Wednesday, December 31, 2014


You'll never be able to read all the good books, but for some people a good book is priceless.  Some of my favorite treasures come from lists and hopefully some of my readers will find something precious to read from my list.  Matching a book's contents with a reader's readiness can be a difficult task, but can be part of the fun.

"The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton,  won the Booker prize and with the topic of New Zealand was a must read for me.  It deserves its recognition even as a first novel.  Layered with flashbacks towards solving a mystery.  Interesting characters.  I learned of another New Zealand author on vacation, Charity Norman and loved her "Second Chances"  as well.

"419" by Will Ferguson won the 2012 Scotiabank Giller award.  Most of us have received an email from Nigeria and wondered how anyone could be so dumb.  A lot depends on your background and emotional situation.  The author explored both sides of the con game.  Nigeria is a major country, but obviously with the majority living in poverty.

Herman Koch, a Dutchman was known in North America for "The Dinner" which was a well constructed book.. "Summer Home with Swimming Pool"  Same technique, anchored by an imperfect narrator gradually uncovering different layers.

"The Terminal Experiment" by Robert J Sawyer is most amazing when you realize it was written in 1993 projecting to 2011.   It was revised in 2009.  When first written in 1993, the internet was very new and the world wide net not yet invented.  He decided to keep the dates so that we could read what someone thought of the future in 1993 impressing me. A good mystery, but also full of philosophical questions.  At one reading a student told the crowd that she chose to major in philosophy because of Robert J Sawyer.

"May Day" by Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block--suspenseful and now I view as one of my favourite DeMille novels.  Recommended by Christian Tanguard.  More on Nelson De Mille:

Terry Fallis always makes me laugh.  Early in the year I read "The High Road' finishing off a two book series with a Canadian political framework and later in the year read "Up and Down" that worked in a public relations background and both were hilarious.

"Still Alice" suggested by Mary Ito who had author Lisa Genova on Fresh Air as a guest.  Helps get inside the head of someone grappling with early onset Alzheimer's.  Also how it affects the family. As happens with hypochondriacs I find myself identifying with the symptoms.  One of my motivations for blogging is simply to preserve memories which you don't realize how important they are until they are gone.

Hamilton Reads selection from the library  "The Redemption of Oscar Wolf"  by James Bartleman was a very good choice.  James Bartleman, grew up partially on Indian reserve and rose to become Lieutenant-General of Ontario.  The book reflects his background.  Also enjoyed an interview as part of the book.   Sorry I missed the meeting with the author.

"The Book Thief" recommended by Facebook friend Vijakumar mk Nair   Read the book before seeing the movie.  Set in Nazi Germany, depicting that not everyone was brainwashed.  Very good

In truth I read a lot of books with a business perspective, others with a political perspective tied together with a social perspective.  To make a living it is important to understand how money flows and how it is likely to flow in the future.  Still there can be practical personal wisdom.

"Capital in the Twenty -First Century" by Thomas Piketty spelled out in almost scientific terms how inequality is virtually inevitable and also too much is harmful.  Naturally, established wealthy people denigrate it, but I see a lot of truth.  Inequality is not all bad, after all it helps provides incentives, but at one point it creates barriers.  Finding that balance is critical for human survival. Not the easiest book to read, but perhaps one of the most detailed and important constructions of the way the world works.  Should be required.

"Absolute Value"  another game changer book.  It comes down to how much knowledge consumers now have access to which gives them leverage they never had before.  Marketing can no longer depend just on brand strategies.  Learn more:

"The Age of Oversupply" was very thought provoking.  Best explanation I have read about how interest rates remain low and unemployment is a problem in the West. Has much more insight than conservative remedies for our current financial woes  Learn more:

"Second Machine Age" points out that the future will require far fewer traditional workers.  What will we do?  Read more:

"The Art of Engagement."  Why do many good ideas never become reality?  In big companies it is often because there is a big gap between what a leader thinks and how it is translated to those who have to execute.  Read more:

"The Retail Revival" points out that changes offer opportunities for those who understand.   More information could work for consumer benefit.   Read more:

Non fiction not business oriented, but impact how you make a living.

"The Power of the Herd" points out that humans could learn a lot from horses, a prey animal.  Some examples of those who have included George Washington and Alexander the Great.

"The Social Conquest of Earth" asks existential questions.  Explores evolution, particularly as groups.   Read also "Anthill," a fictional novel by the same author that.--illustrates his contention that fiction can uncover truths.  Big shock is that ants have a lot in common with humans.  Read more:

"Talking to the Enemy".  A lot of attention is paid to how we should deal with terrorists, but very little applied to understanding how they came to be.  You can only understand the "enemy" when you make an effort at two way communication.  Red more:

"The End of Power" reports on a shift of power.  There are still powerful people and we need some of them to get good things done, but power has dispersed and often to our disadvantage.  Lot of different trends in the modern world that may seem contradictory, but are important to understand.  Read more:

"Triple Package by Amy Chua is an interesting study of ethnic groups and upward mobility.  Learn more:

"Overbooked" about the travel industry is one of my popular book blogs.  Learn more:

"Reign of Error" by Diane Ravitch is a provocative book on American education.  Read more:

Biographies have been inspiring.  How did someone overcome obstacles to achieve higher status and accomplish important deeds?  Doris Kearns Goodwin had previously written "Team of Rivals" describing Abraham Lincoln's rise to power and how he turned his rivals to help accomplish important goals.  This past year I read "The Bully Pulpit" about a character I knew more about in caricature, but in fact had made decisions that led to significant historical changes (most of them positive).  Learn more:

Finding the right book for your mood and circumstances can sometimes be daunting.  The books listed have proved worth the effort for me, maybe for you.

to read about my favourite books of 2013:

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