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Sunday, January 8, 2012

The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes

McSweeney's is one of my favorite web sites. It's kind of like the Onion except for being targeted to the hyperinformed McSweeney's is targeted to the hyperliterate. This book is a sample of essays that were previously published on the site.

Personally I hate the trend of the publication of web content in book form. Atrocities I have seen have included "Sh*t My Dad Says"(sic), "Stuff White People Like" and "Thx Thx Thx" (sic) turned into book form. I have also seen blogs turned into spectacular books like "The Happiness Project" and pretty much everything Seth Godin does.

Unfortunately This book is from the former category and thus is one of the worst time wasters I have ever experienced.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Don't Keep me a Secret

So it's time to take a breather from fiction and spend a few moments writing about business books. I end up reading a few of these, mostly because I feel guilty if I spend slack time at work reading fiction. Plus once I get into a good business book I secretly get excited about what I'm learning and blaze through it like it was a Raymond Carver story. Well without the cool pauses and reflections.

An unfortunate problem with mass market business books is that they try to show applications that apply to every business. Unless you have a creative mind that can think around corners a lot of the advice seems plain impractical.

This book suffers from a lot of that. It does have some good chapters on how to turn satisfied customers into your best marketers. Unfortunately a lot of the ideas aren't applicable to every business. For example one chapter focused on hosting events like dinners, ski trips, parties and so forth with your clients. This is all hard to pull off if you work for someone else or are on a shoestring budget.

Overall I'd say it was an easy read and probably worth a spin if you're looking to increase your referral business, just don't expect to get full value if you don't run your own, already profitable business.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Great Brain

Sometimes you need to take a trip back to your childhood. When I was a young lad, I was completely obsessed with the adventures of The Great Brain.

For those of you who are not familiar with the aforementioned illuminato, the Great Brain is a fictionalized version of the brother of the author of the series of the same name, John Fitzgerald. John grew up in central Utah in a family where his mother was a Mormon and his father was Catholic. He also wrote a book called Papa Married a Mormon

In all, seven books of the Great Brain series were published and they were illustrated by Mercer Mayer. Unfortunately, most of them are out of print and are also pretty pricey on Ebay and Amazon. Luckily the first three of the series are still in print so I ordered them for my sons. Because my sons seem to hate anything that I introduce to them, I assume they are suspicious that anything I like has a mathematical theory somewhere in it, I ended up reading the book myself.

The Great Brain, Tom, spends his days and nights dreaming of ways to scheme the local children his age out of their allowances. He spends as much time swindling his brother John as he does on the rest of the city. Once in a while, such as the time when Tom saves some of his peers who are lost in a cave, his great brain has ideas that are socially beneficial as well.

When I was younger I loved the books for the stories, I too dreamed of becoming a small time con man and making money the easy way. Now I value the books for the good background of small town Utah society. It brings me back to a time when you know who the "non-members" (of the Mormon Church) were on your street. If you even had any, you actually knew who they were in your local "ward"area so anyone who wasn't a member within a five block radius was pretty well identified. John's mixed religion family is interesting and even if it's an idealized portrayal of childhood, it's nice to see that his parents seemed to get along.

For me this series was a nice literary trip back to childhood. What book from childhood would you like to re-read? Put in a comment below and tell me about it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 in Review

For the first time since I started this blog I reached my goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks! This year I have been going to school 3/4 time and working full time. Between school and the CLEP tests I took I got a total of 30 credits towards my degree so I had the study load of a full time student with a four year target to graduation. Something had to go so it was the blogging. I still have a list of the books I've read and will blog about them when I have time. In the mean time I would love it if you would friend me on www.goodreads.com where I am username wildpokerman or Roland Martinez in Nashua.

So for the year in review here are my nominations:

Best Book:

The Debt to Pleasure was my favorite book of the year. It's a novel written by a journalist, John Lanchester. The vocabulary and images were by far the most thought provoking in any book I have read. I filled up a notebook page and a half with words I had to look up but rather than detracting from the book, it added to the experience. I have another book of his on my shelf, IOU which is about the financial crisis, and I can't wait to read it.

Runners up are:

Full Dark No Stars-King still has it.
Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty-A nice book for those of us who are stupid about networking.
The Happiness Project-Loved it and I learned to adore Gretchen Rubin
How to Read Literature Like a Professor-Loved it, like taking a lit class in your living room.
Zombie-Joyce Carol Oates had me cringing and grabbing my head at her vivid descriptions of murder and torture. Graphic as all hell and made me reconsider my stance that I'm fine with the kids picking up and reading any book in the house. I couldn't help but keep going back for more, even though I had to put it down frequently because it got too visceral and intense.
Wuthering Heights-Read it now if you haven't. You can't have lit cred unless you have read this book at least twice!

Worst Book:

Even the Stars Look Lonesome is the last autobiographical work of essays by Maya Angelou. The book starts out with her and her husband moving to a smaller house because the huge house they live in is just too much for them. The smaller house doesn't save their marriage so she leaves her economist husband (only a real bitch could hate an economist) and moves to a medium sized house in DC. She also tosses in a nice essay about how Oprah Winfrey is a guiding light of womanhood that was so cloying that it made me want to vomit. Then she follows this up with an essay about how Clarence Thomas was a good choice for Supreme Court Justice because he lived the black experience. She justifies this by stating that any Republican nominee would have voted the same way but someone with the experience of growing up black would at least have some sympathy to the black experience in America. I'm sorry Maya, but he has no sympathy and he's a sexual predator. I wish she would have died before she published this book of throwaways which serves only as a word of warning to artists of what can happen to your soul once you get a bit of money and fame. You become a regular sellout celebrity, and the ability to make the music dies in your dim, money tainted soul.

Runners up:

Anthem-Yes Ayn Rand and Rand Paul, you are both sad, empty people.
33 Million People in the Room-I need to learn that free on Amazon is not a good deal.
Come Monday-Girl porn featuring a poor Irish college student and her dominant professor. Arrgh girl porn, how I hate thee.
The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes-Every joke should be like a dick joke, if it's flaccid in the end, you're not telling it right.

So here's to making an achievement out of an arbitrary desire to do something I love to do! I'm excited to see what books 2012 brings on.