Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lifehacker - Review

I will admit to being a sucker for books like this.  I love books that offer ways to improve your time management, limit interruptions, and streamline your life. Lifehacker helps you do all that and more. It is the most practical book I have read on this subject, and I promise that it will improve the way you work. 

There are a ton of "theory" books out there. Books that will tell you to spend your time more productively, not visit certain site, and get rid of all the extra emails. All great advice, but it can be hard for you to put into place without the right tools. Adam Pash and Gina Trapani give you those tools in Lifehacker. From email reduction to time-wasters to creating doable to-do lists, this is the best resource to turn to.

The book is structured in an easy to read way. At the beginning of each hack, the authors tell you the three most important pieces of information right up front:

Level: How easy is this going to be?

Platform: Where do I use this? Web, Windows, Mac, All?

Cost: How much does it cost?

This is a great way to evaluate the hacks that you will need quickly and will help you to find the information that will benefit you most. Fortunately, most of the hacks offered in this book are both easy and free.

Some of my favorite hacks in the book include:

Hack 1: Empty Your Inbox (and Keep It Empty)

Hack 9: Script and Automate Repetitive Replies

Hack 14: Instantly Recall Any Number of Different Passwords

Hack 24: Design Your Own Planner

Hack 25: Make Your To-Do List Doable

Hack 29: Dash Through Tasks With a Timer

Hack 39: Limit Visits to Time-Wasting Websites

Hack 53: Reduce Repetitive Typing

Hack 59: Become A Scheduling Black-Belt with Google Calendar

Hack 82: Augment Reality With Your Phone

Bottom Line: There is a ton of great information contained in this huge 476 page book. You probably won't use every hack and you probably already follow some of the author's advice, but you will (at least you should) use most of the hacks in this book. Highly Recommended.

BONUS: Lifehacker also has a companion website that has updates, additional information, and more tips and tricks.

BONUS #2: For the best theory book on why you should implement these time-saving tools, read The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content. They complement each other very well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

3 Tips on Better Titles

You may not be able to judge a book by the cover, but people will always judge a book by its title. A Consumer Reports study says that we are exposed to 247 ads a day, but that seems low to most of us! If you want people to read your book, the choice of a title is one of the most important decisions you can make. Below are three tips that will get your title noticed:

1. Benefit, benefit, benefit. Why should I pick up your book? What is the benefit? Your title should convey the benefit that your book will bring the reader clearly and succinctly. If it is impossible to convey this in the title, make sure that is spelled out in the subtitle.

2. Be specific. Once you nail down the benefit of reading your book, spell it out as plainly as possible in concrete terms. For instance, if I wrote a book on how to sell books I could title it:Sell Your Book: Marketing for Success. To make it more effective, turn general statements into tangible, specific benefits: Sell Your Book: 38 Proven Ways to Boost Your Book Sales by 350% or More!

3. Test Your Titles. Never fall in love with just one title. Try to come up with at least 3 different titles, and then test them to see what works better. This can be as simple as asking your friends what they like better, but you will almost always receive more direct answers from strangers. You can use the restaurant strategy and talk to people about the titles and see what works best. Even a small sample size can go a long way here. For more extensive feedback, use SurveyMonkey to create a free, online survey or use Google Adwords to test multiple titles. 

For additional information on headlines, see CA$HVERTISING. For more information on how to use Google Adwords for testing, see The Four-Hour WorkweekContact us for more information. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Secular Education - Review

Over 100 years ago, Dabney wrote a critique of secular education that has proved prophetic, appropriately titled On Secular Education. This version, edited by author Douglas Wilson, is aimed towards the modern reader. While some sections remain dense, there are also some real gems in this small booklet. If you can find a copy at a reasonable price, it is definitely worth reading. 

Some of my favorite quotes:

"The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God - this is his task on earth."

