Thursday, 27 November 2008


Title: Persuasion: The art of influencing people

Author: James Borg

Number of pages: 267

Started: 20 November 2008

Finished: 27 November 2008

Opening words:

The power of persuasion is maybe the ultimate source of advantage in life and work. It can be the critical separation factor between the successful and the rest. With some people it seems to be utterly effortless.

Plot summary:

We all rely heavily on our persuasive powers every day - whether you are trying to get people to agree with you, influencing others to make a decision, asking for something, or attempting to bring about a change in behaviour or attitude in others, and how success you are depends on how persuasive you are.
Success in persuasion is down to a combination of self-assessment and situational assessment - being aware of what's going on inside you and happening around you. Persuasion exposes the set of golden behavioural rules that will boost your persuasive powers and get a positive result for you with increased regularity.

What I thought:

I thought this book was useful, it brought together various people’s understanding of how we persuade people into one book. Did I think it was a good book though? Not particularly. It was ok, but nothing sensational. It is a very easy read and a useful one stop shop for how persuasion can work, but nothing terribly new or original. Useful but not sensational.

The Moon is Down

Title: The Moon is Down

Author: John Steinbeck

Number of pages: 112

Started: 26 November 2008

Finished: 27 November 2008

Opening words:

"By ten-forty-five, it was all over. The town was occupied, the defenders defeated, and the war finished."

Plot summary:

This seems a simple - almost an obvious book - until its overtones and undertones begin to do their deadly work. Then one realizes that, compact in less than 200 pages, is the story of what is happening to the conquerors and the conquered the world over, today. The yeast of freedom, of democracy, the soul of unconquerable man, is working to destroy those who deny freedom. No country is named - but it might be Norway. No person nor persons are named - but their types are truly drawn. Mayor Orden stands as a hero with none of the trappings of heroism. Curseling, the traitor, epitomizes the Quislings of the world. And the story? A tale of the unnamed men and women who are breaking the morale of the conquering beast with silence, hate, mass resentment, and the use of weapons forged by imagination and passion while the weapons of the enemy become powerless to break their strength, their unity of anger. An extraordinary achievement.

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book. It had a calm about it that pervaded the whole book and through a fable showed how people overcame an oppressive and murderous regime. An interesting book that was deliberately written and used as a piece of propaganda during the Second World War.

I have seen various reviews that have said the book is set in Norway, but there is actually no mention of any country and it could have been any occupied town.

A good book that showed the humanity of the people within it regardless of which side they were on. A thought provoking read.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Title: Boy

Author: Roald Dahl

Number of pages: 176

Started: 12 November 2008

Finished: 19 November 2008

Opening words:

My father, Harald Dahl, was a Norwegian who came from a small town near Oslo, called Sarpsborg. His own father, my grandfather, was a fairly prosperous merchant who owned a store in Sarpsborg and traded in just about everything from cheese to chicken-wire.

I am writing these words in 1984, but this grandfather of mine was born, believe it or not, in 1820, shortly after Wellington had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. If my grandfather had been alive today, he would have been one hundred and sixty-four years old. My father would have been one hundred and twenty-one. Both my father and my grandfather were late starters so far as children were concerned.

When my father was fourteen, which is still more than one hundred years ago, he was up on the roof of the family house replacing some loose tiles when he slipped and fell. He broke his left arm below the elbow somebody ran to fetch the doctor, and half an hour later this gentleman made a majestic and drunken arrival in his horse-drawn buggy he was so drunk that he mistook the fractured elbow for a dislocated shoulder.

Plot summary:

“Many remarkable things did happen to Roald Dahl when he was a boy, and maybe that's where some of the marvellous ideas for his books came from. This is the story of his own childhood.”

What I thought:

I must have last read this book over twenty years ago. It was more gruesome than I remembered and had some really horrid moments – just the sort of thing a child might like!

It was a good book and showed where some of his book ideas came from and was an enjoyable read in itself.

A good light read (with a few gruesome bits!)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Fooled by Randomness

Title: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Number of pages: 316

Started: 8 November 2008

Finished: 18 November 2008

Opening words:

“This book is about luck disguised and perceived as non-luck (that is, skills) and more generally randomness disguised and perceived as non-randomness. It manifests itself in the shape of the lucky fool, defined as a person who benefited from a disproportionate share of luck but attributed his success to some other, generally precise reason.”

Plot summary:
If the prescriptions for getting rich that are outlined in books such as The Millionaire Next Door and Rich Dad Poor Dad are successful enough to make the books bestsellers, then one must ask, Why aren't there more millionaires? In Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a professional trader and mathematics professor, examines what randomness means in business and in life and why human beings are so prone to mistake dumb luck for consummate skill. This eccentric and highly personal exploration of the nature of randomness meanders from the court of Croesus and trading rooms in New York and London to Russian roulette, Monte Carlo engines, and the philosophy of Karl Popper. Part of what makes this book so good is Taleb's ability to make seemingly arcane mathematical concepts (at least to this reviewer) entirely relevant in evaluating and understanding everything from the stock market to the success of those millionaires cited in the aforementioned bestsellers. Here's an articulate, wise, and humorous meditation on the nature of success and failure that anyone who wants a little more of the former would do well to consider. Highly recommended.

Summary taken from

What I thought:
I enjoyed this book. I tend to like books that challenge the way we think about things or look at the world. I thought this book made some really good points about the way we view things and that we are often looking for certainty or to be able to predict the future etc when such things don’t necessarily exist.

However, I thought the author was incredibly arrogant and somewhat dismissive of anything or anyone that went against his view. It take a certain type of ego to write this sort of book an in that sort of way and whilst I enjoyed the subject matter, I found the author’s approach grating and unnecessary.

Friday, 14 November 2008


Title: Conflicts: A better way to resolve them

Author: Edward de Bono

Number of pages: 207

Started: 30 October 2008

Finished: 14 November 2008

Opening words:

"We do have to accept that our methods of solving major disputes and conflicts have been crude and primitive, inadequate and expensive, dangerous and destructive. The increasing complexity of the world and the increasing power of our weaponry force us to rethink our conflict-solving methods."

Plot summary:

An introduction to a method of conflict resolution that involves making a map of the conflict 'terrain' and then using lateral thinking to generate alternative solutions.

What I thought:

I thought this book had some really interesting ideas and I find de Bono’s attempt to see old problems from a new angle to be really helpful. This book was proposing moving away from the “Western” approach to conflicts, which is arguing about them, to the Japanese model which involves exploring all ideas, rather than dismissing or arguing about alternative views.

It was an approach that I think could be very effective, but only if you could get all parties to agree to it. It would be a real culture shift for many to be willing to be more open minded. So the issue I struggle with is how realistic it is to expect people to adopt this approach – but as de Bono argues, he is looking for nations to implement it and I think it would have to be at that kind of level for it to be something that became a part of how we deal with conflict.

This book is pretty much out of print now, so it might be difficult to track down a copy.