Thursday, July 28, 2011

Welcome to the Story - Review

Welcome To The Story follows a long list of other works that try to convey the whole picture of Scripture in a few pages. Most of these books are good, but they tend to be either too long or too boring. If you are looking for the whole picture of the Bible, then you want something that is an interesting quick read that will direct you right back to Scripture to get started. This book is the best that I have read that fits this category and I will definitely be recommending it to friends and new Christians alike. 

The author starts off by looking at the narrative of Scripture in four chapters:





Each chapter is written for the modern reader, and you can tell that the author has had many years of teaching experience. He is a gifted communicator and able to convey the story with ease. I love all of the references that he uses, from Bonhoeffer to Johnny Cash and Jonathan Edwards to Homicide: Life on the Streets. His love of the Word of God is apparent in each chapter, yet he is also able to connect scripture with contemporary references in an unforced manner.

Nichols follows the four chapters on the narrative of scripture with chapters on characters, story, study, and how scripture affects us. One of the great features of this book is the "cheat sheet" for reading the Bible in the appendix. The author provides a great list of questions to ask of yourself as you read and also offers sage advice on reading plans.


* Great account of the narrative of Scripture, one of the best I have read

* Informed by Scripture and culture

* Very well written, author is a gifted communicator

* Fair. Author easily sidesteps controversy. For instance, he reconciles four diverse end times views in one paragraph

* Short. There is no filler in this book, and it will only take you 3 or 4 hours to read

This is a wonderful book and one that I can recommend to everyone without reservation. Whether you are a new Christian looking for "the big picture" or a veteran believer needing to be refreshed, this book fits the bill.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strategy & The Fat, Smoking Writer

There will always be a better strategy on the horizon, something that will really push you to finish the book you are writing, the business you will start, or the education you want to complete. There are also hundreds of programs that people follow to lose weight and get rid of bad habits. Do you really need a better system or a better diet, or is something else missing?

David Maister is a prominent business author who wrote one of the best business books available on the subject of strategy. The complete title is Strategy and the Fat Smoker: Doing What’s Obvious But Not Easy. The book is written to entrepreneurs and business owners, but I highly recommend it to anyone. Maister proposes a new definition of strategy, and it will change the way you think about the goals in your own life.

Instead of focusing on a system or a new diet, you need to focus on something that works. The winner is not the person who has the best system, but the person who resolves to follow their strategy consistently and habitually for the rest of their life. The strategy you should look for is the one you can stick to, the one that will push you to run faster and more often than the other guys in the race. For authors and wannabe authors, there are some valuable principles that you can use to start writing now.

First of all, authors need to change the definition of their writing strategy. The real strategy that you should focus on is how to do more of what you know you should do. Stop trying to figure out what to do. Stop looking for the next writing program. Instead, just write. And try to do it more than the author next door.

Reward yourself for the small things. Break your writing down into very small goals and take baby steps. Break it down and make it your goal to simply write every day. In fact, just commit to writing ten minutes a day, every day this week. That doesn’t sound impossible, does it? Reward yourself when you complete this small but significant task. Celebrating the little victories along the way builds momentum and will propel you across the finish line.

Be honest with yourself. Create a writing plan and strategy that is doable, something that you can make a habit out of. Discipline and resolve are the main goals that you should aim for. If you are not meeting your small goals along the way, if you cannot commit to writing 10 minutes a day for just one week, then your resolve is not what it needs to be. It is perfectly fine to recognize that you are not an author, it is not fine to keep lying to yourself. If your beliefs and your commitments do not line up with your actions, change one of them. Don’t choose to hover in a confused state of an unexamined life.

Write down what lies behind your goals. What are the motivations for you to write this book? Why does it matter? How will your book change the world? The goal here is to look for emotional hooks and firm principles that are motivating you to complete this work. Once you realize your true reasons for writing, it will strengthen your resolve to do the work. After all, its not just about money; it is tied to the principles that guide your life.

You make the decision, no one else. The standard excuses of time and money will stand alongside other obligations you have. “Strategy . . . a choice that each individual has to make about whether he or she wants to put more effort into her life and career in order to get somewhere new” (Maister, Strategy and the Fat Smoker, 14).

Don’t expect perfection. As you push forward, focus on the little achievements and improvements that you make along the way. Resolve and determination are shown by continuing to move forward and making positive changes to reach your goals.

Of all the people who say that they will write a book, very few accomplish their goal. Most never make it past the first chapter. Recognize that you will face both internal and external resistance, and push forward by applying some simple principles. As Maister says, strategy is the diet, not the goal. What needs to be done should be very obvious to you. It won’t be easy, but now is the time to actually do it. 

Does this definition of strategy change how you will work? 

