First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Naomi Klein’s Provocative Best-Seller on Capitalism and Climate

Last week, Simon and Schuster published a provocative new business book that flew to the # 3 spot in the best-seller list revealed in the 9/27/2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate, written by Naomi Klein, is a certain selection for one of us at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  Watch our web site for the exact month we will present this one.

Naomi Klein pictureWho is Naomi Klein?  She was educated at the University of Toronto, and is known as a social activist due to her criticism of corporate globalization and her candid political analyses.  She is only 44 years old, and became well known in business circles with her 2007 New York Times best-seller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York:  Picador).  In that book, she argued that those who wish to implement unpopular free market policies do so by taking advantage of particular societal segments following major disasters, including political, economic, military, or natural varieties.  Her analysis was that when a society experiences a major ‘shock,’ a widespread desire for a rapid and decisive response to correct the situation follows. In the light of that desire for swift action, unethical and unscrupulous individuals have opportunities to implement policies that are self-serving and illegitimate.  The shock doctrine allows such responses, including manufactured policy changes, to go into immediate effect.

You can read an interview published on September 25, 2014, on Slate.com, about her new book, by clicking here.  Note that the bottom of the interview contains two important corrections.

In This Changes Everything, Klein argues that the climate crisis provides a challenge for us to abandon free-market thinking, restructure the global economy, and rethink current political systems.

This descriptive paragraph about the book comes from Amazon.com:  “Climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.This Changes Everything Cover

And, later on the same site, “Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

You can bet this book will produce many stimulating conversations.  Watch the major editorial pages of national business magazines and newspaper sections.  I am sure that some will include personal attacks on her own credibility.  Time will tell what is actually true.

Remember that we do not select books to present at the First Friday Book Synopsis that we agree with.  And, we don’t try to get you to agree with the books we select.  We are merely reporters – transferring the information in an objective manner from the author to our audience.

But, when we do this one, I would sure like to stand in the hallway to listen to our attendees talk about it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newest Sandford Prey Book is Different and Not His Best

I have read most of John Sandford’s PREY series books.  They are almost all set in Minnesota, and involve two major characters:  Lucas Davenport, from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Virgil Flowers, who works for Lucas.  Virgil is referred to in several books in a way that I cannot print in this entry, although I would tell you that both words start with F, and the second word is his last name.  Without question, they qualify as mystery and suspense thrillers.

The most recent addition to the collection is Field of Prey (New York:  Putnam, 2014).  For some reason, I found it to be somewhat more harrowing and sensational than most of the other books.  While many of Sandford’s Field of Prey Coverbooks involve murders, this particular book had so many, and are described so gruesomely, that it gave me special notice.  In case you can’t wait, the killers bury the bodies in a field, and a number have been at the bottom for quite some time.

I can’t tell you that I enjoyed this one nearly as much as the others.  I notice that some of the reviews on Amazon.com even question if Sandford is the true author, pointing out distinctions in writing style and other facets that do not follow form and custom.

I don’t think this is ghostwritten, but perhaps, a rush to press instead.  Maybe everyone involved simply refused to invest the time it took to craft a well-developed and cohesive story.

Even so, I don’t think you boycott this book.  It’s worth reading, if nothing else than to keep up with the developments in Lucas’ life, job, and family.  If it’s your first Sandford book, you won’t even notice, as you have nothing to compare it to.

To learn about John Sandford, I read this on Amazon.com:

John Sandford PictureJohn Sandford was born John Camp on February 23, 1944, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He attended the public schools in Cedar Rapids, graduating from Washington High School in 1962. He then spent four years at the University of Iowa, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies in 1966. In 1966, he married Susan Lee Jones of Cedar Rapids, a fellow student at the University of Iowa. He was in the U.S. Army from 1966-68, worked as a reporter for the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian from 1968-1970, and went back to the University of Iowa from 1970-1971, where he received a master’s degree in journalism. He was a reporter for The Miami Herald from 1971-78, and then a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer-Press from 1978-1990; in 1980, he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and he won the Pulitzer in 1986 for a series of stories about a midwestern farm crisis. From 1990 to the present he has written thriller novels. He’s also the author of two non-fiction books, one on plastic surgery and one on art. He is the principal financial backer of a major archaeological project in the Jordan Valley of Israel, with a website at http://www.rehov.org. In addition to archaeology, he is deeply interested in art (painting) and photography. He both hunts and fishes. He has two children, Roswell and Emily, and one grandson, Benjamin. His wife, Susan, died of metastasized breast cancer in May, 2007.

