review: treasure

Title: Treasure

Author: Clive Cussler

Genre: beach trash, action

Form: paperback

Recommended: Yes, as beach trash

Thoughts: Classic Clive Cussler – need I say more? Car and boat chases, archaeological digs, the lost library of Alexandria, and a bit of romance to top it off. In case you did not know, I think there is a place for most types of books. I find beach trash to be fantastic when I need to relax and escape. And yes, I love action movies.

review: when helping hurts

Title: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… And Yourself

Author: Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

Genre: development

Form: paperback

Recommended: Definitely

Thoughts: Corbett and Fikkert talk about poverty and community development in a refreshing, and, honestly, beautiful way. In this book the poor are held with a dignity that is often denied them. The authors use personal stories thus avoiding pointing fingers at other people’s failures and also provide clear steps to take for everyone involved in development. Whether you help at a homeless shelter or a food pantry or are involved in large-scale international development projects, you should read this book.

review: praying for sheetrock

Title: Praying for Sheetrock

Author: Melissa Fay Greene

Genre: creative nonfiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: Yes

Thoughts: Greene tells the story of the civil rights movement in McIntosh County, George in the 1970’s. Most of the book sounds like stories found in novels telling of more historic times, thus leaving the reader with a poignant reminder of how long change has taken and how hard people fought for each step of change. Through excellent research and by striking a good blance between story and history, Greene brings to life characters of the story.

review: walking on water

Title: Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Author: Madeline L’Engle

Genre: creative nonfiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: definitely

Thoughts: To L’Engle, art and faith are inseparable – and through this book she winds the two together in such a way that it is at once explanation of the creative process and devotional. To everyone who is an artist, this book will sing to your soul. If you want to understand an artist, this book will open up their world. This is one I will reread until it falls apart. 

review: the five dysfunctions of a team

Title: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Genre: business, management

Form: audiobook

Recommended: Yes, for all of you who work in team settings and are wondering why something just is not clicking.

Thoughts: In this book Lencioni’s presents a fable of a management team that is not functioning and the process it took to make the team work. At times long winded and seemingly over-direct, the fable does what it sets out to do: clearly demonstrate what Lencioni terms the five dysfunctions of a team (absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results).  

review: overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team

Title: Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Genre: business, management

Form: audiobook

Recommended: Yes, if you are working to build a team and want some good practical examples.

Thoughts: This book follows The Five Dysfunctions of a Team providing a ‘how to’ overcome the dysfunctions he illustrates in his fable. Given that much of the book provides clear directives for how to do certain exercises to build teams, I do not suggest listening to this as an audiobook as you will want to reference specific parts of the book. 

review: the bookseller of kabul

Title: The Bookseller of Kabul

Author: Asne Seierstad

Genre: creative nonfiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: definitely

Thoughts: In 2001, Asne Seierstad traveled Afghanistan during which she met a bookseller who seemed unique. Here she tells the story of the bookseller’s family, who she lived with for 6 months. Asne quickly pulls you into the story of this family that looks unique on the outside, but who’s reality is the norm. In so doing, you become lost in the often sad life and traditions, and are left feeling that you have just lived a piece of life in Afghanistan. 

review: the chains of heaven

Title: The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance

Author: Philip Marsden

Genre: creative nonfiction, travel 

Form: paperback

Recommended: Yes

Thoughts:  At age 21 Marsden tried to travel Ethiopia, but was quickly shut out as the nation was collapsing in conflict. Two decades later he was able to fulfill his dream and walks through northern Ethiopia visiting churches and remote monasteries along the way. Marsden winds his story of walking with the history of the region in such a way that past becomes present as history lives through the people he meets. At times there is more history filled with hard to pronounce (much less remember) names than there is story, but as a whole, The Chains of Heaven leaves you with a vivid image of Ethiopia that entices you to put on your walking shoes. 


There were a few great quotes in this book, and I can’t resist including to excerpts here. I hope you enjoy: 

“Ethiopia taught me many things. As a naive twenty-one-year-old, with years of flunked schooling behind me, I was ready for the simplest of lessons. Instead I was presented with paradoxes. I learnt of the cruelty that could be perpetrated in the name of a good idea. I saw how a people hurtling towards catastrophe, hungry, with population growth out of control, could go on living day to day with such astonishing grace. I saw how those apparently ignored by divine goodness could still apply their greatest energy to worship. I learnt that the human spirit is more robust than life itself.

Ethiopia opened my eyes to the earth’s limitless range. I pictured the country’s startling scenes and stories multiplied across the globe, then factored up by the past. It made the notion of ‘a small world’, ‘a shrinking world’, look absurd, and it made me restless. 

Ethiopia instilled in me the habit of a lifetime, the habit of travel. It revealed the rewards that can be had simply from being footloose among strangers, from taking remote and narrow paths with bare-legged farmers. It bred in me the conviction that if there is any purpose to our time on this earth, it is to understand it, to seek out its diversity, to celebrate its heroes and its wonders — in short, to witness it.” pg 21


“Outside the church gates, two hundred men had gathered for their monthly council. They sat in the dust, on bare banks and knuckle-like boulders. They were clustered beneath the cooling foliage of eucalyptus. I stood in the shad with Hiluf and we watched. 

