Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews’

Book Review: Meet the Frugalwoods

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Thames, Elizabeth Willard. Meet the Frugalwoods : achieving financial independence through simple living. HarperBusiness, 2018.

book cover imageThere are any number of personal finance blogs, and several devoted to living a life of frugality. One of the best known is Frugalwoods.com written by Elizabeth Willard Thames, mother of two who is living her dream life on 66 acres of woodlands in Vermont. This year, she recycled her blog postings into a popular new book, Meet the Frugalwoods. In her blog and in her book, Thames explains how she restructured the way she lived — how she spent her money and her time to craft a meaningful and contented life.

The book begins in 2006 as Thames graduates from college and takes a fundraising job for a nonprofit in New York City that pays an AmeriCorps stipend of $10,000. She considers every dollar before spending it and ends the year with $2000 in the bank. In the ensuing years, she moves to Boston; to Washington DC; then back to Boston, continuing her career as a fundraiser. Finding her work increasingly meaningless, she spends money on small luxuries to compensate. When she and her husband begin hiking in the woods every weekend, exposure to nature changes her life. They embark on a program of extreme frugality to save enough money to make them financially independent by age 32 in order to move to rural Vermont and live a life that they are passionate about.

Thames is at her best when she is evaluating the work/spend cycles of American consumer culture. People work hard at frustrating jobs and then mitigate their discontent by buying expensive homes, furniture, cars, clothes, electronics. Thames explains that people accept roles that society, family and they themselves expect, instead of living life on their own terms. To craft the independent life that she wants, Thames examines her spending to determine when it made an improvement in her life and when it was superfluous. She eliminates makeup and haircuts, buys cheaper food, does her own home repairs. She estimates her family’s savings rate of 71%.

Offering abundant tips on how to live frugally, Thames is mum about one large expense for a family – healthcare. She also fails to disclose the source of the $400,000 needed to buy the spread in Vermont – after they kept their $460,000 house in Cambridge. Their secret: her husband still has his job as a software engineer. It is easier to be independent, frugal or not, if you have a high income. Nonetheless, Meet the Frugalwoods is recommended for its thoughtful message, detailed advice and approachable style.

Also available on OverDrive as an audiobook and eBook.

 

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Geek Girl Rising

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Cabot, Heather. Geek girl rising : inside the sisterhood shaking up tech. St. Martin’s Press, 2017.

book cover imageThe book Geek Girl Rising by journalists Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens should be required reading for anyone interested in entering a white, male dominated STEM field. This book covers the history of women in technology or engineering fields, and in business in general, making pivotal points about the lack of diversity in the technology sector; the importance of women helping other women succeed; and the importance of metrics in effecting change.

After a discussion about the need for diversity in STEM companies, the authors discuss ways to advocate for change. The first step to change is learning the actual ratios of women and individuals of color vs white males across industries, facts that tech companies seemed determined to hide. In a lawsuit in 2008, five of the largest Silicon Valley companies, including Google, won a lawsuit that had their company employee makeup declared a “trade secret.” This was reversed around 2013-2014 when the lack of diversity in these companies gained mainstream public attention through popular campaigns like #ChangetheRatio, as well as harassment claims and other lawsuits. People became interested in making a difference, both in reporting the numbers in their workplaces and in using consumer power to incentivize companies to change.

One factor contributing to the lack of diversity in engineering and technology fields is a lack of positive role models and success stories, despite the number of women with power and influence in these industries. Media outlets fail to promote and encourage women, who often face difficult or painful work situations, leading them to leave the industry or to avoid the spotlight as it attracts negative attention. Women pioneers in tech are not cited in articles or books as if their contributions are un-noteworthy. Ultimately, this lack of visibility corresponds to a lack of access and opportunities for growth as well as an inability to inspire others. To counter, Geek Girl Rising exhibits inspirational stories from a multitude of women from a wide range of companies and industries with pithy bios, interviews, anecdotes, and upbeat newsy briefs.