Sunday, July 27, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talent Masters is the Choice for the September FFBS

I know that we are still working on the August 1 First Friday Book Synopsis with two excellent books and our bonus program, but I am already looking forward to my September presentation. It has excellent reviews and plenty of strong publicity, including one by our blogging partner, Bob Morris.  You can read his review published on this blog by clicking here.

The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers
By Bill Conaty and Ram Charan (New York: Crown Business)

Here is a summary of the book from Amazon.com, and a review published in the Wall Street Journal.

From Amazon.com:Conaty and Charan Picture

If talent is the leading indicator of whether a business is up or down, a success or a failure (and it is) . . . do you know how to accurately judge raw human talent? Understand a person’s unique combination of traits? Develop that talent? Convert what supposedly are “soft” subjective judgments about people into objective criteria that are as specific, verifiable, and concrete as the contents of a financial statement?

The talent masters do. They put people before numbers for the simple reason that it is talent that delivers the numbers. Success comes from those who are able to extract meaning from events and the forces affecting a business, and are able to look at the world and assess the risks to take and the risks to avoid.

The Talent Masters itself stems from a unique combination of talent: During a forty-year career at General Electric, Bill Conaty worked closely with CEOs Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt to build that company’s worldrenowned talent machine. Ram Charan is the legendary advisor to companies around the world. Together they use their unparalleled experience and insight to write the definitive book on talent—a breakthrough in how to take a business to the next level.

Here is the book review published in the Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2010, p. A21

SUPERVISING SUCCESS
By ALAN MURRAY
A decade after Jack Welch stepped down as chief executive of General Electric, he still commands remarkable respect as a management guru. The company he once led has lost its magic, the business processes he developed to battle bureaucracy have become bureaucratic themselves, and many of the “graduates” of the Jack Welch school have since stumbled—think Bob Nardelli at Home Depot or Jim McNerney at Boeing. (Has anyone seen that Dreamliner yet?)

Yet Mr. Welch and the management mythology surrounding him continue, untarnished. “The Talent Masters” is the latest celebration of the Welch way. It’s written by Bill Conaty, the recently retired senior vice president for human resources at GE, and Ram Charan, the business adviser and author who often collaborates on books with ex-CEOs.

Talent Masters Book Cover

“The Talent Masters” rests on three principles that characterize the Welch approach to management: (1) A focus on talent development. Mr. Welch and the other “talent masters” in the book—we also hear from folks at companies including Procter & Gamble and Novartis—claim that they spend more than a third of their time developing their people. (2) Differentiation. Talent masters create a meritocracy by constantly evaluating their people—a process which, in Mr. Welch’s case, was derided by critics as “rank and yank.” (3) Candor. This is the ultimate Welch trademark: ruthless honesty in evaluating the performance of people and businesses.

By now the book’s principle-trilogy is familiar. 
But the authors add to the Welchian wisdom by documenting some interesting examples. For instance, we learn about the day in 2000 when Larry Johnston, head of GE’s appliance business, flew to corporate headquarters in Fairfield, Conn., to tell his bosses that he was leaving to head up Albertsons, the supermarket chain. The news was a surprise to 
Mr. Conaty, to Jeff Immelt—who was then making a transition to the CEO job—and to Mr. Welch.