"So is a really secularized education either possible, or admissible? Before ours, no people of any age, religion, or civilization, has ever thought so. Against the present attempt, right or wrong, stands the whole common sense of mankind. Pagans, Catholics, Moslems, Greeks and Protestants have all rejected any education not grounded in religion as absurd and wicked."

"We have seen that their complete secularization is logically inevitable. Christians must prepare themselves then, for the following results: All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools."
This provocative essay cuts down many points that almost everyone accepts about secular education. Recommended.

Education is a topic that remains controversial, but this little essay covers a lot of ground quickly. What are some "big" topics you could write about? Could you try writing about a few big topics rather than expounding on one? If you wrote a collection of essays, what issues would they address?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Men Who Stare At Goats - Review

The Men Who Stare At Goats is really, really funny, mostly because it is true. I read The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to get Ronson's other books. This is a book that is really hard to define . . . in fact, when I looked for it in a bookstore I couldn't find it anywhere. Finally I asked someone, and they directed me to the New Age section (definitely not a new age book . . . would be more appropriate under history, military history, or even politics). 

In a nutshell, this book is about some of the insane things that our government and military have sponsored and paid for over the years. At times it is a riot, and at other times it manages to be profoundly sad. The real atrocities that take place are juxtaposed with the ridiculous, and it puts everything into a different perspective. This book skips around between different themes and timelines, but here is run down of what to expect:

The story of the FBI and CIA flying in a Russian psychic to subliminally influence David Koresh in Waco.

The story of the military sponsored document that outlines New Earth Battalion procedures, such as carrying lambs into combat and speakers that play soothing music worn on soldier's necks. You can also find this on Amazon now - First Earth Battalion Operations Manual: Reprint of Original Manual from the 70's.

The story of a army psychic spy who stopped the heart of a goat by staring at it.

The government recruitment of a dance instructor from Florida who now practices staring at hampsters.

The sad backstory behind the Hale-Bopp comet cult, and how a former government agent who taught remote viewing classes was connected to it.

And much more. Many of the stories are insane and ridiculous, but also ring true. Whether they really happened or not is hard to say, but there are certainly people high up in the military and government who believe they happened. This is a better read than most fiction books, and if it was not backed up by real sources and documents would be classified as science fiction. Read it for entertainment purposes and to see how a great journalist and author can turn facts into political satire, humor, and a great read. Highly Recommended.

Also - book is much better than the movie, which fictionalizes way too much of this story. What makes the book so great is that its true, and that's lost in the movie.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Paging Dr. Flesch - The Flesch Reading Ease Formula and Score

It is easier then it has ever been to measure your work's readability. Various metrics are built right into Microsoft Word and you can use them to measure the ease of reading. One of the most popular early measurements was the Flesch Reading Ease Formula, developed in The Art of Plain Talk by Dr. Rudolph Flesch. Even though he developed this formula in the early 1940's, the simple 1 - 100 reading scale is still widely used.

It's great to know the reading ease score for your writing, but how is it calculated? Once you know the numbers behind formulas like this, you can improve your writing by making it easier to read. A good rule of thumb for non-fiction books is the easier to read, the better.

Below is the 5 Step Formula for calculating the FRES (Flesch Reading Ease Score) of your work.

Step #1: Count the Words

Step #2: Count the Syllables

Step #3: Count the Sentences

Step #4: Determine the average number of syllables per word (Divide total syllables by number of words)

Step #5: Figure the average number of words per sentence (Divide the number of words by the number of sentences)

Use the numbers from Step #4 and Step #5 in the formula below:

206.835 – (1.015 x ASL) – (84.6 x ASW)

 ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences)

ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words)

To improve your readability score, use shorter words and shorter sentences. This is not all you need to use to improve your writing, but knowing how to make your work more readable is a great tool for every author to have.

For more information on using the Flesch Reading Ease Formula in Microsoft Word, click here

Prescription for Better, Simpler Writing

In the book CA$HVERTISING, author Drew Whitman provides a four part prescription for simpler writing. Even though he is writing to marketing people primarily, his advice can be applied by any author. Pick up his book for more tips on writing and on selling your own book.

