The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The FountainheadThe Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fountainhead is more of a tome than a book, daunting to most I assume. I have not been a particular fan of Ayn Rand’s view of the world. My daughter ended up having to read this for AP English and I decided to read along. I figured a diatribe of Individualism and the smothering of Collectivism would have me disinterested in the book by the end of the first chapter.

I do have an affinity for architecture, so I figured I could slog through it one way or another. After all I had avoided reading the damn thing for 40 years already. By the end of the first chapter I was sucked in. I know many, even those that like the book, are not a fan of Ayn’s writing style, but I actually enjoyed it. There is a rawness and depth most writers lack.

I get sucked into great characters and this book is packed with them. Howard Roark the perfect protagonist. Wow. That is all I have to say about Howard. Wow. Peter Keating the poor sap caught up in it all. Dominique Francon a heroine that you won’t encounter often. Steadfast and strong except for her one weakness in the world. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I think this might have been the mid twentieth centuries version in many ways. Rape, sex, murder and destruction in ways unexpected. If this trio wasn’t enough throw in Gail Wynand and Roark’s antagonist, Ellsworth Toohey and you have the stuff movies are made of.

I won’t spoil it for you, but if you are a fan of philosophy this is a must read.

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In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the RulesIn-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perman does a great job telling the In N Out story. The privately held company has always kept their business close to the chest. Starting out in Baldwin Park in the San Gabriel Valley next to my wife’s home town of Arcadia our love story (link) kind of follows along the lines of In N Out. Expanding our family to the Southwest over time.

The book is a great for anyone interested in business. The Snyders were solid entrepreneurs with their “Quality, Cleanliness and Service” mantra. They refused to grow fast, but instead grow smart. The story involves multiple generations changing hands and what it takes to have business continuity in the face of tragedy.

Perman tells the story of the family as much as the business, revealing extremely personal details never fully explored in the public before. You can’t help but fall in love the matriarch and feel the heart break as the family goes through the tragedies of life. If you love a good Double Double and like to learn from business success, read the book. If you hate meat or old ladies stay away!

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Sunday Book Review : The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live LongerThe First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gretchen did a fabulous job challenging every major assumption, wives tale and commonly held belief that we have around exercising. Do you stretch before and after exercise before strenuous exercise? Do you carb load the day before an endurance event? Do you make sure to hydrate yourself frequently during that tennis match, marathon or soccer game? If so, you may be amazed at what modern science is telling you about many of these things.

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Sunday Book Review: Nudge by Richard Thaler

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and HappinessNudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thaler and Sunstein give an ample dose of psychology and behavioral economics to define the process of “choice architects”. Coining a new view (libertarian paternalism) on when and we shouldn’t nudge peoples behavior through influence.

When it comes to human behavior they classify human nature into two groups: homo economicus (the rational ideal) and everyone else (humans). We all tend to think of ourselves as the rational ideal, that which is laid out by economists. However, we rarely fall close to that tree.

Like Dan Arielly and other behavioral economists have show us, we tend to be Predictably Irrational. Whether it be logical fallacy or influence from others, we just aren’t the ideal.

Ultimately they lay out two systems of thinking. The “Reflective” and the “Automatic” systems. The Automatic system is that which is instinctive. Why do you duck when someone throws something at you? The Reflective system is deliberate and self-conscious. How did you decide what to wear this morning?

Because of these differences and conflicts between these systems, people are often subject to making mistakes that are the result of widely occurring biases, heuristics, and fallacies. Including anchoring, availability heuristic, representativeness heuristic, status quo bias and herd mentality.

The pair goes on to quite about how libertarian paternalism and choice architecture could be used to influence policy for better outcomes. At this point if you are a “political” person you will likely be highly turned off because they are not shy about the logic that should exist in policy. Many politicos are far more emotional than logical in ideology. You have been warned.

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Sunday Book Review : Getting Real by 37 Signals

Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web ApplicationGetting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web Application by 37 Signals

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David and Jason were ahead of their time. Preaching a more simple way. There were others at the time talking about doing things different, but these guys were making it real. A lot has changed for them since they wrote the book, but a lot in the industry has stayed the same. Looking forward to another young, hungry company to show up on the scene and rewrite some more rules. Getting even more real. We could use it.

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Sunday Book Review : The Oz Principle by Roger Connors

The Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational AccountabilityThe Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Refreshing book that talks about accountability. It isn’t evil and it has a bad reputation. As someone who deals with commitments and visibility of work in teams, it feels like people are distancing themselves more and more from this style of think. I think that is a mistake. The book could have been half as long and the phrases “above the line” and “below the line” are used at least once per paragraph. The writing style leaves a lot to be desired but the content is definitely worth putting up with it.

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Sunday Book Review : The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially OurselvesThe Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like Dan Ariely’s stuff you will like this book. If you don’t, you won’t. It does a good job of putting forth a number of experiments to get to the bottom of lying, deception and dishonesty. What you find might surprise you. Does culture matter? How you were raised? Your gender? Your potential gain in lying? I thoroughly enjoy hearing about the data in detail.

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Sunday Book Review : Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal

Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your LastEnjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your Last by Lee Lipsenthal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lipsenthal has an easy flowing style that makes staying engaged with the book easy. As a medical doctor his lessons learned surrounding death, fear and anxiety seem to carry a unique perspective. Opening up new insights into what a life of meaning, purpose and peace might look like. A purposeful life is certainly not a unique concept nor is writing about it, but it is rare to hear about it from someone with a strong science background. One must be warned that Lee goes into the metaphysical quite a bit and stretches way outside the comfortable norms of western views on many subjects. I suspect for most this will discredit much of what he has to say, but I have learned over time to largely ignore rather than discredit that which I am not fully aware of. Your mileage may vary. Did some one say sandwich? nom. nom. nom.

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Sunday Book Review : Microsoft: First Generation by Cheryl Tsang

Microsoft: First GenerationMicrosoft: First Generation by Cheryl Tsang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Those that know me well, know that I am not a fan of Microsoft products. However, there is no denying that Bill Gates and Paul Allen created something special back when they began. I have heard Bill and Paul’s stories, but this book was different. It showed how the company was perceived not by the founders, but by the first wave of employees that implemented the vision the founders put before them.

Cheryl did a fantastic job of telling the stories of these employees. Showing the culture of Microsoft. Highlighting that many of the first wave left as Microsoft got bigger because they couldn’t adapt to a more corporate setting. This gave me insights into Microsoft that I have never had before. I felt what it must have been like to be there in the beginning before the machine started to turn people out. If I was born 5 years earlier I may have been a Microsoft fan.

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