All three tried to talk Mr. Johnston into changing his mind. But after determining that their effort was futile, the executives turned their attention to succession. Within a half-day they had agreed on who would replace Mr. Johnston and on who would fill three other slots down the chain of command. The quick action was possible, we’re told, only because the three men had been heavily involved in the continuous evaluation of the company’s top talent.

The authors compare GE’s rapid-fire performance in replacing Mr. Johnston with what happened recently at Hewlett Packard, when Mark Hurd was forced to step down after indiscretions involving a marketing consultant. The company, the book says, came “unhinged.” For the third time in little more than a decade, the HP board felt compelled to pick a chief executive from the outside—an implicit acknowledgment of failed succession planning. (Mr. Welch seems almost personally offended by such corporate inattention: The HP board, he told me in an interview before the World Business Forum earlier this year, has “not done one of the primary jobs of a board, which is to prepare the next generation of leadership.” Asked if he knew any of the HP board members personally, Mr. Welch said: “I wouldn’t admit it if I did.”)

Messrs. Conaty and Charan also show the forgiving side of Mr. Welch’s GE. They tell the story of Mark Little, who in 1995 was promoted to vice president of engineering at the company’s Power Systems group. Following his appointment, the group missed its numbers three times in a row, and Mr. Little was demoted. He suspected that his career at GE was over.

Instead, executives there worked with Mr. Little to assure him that he still had a future and to help him rebuild his career in a position that made better use of his talents. Today he is the senior vice president in charge of the corporate R&D center, and one of the company’s top 25 executives.

The book begins with GE-related examples, but some of its most arresting stories come from outside the company. A particularly interesting chapter involves Hindustan Unilever, Unilever’s $3.5 billion Indian subsidiary. The company routinely evaluates candidates for management jobs by putting several applicants together to discuss a specific business issue in a group. This allows the company to see how they interact with each other and who has leadership potential.

Another instructive anecdote comes from Adrian Dillon, Skype’s chief financial officer. Mr. Dillon tells of how, early in his management career, when he was working at Eaton Corp., he was accosted after a meeting by his boss, the company’s CFO. “That was a great meeting, but your problem is that you still think your job is to be the smartest guy in the room. It’s not,” the man told him. Instead, Mr. Dillon was told, his job was to “make everybody in the room think that they’re the smartest guy in the room. You’ve got to teach them what you know and what you do, not tell them.”

Overall, “The Talent Masters” offers a valuable window into the skills of talent development. And it makes a persuasive case, yet again, for the wisdom of the Welch way. But you do have to wonder whether, a decade after Mr. Welch’s retirement, it isn’t time to find a new icon for the rapidly evolving world of business management.

Mr. Murray is deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and the author of “The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management.”

Friday, July 25, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Book to Help Men Get Less Angry

I am an angry man.  You do not deserve to know why.  It would exceed the allowable word count for our blog.

Are you angry also?

You can great comfort from a book by Bill Perkins entitled When Good Men Get Angry (Carole Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2009).  I have found this book useful, although ultimately, I will likely need more than this.  But, itWhenGoodMenGetAngryCover is a push in the right direction.  Maybe it will be that for you also.

In his own words, Perkins explains why he wrote this book.  Click the link on this line to read more.

The purpose of the book is to provide men with the insight needed to process and express their anger as Jesus would. With that in mind I read every book I could find on anger. I then identified the six key anger issues and provide the reader with an understanding of each of them. By using real life counseling/coaching sessions I provide the practical insight needed to understand the source of anger and how to successfully deal with it. While it’s a short book, every word is important and I think the reader will glean life-changing insights.

