Friday, June 28, 2019

The Person YOU Mean to Be - Dolly Chugh ----------------------- 2.5 Stars

Ah, yes, summer time. Which means I actually have time to start running through some books. I was excited to start with The Person You Mean to Be which was a recently released book about bias, diversity, and inclusion. While I was so excited to read, it did not live up to the expectations.

A couple reasons I was so looking forward to this book - 1. It came highly recommended by Rosetta Lee, an incredibly funny and smart person who does work with many independent schools about diversity work (and I've enjoyed hearing speak 3 times). 2. It had a great combo focusing on growth mindset and fighting unconscious bias (cool combination). 3. I'm really engaged in learning more about ways I can improve my own understanding of how to help others.

So, why the low rating? Well, it didn't actually have much to do with the book. Chugh wrote a wonderful introductory book for people to better understand how present bias is in people's lives, a cursory review of privilege, and actionable ways to be more aware and able to make good decisions. Also, the title is simply fantastic and one of the better concepts in the book. She returns to it often and it's a great way to not feel overly guilty about not always making the best choices.

Why not a higher rating? Well, the blog is based on entertainment value, which wasn't a huge part of this book. Also, I didn't actually find the book that interesting. She tried to do what many non-fictions books with specific concepts try to do - they suggest an idea and then provide fascinating stories/anecdotes that make it more obvious. She tried to do this, but unlike Malcolm Gladwell (who I find the best at) or others, the stories often went on way too long and/or were not interesting. Additionally, based on other readings I've done, much of the book was a type of introduction to ideas I've seen before.

Overall, I actually strongly recommend this book to people; especially those that have not read anything about bias or growth mindset before. Please don't read into my rating and do read this book! If each person could learn more about individual ways they could make better decisions that were less bias, the world would be a better place!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Soul of Basketball -- Ian Thomsen ------------------------- 3 Stars

If there was ever a perfectly rated 3 star book, it is this - The Soul of Basketball. There were fascinating and engaging parts, that made me so pleased to be reading this group; while there are also large parts that were difficult to get through. Half the time I couldn't put it down, and half the time I couldn't get through parts. A perfect 3 star book.

The title was one of the most alluring aspects of why I picked it up. Unlike most books I read, it was not recommended or reviewed highly. Rather, I LOVE basketball and had not read a good book about in years.  This title made me think this book might really get into why basketball is in its current state. What it is exactly that motivates the greats to play. Well, it did that on some rare occasions; which was great. Most of the book, however, was just trudging through 10 year old game highlights told via words.

I did appreciate some of the in-depth interviews with Pat Riley, Doc Rivers, Dirk, etc. There were some fascinating insights and great stories told about LeBron, Kobe, Paul Pierce, etc. Unfortunately, some went on way too long with large parts of the dialogue included neither interesting nor super relevant material. My biggest complaint of the book was the odd organization of the chapters. It seemed there was no real structure to why things were included. This was a bit hard too figure; really, for the first half, it just seemed like different vignettes about each player.

It's hard to recommend this book to anyone but a basketball junkie (like myself). There were aspects were I thought the author really did posit thoughts about what the soul of basketball really means. What the motivations, backgrounds, ideals, etc. that pushed some of the great players to be great. However, those parts were far and few between and what was left was average prose about 10-15 year old basketball games.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Road to Character - David Brooks ------------------- 1.5 Stars

I'm not sure I have been as disappointed by a book as David Brooks' The Road to Character.  It was on my list to read for a long time, and I really enjoy Brooks' NYT articles and other writings. I was so excited to read a book focused on the topic of character; unfortunately, it wasn't close to meeting any of my expectations.

So, why so bad? Well, I judge based on entertainment value of books and how much I look forward to reading the book. In this case, I couldn't stand reading this book. In fact, and I never do this, I actually skipped pages or large parts of full chapters. Really, it was the only way I felt I could get through it.

This book should have been really good. Great author, who is one of my absolute favorite columnists to read. Great subject, trying to understand character, especially in today's modern world, is a great goal. Even the set up of the book should have worked - Brooks shared a bit about the understanding of what character has meant/does mean. Then, he told about a dozen stories about famous individuals in history that showed character. And this is where the book fell apart to me. These biographical chapters were rough! While some of the people studied were both new and old to me (Dorothy Day, Eisenhower, George Eliot) the detail and lack of connection to the theme of the book really made engagement difficult. His chapters were overly specific about each individual and really didn't keep the reader interested in each person's story.

As much as the book annoyed me, it did have some redeeming qualities. I found the start and ending interesting. Here he took a more nuanced view about character, what it means, how you can develop in modern world, etc. However, the middle 90% of the book had a lot to be desired. Slow, tedious, uneventful biographies about people who lived decades or centuries ago  fill most of the pages. I am sure, for many readers, these were exciting pieces and great stories about those with tremendous character. For me, they were just filler that were painful to get to and skipped on occasion. Read with caution!