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ogd5XOt's books

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Graham Greene, Graham Greene: The quiet American (Paperback, 1962, Penguin Books) 4 stars

One of Graham Greene's best works. The story is set at the time of the …

Authentic and Beautifully Written

5 stars

Graham Greene served with MI6 during World War II and traveled the world extensively both before and after. His experiences really come across in this novel, where the narrator can zero in about the small details of a locale that make it special, as well as provide some insights into life in war zones that only someone with legitimate been-there-done-that experience would have.

While the plot itself centers around a love triangle between a journalist, a Vietnamese woman, and an American operative, that almost seemed like background noise to me. What made the book special was the first person narration - a voice that was reflecting on life in general, life in Vietnam, war, intrigue and numerous other details with an authenticity that can't be fabricated.

Beautifully written and filled with realities of conflict (internal, interpersonal, and between opposing forces) that continue to resonate.

Still a Classic

5 stars

A classic story of Depression-era New York City filled with flawed characters just trying to get by. Bad luck, poor decisions, and economic realities don't leave many winners in this novel, but you always wish the best for the good ones, even when they're doing something bad. Each phase of the character's life, from youth to adulthood, feels authentic, and when he hurts, the reader hurts too.

It's not perfect, and it's a product of its era, but it's still a classic.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Doris Kearns Goodwin: Leadership (Hardcover, 2018, Simon & Schuster) 5 stars

In this culmination of five decades of acclaimed studies in presidential history, Pulitzer Prize-winning author …

A Look at the Human Side of Presidential Leadership

5 stars

Goodwin picks threads of similarity between all four leaders - origins, slumps, and victories - and uses her intimate knowledge of these figures to draw parallels between their situations. She draws on outside research on leadership traits and highlights those traits in practice through each of these stories.

There is a huge amount of US history here, relatable stories, and guidance on how to navigate leadership challenges. Wonderful work by one of America's foremost historians.

To be unstoppable, you keep going when everyone else is giving up; you thrive under …

A Discussion of the Archetypes of High Performers

4 stars

Grover's first book in the coaching space is not as strong as his sophomore effort, "Winning". In this text, he mostly provides a look at the various archetypes of high performers.

I think this book is most useful as a guide to introspection. Grover divides high performers into three categories and then gives various traits of each. Matching those traits against yourself is helpful for framing your own headspace.

Grover is exceptionally blunt and is pretty frank that some aspects of high performers aren't necessarily helpful or flattering. After multiple decades of working with some of the best athletes ever, he's candid about the ups and downs.

There's not much guidance on how to actually apply this knowledge, but I think it's still a useful exploration of mindset from someone with serious credentials. It might help you better understand yourself or the people you're leading.

Tim S. Grover, Shari Wenk: Winning (Hardcover, 2021, Scribner) 4 stars

A Gritty Look at Mental Toughness

5 stars

Many texts on mindset have a glossy, self-help feel. This is not Tim Grover's approach.

This book covers Grover's experiences, observations, and strategies he collected over multiple decades of coaching some of the world's best athletes. Its lack of refinement is a refreshing departure from the "You can do it!" tone of so much of the mental coaching space.

Grover pulls no punches in describing how the road to high-performance is brutal, demoralizing, and never ending. It's written for folks who have been-there-done-that and find themselves compelled to go back and do it again. If the reader is looking for a gentle "pick me up", this isn't it.

This text has become a go-to recommendation for people that are about to do something really, really hard. An easy recommendation for any high-performer or someone who leads them.

Adam Makos, Larry Alexander: A Higher Call (2012) 5 stars

A Good Look at the Luftwaffe Experience in WWII

5 stars

This book follows the life of a German fighter pilot who once risked treason to help a damaged American bomber escape German airspace. It provides a nuanced look into the German warfighter's experience during the Second World War.

Portions of the book are spent on the backstory of the American crew, but the majority is spent with Franz Stigler, the German pilot. The book covers the entire flying career of Stigler and only two chapters are spent on the titular event.

It's a solid retelling from an author that has genuine respect for the subject matter and discusses some seldom covered details about the Luftwaffe. An easy recommendation for any military historian or aviation enthusiast.

Matthew Walker: Why We Sleep (Hardcover, 2017, Scribner; Illustrated edition) 4 stars

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, …

Solid Science Communication, but Not Very Compelling

3 stars

Matthew Walker's discussion on Peter Attia's podcast (The Drive, Episodes 47 - 49) is one of the most interesting things I've ever heard. At six hours long, I was sad when it ended and immediately wanted to listen to it again. If you've any interest in sleep, I highly recommend you check it out immediately.

I picked up this book after hearing that podcast, and the book just isn't on the same level as those interviews. It's an entirely serviceable piece of science communication, but that's about it.

The text is a high level synopsis of key pieces of research and related anecdotes. It's interesting enough, but it just isn't very engaging. Dr. Walker does go through practical recommendations on how to get better sleep, but the focus is really on explaining what sleep is and isn't.