The book features numerous “Stories of Anger,” each with a chapter devoted to it.  The major themes of the book are:

  • identity
  • respect
  • control
  • pride
  • forgiveness
  • blessing
  • responding

One of these, on respect, is entitled “The Man Who Withheld Sex From His Wife.”  Interesting.  I really never thought about that, but I suppose it happens.  A later book he wrote is called Why Naked Women Look So Good:  Understanding a Woman’s Deepest Needs(New York:  AudioInk, 2013).  I have no idea how many copies that one has sold, but I will add it to my “read someday” list.  Should I put a book cover over it?  If you’re curious, here’s why he wrote that one, taken from Amazon.com:

By identifying eight vital needs of a woman, and showing a husband how to meet them, Perkins provides guidance to help a man become irresistible to his wife and for living more creatively and sensitively. Chapters are organized into three parts for easy reference. The first part provides one reason why naked women look so good. The second part identifies what need this reveals in a man’s wife. And in the third part, simple steps are provided to help a man love his wife in a way that strengthens her self-image, builds her confidence and allows her to more freely give herself to her husband—both emotionally and sexually.”NakedWomenCover

Who is Bill Perkins?  I found this biography from his web site (www.billperkins.com).

BillPerkinsPictureBill Perkins’s wit, insight, and penetrating stories make him a sought-after speaker for corporate and Christian groups. He has conducted business and leadership seminars across the country for companies such as Alaska Airlines and McDonald’s. Bill has appeared on nationally broadcast radio and television shows, including “The O’Reilly Factor.” He addresses men’s groups around the world and has conducted chapels for major league baseball teams.

Bill served as a senior pastor for 24 years and is the founder and CEO of Million Mighty Men. He is a graduate of the University of Texas and Dallas Theological Seminary.

Bill has authored or collaborated on 22 books, including the best selling Six Battles Every Man Must Win and When Good Men Are Tempted. He also wrote 6 Rules Every Man Must Break, the Jesus experiment, and When Good Men Get Angry. Bill coauthored the business book Give ‘Em the Pickle!,and the Handbook to Leadership.

He and his wife, Cindy, live near Portland, Oregon. They have three adult sons and two grandchildren.

Perkins sounds like a fine guy.  And, the book I am reading is neither ultra-religious, nor ultra-psychiatrist or counselor.

You will just see yourself in the stories.  Sometimes, being angry is pretty silly.

Let’s hope all of us afflicted with anger get over it.  I hope I do.  The world will be a better place.

Saturday, July 19, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m Not a #, Nor a Girl, Nor a Boss, But Amoruso’s Path Wouldn’t Work For Me Anyway

SophiaPicture2This week, I finished reading #GIRLBOSS (New York:  Portfolio, 2014) by Sophia Amoruso, the founder and CEO of Nasty Gal. It remains a blockbuster business best-seller, with more than two months on all the major lists.  Even today, it is # 7 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover business best-seller list, and #37 on the Amazon.com all-book types best-seller list.

I’m not a #, nor a girl, nor a boss, but I wouldn’t want to follow this anyway. I found it to be a tired rags-to-riches story, and the book is unprofessional, laced with vulgarity and profanity, even in chapter titles.

I am unimpressed with a story about someone who bucked authority while young, ate food out of dumpsters, ran away with and from weird boyfriends, refused to take prescription medicine for treatment, shoplifted strategically, among a host of other maladies in her background.

I am glad this all worked out for her, but it is hardly a model I would want anyone else to follow. I assume that by now, people buy this out of curiosity, as she has been the topic of many magazine articles, such as Inc., and Marie Claire, and the darling of numerous internet features and interviews. As a result of this type of coverage, the book has received much publicity.GirlBossCover

The book does not offend me.  But, I choose to be offended.  It’s a free country. People can write what they want, and read what they want, and form their own views as they choose.

But, if this is how you get ahead, I want no part of it. It seems to me there are unique and even radical paths to success that don’t do it this way.  Contrast this book with other radical approaches, such as Rules for Renegades.  You quickly learn that you can be different without being offensive.

I doubt if I am alone. I perceived an astonished, rather than an appreciative or even understanding audience following its presentation at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas on July 11.  When so many people asked me, “how did you select this book,” I got the sense that there was quite a bit of offense, even from an edited presentation.

The winner took the book home, but I would not have been surprised had she left it on our give-away table.  And, I understand this post may sell a few more copies.  Comments like these always inspire curiosity.  But, if you buy it, and read it, ask yourself if this is really how you would like your daughter to be successful?  And, would you trade less success in favor of a different path to get there?

