Book Review of Our Iceberg is Melting

Our Iceberg is MeltingA fable about institutional change, John Kotter tells the story of a penguin colony that finds themselves in trouble.  Their iceberg is melting, and the frozen water will expand and destroy their home.

Initially the penguins are sceptical, but eventually come to see that change is necessary.  The follow the good steps of change management as designed by Kotter and eventually determine a their next steps forward.

It’s an interesting story, and one that acknowledges the complexity of any human interaction.  No matter how well the penguins follow the process that Kotter is espousing here, there are still nay-sayers.  But this is sound, reasonable advice that is told in a very relatable way.  An easy read for anyone in a management position.  You’ll get some good key takeaways.


Book Review of Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping BeautiesStephen King co-wrote this novel with his son Owen, passing the chapters between them and re-writing each other.  The result is a novel that feels very much like King himself – his stamp is all over it.

Sleeping Beauties imagines a world in which women fall asleep and begin constructing some kind of cocoon. It’s a dangerous kind of slumber – when someone attempts to wake them unnatural strength and aggression is the result.  The world of men goes pretty much as you would expect – sense and reason fall very much by the wayside.  King is clearly a feminist.

Meanwhile, the women wake up in an alternative setting and begin setting up their own society which, while technologically behind the times, is pretty successful.  Time passes differently there, and while the Aurora virus has only taken hold in the real world for a few days, a year or more passes in the world of the sleeping women.

Behind it all is Evie Black, the supernatural force you would come to expect from a Stephen King novel.  Both malevolent and insightful, its hard to cast her as either hero or villain. She clearly sits somewhere in between.  Awake and safe in a prison cell, she forms much of the conflict in the text as the characters battle for what to do with her.

Nothing extraordinary here, this novel is very much “in the pocket” for King.  No more than a comfortable read.

Book Review of Robin Sloan’s Sourdough

sourdoughI am so far behind with my reviews… which is awful as this was such a great read, one of those books with a simple beauty that affirms a lot of positives in life.

Lois works for a tech company as a programmer.  It’s an all-pervasive kind of job – she often sleeps at work and when too busy to eat, has a synthetic nutrient called Slurry.  It’s tasteless, but keeps you going,  On day, she gets a pamphlet in her letterbox for a take-away service that delivers spicy soup and sourdough.  That phone call for the first serving changes her life.  Lois quickly becomes their ‘Number 1 Eater’, and daily spicy soup reminds her of the pleasures of life.  She also comes to feel she knows the two brothers – one who cooks and one who delivers.

Then, the two brothers encounter Visa issues and leave San Francisco… but before they go, they leave Lois their sourdough starter.  It is a living, breathing thing with quirks and needs of its own. Lois learns to treat it well and soon she too is baking the delicious sourdough that made her days bearable.

Sharing the loaves introduces her to so many new people and opportunities, and soon Lois finds her whole life shaped around baking and caring for the starter.  And then the critical question – is she a programmer or a baker?  It’s one she wrestles with for a while.

There’s so much more here as Lois enters the market scene where daring new foods and new ways of cooking allow her to combine her two worlds briefly – but she soon realises she cannot sustain what she has begun.

A wonderful novel, perfect for anyone who wants life to slow down a bit.

Book Review of The Making of Men

I first came across Dr Arne Rubinstein at the Positive Schools conference mid year. He making o fmenreally impressed me with his session about the importance of creating Rites of Passage for young men in the modern world, as well as how he ran the session. Initially, I was uncomfortable with the sharing and small groups, but of course by the end of it, felt much closer to the people around me. After all – according to Dr Rubinstein – ‘nobody ever liked each other less by knowing each other more’.
Between this, and a scheduled visit to my school this week, I made my way through his The Making of Men. Despite similar subject matter, I enjoyed this much more than the Carr-Gregg I finished just before it. This is a positive book full of advice about how to assist young men to be the best they can be. It’s informed by research as well as Dr Rubinstein’s personal experiences as a medical doctor and in the field. The entire last section outlines Rites of Passage in more depth and is well worth a look for parents and educators.

Book Review of The Prince Boofhead Syndrome

This iboofheads a work read – and a pretty straight-forward one.  Definitely aimed at parents of boys this is Dr Michael Carr-Gregg’s follow up to his book on raising girls, The Princess Bitchface Syndrome.

This is likely to be a supportive read for parents, reinforcing a lot of good common sense ideas, whilst also addressing the sense of entitlement that is unfortunately plaguing our young men.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but a solid straight-forward read with some good advice.

Book Review of Turtles All the Way Down

turtles.jpgDespite seeming hell-bent on ticking all the major boxes of YA Fiction, John Green still produces moving and heartfelt stories.

In each novel he tackles a topical issue facing young people – in the magnificent The Fault in Our Stars it was cancer.  In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, it was sexuality.  In Turtles All The Way Down, it is mental health and anxiety that he targets.

Aza is far from your typical teenager – obsessing about C Diff and germs that make it almost impossible for her to do normal things like eat lunch in the cafeteria, let alone kiss a boy.  But when Russell Pickett,  the millionaire father of an old camp friend goes missing, the quest for the reward will take her far from her comfort zone.

Together with her generally understanding best friend Daisy, Aza will begin to put the pieces together about Pickett’s disappearance.  However, putting together the pieces of her own story will be more difficult as her anxiety and compulsive behaviour become increasingly difficult to manage.

This started slow but i ended up binging the last hundred pages or so way too late into the night.  And that’s the sign of a pretty good read.  Fans won’t be disappointed.

Book Review of Men Without Women

men without womenAfter a hectic week, it was beautiful to spend a few quiet moment each night with the prose of Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite authors.  Short stories is such a fitting way to experience his odd stories of longing and love.

All of these stories explore – oddly enough – Men Without Women.  Some have loved and lost, others have chosen solitude. Some wonder about what the future brings and one or two are even hopeful.  But all have the emotional depth and clear, crisp lyricism readers have come to expect.  A standout for me was ‘Gregor Samsa in Love’ which imagines the famous character from Kafka reawakening in his old human body which feels soft, alien and vulnerable.  ‘Kino’ touches on the supernatural world that often runs through Murakami’s writing. ‘Scheherezade’ explores the power of storytelling and the capacity of words to create something like love.

Another refined and masterful collection by someone who feels full of quiet but real passion.  This is how I would write if I could.