Book reviews for October 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, #18) by Lee Child

Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, #18) by Lee Child

4/5

Exactly what you'd expect from Reacher. It's a solid thriller and totally on form.

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

4/5

The fascinating, troubling and ultimately morally ambiguous story of how a ubiquitous and storied cell line (HeLa) came to be, and the impact this had on the family of Henrietta Lacks (whose cells became HeLa).

 

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

3/5

The central idea of the book - better to construct small experiments and learn faster - seems right, but for a book about validated learning there is precious little data to support the hypothesis. Do Lean Startups return more money to investors or do they just pivot between slightly different ways to share photos before entering the deadpool at the same rate as Fat Startups? I want to believe Lean is better but a stack of anecdotes about IMVU just isn't enough to convince me.

Also, I hate all business books that start out by explaining how their profound ideas are applicable to all people at all times in all industries before stretching out a paragraph of insight over hundreds of turgid pages.

Lastly always read business books a few years after the peak of their popularity so you get the benefit of hindsight and a chuckle at the companies that are held up as shining examples of the author's methodology at the time but are now dead, festering or mostly incarcerated.

Having said all that I think that the approach is generally right and I appreciate that at several points in the book Ries states that there are no easy answers and no substitute for good judgement.

 

Book reviews for October 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, #18) by Lee Child

Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, #18) by Lee Child

4/5

Exactly what you'd expect from Reacher. It's a solid thriller and totally on form.

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

4/5

The fascinating, troubling and ultimately morally ambiguous story of how a ubiquitous and storied cell line (HeLa) came to be, and the impact this had on the family of Henrietta Lacks (whose cells became HeLa).

 

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

3/5

The central idea of the book - better to construct small experiments and learn faster - seems right, but for a book about validated learning there is precious little data to support the hypothesis. Do Lean Startups return more money to investors or do they just pivot between slightly different ways to share photos before entering the deadpool at the same rate as Fat Startups? I want to believe Lean is better but a stack of anecdotes about IMVU just isn't enough to convince me.

Also, I hate all business books that start out by explaining how their profound ideas are applicable to all people at all times in all industries before stretching out a paragraph of insight over hundreds of turgid pages.

Lastly always read business books a few years after the peak of their popularity so you get the benefit of hindsight and a chuckle at the companies that are held up as shining examples of the author's methodology at the time but are now dead, festering or mostly incarcerated.

Having said all that I think that the approach is generally right and I appreciate that at several points in the book Ries states that there are no easy answers and no substitute for good judgement.

 

Book reviews for September 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Dust (Silo, #3) by Hugh Howey

Dust (Silo, #3) by Hugh Howey

5/5

The best new SF series in quite some time draws to an end. Sad to see it go, can't wait to see what Hugh Howey comes up with next.

 

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

4/5

Understated X-Men shenanigans in thriller format.

 

Book reviews for September 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Dust (Silo, #3) by Hugh Howey

Dust (Silo, #3) by Hugh Howey

5/5

The best new SF series in quite some time draws to an end. Sad to see it go, can't wait to see what Hugh Howey comes up with next.

 

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

4/5

Understated X-Men shenanigans in thriller format.

 

Book reviews for August 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2) by Madeline Ashby

iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2) by Madeline Ashby

3/5

Very much a middle book in a series. vN was outstanding, iD picks up where it left off and it's good if you read vN but probably doesn't stand alone. I'm looking forward to a third installment.

 

Flaggermusmannen (Harry Hole, #1) by Jo Nesbø

Flaggermusmannen (Harry Hole, #1) by Jo Nesbø

4/5

The Bat - recently translated into English. This is the first in the Harry Hole series and it's a very good one. Most of the rest were translated some time ago and it's a little odd that it's taken so long for the initial installment. I was expecting it to some sort of rubbish embarrassment but Nesbo is on top form here. My guess is that the problem was that it's set in Sydney which is probably a hard sell for fans of Scandinavian crime.

 

Book reviews for July 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Doctor Who: Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds

Doctor Who: Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds

5/5

I don't normally do SciFi series books... but this is Alastair Reynolds doing Doctor Who. Jon Pertwee era with UNIT and The Master. If the BBC had a 300 million Pound budget for a Doctor Who story line in the 70's this is what they would have made.

 

Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson

Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson

4/5

I always enjoy Po Bronson and he's typically on form here with fascinating research and anecdotes around the topic of competition. There is a lot of new evidence on how hormones work that I'd never seen before and an interesting theory that competitive sports are a precursor to democracy. Much of this book is about how competition brings out creativity and drive. I wonder it it's missing a trick here and that the real factor is operating under constraint with competition being just one of many possible forms of constraint. In addition to the studies showing that art was better when a competition was involved I'd like to see how this worked out when one set of artists was limited to using just brown and silver... I'd bet the results would look pretty similar.

 

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4) by Dan Brown

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4) by Dan Brown

2/5

By the numbers. OK, but not great.

 

Book reviews for June 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Letters by Kurt Vonnegut

Letters by Kurt Vonnegut

4/5

Engrossing collection of letters, helpfully sprinkled with context.

 

Book reviews for May 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Troika by Alastair Reynolds

Troika by Alastair Reynolds

4/5

Stonking little novella.

 

Book reviews for May 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Troika by Alastair Reynolds

Troika by Alastair Reynolds

4/5

Stonking little novella.

 

Book reviews for April 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

4/5

Makes sense...

 

 

The Mirage by Matt Ruff

4/5

A brilliant and detailed transposition of 9/11 in America to 11/9 in Arabia. I thought it was going to be a one trick pony but Mirage also delivers a solid thriller.