Monday, October 20, 2014
What I've Been Reading
Die Trying by Lee Child. I read Killing Floor over the summer and enjoyed it enough to come back for some more Jack Reacher. In another edition of unbelievable coincidences, Reacher finds himself caught up in a kidnapping attempt that has nationwide implications. The multi-talented Reacher gets to use his sniper skills on several occasions, including a far-fetched competition with a criminal mastermind. If you can get past the premise of the whole story, it's an intriguing confluence of events. These are the cheap page-turners that are a reprieve from reading the daily newspaper, websites, or books like . . .
Columbine by Dave Cullen. Like much of the country, I didn't learn a ton about the Columbine shootings after the national media moved on to other topics. What I took away from the story at the time was that a couple of bullied students took it upon themselves to avenge their unjust treatment, so they hunted down the jocks and preps that held them down in school. That's a bit of an oversimplification, but that was the general story line passed down at the time. From reading Cullen's account, that story is not only oversimplified, but totally inaccurate. The book talks about the erratic behavior of both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; the climate of the school before and after the event; the attack itself; and the community's response. Throughout the reading, I had an irrational hope that somebody would catch on to Harris and Klebold's plan and turn them in ahead of time. It's impossible to make sense of violence like this.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. This is the book that popularized the "10,000 Hour Rule," which suggests that people become great at something if they spend roughly 10,000 hours honing their skill. The most interesting chapter, to me, was "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes," which reveals that the language used in airline cockpits can severely hamper the abilities of a flight crew. Korean co-pilots deferred to their superiors so much that when they noticed things going poorly, they would merely hint at something going wrong, rather than directly saying, "We need to take action now!" People were dying because Korean co-pilots were too polite. This was a great read.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. This was another fascinating read from which all kinds of people with leadership positions might benefit. It talks about how small changes can cause sweeping improvements, supported by the story of how a cleanup operation of New York City's subway system helped deter crime citywide. I also enjoyed "The Stickiness Factor: Sesame Street, Blue's Clues, and the Educational Virus," which talks about how children can learn from educational television programs. Personally, I have never watched an episode of Blue's Clues, but it's interesting how much research goes into such a show.
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. I really liked the other two Gladwell books, but I probably connected best with What the Dog Saw, a collection of articles. The book title stems from an article written about Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer," and talks about how small movements and postures can be interpreted by dogs. I think this applies to humans, too, and a good first impression goes a long way. That first impression idea is also addressed in "Most Likely to Succeed." I am in the process of reading Blink and I have yet to read David and Goliath, but Gladwell has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I held off on reading his stuff for a long time, but now I'm hooked.
You can check out some other reading suggestions in past installments of What I've Been Reading (LINK).