ONE: Use Short, Simple Words. Use as many one syllable words as you can. Don't use "big college words" when simple words suffice.

TWO: The Shorter Your Sentences, The Better. You want to have a variety of sentence length throughout your work, but this rule is generally true. Dr. Flesch suggests that you should aim for an average of 11 word sentences.

THREE: The Short, Short Paragraph Trick. Build your reader's momentum by incorporating short paragraphs that they can read quickly. Some author's overuse this technique and their writing appears childish, but it can be applied for great effect as well.

FOUR: Pile on the Personal Pronoun Personality. Talk about real people frequently in your work. "You" is one of the most powerful words in your arsenal, make sure to use it.

Again, CA$HVERTISING has many more great tips on the psychology of writing and selling. It is full of great information, and a great buy for anyone interested in writing and selling. 


CA$HVERTISING is chock full of great information. It feels like he started off with a 1,000 page book, and cut out the extraneous 80%, leaving you with 200 pages of top quality information. As a publisher, I am always looking for books that will help authors to either write or sell their books, and this is one of the few that does both. Read it and your writing will improve. Read it and you will sell more widgets. 

Some of my favorite sections include:

The Life-Force 8: What are the 8 engrained human needs that writers can tap into?

The Bandwagon Effect: How can you build momentum by giving your prospects something to jump on?

The Elaboration Likelihood Model: How can you adjust your prospect's attitude?

The Six Weapons of Influence: What are the six weapons of influence? This section reads like a cliff notes version of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) 

Message-Sidedness: How can you use comparisons to increase the likelihood of someone buying your product?

The Psychology of Simplicity: How can your write simpler, better copy? This short section is worth the price of the book all by itself. Some of the best, most practical writing advice I have read.

Directing Mental Movies: How can use the power of the imagination in your writing?

There are hardly any clunkers here . . . its all great information. Whether you are a seasoned business owner or a budding author, this is a book that will help you tremendously if you apply these principles. Highly Recommended.

Other Marketing Book Reviews:

The Consuming Instinct

33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising
Entrepreneurial DNA
The Four-Hour Workweek
One Simple Idea

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ROOM - Review

Room is a book unlike anything else that I ever read. It is told from the point of view from a 5 year old boy whose world has thus far been limited to one room. The story is pretty good, but the premise of the book and the questions that it raises are the real strengths of this book. Many others have gone over the plot, so I will just give a brief run down of strengths and weaknesses. 

* First half of the book is great. Suspenseful, believable, and redemptive.
* Great execution of a difficult subject matter. For 150 pages, the world is contained within one small room, and its still a very interesting place.
* The world as seen from a 5 year olds eyes will help you see things in new, fresh ways. This is true of both the small room and the enormous world Outside.

* First half is much better than second half. The climax of the book comes too early.
* The point of view from the boy is great, but the cadence and word choices get annoying at times.
* Despite being pretty realistic, some coincidences expose the fiction a little too much. Some things wrap up a little too fast, a little too easily.

All in all, this is a book worth reading. I suspect that some people will steer clear of this because of the dark subject matter of a mom and boy being locked in a single room. Don't let that hold you back though, its very easy to read and one I would recommend to most people without hesitation. The subject matter is very real and very dark, but the view from the eyes of an innocent child lowers the suspense and elevates the joy. Recommended.

For authors, this book offers a lot of insight into how to write a book in an unconventional manner. Pay attention to the level of detail and imagination that the author is able to incorporate with such a small space in the first half of the book. Also, the boy's perspective is unique and adds a lot to the book as well. In what ways could you change the environment of your story? Are you telling the story from the right point of view? How can you make the smaller spaces in your story come to life?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Never Let Me Go - Review

Never Let Me Go is a great read that defies traditional genres. At its core, it is a complicated love story but it also takes place in a science fiction world. The world of Never Let Me Go is never explicitly explained, so the reader picks up bits and pieces as they read the book. This is one of the real strengths of this unique book, and a big part of the reason it is a compelling read.

