Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill happens to be one of my fiance’s heros and a man I know very little about.  Couple that with a recent conversation with a friend about leadership and becoming a better leader.  She was reading a book called, “Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill:  A brief account of a long life” by Gretchen Rubin.  She had just taken a professional class on leadership.  The instructor mentioned one option to learn about leadership, rather than read books solely about leadership, is to read biographies about leaders.  Hence the book on Winston Churchill.  Great advice – especially when starting with a book like this.

This is not a long book, only about 250 pages.  It is not a biography that starts at his birth and continues until his death, instead each chapter touches on one way to look at Churchill.  First it starts with him as a hero, quickly followed by a chapter on his critics.  The author presents a variety of opinions and views on her subject – many taken from men of Churchill’s time.  Other chapters touch on his motives, key events in his life, his role as parent and many more.  Not only do you learn a little about what he stood for, but also, how he worked and what his favorite pasttime was.  Churchill was an avid painter – who knew?  He was also a spendthrift and, despite his “fame” as a politician, earned most of his income as a writer.  One chapter is Churchill through photographs.  Another “facts at a glance” – his favorite music was Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, his favorite dogs were Rufus I and Rufus II and on and on.

My conclusion – this is the type of biography I need to look for.  Full of relevant information but not overwhelming the reader with details you won’t ever remember.  I highly recommend this book!


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My day job is as a trainer, elearning consultant and instructional designer.  A career path I have to say that I love and suits me perfectly!  One of the professional associations of which I am a member is the American Society for Training & Development or ASTD.  This past weekend was the big ASTD conference and expo.  I volunteered for one day and, consequently, was able to attend the conference for free one day.  I would have loved to attend the entire conference but am grateful to have been able to go for even one day.

All that to say that even during the one day I attended the conference, I managed to come up with a good list of future reading.  I am not usually one to read a lot of business type books but these sound interesting to me.

  1. The Inspiring Leader by John Zenger, et al.
  2. The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger, et al.
  3. Driving results through social networks by Robert Cross
  4. Groundswell by Charlene Lee
  5. Grown Up Digital by Dan Tapscott
  6. The Influencer by Kerry Patterson, et al.
  7. Sketching User Experience by Bill Buxton
  8. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al.
  9. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
  10. ASTD Learning System by ASTD

If I had to pick 2 to focus on, it would be The Influencer and Grown Up DigitalThe Influencer because it is written by the same group who wrote Crucial Conversations (also on the list).  I have not read Crucial Conversations but my organization has offered training on the topic, which I found to be very valuable.  The Influencer sounds to me like it would be just as valuable.  Grown Up Digital on the other hand, talks about the net generation, how they will influence demoncracy, how they think and considerations for educators.  Read on!

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I am in the midst of reading 2 books that are taking me longer than I expected – hence the gap in posts.  The first is Corelli’s Mandolin…more on that one in another post.  The second, and the subject of this post is The President’s House by Margaret Truman.  I stumbled across this book when looking for new audiobooks to download (for free) from my local library.  It was published in 2005 by Margaret Truman, daughter of the late Harry S. Truman.  Harry Truman was the 34th President of the United States.  He followed immediately in the footsteps of Franklin Roosevelt and was president after Roosevelt’s death until 1953.  Margaret was in her early twenties when her dad was president and she was able to experience the White House first hand.  Much of this first hand experience is mentioned here and there throughout this book.  It is this experience that really gives the book a feeling of reality and intense interest.

The book is broken into chapters that talk about different aspects of the White House and life inside the White House.   There are chapters about the building itself, the gardens, White House brides, White House children, and much more.  One of my favorites would have to be the chapter on White House pets.  Did you know that Herbert Hoover had 8 dogs?  and Franklin Roosevelt’s monument  is one of the only (if not the only – not sure) with not just him, but his dog, “Fala”, shown for eternity?