Will you commit to writing and reach the small goals? 

What does it look like for you to pursue your goals today? 

What rewards will you get when you reach your goal? 

What happens if you don’t reach your goal?

What are you waiting for before making this happen?

Do your beliefs, values, and goals line up with your actions? If not, what will you change?

Another great book on overcoming resistance is The War of Art. It is written specifically for authors, so there is a lot to learn from it. Buy it once you have started moving towards your goal and it will encourage you along the way.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Accelerate The Sale - Review

Accelerate the Sale looks at sales from every angle and the author offers some great advice along the way. Most of the analogies are to Harley's or fast cars, so if you are a salesmen and enjoy roaring engines as well, this is definitely the book for you. 


* Solid advice

* Some chapters are very practical and hands on, more so then most books on sales

* Good overview of almost every aspect of selling


* Very wide, but does not go very deep in any one area

* Nothing earth-shattering here. The analogies and stories are fresh and the material is arranged well, but if you have read a few sales books before then this will not have any new information.

* A lot of the advice was tailored for those in retail. Though the author included some other examples, they felt like late additions, not integral to the text.

Overall, this is a good book that offers solid sales advice. Pick it up if you are looking for a general overview on how to sell product in your place of business.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Self-Reliance - Review

Some other reviewers have justifiably complained that the format of Self-Reliance is hard to read. While it is hard to read, it is an ambitious book and the format works well if you treat them as separate books. Read the right hand pages only for the full essay, the large red text on the left hand pages for the quotes from the essay, or the small text at the bottom of the left page for modern quotes on the same subject. 

This was the first time that I read this essay, and I thought it ok with brief flashes of insight and brilliance. There is a lot to like here, even if the style and rhythm feels very old now.


* Essay has substance. A classic worth reading.

* Ambitious layout. For book lovers, its fun just to flip through.


* Public domain. The main text is free, so you are paying for the extra quotes and the format.

* The extra quotes are the weakest part of the book. I can't imagine going back to try and find and read them.

* Essay itself was good, but I thought the break out quotes were better. Language is too flowery to really impact most modern readers.

All in all, this one is skippable. There are some good books from the Domino Project - pick up Anything You Want and Poke the Box and you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Anything You Want - Review

Books that can be read in an hour are either great or a waste of time. Anything You Want falls into the great category. This is essentially a biographical account of the founder of CDBaby, interspersed with relevant business advice. It is engaging and helpful, and will help you think through what you really want your business to be. It is easy to take yourself and your business way too seriously - this book will help cure you. 

Don't expect to get nuts and bolts advice on business.

Don't expect to read the same things you have read before.

Don't expect to get the whole picture.

Expect to walk away from reading this inspired and renewed. This book is a refreshing change from most business books out there.

There have been quite a few "small business" business books lately, and this is one of the best. Two others that I highly recommend are:

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Cheap Psychological Tricks - Review

Cheap Psychological Tricks is a book that I stumbled across at a used book store, but one I am glad that I found. I love books that offer practical applications for psychological principles, and this book does not disappoint. This is the perfect example of a book that has had almost all of the fluff removed - each chapter gets right to the point and lasts only a two or three pages. If you enjoy psychology or are just looking for an entertaining look into human behavior, pick up this book. Not only does it offer cheap tricks, but the book itself is cheap too. Some of my favorites in the book are:

* Pull an All-Nighter: Foolproof formula to work through the night and make it through the next day. Great advice.

* Raise Your Test Scores - Without More Study: Excellent material in just a few paragraphs. One example - the longest answer in a multiple choice test is most often the right one.

* Condition Yourself: Pavlov is for more than pets after all. Great idea on how to improve natural remedies for almost any ailment or deficiency.

* What You Say Is What They Do: Great advice - your kids will spill less milk after you read this.

* The Power of Perspective: Fascinating and practical. Do you know what side of the room you should start a speech on?

* Why Not Ask Why?: The three words that will work much better then "why?".

Highly Recommended as an entertaining read and an example of concise writing. If you are an author struggling with "fluff", read this for a great example of how to include only the important things.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Gospel Unplugged - Lucid Books Spotlight

gospel unplugged cover.jpgThe Gospel Unplugged is our newest publication. J.B. Hixson is an accomplished author that has a gift for teaching that shows in his written work. This short work is a book that distills the gospel to its essence.

"With all of the bad news in the world today, people are searching for answers. Where can you turn to find perspective and hope? Isn’t there some good news in the middle of all of this bad news? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” This book presents amazing good news—good news that transcends everything in life. It is a timeless truth with eternal ramifications revealed by the Creator Himself. It is called the Gospel."