From the first sentence, the author uses terms that aren't explained right away. Some answers are filled in along the way, but even at the end there are many questions left. If you are looking for a good read, it is highly recommended.

For authors, this book is an example of how to write a book in an untraditional manner. It would be a great exercise to read this book and rethink how you are presenting your story. How can your work defy the traditions of the genre? Does everything need to be explained immediately? Does your book have a good balance of subtle and direct elements?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First In The Mind & Heart - Lucid Books Spotlight

"Please understand; this narrative is a totally spontaneous writing from a jail cell after having observed, studied, and reflected upon events as they happen first hand. I do not have access to court records or to any prosecutor's side of a story or any research data that might be available to me in a "civilized and principled society" even though incarcerated. I am simply reporting to you what is obvious, what I have observed, and my own subjective outrage as well as a didactic appeal to the soul of America." Wayland Matthew Fox

This book is a powerful account of a man wrongfully convicted. It's a story that is equally fascinating and disturbing, and it is the newest publication for Lucid Books. Visit Wayland's own website to learn more and to purchase this book. You can also purchase it through Amazon here.

Disclaimer: Lucid Books Spotlight features books published by our publishing company, Lucid Books.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Consuming Instinct - Review

This is a fascinating book that follows in the footsteps of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.) and Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. While the books mentioned deal with economics and behavioral economics, respectively, The Consuming Instinct deals with Evolutionary Psychology. 

The first chapter, "Consumers: Born and Made", lays out a roadmap for the rest of the book. As the author states on page 12, the focus is on the four key Darwinian drives mentioned in the subtitle of this book: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal about Human Nature. The author succeeds in providing many insightful anecdotes along those lines. For instance, he easily dismantles the belief that men and women are somehow made and not born. Feminists beware . . . you will not like the author's conclusion that men and women really are different. The difference between the sexes is the focus of the majority of the book, and includes the following questions:

Do women dress more provocatively when they are most fertile?

Do the clothes (or car) make the man?

Why do hip hop artists "make it rain" in many music videos?

Does Axe deodorant really make men more attractive to the opposite sex?

What does a man look for in a woman? What does a woman look for in a man?

Do the toys your toddler plays with affect sexuality?

There are also insightful questions and answers about family, friends, food, and cultural products. It is a very interesting and informative read that is particularly well researched and documented. Though I don't often agree with the author about why these things are the way they are, the how and what are fascinating. Unfortunately, there are two problems with the book that lessen its value.

One, there is not much information that will really be useful to marketers. It's an interesting read, but there aren't many actionable insights to take here. Most marketers are already aware that the color red and beautiful people (note the book's cover) will have a positive advertising affect.

The second issue I have with the book is the atheistic dogma that is espoused, especially in Chapter 8. For a book that is focused on science, research, and marketing, the author veers off course when talking about religion as a cultural product and his own hatred of religion dominates the book. Two quotes from the book illustrate the problem.

"I concur with Dawkins when he proposed that targeting religious messages to children is tantamount to child abuse." A sad statement that belittles the very real and prevalent abuse of children.

"The earthquake that struck in Haiti in 2010 was devastating, with well over one hundred thousand deaths and countless people injured and left homeless. One might think that such a calamity might shake the Haitians' faith in an all-loving, benevolent, and protector God. It turns out that their faith in God increased subsequent to the disaster. I vividly remember the images of a woman who was rescued from the rubble after being buried alive for several days. As she was being freed, she broke out into a rapturous religious hymn, as Jesus had apparently intervened to save her. Too bad He was too busy to save the other hundreds of thousands of people who perished. Human narcissism is truly limitless." The author easily and carelessly dismisses the beliefs of a woman, a religion, and even a country. The elitism and intellectual arrogance that characterizes the above paragraph is apparent in the entire chapter.