Saturday, July 12, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Braun’s Promise of a Pencil Hits All Business Best-Seller Lists

The book I present this Friday at the First Friday Book Synopsis is currently # 9 on the New York Times business best-sPromise of a Pencil Covereller list.

Adam Braun’s blockbuster best-seller, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change (New York:  Scribner, 2014) has hit the lists with fervor.  In addition to its New York Times ranking, it has been as high as # 2 in the Wall Street Journal business best-selling list, and has come in at Amazon.com  #109 in total Books, and the following in specialty categories.

This is one of our two featured books at the First Friday Book Synopsis on Friday, June 6, 2014 at the Park City Club.  Registration is now open at www.firstfridaybooksynopsis.com.

Who is Adam Braun?   He is an American businessman, author, and philanthropist. He is the Founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning nonprofit organization that has built more than 150 schools across Africa, Asia and Latin America and delivered over 12 million educational hours in its first four years. PoP was founded with just $25 using Braun’s unique “For-Purpose” approach to blending nonprofit idealism with for-profit business principles. In 2012, he was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List.  Braun began his career in finance, until he met a young boy begging on the streets and asked him what he wanted most in the world.Adam Braun picture The answer- “A pencil.” He then traveled through 50+ countries to focus on educational systems and eventually left a dream job at Bain & Company to launchPencils of Promise.  Braun was selected as one of the first ten World Economic Forum Global Shapers and has been featured at the United Nations, Clinton Global Initiative, Google Zeitgeist, Mashable’s Innovation Index and Wired Magazine’s 2012 Smart List of 50 People Changing the World.

What is this book all about?  Here is a summary from www.bookbrowse.com:

Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling as a college student, he met a young boy begging on the streets of India. When Braun asked the boy what he wanted most in the world, he simply answered, “A pencil.” 

This small request became the inspiration for Pencils of Promise, the organization Braun would leave a prestigious job at Bain & Company to start with just $25 at the age of twenty-four. Using his unique “for-purpose” approach, he helped redefine the space in which business, philanthropy, and social media intersect. And a mere five years later, Pencils of Promise has now built more than two hundred schools around the world, proving that anyone can create a movement that matters. 

The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey through more than fifty countries to find his calling, as each chapter explains the steps that every person can take to ignite their own passion and potential. His trailblazing story takes readers behind the scenes with business moguls and village chiefs, world-famous celebrities and hometown heroes. Driven by compelling stories and shareable insights, this is a vivid and inspiring book that will give readers the tools to unlock their own extraordinary journey of self-discovery. 

If you have ever wanted a more purpose-driven life, if you have ever felt like you could become more than your current circumstances allow, it’s time to ask yourself, “What do I want most in the world?” And through the lessons shared in this book, turn those ideas into reality.

Promise of a Pencil Kids PictureThe picture you see to your left is of some of the children hoisting their pencils.

Look at those smiles and you will see how worthwhile the effort that Braun leads has become.

Rarely have we ever seen a book just leap to the top of legitimate best-selling lists so fast.

We look forward to presenting this book to you on June 6.

I will see you there!

Sunday, June 1, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Braun’s Pencil Hits # 1 and # 2 on Best-Seller Lists

Promise of a Pencil CoverAdam Braun’s blockbuster best-seller, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change (New York:  Scribner, 2014) has hit the lists with fervor.  It is now # 2 in the Wall Street Journal business best-selling list for the second week in a row, and comes in at Amazon.com  #109 in total Books, and the following in specialty categories.

This is one of our two featured books at the First Friday Book Synopsis in June, 2014 at the Park City Club.  Registration opens on May 10 at www.firstfridaybooksynopsis.com.

