Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Yes, I studied actuarial science before getting my library science degree, which statement probably prompts most of you to think, “I didn’t even know those two sciences existed.” But I bring this up, because I am currently enjoying reading/listening to three books on three completely different subjects, but where numbers and statistics play a big part:
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Triumphs of Experience by George Vaillant
The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong by David Sally
Lewis’ book The Big Short is a well- known bestseller that explains the financial meltdown of 2008. It is fascinating and infuriating and may leave you swearing like a Wall Street bond trader (bond trader is worthy of replacing sailor in that cliché).
In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant tells the story of the Harvard Grant Study, a longitudinal study that started in 1938 and has followed almost three hundred men of which the survivors are in their 90s now. The study was started as an attempt to, “transcend medicine’s usual preoccupation with pathology and learn something instead about optimum health and potential and the conditions that promote them.” The conclusions are interesting as well as the different factors they study over time that they think might lead to optimum health and the changes in the definition of optimum health.
Sally’s book The Numbers Game is to soccer what Moneyball (written by Michael Lewis who wrote The Big Short) is to baseball. As he crunches the numbers, he comes up with conclusions like launching corner kicks into the box hoping to score a goal is less valuable than just retaining possession with a short safe pass and that the team that takes the most shots on goal actually loses slightly more than half of the time.
Isn’t it great that libraries have books to please all sorts of tastes?
The Numbers Game
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that Ron Burgundy: Let Me Off at the Top! My classy life & other musings, the new book by legendary fake news anchor Ron Burgundy, is by far the best movie tie-in fake biography of a fictional character that I’ve read this year. The book not only presents the rich, dare I say majestic, life story of Mr. Burgundy, but also offers readers the kind of practical advice that only comes from a life lived at top speed without brakes. That is, the life of a local TV news anchor. Burgundy’s tips on parenting, like instilling confidence in a ten-year-old by teaching them to drive on the freeway, along with his essential “rules for living through a prison riot” are priceless, pure Burgundy and worth their weight in gold. As the man himself says in the introduction to Let Me Off at the Top!, this book is a gift. If you are a silly person looking for a very silly read, it is a very nice gift indeed. Stay classy.
Ron Burgundy: Let Me Off at the Top!
Detroit is described as our country’s greatest urban failure from once being a capitalist dream town.
As several reviewers have written, Detroit City is the Place to Be, captures the beauty and nobility of the city as well as the hardship and chaos. It is part history and part biography of a city and its people; a commentary on postindustrial America with some limited optimism for the future. The author grew up in the city and weaves in some personal narrative as well.
This may sound familiar to those who grew up in Detroit or Michigan. For those of us who were not here during the glory days of Detroit, it helps understand how and why Detroit became “a once-great American metropolis gone to hell” as one reviewer wrote.
This book provides the framework for our state, even our nation, to grapple with the issues facing Detroit.
Detroit City is the Place to Be
In contrast to my previous blog post, a big book (1200 pages!) that goes beyond investing to cover every facet of your financial life is Making the Most of Your Money NOW by Jane Bryant Quinn. It is not necessarily a book you read straight through, but contains chapters on all aspects of your financial life, from budget planning to insurance to saving for college to wills & trusts. It is a fantastic resource to dip into when there is a specific topic you need to know about.
It was revised in 2010 to stay up-to-date with your financial information needs.
Making the most of your money now : the classic bestseller
The days of defined benefit pensions are fading. These days employees more likely to have a defined contribution plan if their employer offers any retirement savings vehicle at all. That typically means that they are responsible for making investment decisions, though employers may offer some choices that narrow the field. For those saving in an Individual Retirement Account, a real option for a lot of people, the choices are even more numerous. Where do you start?
The information out there can be overwhelming. Here at KPL, we have many books about investing, and you can spend endless hours reading them all (you could have easily done all your Summer Reading Game reading with these books). One good place to start is with The little book of common sense investing by John Bogle who started Vanguard, the nonprofit mutual fund company which introduced index funds, giving individual investors the opportunity to invest in the whole market. It is a little book that gives a quick introduction to markets and investing.
The little book of common sense investing : the only way to guarantee your fair share of market returns
Guy Kawasaki has written the better part of a dozen books about business, management, and marketing, including Reality Check, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, and Selling the Dream. Perhaps his best known is The Art of the Start, a how-to guide for “anyone starting anything.” Guy was an employee at Apple during its formative years in the 1980s and he later played a key role in rejuvenating the Macintosh division. Guy is now a venture capitalist, author and speaker.
Kawasaki’s latest is Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, a concise 200 page guide that describes what it takes to enchant your customers, no matter what you produce, sell or do.
