2010 Books In Review

Posted by Brian Mon, 10 Jan 2011 02:04:00 GMT

Well, my goal this year was to cut back my reading and I somewhat succeeded. I only read 44 books in 2010, but I saved a lot of time by not writing reviews for most of them. Here’s the list for the year, with links to the ones I have written a review for at this time.

  1. Open Sources 2.0 Edited By Chris DiBona, Danese Cooper, and Mark Stone
  2. The Mythical Man-Month By Frederick Brooks
  3. The Innovator’s Dilemma By Clayton Christensen
  4. Predictably Irrational By Dan Ariely
  5. The Cluetrain Manifesto By Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger
  6. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity By Roy Porter
  7. Ender’s Game By Orson Scott Card
  8. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies By Jared Diamond
  9. The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World by Lawrence Lessig
  10. The Stand By Stephen King
  11. Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology By Janet Hope
  12. The Drawing of the Three: The Dark Tower #2 By Stephen King
  13. The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing By Charile Papazian
  14. The Complete Stories: Volume 1 By Isaac Asimov
  15. Neuromancer By William Gibson
  16. Count Zero By William Gibson
  17. Mona Lisa Overdrive By William Gibson
  18. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto By Michael Pollan
  19. The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower #3 By Stephen King
  20. The Dilbert Principle By Scott Adams
  21. Wizard and Glass By Stephen King
  22. Wolves of the Calla By Stephen King
  23. The Song of Susannah By Stephen King
  24. ‘Salem’s Lot By Stephen King
  25. The Dark Tower By Stephen King
  26. The Red Thread of Passion By David Guy
  27. The Cathedral & the Bazaar By Eric Raymond
  28. NurtureShock By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
  29. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy By Joseph Schumpeter
  30. Sex at Dawn By Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
  31. Innovation Happens Elsewhere (Did not finish)
  32. Effective C# By Bill Wagner
  33. More Effective C# By Bill Wagner
  34. Programming in Scala By Martin Odersky
  35. Foundation By Isaac Asimov
  36. Foundation and Empire By Isaac Asimov
  37. Second Foundation By Isaac Asimov
  38. Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Resarch By Wardell Pomeroy
  39. Pain: The Fifth Vital Sign By Marni Jackson
  40. Programming Perl, 3rd Edition By Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, & Jon Orwant
  41. Joel on Software By Joel Spolsky
  42. Listening To Prozac By Peter D. Kramer
  43. Songs of Distant Earth By Arthur C. Clarke
  44. Speaker for the Dead By Orson Scott Card

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The Innovator's Dilemma

Posted by Brian Thu, 25 Feb 2010 01:36:00 GMT

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
By Clayton Christensen

5/5

How do successful companies fail? Often the answer is obvious: poor management or an economic downturn are two common culprits. More interesting are the companies that seem to do everything right, but a few years later are in a steep decline. How is it possible that management which only a few short years ago was being lauded as a model for the industry can come to be regarded a blathering idiots with no clue as to what their customers want? In The Innovator’s Dilemma Clayton Christensen puts forth that this is caused by the introduction of disruptive technology into the market.

What is disruptive technology though? Christensen defines it as a technology which has worse performance, at least in the near term, in what has been considered the key market measurement but which is still considered acceptable. It trades off max performance in this key measurement for features that customers outside of what has been to now the core market care about more. He uses the disk drive industry as his major example throughout the book. When a new size disk drive was developed the established players repeatedly ignored it because its storage capacity wasn’t interesting to their current customers. However, its smaller size was interesting to a new market and because technological innovation often moves faster than market demand, eventually the disruptive technology is able to displace the existing technology, along with the companies pushing it. He explains a similar process with hydraulics in excavation, minimills in steel production, and discount retailers.

I was pleased to learn that The Innovator’s Dilemma is often used in MBA programs now, although I do wonder how it is received by both faculty and students. The idea that good management can be a direct cause of failure is probably a non-intuitive and disquieting thought to many of them. Christensen is an engaging writer with the data to back up his theory. Highly recommended.

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The Innovator's Dilemma

Posted by Brian Thu, 25 Feb 2010 01:36:00 GMT

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
By Clayton Christensen

5/5

How do successful companies fail? Often the answer is obvious: poor management or an economic downturn are two common culprits. More interesting are the companies that seem to do everything right, but a few years later are in a steep decline. How is it possible that management which only a few short years ago was being lauded as a model for the industry can come to be regarded a blathering idiots with no clue as to what their customers want? In The Innovator’s Dilemma Clayton Christensen puts forth that this is caused by the introduction of disruptive technology into the market.

