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Book Review of Switch – Making Change When Change is Hard

Switch.jpgLet’s face it – change is often hard.  And it is most hard when the status quo has been working for us.  Nobody likes to give up strategies that have been working for us.  And this is the key issue for organisational change – what is good for the organisation can sometimes get in the way of what is comfortable for the individual.

Dan and Chip Heath look at this in depth in Switch.  What I liked most about this this book was the ways to create change that they broke down and classified (see in attached picture.

They begin by looking at the mental aspect of change (they call this the ‘Rider’) and how to get people to understand the need for change, and the ways that can undertake it with ease.  Then they look at emotions (the Elephant) – which let’s face it, often trump our logical responses (you know another chocolate is no good for you don’t you, but who can resist?).  Appealing to emotions can prompt that visceral need for change and can build excitement for change. Finally they look at the small things – how to create a pathway for change to make it easier.  We often under-estimate how powerful a small behavioural change can be.  If I sleep in my gym gear, it’s so much easier to get up and go to gym in the morning. There was nothing complicated about that solution – just clever.  A small change can make a big impact.

The Heath brothers suggest that often you will need to work through all three of these aspects in order to be successful.  Some challenges might only need to consider one.

As usual, there are lots of clever and entertaining examples, and further steps that I don’t have time to outline here.  But this was a pretty enjoyable non-fiction read, and certainly one I can see myself referencing over and over.

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Impressed Book Review of The Interestings

meg-wolitzer-interestings-MFBSMeg Wolitzer is incredibly easy to read – and in fact The Interestings is responsible for so many late nights in the last week.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking that all books with pacy and punchy narration are slim on content.  The Interestings is an insightful study of a group of friends who meet at a summer camp for young artistic types – and their changing relationships over the course of their lives.

Jules is on scholarship, and feels largely like an imposter at the camp.  But when she is invited to join the cool crowd in TeePee 3, she finally finds a niche that will last a lifetime.  She begins acting in comedic roles, a passion that lasts into early adulthood.  Ash and Goodman are wealthy twins, and Ash soon becomes Jules best friend and fellow actor.  Goodman is troubled and dangerous – and ends up disappearing from their lives after crossing boundaries that should not be crossed. Jonah is the son of a legendary folk singer, hiding secret trauma.  And Ethan… awkward overweight Ethan is the most talented of them all and his adolescent animation Figland is destined to become one of the most popular television shows of all time.

Over the years they dynamic of the relationships change and grow and sometimes warp. Family and money cause fractures but also heal.  Some truths are hidden but still all are bonded by those summers, and by friendships that saw them through the most difficult of times.

A wonderful read, with no dull moments.  Just perplexing, beautiful and complex stories of love and friendship.

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 Ninth Hour

title-9th-hourAlice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is one of those soft, rewarding and well-written novels that doesn’t inspire great excitement, but is worthwhile and fulfilling. It’s real and well, good.

The Ninth Hour starts with a death – the suicide of a young husband who leaves behind a pregnant wife. In Catholic Brooklyn, the wife is left with a stigma of shame and with few supports or resources. Taken in by the nuns, the lives of Annie and her soon-to-be-born daughter are entwined with the nuns of the convent from that point on. Annie works in the laundry and Sally grows up amidst the clothes and the wise words and kind deeds of these remarkable women. She comes to see their calling as a noble one.

But not all lives are as they seem. Annie has a secret – one that will make Sally fear for her immortal soul and question what she will and won’t do when it comes to those she loves. It’s a questioning that challenges her very decision to join the good sisters.

Worth a look if you like this kind of thing. McDermott is obviously a beautiful writer.

Book Review of Goodwood

goodwoodThere has been a lot of buzz about Holly Throsby’s Goodwood (especially as Throsby herself is better known for singing words than writing them).

And the buzz is well worthwhile – Goodwood is a finely crafted read that reflects real and engaging characters living that small-town life. You know the sort – where the local fish and chip shop is the centre of society, and fishing is one of the more popular pastimes.

But this quietness is disturbed when two residents go missing within a week of each other.  One, a young woman, has vanished without a trace, but with plenty of mystery and discussion.  The second, an older man who is well-respected within the town followed after just a week.

Are the two cases connected?  Or is life just not as simple as it appears in Goodwood?

This was a really solid read that made me happy to pick up the book each night.  Definitely worth a look.  Throsby’s move into the literary world is a good one – and I daresay more novels will follow this.

Book Review of The Last Garden

last gardenEva Hornung’s The Last Garden is one of those quiet, introspective books in which not much occurs.  And these aren’t bad – they can be very powerful in their quietness and emotional honesty.

This one was a little hard to relate to for me, although not without its pleasures.

Set in a small farming community in rural Australia, a group of religious Germans and their descendants have left the modern world behind to wait for their Messiah.  But the modern world cannot be kept at bay for long – nor can the growing unease of the townsfolk who begin to doubt…

So when a tragic murder suicide occurs on the Orion farm – the populace don’t know what to think.  Nor does Benedict Orion – the young man who arrives home from school and finds his mother and father dead.

Unable to face the family home, he moves into the barn, taking solace in a simple life and the company especially of the horses.

Pastor Helfgott, the son of the original leader of the settlement, has his own doubts.  But amongst this is the tantalising idea that Benedict – wild but insightful – may just be the one they have been waiting for.

Full of unrealised potential in my mind, The Last Garden leaves me wondering if it could possibly have been more…

Feeling Nostalgia… Book Review of New Spring

New SpringFor me, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is so many hours of your life well-spent.  I mean, 16 epic books of about a thousand words in length… it really is an investment.

Sadly, the length of the series makes re-reading it a daunting task.  So finding New Spring amongst a pile of unread books (okay, one of many piles) was a delight.  A new chapter as such.

New Spring is a prequel story to that of Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn.  It centres mainly on Moiraine Damodred, the Aes Sedai who found Rand along with fellow tavern Mat and Perrin in the Two Rivers.  Just before Moiraine is raised to full Aes Sedai, she is present when a sister foretells the birth of the Dragon Reborn.  As we know, finding him and training him for the Last Battle again at the Dark One becomes Moiraine’s life purpose.

We delve deeper into her friendship with Siuan Sanche, another Aes Sedai destined to rise to the Amyrlin Seat (their leader for those of you who haven’t read the series) and learn how she comes to bond Lan as her warder.

Reading this was completely wonderful.  I felt like i was visiting old friends – it was warm and familiar and they had new stories to share with me, and new insight ready to offer.  The perfect holiday read.