Enchantment, as Guy explains, goes beyond simple influence and persuasion. It’s about creating an experience rather than a simple product or service. He cites Virgin Airways and Amazon as examples, along with his former employer, Apple. He speaks of a user who buys an iPod and begins using iTunes. Then moves to an iPhone and perhaps an iPad with iBooks… or a MacBook or iMac, creating content with iPhoto and iMovie… you get the picture. The entire experience not only becomes enjoyable and productive… it’s enchanting.
While little that Kawasaki presents here is truly revolutionary, there is lots of good information, especially for students or those just beginning. Takeaways? There were several, but for me there were at least two that I found especially affirming…
Bakers and Eaters
First… his thoughts about how the world can roughly be divided into two types of people… the “bakers” and the “eaters.” “Eaters” wants a zero-sum game – to get as much of the pie as possible, where “bakers” see the world as an opportunity to make more and bigger pies. A simple but thought provoking concept.
Default to ‘yes’
Second… I particularly valued his “default to ‘yes’” approach… According to Guy, “Trustworthiness occurs when you trust others – you trust people and they will trust you. The onus is upon you to trust first. When you default to ‘yes’ you are always thinking ‘How can I help that person?’ as opposed to ‘How can that person help me?’ You empower action. You empower people to do things.”
The concept of enchantment goes well beyond the product level. It can be applied to almost any type of human interaction – business or otherwise – which makes Enchantment a quick, interesting and worthwhile read.
An abridged version of The Art of Enchantment speech by Guy Kawasaki:
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
Here in libraryland we often talk about the impact that Google has had on our world. The conversations often lead to discussions of not only the change Google has brought to library use, but also its broader worldwide cultural impact. So reading Ken Auletta’s new book Googled: The End of the World as We Know It was both insightful and troubling; giving me a much more nuanced understanding of the Google story but simultaneously raising many questions concerning Google's intentions with its multi-faceted global scope and whether or not a multi-billion dollar global business juggernaut can indeed, as Google’s tagline goes, "not be evil". Best-selling author and journalist Auletta does a great job summarizing the Google story, including informative profiles of its two wunderkind founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, but only hints at the current battle of the titans that has the Silicon Valley and the media all a twitter.
Googled: The End of the World as we Know It
Thinking of evicting a tenant? Are you being evicted? Filing a lawsuit in Small Claims Court? Bankruptcy? Fighting your traffic ticket? Charged with a crime?
There is a book published by Nolo (a for-the-layman legal publishing company) for virtually every legal situation that most citizens eventually find themselves in--whether it's getting Social Security Disability, facing foreclosure, or getting your idea copyrighted. If you do a key word search for "Nolo" in our catalog you'll see we have about 200 of them; some are in the Law Library, some in the Business Collection, some in the general stacks (2nd floor), and some in all three locations. These books combine the authority and practical advice of lawyers (most, if not all, are written by lawyers) without the legal jargon.
Represent Yourself in Court
Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain just as much as the next guy, but all of the consumer anticipation and retailer hype over the looming Black Friday shopping extravaganza has me considering my recent reading of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture and taking a closer look at how much things cost and why they cost that much. In the book, Shell, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, examines the history and intricate market forces that go into the price we pay for the stuff that we buy. Sounds a bit dry, I know, but Shell’s well researched and thorough examination of price is anything but, and follows the winding historic path that has led from a time when goods were scarce and quality was paramount to our current marketplace where, in Shell’s assessment, quality means very little, price is king, and profit margins have grown so incredibly thin that innovation is a luxury that very few companies can afford. My reading tastes don’t often veer into the economics section of the library, but I was glad that they did for this title.
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture
I always thought statistics were boring, until I started working on the Central library Reference Desk and learned how often people need statistical information. Our patrons request statistics for such varied reasons as backing up business plans for small business loans, assessing community needs for grant applications, and protesting environmental racism in specific Kalamazoo neighborhoods.
Some of the helpful resources I’ve discovered include the:
Statistical Abstract of the United States, published annually and detailing nationwide statistics on a wide variety of topics, such as “Out-of-pocket Net prices of Attendance for Undergraduates,” “Number of emergency and transitional beds in homeless assistance systems nationwide,” and “Carbon dioxide emissions;”
County and City Data Book: A Statistical Abstract Supplement, which is useful for identifying local data, and
American FactFinder, an electronic portal to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.
We can thank the U.S. Census Bureau for the availability of many of the stats we provide at the Reference Desk. Read more about what data the Census collects and how it is used, then learn how data will be collected in the 2010 Census.
Statistical Abstract of the United States