Who is Adam Braun?   He is an American businessman, author, and philanthropist. He is the Founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning nonprofit organization that has built more than 150 schools across Africa, Asia and Latin America and delivered over 12 million educational hours in its first four years. PoP was founded with just $25 using Braun’s unique “For-Purpose” approach to blending nonprofit idealism with for-profit business principles. In 2012, he was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List.  Braun began his career in finance, until he met a young boy begging on the streets and asked him what he wanted most in the world.Adam Braun picture The answer- “A pencil.” He then traveled through 50+ countries to focus on educational systems and eventually left a dream job at Bain & Company to launch Pencils of Promise.  Braun was selected as one of the first ten World Economic Forum Global Shapers and has been featured at the United Nations, Clinton Global Initiative, Google Zeitgeist, Mashable’s Innovation Index and Wired Magazine’s 2012 Smart List of 50 People Changing the World.

What is this book all about?  Here is a summary from www.bookbrowse.com:

Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling as a college student, he met a young boy begging on the streets of India. When Braun asked the boy what he wanted most in the world, he simply answered, “A pencil.” 

This small request became the inspiration for Pencils of Promise, the organization Braun would leave a prestigious job at Bain & Company to start with just $25 at the age of twenty-four. Using his unique “for-purpose” approach, he helped redefine the space in which business, philanthropy, and social media intersect. And a mere five years later, Pencils of Promise has now built more than two hundred schools around the world, proving that anyone can create a movement that matters. 

The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey through more than fifty countries to find his calling, as each chapter explains the steps that every person can take to ignite their own passion and potential. His trailblazing story takes readers behind the scenes with business moguls and village chiefs, world-famous celebrities and hometown heroes. Driven by compelling stories and shareable insights, this is a vivid and inspiring book that will give readers the tools to unlock their own extraordinary journey of self-discovery. 

If you have ever wanted a more purpose-driven life, if you have ever felt like you could become more than your current circumstances allow, it’s time to ask yourself, “What do I want most in the world?” And through the lessons shared in this book, turn those ideas into reality.

Promise of a Pencil Kids PictureThe picture you see to your left is of some of the children hoisting their pencils.

Look at those smiles and you will see how worthwhile the effort that Braun leads has become.

Rarely have we ever seen a book just leap to the top of legitimate best-selling lists so fast.

We look forward to presenting this book to you in June.

Don’t forget that registration opens on May 10.

Sunday, April 6, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Books That Book Lovers Should Read

You may have noticed that The Dallas Morning News is sponsoring a One Day University on Saturday, May 10, 2014.  You pick five classes out of ten possible choices.  This event has appeared in several regions in the country, including New York City.  Registration information is available by clicking here.

One of these classes is taught by Joseph Luzzi from Bard College.  Who is he?  Luzzi is a Ph.D. from Yale and has specialized in Italian studies and literature at Bard College since 2002.  At Bard, he serves as Co-Director of the college’s Joseph LuzziFirst-Year Seminar program, a full-semester “great books” course that covers major texts and intellectual traditions.   His book,  My Two Italies  (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is scheduled for release in July, 2014.  Here is a description of that book from Amazon.com:

Two Italies CoverA poignant personal account from a child of Calabrian peasants whose lifelong study of Italy unveils the mysteries of this Bel Paese, “Beautiful Land,” where artistic genius and political corruption have gone hand and in hand from the time of Michelangelo to The Sopranos.  The child of Italian immigrants and an award-winning scholar of Italian literature, in My Two Italies, Joseph Luzzi straddles these two perspectives to link his family’s dramatic story to Italy’s north-south divide, its quest for a unifying language, and its passion for art, food, and family.  From his Calabrian father’s time as a military internee in Nazi Germany—where he had a love affair with a local Bavarian woman—to his adventures amid the Renaissance splendor of Florence, Luzzi creates a deeply personal portrait of Italy that leaps past facile clichés about Mafia madness and Tuscan sun therapy. He delves instead into why Italian Americans have such a complicated relationship with the “old country,” and how Italy produces some of the world’s most astonishing art while suffering from corruption, political fragmentation, and an enfeebled civil society.  With topics ranging from the pervasive force of Dante’s poetry to the meteoric rise of Silvio Berlusconi,  Luzzi presents the Italians in all their glory and squalor, relating the problems that plague Italy today to the country’s ancient roots. He shares how his “two Italies”—the earthy southern Italian world of his immigrant childhood and the refined “northern” Italian realm of his professional life—join and clash in unexpected ways that continue to enchant the many millions who are either connected to Italy by ancestry or bound to it by love.

