Sunday, October 28, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Conversation Marketing by Ian Lurie

FROM AMAZON:

The Internet offers a unique, two-way marketing medium. Used correctly, it can help organizations of all sizes to get attention, attract customers, and build sales.

From design to content and search engine optimization, this book provides a complete model for successful internet marketing in organizations of all sizes.

MY REVIEW:

I "met" Ian Lurie through Twitter a couple years ago. Not only does he tweet frequently, but he's also interesting and funny, so it was easy to pay attention to him and join in on his conversations. At some point I became aware of his book (Conversation Marketing) and decided I should read it.

In the world of social media, there are many "gurus" out there who claim to know how to use social media effectively for marketing a business or product. However, Lurie doesn't need to call himself a guru to get your attention. It's clear from his interactions on Twitter that he knows what he's talking about.

Conversation Marketing was not what I expected. I thought Lurie was going to talk about how to have conversations on Twitter and other social media platforms for marketing purposes, but instead he talks about the "conversations" we have with our potential customers every day through our website.  Lurie is very convincing about the importance of a well designed website and analysis of the traffic on the website (for better conversations with our potential customers).

I recommend Conversation Marketing to anyone with a website who wants to improve business in some way.  Even if you think you know the basics of internet marketing, Lurie's book is bound to give you some new ideas or even teach you something entirely new. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka


FROM AMAZON:
 
Winner of the 2012 Randolph Caldecott Medal

This New York Times Bestseller and New York Times Best Illustrated Book relates a story about love and loss as only Chris Rashcka can tell it. Any child who has ever had a beloved toy break will relate to Daisy's anguish when her favorite ball is destroyed by a bigger dog. In the tradition of his nearly wordless picture book Yo! Yes?, Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka explores in pictures the joy and sadness that having a special toy can bring. Raschka's signature swirling, impressionistic illustrations and his affectionate story will particularly appeal to young dog lovers and teachers and parents who have children dealing with the loss of something special.

MY REVIEW:

I enjoy reading to my kids and improvising a little, but a wordless book requires a lot of creativity! The illustrations are good, but there is a lot going on in every two page spread. I personally found it hard to come up with much to say other than "dog" and "ball" on every page.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Thank God It's Monday! by Roxanne Emmerich

ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Thank God It’s Monday! is about loving what you’re doing and creating massive results. Roxanne Emmerich introduces you to two CEOs: one desperately struggling to stay afloat and another who’s discovered a better route to growth and profitability. As you join them both on their journey, you’ll gain valuable insights for jumpstarting positive change from anywhere in the organization…replacing dysfunctional organizational behaviors with passion and creativity…overcoming setbacks…making vision and values actually work!
Whether you’re on the front line, in an office, or running the show, you’ll see how to:
  • Replace dysfunctional behaviors with passion and creativity
  • Overcome setbacks with a “bring it on” attitude
  • Breathe results-generating life into vision and values
  • Think big and make big things happen

 Thank God It’s Monday! presents a unique approach that makes an impact on three groups at once: 
  • Employees discover how to win at work and love their work
  • Companies turn around results quickly and profoundly
  • Customers experience a powerful and visible commitment to their success
You will shift from a “why we can’t” to a “how we can” workplace...in one day! Your customers will go crazy about you. You will find yourself loving to go to work where everyone exclaims, Thank God It’s Monday!

MY REVIEW:

Who wants to be miserable at work 40 hours a week or to view their job as just a means to a paycheck?  Work should be fun, challenging and inspiring; and we each have the power to change our workplace environment beginning with ourselves, regardless of the position we are currently in.

"Most people spend their entire lives in unquestioned routines, never hearing the calling of how great they could be if only they refocused on making a profound difference through their work—no matter what they do." (location 354, Kindle format)

Thank God It’s Monday! is inspirational for anyone who has ever had a job, from a receptionist to a sales person to the CEO, because we all have an impact on the success of the company or organization we work for.  Understanding how we fit individually within the bigger picture and that every one of us has the power within ourselves to change the culture of our workplace is the key to making a difference.

