Sunday, March 14, 2010

5 new book reviews

Here are the latest books that I have read. I have ranked all of the books that I have read this year (2010) in two categories, Fiction and Non-Fiction and those rankings are on the left of my blog. This latest sampling is a rather diverse group of books ranging from a tennis player's autobiography to historical nonfiction to a Young Adult thriller. If you have any suggestions on books to read, let me know and I will add it to my queue.

Open by Andre Agassi
I loved this book. With that said, it is a difficult book. All growing up, Andre Agassi was the player that I wanted to be like. My forehand and my backhand were all groomed to be like Agassi. This book makes you love Andre even more and it makes you dislike him at the same time.

The book explores Andre's demanding dad's obsession with making Andre the best player in the world. He forces Andre out on the court, hour after hour every single day. Andre used to aim for mis-hits which would bounce off his frame and over the fence. He did it so that he could take a break while his dad went to chase down the ball. The story talks of how Andre met some of the greats growing up (his dad strung Jimmy Connors' rackets and Andre would deliver them to him and talks of how Jimmy wasn't the best). The book goes into his days at the Bolliteri tennis academy which Andre hated. He wore jeans to a match to voice his displeasure.

The book talks briefly of Andre's drug use. The book talks of Andre's fall from grace as he was ranked in the 100s. It talks of his disfunctional relationship with Brook Shields (she cared little for tennis, he cared little for Hollywood and it led to loneliness on both ends). I did love hearing of how he met and fell in love with Steffi Graf (my all time favorite female player) and hearing how Andre finished up his career. It is a thoroughly entertaining book.

The Telephone Gambit by Seth Shulman
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Didn't he? Didn't he? This book goes behind the intrigue to examine who invented the telephone and the answer may surprise you. The story focuses on Bell and his quest to come up with an invention to transmit voices along wires (a phone). Bell is credited with the invention and his name is synonimous with the invention of the phone...but Shulman delves into it and makes a compelling case that not only did Bell not invent the phone, but that he liberally took ideas from his chief competitor Elisha Gray. A series of events ranging from corruption in the US patent office, to espionage into Gray's proposal to probable shame at presenting Bells' 'invention' reveals that there is a lot more to Bell than he showed outwardly to the public. And the argument over the invention of the phone is still not settled.

The one drawback to the book is that it can be rather scientific but Shulman does a pretty good job at never letting it get too confusing with scientific terms. But, unless you are really following some of the points, you can get a bit lost...but you still are able to stay current with the story.

A Knock on the Door by Margaret Ahnert
The Armenian genocide. Have you ever heard of it? This book is told by the author (whom I have not only met, but spent the day with traveling to lectures) about her mother who survived the genocide. Set in the early 1900s, the story alternates between her mother living through the genocide and her and her mother talking about it 60 years later. It is a very effective literary device and Ahnert does a great job at telling both stories.

When focused on her is chilling as her mother recounts walking mile after mile seeing murders around her and living in fear that the Turks would murder her next. Through her ability to survive and through her smarts, she lived through it. Over 1 million Armenians were murdered in it all and it is still a story that few know.

First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
This is a very good business book. The idea behind the book was to interview thousands of managers at hundreds of companies and investigate what really works at those companies instead of what conventional wisdom would suggest. Though I may not always agree that some of their ideas would work in our company, it was fascinating to hear the decisions that some managers made to terrific results. My favorite portion was a discussion of how managers cannot change their employees. Every person comes hardwired to do certain things. A good manager should focus on things that the employee is willing to work on and not spend the focus on changing behavior that may really not matter in the effectiveness of the employee. Work to their strengths, not necessarily to their weaknesses.

Wish you were Dead by Todd Strasser
I really liked how this story started. A high school girl disappears. At the same time, a high school blogger talks of how that is good and that person should die. It is intriguing and the story is rather fast paced as another boy goes missing. It continued to build up momentum as the small town is stunned and scared over these disappearances.

The first 75% of the book was pretty good and entertaining read. And then it unraveled. It appears that the author really lost sight of what to do with the book. It began veering off into a new character and it became an action book where they were trying to find the missing kids even switching into more of a horror book. Yuck. It literally went from 4 out of 5 stars down to 1 out of 5 stars. Too bad.


Shellie said...

great reviews sam :)

i would totally check out andre's book. although I'm not much of a tennis player i love reading about peoples lives and how they got where they are.

also the managerial one is one I will pass on to chad. I'm sure he would like it.

toodles :)

samandbrodi said...

Shell--I think you would like the Agassi book. It is rather entertaining though there is quite a bit of tennis match recap that he gives.