creating a “ping-pong effect” of international rhetoric to its advantage.  As years turn into decades, the only outcome thus far seems to be a higher and higher probability of global nuclear annihilation.

What I disliked about this book

I disliked the fact that our leadership is still discussing the same unsuccessful tactics with the same associated countries without any real resolution.  South Korea, Japan, Russia and China have all participated in one way or another.  The entire scenario just seems wasteful, useless and irresponsible to the citizens relying on their leadership to safeguard their lives.  It gives the world an impression that leadership seems “okay” with everything continuing as is (even though we know they are not, but rather mostly puzzled as much as we are) The optics persist and continue to look really bad.

 

To whom would I recommend this book

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who lives – or plans to live – in the following place(s): any location on planet earth!

Your thoughts?

-A.N.

 

 

 

Welcome to the universe: an astrophysical tour – by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott,

Welcome to the universe: an astrophysical tour – by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott, 425 pages (2016)

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What I liked about this book

I liked the way these unbelievably skilled astrophysicists – moonlighting as very talented authors – were able to take the cosmic novice into a (mostly) reader-friendly journey of a world most us only knew tidbits from television shows like Star Trek or the  Jetsons. We are able to grasp how the universe began (with a Big Bang – boom!), what has taken place since the Big Bang, and what we can expect to occur between now and…whenever it all ends.

What I learned from this book

I learned that when we become 31 years, 251 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes, and 54.7843 seconds (not adjusted for Leap Years), we have lived on this earth for exactly ONE BILLION SECONDS!  Dr. Tyson shares a personal tale from years ago when he stopped what he was doing at this moment and drank a nice, long swig of champagne to celebrate his milestone.  His point was that very few of us experience this number in any form – so, it may be worth our while to stop and recognize the “accomplishment.”  I really appreciated learning this fact!

What I disliked about this book

There was nothing. It was one of the most comprehensive books I’ve come across in any field of science.  All three authors did a tremendous job in relaying a very complex subject matter into something of which most readers should be able to gain a basic understanding (at least, in general).

To whom would I recommend this book

I would recommend this book to anyone who has any curiosity in space (there are many).  Judging by the popularity of some of the recent series either broadcast on network television or streaming online like Dr. Neil Tyson’s Cosmos, I would imagine there are new generations of “space geeks” surfacing each and every day.  Welcome!

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

American Kingpin – Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road

American Kingpin – by Nick Bilton, ~325 pages (2016)

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What I liked about this book

This story is based on the life of a young man, Ross Ulbricht, who makes use of the “Dark Web” to launch the biggest online provider of illicit drugs to the world. He sets it up as a discreet, “untraceable” site that is accessed through a special browser access – purported to be out of the FBI’s line of sight.

The plot is very descriptive and the author has a unique writing style:  he pens short chapters (3-5 pages) in succinct nuggets to keep the story moving along at a fierce pace throughout.  This is a smart strategy because it prevents any downtime or boredom in the on the reader’s end.

What I disliked about this book

I couldn’t get over the selfishness of the main character.  It’s amazing to think that someone could be so careless with his life – while also being so dismissive of the powers of U.S. federal law enforcement. That said, his chutzpah is amazing in how he puts his blinders on and sticks to his mission. He does this despite risking the stiffest consequences possible – the remainder of his very young life spent rotting in a prison cell. Unbelievable.

To whom would I recommend this book

Limit to adults over the age of 18.  This book is filled with drug references (since that is the point of the book), and contains other adult content that makes it unsuitable for minors. Otherwise, it is a very interesting, pertinent and unique story.  It’s easy to feel like the reader wants to “pinch oneself” with respect to believing someone actually thought they could live this story and actually emerge on the other end a free person. I guess we really do learn something new every day.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

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.