To combat this lack of diversity in key industries, Cabot and Walravens recommend several solutions. First, bring the problems of working in a male dominated work place to light using metrics; for example, the recent media stories about issues at Google and Facebook. A second solution is to “ignite the next generation.” President Obama’s 2014 STEM incentives encourage children, especially girls and children of color, to enter fields involved in innovation. The authors also begin and end their book referencing one female entrepreneur, Debbie Sterling, who in 2014 came out with GoldieBlox, a building/engineering/puzzle game focused around storytelling and problem-solving for children, which was sold by Toys R Us and exhibited at the toy expo in New York’s Jacob Javits Center.

This book is also available as an audiobook on OverDrive.

© Amy Brennan & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: More New Kindle eBooks

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Posting a list of worthwhile new books during the first week of the term in graduate school may seem ironic, especially when one of titles explains the art of perfect timing. But eventually you may want to reach beyond assigned coursework, enhance personal skills or read a business best seller. And when you do, consider one of the Ford Library’s eBook collections on Kindles. Here are 5 new books that were loaded on the Notable Kindle collection in the Ford Library.

book cover imageStephens-Davidowitz, Seth. Everybody lies: big data, new data and what the internet can tell us about who we really are. HarperCollins, 2017.
Aggregates information from Big Data sources, such as Google searches and Facebook profiles, then analyzes it to offer insights into human psychology – people’s behavior, their desires, their nature. Winner of multiple book awards, including New York Times, the Economist and PBS.

Also available in print, as an audiobook, and on OverDrive as both an eBook and audiobook.

book cover imagePinker, Steven. Enlightenment now: the case for reason, science, humanism and progress. Viking, 2018.

Presents 21st century data that proves that the world is healthier, freer, richer, safer and more peaceful than ever, while restating the truths of 18th century Enlightenment – that knowledge and sympathy can foster a better world for all.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as both an eBook and audiobook.

book cover imagePink, Daniel H. When: the scientific secrets of perfect timing. Riverhead Books, 2018.

Shows how to use the science of timing to produce better outcomes — revealing that the best decision are made in the morning; that lunch breaks and afternoon naps are underrated; and that endings color the way an entire experience is remembered.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as an audiobook.

book cover imagePeterson, Jordan B. 12 rules for life: an antidote to chaos. Random House Canada, 2018.
Presents a dozen practical principles for taking responsibility for your own life. The first 3: Stand up straight with your shoulders back and a feedback loop will bring good things; Treat yourself the same way you would treat someone you loved and valued; Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as an eBook.

book cover imageCoyle, Daniel. The culture code : the secrets of highly successful groups. Bantam Books, 2018.

Dozens of examples from well-known companies, sports teams and the military identifies the key ingredients in top-performing groups. Highlights the practical skills necessary for building trust and belonging, and for strengthening collaboration.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as an eBook and audiobook.

 

 

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: New Kindle eBooks

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Fresh off the bestseller lists, 10 new business books have been downloaded on Kindles in the Ford Library. Here is a sample of what is available. Take home a Kindle tonight and see what thought leaders are saying.

book coverCarreyrou, John. Bad blood: secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Knopf, 2018.

Acclaimed bestseller about corporate fraud in Silicon Valley’s medical device startup Theranos. CEO Elizabeth Holmes (the female Steve Jobs) raised $700 million from venture capitalists and private investors while hiding the fact that the blood test technology did not work.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle.

book coverEyal, Nir. Hooked: how to build habit forming products. Portfolio/Penguin, 2014.

Using the iPhone, Twitter, Pinterest, and others as examples, this brief practical book for entrepreneurs, product managers and designers shows how to use consumer psychology to create habit-forming products.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook.

 
book coverRubin, Gretchen. The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too). Harmony Books, 2017.

Self-help book based on a personality test that measures individual responses to internal and external expectations. Rubin’s framework sorts responders into four basic types (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel) and offers strategies for meeting deadlines, making better decisions and engaging others.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook & audiobook.

book coverTegmark, Max. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Knopf, 2017.

Non-technical look at the possibilities and dangers of the coming age of superintelligence with superminds that can replicate themselves, learn about the environment, gather information, and avoid mistakes.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook & audiobook.

 
book coverTaleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. Random House, 2018.