Despite the two issues I have with the book, the majority of the work is still a fascinating read. If you are not expecting a business book and can look past the dogma, you will definitely find something to like in The Consuming Instinct.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Kingdom Called Desire - Review

"We will know that we are getting close to Jesus' kingdom when our deepest joy is confronted by our greatest fears." 

This is an easy to read book that would be great for a Bible study or small group. The author, Rick McKinley, addresses many questions that face the church today. The book always points back to the central question of desire. The "how" becomes irrelevant once we realize that we are really motivated by our deepest desires and don't need to go through a list of checkboxes or elaborate rituals in order to follow Christ. Once our deepest desire reflects that love for Christ, everything else will fall into place.

Two of the themes that stood out to me include the importance of honesty and the harmony of evangelism and service. Honesty is the only way to have true freedom. Once we are honest with ourselves and our underlying desires, we can catch a true glimpse of the future heaven and try and prevent our lives from falling apart in the here and now. Honesty destroys illusions, and once someone is honest then they are exposed in a way that allows for true growth. The other theme that I thought the author covered well was the false dichotomy of service versus evangelism. He shows how the gospel encompasses both, and the only way to live out a biblical gospel is to be motivated by a deep desire to evangelize and serve the world at the same time.

While this is a good book for groups, it would not be the first book I would recommend on these subjects to an individual. I think that it has been covered by other authors before and there is nothing really new in these pages. The real value of this book is its easy readability and the follow up questions at the end of each chapter. Recommended.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mind Hacks - Review

Although there is not very much "new" information here, its great to have it all compiled in one book. Each hack is one to five pages in length and includes lists of extra resources to explore further. As a result, the book goes beyond the pages and is an interactive reading experience. 

There is a lot of information here that you probably won't care about and will never read, but it serves as a great reference to explore areas of interest.I particularly liked the chapters on facial recognition, detecting cheaters, and boosting memory power. I could have done without the chapters explaining optical illusions, aural illusions, and how to have an out of body experience.

In short, this is a very interesting read. You will definitely find something here that will interest you and likely improve how you use your brain. Recommended.

What ways can you add to your book? What about digital content, web updates, and online interactivity? How can you make your book more dynamic than just the words on a page?

Other books on Memory/Brain:

The Mind Map Book

Moonwalking with Einstein

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

Thursday, June 9, 2011

25 Toughest Sales Objections - Review

Sales have been my primary income source for 10 years now, and this book is one of the best I have read. I wish that it had been written years ago when I first started selling. The fact is, every potential buyer will have some objection that you need to overcome. This book will help you give the customer exactly what they are looking for without resorting to down and dirty tactics. If you are selling a great product and believe that the customer needs what you have, then overcoming their objections is the most important thing you can do. In fact, for anyone who sells products they believe in, it is your duty. 

The layout of this book is one of its strongest points. Each chapter breaks down an objection with a sample case study, the real problem, ways to overcome the objection, and then how to suit your technique for different personality types (Dominant, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientious). It's easy to read straight through and will serve as a valuable reference when you run up against a seldom used objection and need a refresher.

My favorite chapters are:

Introduction: Why Do People Buy Stuff? - Great information here. Not the focus of the book, but an excellent way to start.

Give Me A Better Price - Explains the harm that can be caused by discounting.

I Want To Compare Prices With Another Vendor - This objection is a frequent one in my experience, and can be frustrating. The approach the author gives here is tactful, honest, and a great way to overcome this common objection.

No! - What to do when the answer really is "No!"

There are a lot of great chapters, and no real duds. Some of them won't apply to your business, but with the layout of the book they can easily be skipped. Excellent book if you are a salesman looking for an honest way to serve your customers better. Highly Recommended.

For authors, this can be a great book on learning how to sell your own work. You will become a salesman of your own book and you will face objections. Learn how to overcome those obstacles and get your work into the right people's hands. If it's worth the time to learn write your book, it's worth the time it takes to sell it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Top Ten Writing Tips from 23 Authors

There was a great post last week on the PLoSBLOGS site. They gathered writing tips from a group of 23 accomplished authors and compiled them in one huge post. We picked out the top ten tips listed in the article and added some of our own advice to them.

