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07:23 am: some books
I loved Jean Auel’s books for ages. I remember devouring the stories of Ayla and Jondalar when I was in college. Sex, anthropology, travel… what more could I want? Granted, they’re kinda silly. Ayla seems to discover or invent just about every important artifact in pre-history except maybe the wheel (is the wheel considered pre-history?). Anyhoo, I did enjoy her latest, Land of the Painted Caves, and read The Shelters of Stone too when I realized I’d somehow missed it. They’re even sillier than I remember, but still quite fun.

I can’t quite believe how long (14 years!) it took me to read Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha. I’d meant to read it. I think I even have a copy sitting around someplace, but I couldn’t find it, so I bought it (again?) recently. It’s pretty wonderful. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Lisa See’s books (especially the red princess mysteries), and I think Golden gives a similar glimpse into the culture through story. Good stuff.

(Now that I think of it, I suppose recent tragedies have brought Japan to the forefront of my mind. Huh.)

I don’t remember who recommended Anne Kreamer’s It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the Workplace. I found it pretty fascinating, though the bits about biological differences between genders make me feel squirmy. I have some kind of visceral block against any scientific justification for gender bias that I have trouble hearing/reading/discussing it. In any case, the book is pretty solid. Kreamer does a decent job at citing relevant research and at exploring the impact of expressing emotion at the workplace.

That said, I’m not sure I learned much. I read a fair amount on neuroscience and on gender (and :squirm: the neuroscience of gender), and I’m sufficiently oblivious to not care all that much about expressing emotion. I do try not to cry – not because I think crying is wrong, per se, but more because my emotions are very close to the surface and I’m a very private person. I cry very, very easily, and I don’t want to explain that the national anthem, weddings, and people getting deserved recognition are equally likely to set me off.

However, I very much like the idea that skills and approaches traditionally associated with women are being acknowledged as significant contributors to companies’ success. Go, grrlz!

Clark Quinn’s Designing mLearning irked me. There’s a long chapter of case studies, which I ordinarily love, but Quinn seems to have sent a survey to various practitioners and copied and pasted their answers in their entirety.

Lazy. Also, while these folks may have done some great stuff with mobile learning, many are crappy writers. I know y’gotta get this kind of topical stuff out there quickly, but surely Quinn could’ve taken a week to edit the stories? Blech.

(It also has a whole chapter on “what this book isn’t” and another on intro to online learning, which I thought was a waste of time. But that may be unfair to the bulk of his audience who want that kind of primer.)

It does have some decent, fairly current, advice on where mobile learning’s going, so it’s worth a read.

Neufeld and Maté’s Hold on to Your Kids (Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers) is pissing me off. I can’t read more than a chapter without putting it down in semi-disgust… yet I keep picking it up again. The basic premise is that kids today (kids today!) have become peer-oriented instead of family-oriented and it’s Causing All Kinds of Damage! Now! Oh noes!

Thing is, there are enough little tidbits with which I think I agree that I keep hanging in, reading more, hoping to pull out a nugget or two of helpful, actionable advice. So far? I got nothin’. 118 pages into this bastard and it’s ALL BAD RIGHT NOW OH NO TRAGIC. Nothin’ on what to do about it.

Also? That Publishers Weekly review? “Beautifully written… terrific, poignant.” LIE. NOT beautifully written. Dense, mixed metaphors, pretentious twaddle. So far, neither terrific nor poignant either. But if there’s some good to be had? I will find it. More on this one later.

Téa Obreht got all kinds of buzz for The Tiger’s Wife, most, I think, based on her age (she’s 25 or 26). The novel is quite mature, I suppose (how the hell do you judge something like that anyway?); it’s complex and deals with weighty issues. I liked it fine and didn’t put it down too often, but I didn’t love it as much as the critics seem to have. Obreht certainly has an interesting perspective on growing up with war and on some unusual aspects to traditional Yugoslavian culture, including folklore and superstitions.

Sixkill is Robert Parker’s last book. :sniff: It’s absolutely Parker. Spenser. Whatever. No Hawk, but Sixkill would’ve been a wonderful addition to Spenser’s cadre of sidekicks. Parker’s kind of predictable and formulaic, but it’s a formula I enjoy. Re-reading is all well and good, but I’ll miss getting a new addition every year. Dammit.

I came across Jennifer Weiner's Little Earthquakes quite indirectly. I was on a parenting blog that I like very much and happened to mosey on over to a commenter’s blog (sorry, no link, as it’s not one I read regularly so I don’t remember) and read the comments on one of her posts, in which someone recommended Little Earthquakes. It’s not bad. I wouldn’t ordinarily gravitate toward Weiner, who seems to be solidly in the ChickLit genre, most of which I don’t much like, but in the context of that particular recommendation (and in the absence of any recent new fiction), I bought it.

Pretty good. It’s about a group of women who meet in a pre-natal yoga class, and the impact of various circumstances on their lives and new motherhood. Amongst them, they encounter SIDS (yikes), infidelity, spousal abuse, in-law issues, and unemployment (as well as, y’know, breastfeeding problems, sleep problems, eating problems… all the usual baby stuff). I ripped right through it, as it kept me entertained and curious.

Wheatley and Frieze, from The Berkana Institute, wrote Walk out to Walk on and it’s… odd. I’m only about halfway through it, and will probably dedicate a whole post to it when I finish. It’s one of those books I keep putting down and coming back to. It’s supposedly a practical description of “learning journeys” to seven communities where people are taking non-traditional approaches (walking out) to reviving their communities (walking on). But huge chunks of it are impractical – long-winded descriptions and tangents. Some of those are fascinating, but many are boring and their applicability unclear.

Terrific concept, not as terrific in the execution, though it’s one of the few books about which I’ve actually taken notes… mostly to clarify things in my own head, but occasionally to remember something important. I’m withholding judgment.

Current Location: Longmeadow
Current Mood: okayokay


Date:May 12th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)

It's always personal from Inge

Hi Kate,

Thank you for your review of It's Always Personal. I work for a very difficult company where there seem to be no positive interpersonal skills at all. From what I can tell, like most companies, the culture comes from the top down, with managers hired in clone mode -- perpetuating the situations. I don't know how much this company has to pay out in lawsuits, but it seems to be substantial. I actually had a session with HR (they called me) where the rep said to me, "Why are you still working here?" Not "What can we do to make the situation better?"

What complicates the situation even more is that there are hardly any women in power positions and the company is mostly middle aged white men. You can imagine (it's really no stretch) the situations that brings up!

I found a great book, The No Asshole Rule, which really helped me. I was able to put a monetary value on the effects of one of the worst offenders (abuse) had on the company and the bottom line. Conservatively, it came to 200k. Unfortunately he still works with the company. But he was reassigned to a "special project."

Yes, I am looking for another job. I hope that the economy picks up enough to open jobs up in my range -- rather than entry level.

Love and hugs,

[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC)

That does NOT sound fun

I'm glad you're looking. Any interest in returning to Forum? I suspect (but am not certain) we'll be looking for help before long. I would LOVE to have you back, personally.

I mentioned The No Asshole Rule here: http://katehaney.livejournal.com/2010/08/07/
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
[User Picture]
Date:May 13th, 2011 02:17 pm (UTC)


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