Find it on Amazon's Kindle, or pick up a paperback copy here.
Learn more about J.B. Hixson and his ministry here.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Four Step Formula For Selling More Books

There is a popular formula in advertising that helps break down the steps that you can use to sell more products, in this case books. The formula is known as the AIDA formula, and it is a succinct, powerful way to present your book to the general public.

Attention. This first step is the most important. What are you doing to grab people's attention? Do you need to reach more people or make your initial pitch more attractive? Both? Grab someone's attention and you will have the opportunity to sell them your book.

Interest. Once you have someone's attention, then you must build interest in your book. Remember, there are a million books published each year now - what makes yours more interesting than the next? Be very specific at this stage. All things being equal, the book that has the most specific information written about it will win out.

* Desire. This step is often combined with interest, but should be treated as a separate step. Now that your potential reader knows exactly what the book is and why they should be interested in it, you have to help reveal their desires. Appeal to the brain during the interest stage - appeal to the heart and the emotions at the desire stage.

Action. I have consistently found this to be the hardest step for authors to execute. After all the hard work is done in the first three steps, this should be easy. All you have to do is ask them to buy the book. If the first three steps our well thought out, the fourth step falls into place without any problem. Ask and you shall receive (well, most of the time anyways).

Want more Writing Tips? Check out our other posts on The Lucid Blog.

How To Study - Review

How to Study is a book that I wish that I had read in high school. The author has some great advice for anyone attending an educational institution, and there is no doubt in my mind that following his program will increase your grades and, more importantly, your understanding. This is a great book for those who are still formally learning, but it has a lot of value for others as well. 

I would suggest that anyone who researches, reads, or writes pick up a copy of this book. The chapters are short, easy to follow, and intensely practical. You may not use every tip or even read every chapter, but it will help you improve your weak areas quickly. The advice on organization, time management, reading, and writing is some of the best that I have read. Don't assume that this book is just for high schoolers, its much more than that. One example would be the author's advice on getting over writer's block on page 157 (7th edition):

* Pretend you are writing to a good friend.

* Use everyday language.

* Just do it. Type something . . . anything.

* Don't edit yourself while you write.

* Keep moving. Write a note and move on to another section.

Excellent advice for any writer. Brush up on the areas you are weak in and pick up a copy of this book. Highly Recommended.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Every Body Is Saying - Review

What Every Body Is Saying is an excellent primer for learning about body language. I was not interested in body language at all until I saw the television show Lie to Me: Season One. After seeing all of the different ways that body language can be read, I wanted to get a few books on facial expressions and body language. This is the first on body language that I have read and it is a good introduction. Even though it is a short read and written on the popular level, I can already read others much better than before. More importantly, I am more aware of my own body language and what I am communicating with it. 
After reading this, I am convinced that everyone should read at least one book on body language. Even if you only use a small fraction of what this book teaches, it will help improve many areas of your life. The photos throughout the book are very well done and help communicate the points effectively. The two negatives that I would point out in this book are the emphasis on law enforcement body language reading and the author's tendency to drag in some chapters. Would have been a better book with less text and more pictures. Recommended for everyone.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

3 Questions For Writers From Robopocalypse

Just finished reading Robopocalypse, a new work of fiction that is shooting up the bestseller charts (its already been optioned by Spielberg for a movie). Essentially, its a book about the coming robot apocalypse. Surprisingly, it ended up being slow and boring towards the end and I would not recommend it to anyone unless they love science fiction and are looking for a mindless read.

Even though its not something that I recommend reading, the author used an interesting writing device. At the beginning of the novel, one of the main characters finds the robot "black box". It has recorded all of the major events in the war that is now over via surveillance video, interview transcripts, copies of documents, and more. This story is told through a variety of devices and perspectives, and there are some good lessons and ideas for fiction writers to learn from here.

First, what perspective do you want to tell the story in? There are many different viewpoints in a story that an author can work off of. Do you tell the story in first person or third person? Will it have one viewpoint or multiple viewpoints? Is the narrator omniscient or restricted by the medium (like a video camera)? Experimenting with different perspectives will help you consider all of these questions and write a more compelling story.

Secondly, how can you tell the story with something besides plain text? Are there any documents central to the story that move it along? What about including an interview, or the description of footage from a camera? Does this evidence draw the reader deeper into the story?

Finally, how do you create suspense with different perspectives? The fatal flaw in Robopocalypse was that the ending was already known on the first few pages of the book. Removing the suspense makes it much harder to compel readers to follow the storyline further. If you tell the story from more than one viewpoint, make sure their viewpoints are the characters and that they are limited in that way. If every character has the same point of view, then why use more than one? Be sure you don't tell too much of the story too early. Build up to the "all-knowing character" by interacting with the more limited characters first.