His class at the one day university is entitled “Four Books Every Book Lover Should Read.”  I snooped a bit to see if I could discover what these titles are, and I found a previous presentation where he discussed six.  My educated guess is that the four he discusses in Dallas are from these six:

Dante’s Divine Comedy (1319)

Shakespeare’s Othello (1604)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925)

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927)

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961)

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997)

So, how many of these have you read?  And, do you agree with these six?  And, would you pick this class if you decide to attend?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Will’s Amazing Book on Chicago’s Wrigley Field

Before I resumed going to church, every Sunday morning we would watch “This Week” on ABC, hosted by David Brinkley, with Sam Donaldson and George F. Will.  Will, while a conservative and unexcited George WillRepublican, was always quick and to the point, and very knowledgeable about current affairs.  A Chicago Cubs fan, while in working in Washington D.C., he was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles.  He left ABC in 2013 to join Fox News.  He usually wears a bow tie, but I couldn’t bring myself to publish one of those pictures.

He wrote one of the most influential books that I have read in my life, entitled Men at Work:  The Craft of Baseball  (New York:  Macmillan, 1990).  That book should be read by anyone who thinks baseball is just a game, and that players and managers are overpaid.  The book demonstrated that this is game is not played by the “boys of summer,” but rather by men, applying intensive decision-making, examining complex variables, and exhibiting extraordinary skill in their jobs.

So, I anxiously awaited his next book about Chicago’s famed baseball yard.   It is called A Nice Little Place on the North Side:  Wrigley Field at One Hundred  (New York:  Crown Books, 2014).  We can’t present it at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas because although it reached the best-seller lists, it is not a business book.

A Nice Little Place CoverYou can read a review of this book from the Wall Street Journal by clicking here.   Joseph Epstien concludes that review with this:

George Will has achieved a fine balance in “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” between his heartfelt allegiance to the Chicago Cubs and his recognition of their status among sports fans as a national joke. As fodder for humor the Cubs have been inexhaustible. The morning after the Cubs lost the 1984 National League Championship Series to the Padres, owing in good part to Leon Durham, the team’s first baseman, allowing a dribbling grounder to go through his legs, I was shopping in my neighborhood grocery store. The owner asked if I had heard about Leon Durham’s attempted suicide. “Really?” I asked, genuinely shocked. “He stepped out in front of a bus,” the man said, “but it went through his legs.” Lots of laughs, those Cubs, and, as George Will neatly puts it, “a lifelong tutorial in deferred gratification.”

From Amazon.com, where it is # 1 on the sports best-selling list and # 224 in overall books, you can read this summary:

Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility. In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.

Who hasn’t seen outfielders diving after a ball into the famous ivy on the outfield wall?  Or the story about Steve Bartman, who on October 14, 2003, allegedly interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou catching a foul ball, extending an inning and opening the gates for an 8-run watershed for the Florida Marlins in a playoff game?  Or, hearing about first baseman Ernie Banks, who excitedly would proclaim, “let’s play two.”  Or, all the controversies and barriers to renovating the park for a more modern and comfortable appearance?

Forget politics.  Forget what you think about George Will’s philosophy, opinions, and dress.  Immerse yourself in this book.  You will be a better fan.  You will also find something else to reference about an American icon.  The stories here are abundant.  Wrigley field is certainly not one of the wonders of the world, but its loyal fans who are accustomed to losing and tight quarters to watch baseball games, are a unique part of American culture.