Unstructured rant about a privileged class of professions such as academics, policy makers, and journalists, who profoundly impact a complex world yet remain insulated from personal repercussions. Having something at stake is necessary for fairness and justice.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook & audiobook.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: An American Sickness

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Rosenthal, Elisabeth. An American sickness : how healthcare became big business and how you can take it back. Penguin Press, 2017.

book cover imageAn American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal is a sobering look at the history and current state of the American healthcare system. Rosenthal, a journalist and former physician, paints a bleak picture, but her accessible style and systematic organization make the book an engaging read.

Rosenthal pulls no punches, beginning with “Ten Economic Rules of the Dysfunctional Medical Market” which include “A lifetime of treatment is preferable to a cure,” and “As technologies age, prices can rise rather than fall.” She periodically refers back to these rules when logic and common sense fail.

Each chapter begins with a brief history of a part of the system such as insurance, hospitals, or pharmaceuticals, and then proceeds with an explanation of how each has changed in response to shifting values, to legislation, and to transformation in other parts – for example, how physician practices have affiliated themselves with hospital systems. Rosenthal pairs this overview with stories of patients, families, and doctors to help connect this complex system with personal healthcare decisions. While she presents a system that has moved from advancing patient well-being to delivering maximum profit, she generally absolves individuals; patients and caregivers are cast as victims of a predatory system. This portrayal may be an accurate reflection of the current system, but it is also the result of past decisions by many individuals who abdicated control of their healthcare decisions and dollars.

Rosenthal concludes with her solutions, which seem small and ineffectual against a vast and complicated system that hides true costs and deflects outside scrutiny. Her solutions are two-pronged: things to do immediately – such as asking for the cash cost of prescriptions or for an itemized hospital bill – and changes to advocate for on a systemic level over the long haul. In the appendices, she provides a number of useful tools to put these solutions into action. Rosenthal acknowledges that these solutions seem inconsequential, but encourages them nonetheless, emphasizing the power of numbers. If enough individuals take control of their healthcare and its costs, the system can be transformed into one that is both patient-centered and affordable. The book is a solid, if sometimes simplistic, introduction to a complicated topic.

Also available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive.

Book Review: Tribes

Monday, June 25th, 2018

An emerging concept in business is the tribe, a group with its own identity and culture and sometimes its own language. With a clear sense of belonging and intense loyalty, a tribe has a clear purpose. A tribe of committed individuals with a common vision and shared values can change the world.

book cover imageJunger, Sebastian. Tribe : on homecoming and belonging. Twelve, 2016.

Journalist, author and film director Sebastian Junger uses examples from his personal experiences as a war correspondent and his research on native Americans to explain that the wealth of modern society has spawned a desperate cycle of work and financial obligation, and also alienation, anxiety and depression. What is missing is a sense of belonging; an ethos that values loyalty and courage; and a fundamental egalitarianism. Junger’s “tribe” is a small group defined by a clear purpose and understanding. Recommended.

Also available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive.

book cover imageDean, Will. It takes a tribe : building the Tough Mudder movement. Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.

Will Dean is the founder and CEO of Tough Mudder, a $130M company that offers hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle mud run challenges that push participants to their limits. Promoting values of personal achievement and courage, Tough Mudders are also based on mutual cooperation and fun. Team based events offer a physical rite of passage that fosters loyalty and creates lasting bonds among members of the tribe. This is the entertaining story of the company and its founder.

Also available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive.

book cover imageFerris, Timothy. Tribe of mentors : short life advice from the best in the world. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.

Tim Ferris’s tribe is in name only. Ferris has made a lucrative career on getting the most impact out of the least amount of work. For his latest book, he sent 11 questions to 100 people and collected their shallow responses. Amazon reviewer Pop Tarts?! ROTFL has done my work for me when he sums it up this way: “This book is basically attempting to do what Tools of Titans has already done, but with way less valuable content. Kind of like that awesome blockbuster movie you saw that they made a lame, half-baked sequel to.”

Also available as an eBook on OverDrive.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Never Split the Difference

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Voss, Christopher. Never split the difference : negotiating as if your life depended on it. HarperBusiness, 2016.

Never Split the DifferenceNever Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It (2016) by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz explores a wealth of negotiating techniques presented in a framework of topical chapters that are meant to build on and to inform one another.