This book definitely has increased my curiousity and made me want to go for a visit.  If you are fascinated by the history of the White House and some of the first family’s this is definitely worth checking out.  There are also some online tours that are worth a look.  Here are two that I found:

  1. The White House Historical Associations “A Tour of the White House”
  2. The White House Museum’s Overview of the White House

 What do you think? 

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I read this book a couple weeks ago but still wanted to dedicate a post to it.  I love mysteries…fact, fiction, or anything in between.  This one happens to be a true mystery.  This book is about the 1990 robbery of The Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.  This museum is the brain child of heiress Isabella Stewart Gardner.  It contains works by many of the great artists of the past.  In March 1990, thieves broke into the museum and stole some of its most precious works, including works by Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer and Manet.  19 years after the fact any visitors to the museum are still keenly aware of the event due to the empty frames that dot the walls.  In her will, Mrs. Gardner prevented any changes to the museum, for eternity.  She did not account for the possibility of art going missing from her beloved museum.  The result – empty frames that hang in the halls of the museum. 

The characters involved in the story around the aftermath of the robbery is what this book is primarily about. These characters take us to Europe and back.  They give us a peak into the world of underground art theft.  A world that thrives to this day.

If you are a lover of history’s mysteries, this book is worth checking out.  Just be aware…this mystery has yet to be solved.  While the potential suspects over the years have been many, no party has yet proven to be the guilty party.  If you like mysteries that come to a nice clean end, this one isn’t for you!  Overall, I definitely recommend this as an interesting slice of history.

For more information on the Gardner Heist, definitely check out Ulrich Boser’s book.  For a shorter read on the robbery, check out the following article from the Boston Globe’s Stephen Kurkjian:


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This week I have come across three great finds.  One from the local library’s for sale shelf and two more from a local thrift store.

  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  3. Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

All three for a total of $4!  I have to confess to having already “read” Eat, Pray, Love.  I put in read in quotes because I actually listened to the audiobook version of it.  I would highly recommend it.  The audiobook version was read by the author herself.  To me, it seems to add so much depth and feeling to the book when you are listening to it as it is being read by the actual author.  It just makes it feel like you are there with her, experiencing what she did.  We were discussing the book “around the water cooler” at work recently.  The question arose, which was your favorite section of the book – eating in Italy, praying in India or loving in India?  I have to say when reading the book, one did not stand out over the other, I truly enjoyed the entire book.  With that said, if I had to pick, I would say India was my favorite.  The ideas and experience as told through Ms. Gilbert’s eyes about praying and devotion in India were just a very new and enlightening topic, for me.

Did you have any great book finds this week?

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The Worst Hard Time was written by Pulitzer Prize winner, Timothy Egan.  It is the story of the individuals who survived the dust bowl of the thirties.  This book was brought to my attention by my future father-in-law.  He was born in Oklahoma in the thirties.  After reading this book, he mentioned that it was one of the best accounts of the dust bowl that he had read.  I have to say, it was a wonderful book about a topic, I am sad to say, I knew absolutely nothing about. 

The dust bowl of the thirties encompassed parts of several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.  This book starts in the twenties.  It talks about the economic and agricultural events and decisions that led up to The Worst Hard Time.  For me, this book was an eye opener.  I only knew, in passing, that these events even took place.  The depression, yes, but the dust bowl?  It was not a topic I was familiar with.  This story is one of the strength and perseverance of the human soul in times of trouble.  Not to mention one of mistakes we don’t want to make again.  Very moving.

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I am fascinated by religion but know very little about most religions. On that note, I decided to read up on Buddhism and found this book, Buddha by Deepak Chopra. This is a fictionalized account of Buddha’s life and how he came to be what we know him as today. I do not know what type of resources Chopra used to build this account but the story itself is fascinating. Buddha is born as Siddhartha, a prince. Because of some predictions when he is born he protected from birth from seeing anything “bad”. This includes the aged and infirm. First discovering the existence of a poor village is what sets Siddhartha on his path to enlightenment. Overall, I enjoyed the book immensely. However it did not really clarify to me what it means to be a buddhist today and the meaning behind self, non-self and non-thinking. I will have to read more books on the topic. I give it four stars.

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