Columns & Reviews
Book Reviews and Columns from Our Members
| Book Review: Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert||Geoff Wisner||Dec 10, 2007||1 Comments|
What makes us happy? And why do we do such a poor job answering that question? These are the topics addressed with considerable insight, and a lot of jokes, in 'Stumbling on Happiness' by Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard. Rather than try to reproduce Gilbert's argument, I will just touch on some of the observations and conclusions that I found most interesting.
The wisdom of a decision, the Dutch thinker Daniel Bernoulli once proposed, can be calculated ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: Erasure by Percival L. Everett||Geoff Wisner||Dec 10, 2007||1 Comments|
I found out about 'Erasure' from a reading list that accompanied the article Writers Like Me by Martha Southgate, about the obstacles that face black writers in America. The list included David Bradley and Reginald McKnight, two of my favorite authors, so I figured it was worth digging deeper.
'Erasure' is so good that I was embarrassed not to know about it already. It was doubly embarrassing to find that the author has published thirteen previous books that I also ...[ more ]|
| Bogus Books||Geoff||Dec 07, 2007||0 Comments|
| When people recommend books to me, I listen, but I pay attention to who's doing the recommending. A couple of people told me I should read 'The DaVinci Code', for instance, but they weren't people whose literary taste I trusted.
On the other hand, 'The Kite Runner' came with an enthusiastic recommendation from several of the most serious readers in my office. I borrowed a copy, and I was soon absorbed in the life of Amir and Hassan, two boys ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: The Dip by Seth Godin||Geoff Wisner||Sep 13, 2007||0 Comments|
'The Dip' is Seth Godin's shortest book yet. It doesn't give you a whole new way of looking at marketing, the way 'Purple Cow' did, but it does address an important question: When do you quit what you're doing and try something else?
Achieving anything valuable is generally hard. If it weren't hard, everyone would do it and the prize would no longer be scarce and therefore valuable. In the quest for the prize, the fun of getting started ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus||Geoff Wisner||Jul 23, 2007||0 Comments|
'Banker to the Poor' is a readable, engaging first-person memoir by Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. It's a great way to get more details on Yunus's approach to microcredit and his critique of traditional ways of addressing poverty. But equally fascinating is the insight it offers into the 'attitude' that led to the creation of Grameen.
Early in the book, Yunus writes this about one of his professors: 'He also taught me that things are ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: Severance by Robert Olen Butler||Geoff Wisner||May 17, 2007||0 Comments|
When he is not writing about Vietnam — as he did in his acclaimed collection 'A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain' — Robert Olen Butler often builds his books around a small, clever device.
In 'Tabloid Dreams', Butler's jumping-off point was a few improbable headlines from the supermarket checkout line. Had a 'Good Time' was inspired by the author's collection of antique postcards. In 'Severance', his subject is the last moments of people who have lost their heads.
Each ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman||Geoff Wisner||Apr 04, 2007||0 Comments|
In 1960, Vasily Grossman submitted his novel 'Life and Fate' for publication. Khrushchev had introduced a "thaw," making it possible for artistic and political works to appear that would have meant deportation and death under Stalin. Grossman thought this was the right moment for his book.
He was too soon. A few months later the KGB arrived to confiscate his manuscripts, and his carbon paper and typewriter ribbons for good measure. Fortunately there were other copies, but the novel was not ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson||Geoff Wisner||Mar 30, 2007||0 Comments|
'What Should I Do with My Life?' is subtitled "The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question." To research it, Po Bronson says he interviewed about 900 people. He wrote, phoned, or even visited many of these people over many months or even years, then chose about 57 of the most interesting stories to tell in this book.
Each of these stories describes someone's struggle with the question of what to do with the finite number of days ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth||Geoff Wisner||Mar 07, 2007||0 Comments|
On page 483 of this enormous and dazzling novel, a poet named Amit describes what it is like to work on his first novel, an epic account of a famine in Bangladesh.
"What is it like to write a novel?" asked Lata after a pause. "Don't you have to forget the 'I' or the 'one' —?"
"I don't know exactly," said Amit. "This is my first novel, and I'm in the process of finding out. At the moment it feels like a ...[ more ]|
| Book Review: Thinking Points by George Lakoff||Geoff Wisner||Feb 17, 2007||0 Comments|
In 2004, George Lakoff published Don't Think of an Elephant. That book argued that Republicans were winning the battle for American minds because they understood that values often count for more than facts. If you frame a debate in terms of your value system, you can get people to support things that are logically not in their own interest.
The basic Republican frame, Lakoff argued, is that of the strict father. The strict father believes that the world is ...[ more ]|