Throughout the book, Voss shares stories about his work as an FBI negotiator, beginning each chapter with a dramatic kidnapping or hostage situation. These anecdotes make the book hard to put down. The reader’s attention is kidnapped as well until the situation is resolved – and each technique explained.

An over-arching theme of the book is that creating adversarial relationships, quid pro quo bargaining, and compromise – what could be considered aspects of traditional negotiation – aren’t the best techniques or outcomes. Voss instead advocates listening actively, creating empathy, becoming comfortable with “no,” and humanizing your counterpart as just some of the tools of successful negotiators.

Voss teases out each technique, explaining it, showing how it is used in the process and providing tips, tricks, and easily memorized phrases to use. He also points out that negotiation is not a 1-2-3 process but a fluid dynamic where the skilled negotiator uses these tools interchangeably, repeatedly, and with emotional insight to move toward resolution.

The book can be challenging as Voss pushes his reader to understand that negotiation will at times be an uncomfortable and self-conscious process. For example, mirroring – an active listening technique that involves repeating what your counterpart is saying – can seem transparently manipulative, but can also be an effective way to build empathy.

Voss’s success in engaging his reader does falter, especially when he moves away from the life and death FBI negotiations to more mundane negotiations where one party can simply walk away from a deal. Further, his writing is sometimes gratingly self-promoting, as he repeatedly reminds his reader of his prestigious titles and positions. The experiences he relates are already more than sufficient to cement his reputation.

If the reader chooses to set aside these weaknesses, they can enjoy Never Split the Difference, as it delivers the excitement of a thriller with its hostage negotiation stories and presents the practical techniques that made these negotiations successful.

Also available as an eBook or audiobook on OverDrive and on Notable Business Books Kindles.

Book Review: Blue Ocean Shift

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Kim, W. Chan. Blue ocean shift : beyond competing : proven steps to inspire confidence and seize new growth. Hachette Books, 2017.

book cover imagesBlue Ocean Shift (2017) by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne is the follow-up volume to the bestselling Blue Ocean Strategy (2005), which presented the theory that businesses could successfully create both new markets and innovative products simultaneously in highly competitive spaces. In their new book, the authors provide a process for creating and executing the strategy. The first section of the book summarizes blue ocean strategy, emphasizing its distinctiveness and its value, while the second section presents five steps for making a blue ocean shift.

In the course of walking the reader through the five steps, Kim and Mauborgne fill the book with examples and tools to help the blue ocean team – assembled in Step 1 – think outside traditional, competitive business strategy. One of these tools is the Buyer Utility Map, which aids in seeing a product from an outsider perspective. Another is the Six Paths, which encourages the team to look at their product from different perspectives such as across alternative industries or across complementary products, as a way to discover new opportunities. A third is the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create Grid which helps to parse out how an organization might transform a product to provide both innovation and cost savings, opening up the proverbial blue ocean market. These tools are just a few examples of the templates, grids and diagrams that Kim and Mauborgne write about to inspire creative thinking about products and markets.

That said, the book does have some weaknesses. First, the authors state that any size organization can execute a blue ocean shift; however, the five steps are heavily focused on implementation in a large organization. Second, the endnotes don’t extend beyond the first section, and the majority of bibliography cites the authors’ previous work. This sparse scholarship appears to indicate that few beyond the authors have studied the strategy in any systematic way in the twelve years since Blue Ocean Strategy was published. Third, while the authors provide real life examples of organizations that have executed the strategy with success, the five steps are generally presented in an idealized way where all the team members play nice together, they have all the support and resources they need, and they have decided the success of the company and of the blue ocean strategy is their highest good.

In sum, the book’s value lies in challenging readers to think differently about their products, their strategy, and their markets while providing a clear process and a number of resources to encourage that thinking.

Blue Ocean Shift is also available on Notable Business Books Kindles and as an OverDrive audiobook.

Book Review: Summer Reading

Monday, April 30th, 2018

Daniel Gross, Executive Editor of strategy+business, advocates looking beyond the quick, hot media on telephones to the slow content in books. In his article “Best Business Books 2017,” he says: “We value the longest forms of content because of books’ ability to take us deep – deep inside narratives and stories, deep inside carefully constructed paradigms and schemas, deep inside brilliantly constructed arguments backed by meticulously complied evidence… We respect and value the labor of gifted writers.”