"Leadership is not a position—it’s a way of being. It’s about being determined to make big things happen regardless of your position." (location 494, Kindle format)

Emmerich tells a lot of great stories about "leaders" who make a difference in their company just by showing up to work every day and being fully committed to the vision.  She also gives examples of team members who just "don't get it."  As managers or co-workers we can coach those people to see if we can help them, but ultimately, if they are not willing to get on board with the vision, it may be best to help them see that it's time for them to move on. 

"If most of you have positive attitudes, but the customer is exposed to one bad attitude, it reflects on all of you, on your whole company’s culture, and it will impact your business." (location 1300, Kindle format)

I found this book to be very inspirational and would encourage anyone to read it if they're interested in improving the culture of their workplace.  Even if you work in the greatest company in the world, you're bound to come across co-workers who challenge you in some way (i.e. the victim, the whiner, etc.).  Emmerich provides practical suggestions for how to deal with these situations and move on for the good of the company.

Final inspirational quote from Thank God It's Monday!:


"Nobody calls home to say they did what was in their job description. You call home when you’ve done something great, produced monster results, and made somebody’s day." (location 1598, Kindle edition)
 

Monday, October 1, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Pete the Cat - Rocking in My School Shoes



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Pete the Cat is back—and this time he’s rocking in his school shoes. Pete discovers the library, the lunchroom, the playground, and lots of other cool places at school. And no matter where he goes, Pete never stops moving and grooving and singing his song . . . because it’s all good.

MY REVIEW:

My son picked out this book today at a school book fair. We read it before bed and it was one of the funnest* books we've ever read.  I typically cannot read anything with my three kids all together (ages 3, 5 and 7), because they wind each other up and I just end up reading to myself, but by the end of this book we were all singing along and fully enjoying it together.  This one will stay at the top of the reading stack for as long as possible!

* If this statement got you wondering, "is funnest a real word?," this blog post is for you: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/is-funnest-a-word.aspx


Thursday, May 3, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Nick Hornby returns to his roots-music and messy relationships-in this funny and touching new novel which thoughtfully and sympathetically looks at how lives can be wasted but how they are never beyond redemption. Annie lives in a dull town on England's bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who's gone into seclusion in rural America-or at least that's what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker's work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.

Nick Hornby uses this intriguing canvas to explore why it is we so often let the early promise of relationships, ambition and indeed life evaporate. And he comes to some surprisingly optimistic conclusions about the struggle to live up to one's promise.

MY REVIEW:

I love all things Nick Hornby!  I did not want this book to end.

Juliet, Naked is written from the perspectives of a 30-something woman named Annie and an aging musician, Tucker Crowe.  Their stories are about love (romantic and familial) and regret.

Annie, who lives with her long-time boyfriend Duncan, finds herself unhappy in her relationship and her job and is in therapy.  Duncan has devoted years of his life to studying the works of the mysterious Tucker Crowe, and the couple's blow up argument over Annie's review of a Tucker Crowe album leads to their break-up.

Tucker is a burned out musician who disappeared from the music scene just as his career was taking off.  He then went from relationship to relationship, creating several children over the years with different women, leading to another divorce which leaves him the single father of a 6-year-old boy.

Ironically, Annie connects with Tucker after he reads the review she posted online about his album and this connection changes both of their lives.

Although regret is one of the major themes in the book, it is not as dreary as it sounds.  Annie and Tucker have regrets about the choices they have made in their lives, but they discover that their paths can be altered by making different choices now.

If you like other Nick Hornby books (How to Be Good, High Fidelity, About a Boy), you'll like Juliet, Naked, too.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Rooms by James L. Rubart


ABOUT THE BOOK (From Amazon):

On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.


MY REVIEW:

Micah Taylor has it all (in the eyes of the world) - he's an entrepreneur in the software industry, a millionaire living in a penthouse apartment in Seattle, dating his business partner.  His mother died when he was young and he has a rocky relationship with his father, but he inherits a beach house from a deceased uncle he barely knew. Although he plans to sell the beach house, Micah spends some time there and begins having very strange experiences, including the discovery of new rooms that weren't there before, an unfinished painting that becomes more complete each time he sees it and a stack of letters written to him years ago by his uncle. When Micah returns to Seattle, things get even stranger as he runs into people who don't remember meeting him and his apartment changes floors. In the end Micah must choose between his extravagant penthouse lifestyle or his relationship with God.