1. Write Every Day. This is valuable advice, and something that anyone can use to get started. Commit to writing just 50 words a day at first if you have to, then move on from there. Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity, suggests aiming for 1,000 words a day eventually.

2. Be Ready to Amputate. The hardest thing for an author to do is to cut down their work, but it is necessary for a book to be great. Authors make the mistake of writing too much far more often then the mistake of writing too little.

3.  Leave a Rough Edge. Stop writing in the middle of a chapter, a paragraph, or even a sentence. Make it easy for you to get started the next day. It's easier to continue a thought then stare at a blank page trying to decide what you should write next.

4. Use A Detailed Outline. Authors should always try to map out where they are going before getting started. Sometimes the route will change, but at least get started in the right direction. For more information on brainstorming oultines, see our post on Mind Maps.

5. Just One Sentence. What is the one sentence that describes your book? In marketing lingo, it is calld the Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. If you had to describe your book in one sentence, and you will, what would it say? Every paragraph of every chapter should point back to that one sentence description.

6. Start Marketing Now. Start a blog, test your ideas with your close friends, seek endorsements from the right people, and prepare to market your book in person. Brush up on your presentation skills, craft a mailing list of people likely to review your book positively, and get ready. The real work starts once the book is on the shelves, not once the manuscript is handed in to the publisher.

7. Be Passionate, Not Promotional. Let your passion shine through your work and your communication. There is a tendency to use social media as a promotional blitzing tool, but it often comes across as nothing more than cheap publicity. That kind of thinking will get you nowhere fast. Instead, talk about your subject and why you love it. Promotion will come automatically when others can see your passion.

8. Use Technology. All too often, technology is an easy distraction for writers. Turn the tables on technology, and use it. Try using Scrivener to write your book. Download time management software to curb your bad internet habits. Use the editing tools in Word to improve your book. There are many great tools out there. Use your favorites, and tell others about them.

9. Get Through Your First Draft Fast. Just do it, even if its bad. Its hard to tell where you are going to go until you get this first draft down on paper. Then the real writing will begin. Or as Nancy Cooper says, "You just start working and you keep working til it’s done. That’s all there is to it; no mystery.”  

10. Write A Book You Want To Read. Your first goal should be to write an interesting book, not to write a bestseller. If your book really connects with your audience, it is more likely it will be a success commercially. Write for someone who is passionate about the subject, write a book that you would want to read.

What other tips do you think authors should know before they write a book? What practical things have you done to finish the job? Which of these tips will be the most helpful for you in the future? 

Presentations in Action - Review

This short book is a a goldmine of information on presentations. There are 80 tips from the author and other seasoned professionals throughout, and there is certainly something for everyone here. Each story is focused and lasts less than two pages, making it easily digestible. 

The advice is broken up into five sections:

Content: The Art of Telling Your Story

Graphics: The Correct Way to Design PowerPoint Slides

Delivery Skills: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Q&A: Handling Tough Questions

Integration: Putting It All Together

Each section has a ton of great advice, and it flows together nicely. One of the things that I hate about a book with a lot of contributors is that it will often have conflicting advice. That is not the case , for the most part, here. All of the advice is solid and easily implemented.

Some of my favorite chapters:

Presentation Advice from Abraham Lincoln - Great example of making your presentations clear and simple

Presentation Advice from Mark Twain - Short presentations may mean long preparations

The Elevator Pitch in One Sentence - What is your one sentence that describes who you are and what makes you different from the others?

Presentation Advice from Novelists 1 - Start with the end

You Can't Use a Sentence As A Prompt! - Keep text to a minimum on your slides

Powerpoint and Human Perception - How does the Western brain view slide material?