Monday, March 31, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grab Some Buds – Is This Brew Bitter? Check Out Knoedelseder’s Best-Seller

Make no mistake about it.  When I am ready for a beer, I choose a Budweiser.  Regular.   Not Bud Lite, not Michelob, not Michelob Ultra.  I like the “King of Beers.”  Regular Budweiser.

So, I am enjoying the former best-seller, Bitter Brew:  The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer by William Knoedelseder (New York:  Harper Business, 2012).  It is rare, but not Bitter Brew coverwithout precedent, that we will go back and present a former business best-seller at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas that we have passed over previously from the lists.  This one was a best-seller on several top lists.  Even today, it remains at #13, #38, and #49 on three different Amazon.com best-selling business lists.   I will be discussing this with Randy Mayeux, who also presents at the First Friday Book Synopsis, as to whether we should go back and get this one.  It is really worth considering.

The inside cover states that the book is “the engrossing, often scandalous saga of one of the wealthiest, longest-lasting, and most colorful family dynasties in the history of American commerce – a cautionary tale about prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the blessings and dark consequences of success.”

William Knoedelseder pictureWho is William Knoedelseder?  This is the biography that I found on Amazon.com:

He is a veteran journalist and best-selling author who honed his investigative and narrative skills during 12 years as a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times, where his ground breaking coverage of the entertainment industry produced a long string of exposes. His two-year investigation of payola and other corrupt practices in the record business sparked five federal grand jury investigations across the country, led to the arrest and conviction of a score of organized figures and formed the basis of his first best-selling book, Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia (Harper Collins 1993). Stiffed was named Best Non-Fiction work of 1993 by Entertainment Weekly, which called it “the scariest book of the year…and the funniest.”  The two of the principal mob figures depicted in Stiffed–New Jersey crime boss Gaetano “Corky” Vastola and Roulette Records founder Morris Levy–subsequently served as the models for HBO’s Tony Soprano and his music business mentor Herman “Hesh” Rabkin.  Since 2000, Knoedelseder has written three other books. In Eddie’s Name (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) chronicles the brutal murder of a Philadelphia teenager that made national headlines when Knoedelseder, as executive producer of the Knight Ridder news program Inquirer News Tonight, pressed the city to make public the content of 911 tapes recorded the night of the killing, which ultimately revealed a complete breakdown of Philadelphia’s emergency response system; I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy’s Golden Era (Public Affairs/Perseus) recounts Knoedelseder’s time as cub reporter covering the L.A. comedy club scene when David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman were young and undiscovered. It has been optioned for film by actor Jim Carrey.  His next book for Harper Collins, Fins, is about the life and times of Harley Earl, the visionary car designer who helped engineer the phenomenal rise of General Motors.

I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:

The creators of Budweiser and Michelob beers, the Anheuser-Busch company is one of the wealthiest, most colorful and enduring family dynasties in the history of American commerce. In Bitter Brew, critically acclaimed journalist William Knoedelseder tells the riveting, often scandalous saga of the rise and fall of the dysfunctional Busch family—an epic tale of prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the dark consequences of success that spans three centuries, from the open salvos of the Civil War to the present day.

You can read an excellent review of this book, published in The Wall Street Journal by Roger Lowenstein by clicking on this link:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323830404578143523214886126?KEYWORDS=Fall+of+the+House+of+Busch&mg=reno64-wsj  

Lowenstein is the author of The End of Wall Street and Buffett:  The Making of an American Capitalist.

The selection of this book for the First Friday Book Synopsis is not automatic.  There are other considerations as to whether we will go back and get one like this.  I will discuss this more fully with Randy Mayeux.  His call has been very reliable, and predictive of long-term success.  In one of his previous blog posts, he noted that in 2013, he had presented seven best-sellers that are still on the New York Times best-seller list, while I only had one during the same period.  There is no guarantee we will decide to work this one in.  Regardless of what we decide to do, and no matter what you drink, this is quite a saga, and worth a careful read.

Maybe you could pop one while reading it!  Note – that’s not what I did.  I prefer to concentrate on what I am reading, and remember what I read.

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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