Great idea for a book's structure and some great lessons from it, but ultimately not a great book. Hopefully the movie turns out better and doesn't give away the story too early.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Surviving C47 - Lucid Books Spotlight

Surviving C47: A Story of Hope, Faith, and a girl named Brooklyn by Lindsey Hales: Book Cover
Surviving C47 is our newest publication and we are already seeing a great response to it. As the subtitle says, it is a story of faith, hope, and a girl named Brooklyn. The author's honesty and hope comes through in these pages and it has received great reviews. 

Even though this book has just been released, it has already been one of the top 250 books selling on Barnes and Noble according to their sales ranking. Check it out on Barnes and Noble here or buy it on Kindle here. It will also be available in paperback on Amazon soon.

Rather than give a summary of the book, here is what one reviewer on Barnes & Noble said:
Lindsey Hales, the sweet, witty & honest mother of baby Brooklyn, recalls every moment of her daughters journey into this world and the immediate medical challenges she was faced with. Everyday Brooklyn just needed to survive. Uncertainty, doubt and anger would fill most mothers hearts but Lindsey's was filled with hope from God that he made her little girl and he would heal her. And that is just what he did.

You will laugh, you will cry, your life will be put into perspective.

Buy Surviving C47 Here.

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

6 Tools for Writing Using the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique has been around for a long time, but I was reminded of it again in a recent post on Michael Hyatt's blog. Essentially, it is a technique for maximizing your productivity by batching tasks and accomplishing them in set amounts of time with scheduled breaks.

According to, there are 5 steps to getting started right away.

1. Choose a task to be accomplished and write it down.

2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)

3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.

4. Take a short break of 5 minutes.

5. Every 4 Pomodoro's, take a longer break, at least 20 minutes.
Try using this method for writing in short bursts if you are a non-fiction writer. Break up your writing into manageable 25 minute chunks, and attack them one at a time. If you work at it and stick with this method, your writing will be accomplished faster and easier than you thought possible. Just make sure you put everything you have into the 25 minutes. 
Here are some tools to make it easier for you to get started:

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    The Story - Review

    There have been a lot of abridged Bibles, but this is one of the best. In just under 500 pages, the editors cover many, if not all, of the major points in scripture. It is easily accessible for any reader and would be a great companion to a a study Bible. One of the aspects of scripture that many struggle with is seeing how all of the pieces fit together. This book makes it easy, and Scripture will come alive and make sense as you read the Word of God and see how it unfolds. This should not be the only Bible you have, but its a great one to have on hand. The three largest benefits are: 

    Abridged. Reads very fast, easy to see how Scripture fits together.

    Chronological. Follow the story of the Bible in chronological order and reading a traditional Bible will make more sense. You can see how the stories fit together and where the pieces fit.

    Scriptural. Though this Bible has been abridged and rearranged, it has not been paraphrased. It uses the actual text from the NIV.

    Highly recommended.

    Also: For a study Bible, I like The ESV Study Bible the best.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    After Dark - Review

    For some reason, I have never heard of Murakami until recently. After the author of The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World recommended him as his favorite, references to his work started popping up in other places. I decided to give him a try with a recent novel, After Dark, that is shorter than his other works, and I wasn't disappointed. 

    The story and dialogue are near perfect and will take you into the story right away. While the basic elements of the novel are very well done, there are two unique elements that really make this work stand out. First, the story is told in one night. Each chapter is simply a new time, and we stay with the characters as the night passes. The other element that is unique is the point of view. Murakami takes time to explain what angle the reader enter the scene and controls each view. Rather than removing the reader from the novel, it draws the reader in. Reading this book is a lot like watching a movie, and I have never read a book that handles perspective in this way.

    Bottom line is that this is a good read that is unlike anything you have read before. Recommended for leisure and as a good example of unique storytelling.

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    School For Startups - Review

    In a word, this book is practical. That is more than you can say for most business books out there. Each chapter of this 208 page book offers great advice on a specific business topic, like marketing or international trade. The advice is great, and perfect for the beginning entrepreneur. If you know nothing about business and want to start one soon, this may be the best book out there. 

    The Bootstrap Rules, starting on page 50, are the highlight of the book. This is a list of 23 rules for business owners who need to start a business on a shoestring budget. There is some great advice here, and it should be very valuable for all entrepreneurs starting out. Most businesses fail because they overextend themselves in one way or another, and this book will guard against that. The first 5 Bootstap Rules are:

    Get Operational Quickly

    Look For Quick Sales

    Offer High-Value Products

    Forget the Crack Team of Recruits


    If you are looking for one good reason to get the book, this list of 23 helpful rules is it. The other real highlight of the book are the examples the author gives. Inspirational stories are scattered throughout, and they will help point you in the right direction. Recommended.