Micah's shifting realities became a little bit too much to try to keep straight, but I also had concerns about some of the themes in the book:

  1. Personally, I feel like it's too easy to use a rich, successful person as an example of someone who has "lost their focus on God" because very few of us are millionaires living in penthouse apartments (right?).  And because most of us can't really relate with the main character in that way, some of the message gets lost. I also feel there was a theme here that if you trust in God and give up all of your money and success, your life will be perfect (SPOILER ALERT: you'll get to keep a 9,000 sq. ft. beach house, do the work that you love and still get the girl!).   
  2. As soon as Micah went back to Seattle and back to work he didn't feel God's presence any more.  I'm not sure what message Rubart was trying to convey here - that if you are a dedicated business person, you cannot also have faith in God?  I strongly disagree with this message. God uses people in all different fields and calls people for different purposes.

My high school youth pastor recommended this book to me about a year ago.  It happened to be free in the Kindle store for a short period of time and I was able to snag a copy, so I figured I'd give it a shot.  I have to be honest, it took me almost an entire year to read - not because it's that long, but because I would get bored and read other books for awhile in between chapters.  Overall the storyline is okay, but I just found it to be lacking in suspense and some of the detail necessary to get the point across.  If you really like Christian fiction, though, you would probably enjoy this book more than me.






Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Peter Principle by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull

✭✭✭✭✭

ABOUT THE BOOK (From Amazon):

The classic #1 New York Times bestseller that answers the age-old question
Why is incompetence so maddeningly rampant and so vexingly triumphant?

The Peter Principle, the eponymous law Dr. Laurence J. Peter coined, explains that everyone in a hierarchy—from the office intern to the CEO, from the low-level civil servant to a nation’s president—will inevitably rise to his or her level of incompetence. Dr. Peter explains why incompetence is at the root of everything we endeavor to do—why schools bestow ignorance, why governments condone anarchy, why courts dispense injustice, why prosperity causes unhappiness, and why utopian plans never generate utopias.

With the wit of Mark Twain, the psychological acuity of Sigmund Freud, and the theoretical impact of Isaac Newton, Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull’s The Peter Principle brilliantly explains how incompetence and its accompanying symptoms, syndromes, and remedies define the world and the work we do in it.

MY REVIEW:

Someone recently introduced me to the "Peter Principle" and I was so interested in the theory that I had to find the book and read more about it.

The idea of the Peter Principle is that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.”  When people tend to do their job well, they are eligible for promotion and that cycle continues until they are promoted into a role for which they are incompetent to perform the duties.  At that point they have reached their "final placement."  They are no longer eligible for further promotions because they have reached their level of incompetence.

According to Dr. Peter, “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”  The many employees who may never realize they have reached their final placement utilize a number of the techniques to stay happily "busy" without producing anything:

  1. Perpetual Preparation - confirming the need for the action, studying alternative methods, obtaining expert advise, having the mentality of "first things first."
  2. Side Issue Specialization - "Look after the molehills and the mountains will look after themselves."
  3. Image Replaces Performance - "an ounce of image is like a pound of performance."
  4. Utter Irrelevance - participating in various committees, boards and other meetings and rarely being in their own office performing a job.
  5. Ephemeral Administrology - serving many temporary appointments, as a substitution.
  6. Convergent Specialization - becoming extremely specialized in something of little significance.
We all know people who engage the above techniques to get through their work day without really doing their job, right?  Perhaps ignorance is bliss.

I honestly couldn't put this book down.  It was just so funny.  The fact that it was written in 1969 added another level of humor as Dr. Peter briefly discussed computers and the incompetence of housewives.  Here are a couple of the quotes about housewives that made me laugh:

"'Woman's work is never done' is a sad commentary on the high proportion of women who reach their level of incompetence as housewives."

"Many a woman who has reached her level of incompetence as wife and/or mother achieves a happy, successful Substitution by devoting her time and energy to Utter Irrelevance and leaving husband and children to look after themselves."

The Peter Principle is light and entertaining, but is also very relevant.  I would recommend this book for anyone in a position of management.  





Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: My Antonia by Willa Cather


✭✭

ABOUT THE BOOK (From Amazon):

Willa Cather's classic "My Antonia" is the story of the daughter of an immigrant family that sets out to farm the untamed prairie land of Nebraska in the late 19th century. Told to us from the perspective of the adoring Jim Burden, an orphan who comes to live at his grandparent's neighboring farm. "My Antonia" is an enduring American classic rich with the spirit that brought so many immigrants to this land in search of a better life and of the beautiful imagery of the midwestern plains. First published in 1918, Will Cather saw "My Antonia" as the best book that she had ever written and it is easy to see why, for it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

MY REVIEW:

I grew up in Nebraska and attended Willa Cather Elementary school, so I have always wanted to read a book by Willa Cather.  As I am slowly making my way through Moderns Library's 100 Best Novels, I found My Antonia on the list and selected it to read in January.

The story is told by the character Jim Burden, who moved from Virginia to live with his grandparents in a small farm community in Nebraska.  During that time period, migrants were coming to the area to farm the land.  At the beginning of the story we meet Antonia, who is the young daughter of a Bohemian family and throughout the story the reader watches Antonia grow up and experience hardships of a migrant girl. 

Although the story is primarily about Antonia, there are other important characters and storylines.  One of the major themes in the book is how the group of poor migrant girls in this community, working as farmhands, nannies and maids, grow up and where their paths lead each of them in life based on the choices they made in their late teens/early twenties.  Antonia is a sweet, hardworking girl, loved by all, and her fate is not what others expected of her. 

Yet, in the end, Antonia is where she wants to be.  There is a part at the end that I found very beautiful, when the narrator describes Antonia's appearance as an older woman: "I know so many women who have kept all the things she had lost, but whose inner glow has faded.  Whatever else was gone, Antonia had not lost the fire of her life.  Her skin, so brown and hardened, had not that look of flabbiness, as if the sap beneath it had been secretly drawn away." 

Willa Cather was known for her writing about frontier life and descriptive portraits of the Nebraska landscape.  It is also very interesting to read this book, 100 years after it was written, to understand the history of some of the farming community in the Great Plains. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Reading List - January 2012

Last year I posted my reading list for 2011.  As I was preparing my list for 2012, I looked back at that list and was surprised to see I had only read two of the five books I was planning to read.  I read more books last year (I swear), but I apparently skipped the rest of the list for other choices.  I still want to read those three books, so I'll carry them over to this year and add in the others I've accumulated since then.

Here is a list of the books I'm currently reading or planning to read this year in no particular order (reviews to come):
  1. Rooms by James L. Rubart - about 50% done
  2. My Antonia by Willa Cather - about 10% done
  3. Conversation Marketing: Internet Marketing Strategies by Ian Lurie
  4. If You're Clueless About Starting Your Own Business by Seth Godin
  5. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
  6. Apples Are Square: Thinking Differently About Leadership by Susan Kuczmarski, Thomas D. Kuczmarski
  7. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  8. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  9. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman
  10. The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Carolyn Tomlin, Denise George and Nonna Bannister

I've also received a few books authors have asked me to review.  I'll be reading/reviewing those as I have time.

Have other recommendations for me?  Let me know!

Monday, January 9, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Truth About Managing People by Stephen Robbins


ABOUT THE BOOK (From Amazon):

“The premiere writer of management textbooks has sifted through the research to extract the truths every manager should know. This book is an antidote for the unsupported opinions handed out in many popular management books.”
Kenneth W. Thomas, Professor of Management, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, author of Intrinsic Motivation at Work

“A prolific scholar and writer, Robbins cuts through the research and theory to deliver immediately useful and essential insights for the effective management of people.”
Eric G. Stephan, Professor Organizational Leadership & Strategy, Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University

You can succeed brilliantly as a leader and overcome the “killer” problems faced by every manager!

• The truth about building winning teams and designing high-productivity jobs
•  The truth about why “happy” employees aren’t always more productive
•  The (surprising) truth about what behaviors you really want to reward

This book reveals 53 Proven Principles for handling virtually every management challenge

The Truth About Managing People offers real solutions for the make-or-break problems faced by every manager. You'll discover: how to overcome the true obstacles to teamwork; why too much communication can be as dangerous as too little; how to improve your hiring and employee evaluations; how to heal "layoff survivor sickness"; even how to learn charisma. This isn't someone's opinion; it's a definitive, evidence-based guide to effective management: a set of bedrock principles you can rely on throughout your entire management career.

