Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Book Lists

The 2012 Christmas shopping season has officially started. The holiday sales ads and emails are coming at us nonstop in the newspapers, on television, online and in magazines. Kids and adults are making their shopping and their wish lists and checking them twice. Other lists are making the rounds too, the season's reading lists.

Columnists all over the country are making their recommendations and offering up short lists of the thousands of books that line the bookshelves of the brick and mortar and the virtual bookstores. I'm about to add to those highly respected and highly read lists of books that make great gifts. I love giving books as gifts and love receiving books as gifts.

My current reading list includes four books that have made headlines over the past few months and a few that top the lists of enjoyable fiction books to read. I am either in the process of reading the following books, I have the books in waiting for me start reading or have them on my gift wish list.

The first is The Night Circus (Anchor Books, 2012) by Erin Morgenstern, the paperback edition was released over the summer. I'm about a quarter of the way through the book and it is a fabulous read with an out-the-ordinary story line. Check it out, give it out and make your reader friends and family happy.

The second book I'm currently reading is The Racketeer (Doubleday, 2012) by John Grisham. I've only just begun to read Grisham's latest. I am one of those Grisham readers that really has not found a book of his that I haven't enjoyed. He is one of those authors that many readers feel cookie cuts his stories. To some extent those critics have a point because his plot lines seem to follow the same recipe. Nonetheless, I enjoy reading him and have great expectations for his latest book.


Two books I have waiting on my office bookshelves for me to start reading include No Easy Day The Autobiography of a Navy Seal (Dutton, 2012) by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer and The Price of Politics (Simon & Schuster, 2012) by Bob Woodward. Both of  these books made plenty of headlines this past fall and I'm anxious to read both.


Three books on my wish list include The Joy of Hate (Crown Forum, 2012) by Greg Gutfeld and Bill O'Reilly's two killing books, Killing Lincoln (Henry Holt and Co., 2011) and Killing Kennedy (Henry Holt and Co., 2012).

There seem to be a lot of historical books out there this season including a slew of titles related to President Abraham Lincoln. In addition to O'Reilly's popular title, I found a book titled The Lincolns by Daniel Mark Epstein and Rise to Greatness by David Von Drehle. There is a book about Joseph P. Kennedy called The Patriarch (The Penguin Press, 2012) by David Nasaw that I've read a review that makes the book sound highly readable.

There is plenty to read. Plenty of books to give. And, plenty of plot lines and historical perspective to enjoy. Happy reading to all and to all a good book under the tree this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Understanding the power of a good story

One of the most admired sports writers, Gary Smith (Sports Illustrated), shows his expertise in storytelling in a book full of a collection of his sports articles. The book, Sports Illustrated Going Deep 20 Classics Sports Stories (Sports Illustrated Books) was published in 2008 but the stories are still vibrant and relevant to learning the art of storytelling for any type of writer.

A few of the titles include:
  • "Higher Education"
    •  Deep in Ohio's Amish country, the unlikeliest of men changed a town's ideas about how to live.
  • "The Chosen One"
    •  Tiger Woods was raised by his father to believe he would change the world.
  • "The Boys on the Bus"
    • Three days after 9/11, the author, strange though it felt, took his son to a high school football game.
Those are just three of the titles offered in this book. The opening of "The Boys on the Bus"follows:

"Everything in the little town came to a halt at dusk on the day America mourned. Five police cars, blinking blue as they wove in escort, sealed off traffic and froze pedestrians in their paths. Drivers peeled to the shoulder of the road and stopped, waved and craned their necks to glimpse the passing procession."

The book is a great read and Gary Smith is an unbelievable writer. The book is good for sports writers and other types of writers that need to or want to weave a good story into their reporting.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Summer Book Reviews

Summer is a great time to read books - both fiction and nonfiction. Reading while sitting on the beach or pool side or while traveling to a vacation destination all make for great times to read. I've spent the summer trying to finish the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. While the books are OK, they are not as spellbinding as I've read other reviewers write about the series. They have been a nice distraction from having to spend so much time inside an air conditioned building due to the unusual heat wave across the U.S.

I've also read many business books over the summer including a couple of good social media books. And, I'm currently reading the new Chris Spielman book, That's Why I'm Here, The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story. I'm halfway through the book and it is a phenomenal read.

Here are few links to the some of the summer business and social media reading I've done this year. All of the reviews and many, many more are posted at I've been reviewing books and writing for the suite101 site for over 4 years. I hope you enjoy the reviews and possibly decide to read the books.

Social Marketology

A new and different kind of personality test - The Fascination Advantage Test

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012 Writer's Market

I recently purchased the 91st Annual 2012 Writer's Market book published by Writer's Digest. As in past years, the book is huge and filled with potential resources to help new and seasoned writers to get their work published and to generate income.