Here is what authors and thought leaders are reading now:

James SurowieckiBusiness columnist at the New Yorker James Surowiecki recommends Machine, Platform, Crowd, a guidebook to the new world of innovation, “focusing concretely on how organizations can best leverage the new tools the digital age offers… not just innovations that bring new products and services to market, but also innovations in the way we make decisions and solve problems, in the way we collaborate and in the way we organize work.” Also available as an eBook on OverDrive.

Ken FavaroCorporate strategy advisor Ken Favaro nominates If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat by Leonard Sherman, who “argues that companies have to re-imagine what they are and thus what they are capable of… Instead of running faster, you break away from the pack by redefining one or more of the boundaries that historically constrained industry behaviors and by consistently renewing your product and service portfolios.” Also available as an eBook on OverDrive.

Bethany McLeanBethany McLean, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, commends Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, “the rollicking narrative of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan’s notorious efforts to create an album that, rather than being mass marketed, would be valued like a work of art – sold to only one buyer, who would be the only one who could every play it… (because) file sharing and streaming business models have rendered it nearly impossible for most musicians to make money from their work.”
Also available as an eBook on OverDrive.

Sally HelgesenLeadership development consultant and speaker Sally Helgesen nominates The Captain Class by Sam Walker. “This wonderfully written and wildly entertaining study of the most winning sports teams in history has more to say about leadership, engagement, and the chemistry that sparks and sustains extraordinary achievement than a decade’s worth of leadership books.”
Also available as an eBook or audiobook.

Ryan AventAt The Economist Ryan Avent calls The Great Leveler by Walter Scheidel a dark book, but the year’s best. Since the stone age, “societies that manage to create an economic surplus become economically and politically unequal… Over time, elites get better at rigging the system to divert resources toward themselves. Only catastrophe limits the march toward greater inequality – great plagues, state failure, revolution and mass-mobilization warfare.” Also available as an eBook or audiobook.

Catharine P. TaylorMedia thought leader Catharine P. Taylor recommends Superconsumers “for its brevity, its anthropological approach and its power. The book contains compelling examples of what makes the small minority of customers who buy more of, and have a current passion for, a particular product so vital for building businesses… The key is to uncover the larger reason that superconsumers are hiring your product, and use those insights to expand your market.”

Duff McDonaldDuff McDonald, author of the HBS critique The Golden Passport chose Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal as his 2017 WSJ best pick and he has not changed his mind. Kotler and Wheal “have gifted us with a thrilling tour through worldwide efforts to better harness flow, which is defined as an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Also available as an eBook or audiobook.

View more books recommended by these business writers.

Book Review: The Captain Class

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Walker, Sam. The captain class : the hidden force that creates the world’s greatest teams. Random House, 2017.

book cover imageMike Krzyzewski, who has won more games than any basketball coach in the history of the NCAA Division I, once wrote that while talent and coaching are essential, the secret to greatness is something else: “The single most important ingredient after you get the talent is internal leadership. It’s not the coaches as much as one single person or people on the team who set higher standards than that team would normally set for itself.”

This quote comes from the new book, The Captain Class, by sports reporter and Wall Street Journal editor, Sam Walker. In 2005, Walker began researching elite sports teams with a goal of constructing an objective formula for creating turn-around performance. After a decade of analyzing world class teams, Walker came to the same conclusion as Coach K: the most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.

Walker begins his book by explaining how he identified the world’s 16 greatest teams. Examining all 16 teams for the key to excellence, he concluded that it was not the coach, or the management, or the money or even the superstars. Each of the elite teams had one player (the captain) whose career book-ended the team’s period of excellence. The captain was the key.

The list of dominant teams and captains is international. American examples are Bill Russel of the Boston Celtics, Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees and Jack Lambert of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Walker describes seven traits of elite captains, including aggressive play, emotional control and use of non-verbal communication. Alpha captains also exhibit reckless and self-defeating behaviors, but ironically, the negatives only serve to strengthen the team.

Lively stories of players and captains, coaches and moments in sports history make up most of The Captain Class. Sports fans and business leaders are sure to enjoy this book. Non-sport fans will be surprised that they like it too. Recommended for anyone interested in leadership psychology.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.