If you don't know much about sleep, and are looking for an overview …

S. H. Fernando, Fernando, S. H., Jr.: From the Streets of Shaolin (2021, Hachette Book Group) 5 stars

A Truly Excellent History of the Group and the Genre

5 stars

Fernando is both a journalist and a superfan, and his knowledge and enthusiasm are put to great use here. He covers the glory days of Wu-Tang, including their side projects, from their debut album to Wu-Tang Forever.

There's a lot of history in here. Fernando takes the time to explain the social context of the music, so the influences of the artists are really brought into focus. Sometimes the history is so deep the connection to the music isn't immediately apparent, but the walk is always worthwhile.

The music itself is explored in extensive depth. Almost every sample is discussed, including its origin, how it was modified to fit in the track, and often how RZA first found it. The analysis of the lyrics weaves in what was happening in the writer's life at that moment, and virtually every reference is explained.

The book focuses on the glory days of …

Robert Greene: The Art of Seduction (2001, Viking Adult) 3 stars

This mesmerizing exploration of the most subtle, elusive, and effective form of power is a …

Useless and Bizarre

1 star

This is basically a survey of how seduction is portrayed in written form. While the author does cover historical figures, including some who lived recently enough for other media of them to exist, the author exclusively studies what is written about those people.

The whole thing reads like a sex manual written by a virgin. Nothing in here is applicable to anyone who is attempting to navigate the real world. One such gem of advice, "...Heighten the effect by appearing in ceremonial and ritual events that are full of exciting imagery, making you look regal and godlike." Yeah... that'll help when asking for a promotion or swiping right on Tinder.

The book itself is littered with various quotes from other texts, many of which are only tangentially related to what's being discussed. It further drives home the point that Greene is a literature major that reads more than he interacts …

David E. Sanger: The Perfect Weapon (Hardcover, 2018, Crown) 4 stars

The Perfect Weapon is the startling inside story of how the rise of cyberweapons transformed …

An Amateur Effor from Someone Who Should Know Better

2 stars

This book is a mess. I can't tell if Sanger simply doesn't understand technical minutia or if his writing is so sloppy his explanations are useless - probably a bit of both.

The author repeatedly latches on to the most scandalous explanation of certain events, occasionally even acknowledging more mundane explanations are plausible and then proceeding to spend dozens of pages building up the more outlandish story. He extrapolates on scant details and builds complex theories on nothing other than pure speculation.

Further, many of his predictions on the future of cyberwar have simply proven incorrect in places like Ukraine. I can't necessarily fault Sanger for that - pretty much everyone in the information security community made the same forecasts - but nonetheless, they're wrong.

Go read Kim Zetter or Andy Greenberg.

Jr. William H. Keith, Andrew Keith: Decision at Thunder Rift (1992) 3 stars

A Mediocre Introduction to BattleTech

3 stars

Classic 80's pulp fiction. There is some great stuff in here - the opening few chapters really stand out - but the rest is so-so at best. The author's military experience shines through and the depiction of service life and political friction therein feels spot on. I feel like the plot had potential, but wasn't given enough room to breathe with the brevity of the text.

Unless you're a BattleTech completionist, you can probably skip it.

Philip Shenon: A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination 5 stars

Interesting History of the Warren Commission

5 stars

The subtitle of the book is a bit misleading: the book focuses on the investigation of the assassination and not so much about the assassination itself. It is expertly researched and draws upon interviews with many of the investigators as well as the publicly-available documentation on the subject.

It is an eye-opening look at a messy piece of American history.

Tim Weiner: Legacy of Ashes (Paperback, 2008, Anchor) 4 stars

For the last sixty years, the CIA has managed to maintain a formidable reputation in …

Commendable research, but too little context

3 stars

The book reads like a grocery list of failures, which is fine, but there's just too little context. Very little space is spent explaining why things didn't work - the reader is mostly left to conclude that the plan was stupid and the people attempting to execute it were also stupid.

The author also goes out of his way to share his disdain, either through direct editorializing or sharing an anecdote to demonstrate the outrageous behavior of the people involved. Simply describing the failure would have been sufficient - the remainder just made it seem like the author had an axe to grind.

reviewed Charlie Wilson's war by George Crile III (Thorndike Press large print nonfiction)

George Crile III: Charlie Wilson's war (Hardcover, 2003, Thorndike Press) 4 stars

An Historical account of the covert operations against the Soviet invasion of Afganistan in 1980's.

If the full story was in the movie, no one would have believed it

4 stars

"Stranger than fiction" is about the only way to describe this story. A handful of deeply flawed people fundamentally changed the course of human history.

Extensively researched and expertly told, I'm knocking a star because the early tone of the book seemed almost breathless with admiration. The tone settled over time and the... let's charitably call them "quirks" of the main cast of characters become more heavily emphasized.

A great read for anyone interested in covert operations or the Cold War.