MY REVIEW:

I have supervised people in some capacity in my professional life for about 7 years now.  Early on, when I was put into a role that involved supervising 2-3 people, I learned that managing people can be challenging.  Over the years, as that number has grown, I have learned that "one size" does not fit all when it comes to working with a variety of different personalities and skill sets.

This book is a great resource for any manager, whether brand new or a veteran.  Robbins discusses every aspect of management from the initial interview (what type of person to look for and hire) to motivating workers, team building, communication, how organizations deal with change, etc.  I learned new things about myself and about people in general that will help me in my role as a supervisor.

I took notes furiously as I was reading and there are many great quotes I could share, but I want to share one particular quote that absolutely blew me away:
What percentage of rank-and-file workers actually desire higher order need satisfactions and will respond positively to challenging jobs? No current data is available, but a study from the 1970s estimated the figure at about 15 percent.
Robbins, Stephen P. (2007-09-20). Truth About Managing People, The (2nd Edition) (p. 166). Pearson Education (US). Kindle Edition. 
If you are a manager, you are likely part of that 15%, so don't treat your role lightly. Embrace the challenge and learn how to hire, motivate and work with your employees for the greatest outcome for your company/organization.

If you read this book, come back and comment on this post with what you learned...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose


ABOUT THE BOOK (From Amazon):

Why you're going to love The Raw Food Detox Diet
You will . . .
  • never count calories, fat grams, or carb grams, or measure foods again;
  • see results even without deliberate exercise;
  • eat liberal amounts of rich, satisfying foods; and
  • open the flood gates for improvements in every area of your life.
Natalia Rose's proven program will set you on a course toward greater energy, a slimmer figure, a radiant complexion, and amazing natural health—whether you aim to lead an all-raw lifestyle or simply want to lose weight while still eating the foods you love. The book also features more than eighty irresistibly fresh and simple gourmet recipes for all meals, occasions, and Raw Food Detox Diet levels, including
  • mouthwatering salad dressings such as Liquid Gold Elixir and Amazing Raw "Peanut" Sauce;
  • sumptuous soups such as Raw Harvest Butternut and Coconut Soup;
  • cleansing pasta and lasagna dishes and delicious, guilt-free pizzas;
  • Thai delights such as Spring-in-Your-Step Rolls with Raw Teriyaki Sauce;
  • decadent desserts such as Cheesecake Pudding and Raw Cinnamon Apple-Pear Pie; and
  • Raw Ice Creams and Sherbets.

MY REVIEW:

I have been interested in the raw food diet/lifestyle for years, but have not had enough confidence in myself to really take the next step.  Over the weekend I finally decided to buy this book which I've had my eye on it for several months now.  I read the entire thing in under 24 hours and I have learned a lot!

Whenever I tell anyone that I read this book or that I'm on a "raw food diet," everyone seems to react with some sort of fear.  They tell me stories about people they know who tried to eat "raw food" and got sick or they try to convince me how bad a raw food diet can be for your system or they question how someone on this type of diet could possibly get enough protein or calcium.  Although it may sound extreme, the Raw Food Detox Diet is probably not what you think it is.  Rest assured, all of these things are covered in the book.  So, before you comment on this post with all of the reasons I should not eat a raw food diet, I recommend you read the book. You may be surprised.

I was very relieved by the author's approach on eating raw foods and felt confident after reading the book that I can do this.  Here's why. At the end of Part I there is a brief quiz that helps you determine your own personal "raw food transition number."  Your score will put you into one of five different categories and then there is a section that provides a 7 day sampling of how/what you should eat at your individual level, as well as a wide variety of recipes to help you get started. 

The results of my test put me in Level 4 (1 being the most extreme of the 5 groups). At Level 4 Rose recommends I eat about 80% raw foods.  That means I get some cooked foods (including meat) at dinner every day.  Can I eat fruits and veggies all day and then a nice normal-ish meal in the evening?  You bet!  But, there is a method to how you should eat those fruits and veggies for the best results, so if you are interested in eating a raw food diet, I suggest you do your research first.

After reading the book, my husband and I made a commitment to try this type of healthier eating for a while and see how we do as a family (but don't call that a New Year's Resolution!).  We're only one day into it, so I will have to come back and update this post when I have results to share.  Wish me luck!

Happy New Year!