The Art of Conversation - The importance of eye contact

The Free Throw - Use a pre-presentation ritual every time

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife? - Handling questions that you don't like

Ms. Kagan Regrets - Don't use non-answers

The House that Jack Built - Putting it together

This is a really great book with a lot of good advice, but I would recommend it primarily for those who have already read a couple of other works on presenting. The two that I suggest starting out with are The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula to Open Up and Own the Room and The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides (Voices That Matter). Once you have read those, this book will definitely help you put your own presentations over the top. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Man Who Met God In A Bar - Review

What would happen if Jesus Christ had come during the modern era instead of 2,000 years ago? What would have been different? How would the crucifixion have looked? Resurrection? Ascension? Capon attempts to answer all of these with this retelling of the gospel story. At times it is funny, at times profound, and at times it doesn't seem to quite work, but it is one of the best of the "non-gospel gospels" I have read. 

The real value for a book like this is how it changes the way you read the original gospels. It is very easy to miss the humor, weirdness, and the supernatural in gospels that are saturated in a foreign culture, but this book will help shed light on all of that. The gospels are the oddest, most beautiful, and the only really true stories you will ever read, and this book will help deepen your appreciation for them and for the man they are about. Anytime someone writes a work like this they are treading the line between heresy and helpfulness, but Capon certainly errs on the side of helpfulness.

It's not Capon's best writing, but it is still a must read for anyone who likes his other books. It doesn't all work and there is hardly anyone who will read it that won't disagree with something, but overall it is a great read that will make you laugh out loud and reexamine scriptures you have read dozens of times in new ways. Recommended.

This is a hard book to find a copy of, and expensive to boot. Think about other Bible stories that you could retell with a modern twist. What would the purpose be? Would it shed light on Scripture or obscure the real facts? What story would you like to retell?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge - Review

This is a great little book that presents a wide array of Mnemonic devices. It's amazing how much of what I remember from early elementary is tied to mnemonic devices . . . colors of the rainbow (Roy G. Biv), algebra equations (FOIL & Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally), musical scales (Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge). This small book is a great little reference for hundreds of these devices, from memorizing the parts of speech to the order of the Great Lakes from West to East. If it sounds interesting to you at all, pick it up. It's definitely one that I will look at again and again for many different subjects. 

A few of my favorites from the book so far:

When to use fewer vs. less = You can have fewer sewers, but less stress.

Putting Cut Flowers in Water = The harder the stem, the hotter the water. (Don't know why I need to know this, but I'm glad I do now)

How to set the table = fork:four letters:left, spoon/knife:five letters:right


Other books on Memory/Brain:

The Mind Map Book

Moonwalking with Einstein

The Art of Non-Conformity - Review

This was really a good book, but not the first one I would recommend to others wanting to strike out on their own. The author has put together a well-written account of his own life and some principles that will help anyone follow in his footsteps. There is some great information here, and its a pretty easy read. Would be a great book for anyone, especially those who are about to make big life decisions and are open to thinking about different opportunities. 


* Great travel information. If you want to travel around the world on the cheap, Chapter 10 of this book will be a huge help.

* Honest focus on others is refreshing in a book like this. Author genuinely pushes for the reader to find ways to serve.

* Inspiring. The goals laid out in this book are very realistic, within reach of any person with a little determination.


* Too short, too diverse. Felt like three different books whittled down into one.

* I would say about 80% of the information has already been put out in more popular books. Not much new here.

* Online resources are the best thing about the book - they are great. Unfortunately, they also make the book expendable.

I loved the idea for an alternative education, thought the critique of college was right on, and will use some of the travel hacking advice from the author. The largest problem with this book is that most people will only read one in the genre of business-career-self-help, and The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content. has more information and more practical advice.

For another great book on traveling, check out Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel.

One thing to note for authors: One of the 11 things on his list, "11 Ways to Be Remarkably Average", was "Think about a writing a book, but never doing it". Great advice. Congratulations to authors who have already written a book. For the rest that are thinking about, get started and you will have one item checked off and be on your way to a not-so-average life.