There are sections of listings for literary agents, book publishers, consumer magazines, trade magazines, newspapers, screen writing, play writing, greeting cards and contests and awards. Each section is prefaced with a page of tips on getting published in that particular market. One of the best examples is in the greeting cards section which offers a paragraph on "Freelance Realities" stating that most greeting card writers are staff writers.

I've shelled out the cash for many of the Writer's Market books in the two decades I've been freelance writing. Most years the book has been highly useful and I've gotten my return on investment. This year however with the current economic disaster we have going on and with really no relief on the immediate horizon, the book has been sitting on my bookshelf.

Having earmarked the pages of interest with yellow postit notes, the magazines listed on those pages have either disappeared or are just not interested in freelancers this year. While the book may not be helping on the income side of my freelance accounting ledger, I still recommend this year's guide to freelancers just for the market information it does provide.

Any successful artist or writer will tell you that you need to keep up with the business side of your art or your dream life will become a hobby versus a journey. One example is the letter from the editor, Robert Lee Brewer. He writes, "There are few industries that have changed as dramatically as the publishing industry in the 21st century. For one thing, many publishing companies have re-branded themselves as media companies. For another thing, e-books are starting to sell more than printed books from majro online retailers."

Information on the changing world of writing, publishing and reading is as vital as the listings of potential work resources. Writer's Digest and the Writer's Market books have kept up with all of the changes and ways to adapt. It's worth the money.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Robert Redford The Biography Book Review

Biographies are important books to read for the historical perspective and for the many business lessons found in so many of the bios - including those of celebrities. A new biography by Michael Feeney Callan, Robert Redford The Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) is a biography that includes a few lessons learned.

The book took over 16 years to finish.  It is a lengthy 445 pages including a filmography in the back. The author starts the book way back in Redford's family tree making the first few chapters a bit slow in the reading. The story quickly picks up steam and gets much more interesting around the third chapter or so.

Redford participated in the writing of the book by providing the author with his personal papers, journals, correspondence and spent hundreds of hours taping interviews. Callan writes about how late Redford has always been his entire life including being late to movie sets and ultimately costing some of his producers a lot of money.

The book also covers Redford's rebellious early and late teen years, how he got his start in acting(and that Redford really wanted to be an artist who painted), he details the time Redford spent abroad and how he met his first wife. Readers will be surprised at a number of revelations including Redford's relationship with his father, his love and respect for his mother and that Redford was born out of wedlock, which 76 years ago may have turned a head or two.

The book profiles his personal life, his marriages, his children and his attraction to politics and environmental issues. It also goes into detail about all of his 42 films including Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, The Way We Were, The Natural, All the President's Men and his directorial films including Ordinary People and The Horse Whisperer. Another topic that is explored in depth is Redford's longtime relationship with director Sydney Pollack.

While a biography about a well known movie star may not seem to have any business benefits to be gained from reading, this is one of those biographies that offers several business lessons. First, Redford could have just made his films and made his millions and did nothing more. Instead, he got involved with political issues and continues to fight for environmental protections and other issues.

The book goes into some details about the Sundance Institute and the as the reader will learn, the first business model was much different than what the area uses now which is now to promote independent films. The last business lesson that Redford teaches us is that if you stay true to who you are, you'll be able to work through almost any obstacle.

Redford is portrayed in the book as having carefully selecting his movie roles. He seems to always embed some message in most of his films. One of my favorite Redford lines in The Horse Whisperer is, "Truth is, I help horses with people problems." Jeremiah Johnson was about living on the land while respecting and preserving nature.  Ordinary People was about family dynamics.

Of course many of his films were pure entertainment. The Way We Were and Out of Africa were about romance and relationships. The Sting was about revenge. Indecent Proposal was about sex and money.

There is so much of Redford's life covered in this book. If the reader can get past the first few chapters, the remainder of the book is highly interesting and reads kind of like a movie. Men and women will find the book worth the read. It is not all about Redford's dashing good looks, blue eyes or his drop-dead smile. Redford and the book have enough substance to make it a good read for both male and female.

I highly recommend this book for pleasure reading as well as picking up a few business lessons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A few great phone apps

Many smart phone users may be getting tired of all the apps that others tell them they must download. Nonetheless, I'm recommended a few travel apps that are useful to any type of traveler.

  • First, the Kayak app is helpful to use when searching for the best deals for flights, hotels and car rentals. You can also check flight status and book hotel rooms with the app.
  • Tripit is a useful for managing travel plans such as itineraries, flights and hotels. You can forward all trip information to the app and it will build an itinerary for you. There is a professional version that costs $49 per year. 
  • Google Translate is fluent in 63 languages. The app listens to someone talk and then will speak the translation. 

For travelers, these apps won't just sit there on the phone. They will be used again and again.