What is disruptive technology though? Christensen defines it as a technology which has worse performance, at least in the near term, in what has been considered the key market measurement but which is still considered acceptable. It trades off max performance in this key measurement for features that customers outside of what has been to now the core market care about more. He uses the disk drive industry as his major example throughout the book. When a new size disk drive was developed the established players repeatedly ignored it because its storage capacity wasn’t interesting to their current customers. However, its smaller size was interesting to a new market and because technological innovation often moves faster than market demand, eventually the disruptive technology is able to displace the existing technology, along with the companies pushing it. He explains a similar process with hydraulics in excavation, minimills in steel production, and discount retailers.

I was pleased to learn that The Innovator’s Dilemma is often used in MBA programs now, although I do wonder how it is received by both faculty and students. The idea that good management can be a direct cause of failure is probably a non-intuitive and disquieting thought to many of them. Christensen is an engaging writer with the data to back up his theory. Highly recommended.

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52 Books a Year: #44 - The Gathering Storm

Posted by Brian Wed, 23 Dec 2009 22:21:00 GMT

The Gathering Storm
By Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

5/5

Note: I am not going to talk much about the plot of the book in this review. There are already already a large selection of fan sites that go into laborious detail about the Wheel of Time series if that is what you are looking for.

The Gathering Storm is the 12th book in the Wheel of Time and the first one following the death of Robert Jordan. His wife Harriet selected Brandon Sanderson to finish the last three books of the series from Jordan’s writings, notes, and dictations. Sanderson made a conscious decision to not attempt to ape the writing style of Jordan, a decision that that served him well here.

Criticisms of the Wheel of Time are numerous and many are well-deserved. Jordan originally planned a six book series, but it had ballooned to eleven by his death. His characterization’s of relationships between the sexes tended to be very simple-minded and he repeated character mannerisms to death. He had no idea or desire to succinctly explain a scene and he spawned off so many superfluous plot threads that the reader often needs to consult fan sites just to keep up with who the hell he was talking about and how important they were.

With that being said the series has a lot going for it though. Jordan created a fantastic world where a man had committed the original sin and were thus marginalized in many positions of power. The magic system of the world was fantastic and the concept of the Pattern as a tapestry weaving history is more fully developed than in many other series that have tried similar ideas.

Sanderson stepped into this mess and did an admirable job with The Gathering Storm. The pace is fast. Superfluous plot threads and stamped out and no news ones are created, streamlining the story on the central characters. The main plot threads are advanced quickly to set the stage for the final battle. The dialogue isn’t fantastic and the voices of some characters have noticeable changes, but the richness of the surrounding world make these minor inconveniences. Overall, Sanderson has done a masterful job of taming the beast that Jordan left him with.

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52 Books a Year: #21 - Satanism: The Seduction of America's Youth

Posted by Brian Wed, 25 Nov 2009 18:29:00 GMT

Satanism: The Seduction of America’s Youth
By Bob Larson

0/5 for content
5/5 for unintentional comedy

Satanism is basically a Jack Chick comic stretched out to fill an entire book. According to Bob Larson I am a disturbed satanist because I enjoy heavy metal and Dungeons & Dragons. You are also a satanist if you give the peace sign or practice Wicca. If somebody actually tried to use the arguments in this book on me in person, I would be too dumbfounded to form a coherent thought.

I don’t even know where to start with the inaccuracies this book portrays. He claims Metallica’s Creeping Death to be a satanist song, but the lyrics are actually a straightforward telling of the plagues upon the Egyptians from the point of view of the Angel of Death. How he portrayed a song describing a biblical story as satanist is mind-boggling. I was keeping a list of inaccuracies, but gave up shortly into the book because of the sheer number.

The bigger problem though is that he never questions the stories of callers to his radio show, most of most of which sound fabricated by some kid having some fun with the Christian talk show guy. I used to be a radio DJ and it is usually quite easy to tell who the pranksters are. You would think a talk radio host would make some effort to separate out the bullshit.

Unfortunately Larson is still around performing exorcisms, talk radio, and writing books. He may mean well, but his efforts are very misguided. If you want to stop back into the paranoia of rock music in the 80’s though, pick up Satanism for a good laugh.

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