One among them rose to his feet. 

‘I bought fertilizer. The kebelle [administrative district] gave me the money and said, You can pay us after harvest. But the size of the harvest was too small. Now they want much more money.’

A debtara [non-ordained church official, responsible for the music and danching, often expert in herbal lore] answered. ‘You must be careful to pay back as early as you can. Even if your maize is not growing, the amount to pay still grows.’

Another stood. ‘They told us we must dig a hole for a pond. They said they will give us a sheet. Well I have dug my hole and they say there is no sheet.’

‘I have dug a hole too. My cattle fell in and couldn’t get out.’

‘Put brush around it. At kermet [the season of ‘big’ rains, typically late June to early September] God will provide water.’

‘Last kermet the water did not fill the pond even half — now it is all gone…’

For some time the complexities of rural life were aired, a life in which development schemes arrived like the weather, God-given: sometimes they brought salvation and sometimes they brought disaster.” pg 248-250

review: presenting to win

Title: Presenting to Win

Author: Jerry Weissman

Genre: business

Form: hardback

Recommended: Yes – for everyone who gives presentations.

Thoughts: Jerry Weisman coaches businessmen on the presentations they give – from the layout of ideas through to the delivery, and in this book he lays out key points to putting together a good presentation.  I often did not appreciate the voice he uses or the focus on large business and making money, but it is worth pushing through the language because the points are right on. And, if you think you don’t need to read this because you can make an awesome Power Point, that does not necessarily (and generally does not) equate with giving a good presentation. 

review: generation y and the new rules of management

Title: Generation Y and the New Rules of Management

Author: Mark Murphy with Andrea Burgio-Murphy

Genre: business, management

Form: softcover 

Recommended: Maybe – with other books of similar focus

Thoughts: You are Gen Y if you were born between the years of 1978 and 1991. You were born to baby boomer parents and are now the young portion of the workforce. If you are older than this, you are probably managing, or will soon be managing, Gen Y employees. And for both of you, the transition is likely a bumpy ride that often leaves everyone frustrated. But, in today’s world where Gen Y will soon be ruling the workplace, it is a good idea for both of you to understand who you are and how to make it work. My guess is that if you do, you will both be amazed at how much work is done. 

This book is a quick read that lays out 6 “new rules of management.” A quick read, there are some good practical examples. It is not outstanding, but it is helpful. Honestly, I am finding these business books to be quick reads – all of them have a few good points, and when you read a few of them together, you can get somewhere. So, read this with another book or two on the same subject. (If you read just one, Not Everyone Gets a Trophy is the better one to pick of the two I am reviewing.)

review: not everyone gets a trophy

Title: Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y

Author: Bruce Tulgan

Genre: business, management

Form: hardback

Recommended: Yes – with other books of similar focus

Thoughts: Same thoughts on being a member of Gen Y or managing Gen Y was with Generation Y and the New Rules of Managment.

This book works to debunk many of the myths surrounding Gen Y in the work place. I appreciate that in doing this, the author finds value and logic in Gen Y. For example, Gen Y will not typically look at their given job as the one in which they will retire. But it is not that they are disloyal, but that they (yes, me too) have a plan and layout in which each job builds on the last. It is a different way of looking at a career, and it does not mean that they are ignoring their career. Read this with another book or two on the same subject.

review: the island of the colorblind

Title: The Island of the Colorblind

Author: Oliver Sacks

Genre: nonfiction, medical case study

Form: hardback

Recommended: Definitely. 

Thoughts: Oliver Sacks is a neurologist, botanist, world traveller, author, and, I believe, cultural anthropologist. In The Island of the Colorblind, he presents the stories of two island with unique medical problems, colorblindness and a neurodegenerative paralysis, at unusually high prevalences. Although I am a scientist, it is the rich descriptions of the islands and his interaction with people’s stories that give this book its strength. At times he over-displays his love of details, but I appreciate that he clearly contained this love as the books is followed by some 60 pages of interesting notes well worth skimming. This book is a beautiful balance of academia and novel. This is the first novel of his that I have read and I would enjoy getting my hands on some of his other books.

review: a painted house

Title: A Painted House

Author: John Grisham

Genre: novel, historical fiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: Yes, for an enjoyable, light read.

Thoughts: I have read many Grisham novels and love that I can reliably pick one up and get lost in the story. Nothing fancy or daring – just a reliably enjoyable story. Straying from his typical legal thriller novel, in A Painted House Grisham tells the story of life on an Arkansas cotton farm in the 1950’s through the eyes of a Luke, young boy. For one picking season, Luke brings this world of hard labor, migrant workers, farm debt, dueling churches, unacceptable love, and baseball on the radio come alive. Not a masterpiece, but an enjoyable piece.