Category Archives: Books

“The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo

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I like books which make me think, books that help me move on the path I choose. Books that bring out the best of my inquisitive instincts. “The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs” is such a book. It is loaded with unpacked and ready to use techniques of the best CEO of the times we are living in.

Gallo takes the reader through 18 scenes divided between 3 acts on Create the story, Deliver the experience, Refine and rehearse. In each act, there are doors and passages to simple, yet amazing techniques to apply in presenting to any audience. He highlights the basics of preparations and unveils what I see as the essence of it all: talk about things you are passionate about; rehearse, rehearse, rehearse; and be authentic.

“The great circle” by Maggie Shipstead

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I anticipated a one-of-a-kind journey. It was. In a sense… putting aside the many short cuts I took (alias chapters skimping in the 600 page book).

The lives of three central female characters with different backgrounds and from different eras sounded appealing. Yet their stories do little to support each other in one novel. I wonder if the author considered a trilogy at some point and then decided to go for one novel… Nevertheless, one can still feel the dominance of one character – Marian Graves, the fictional pilot, who took it to the sky regardless of social norms of her times (30s-40s of last century). We get to know her a bit through the experience of her mother, a troubled woman who took her own life, along with dozens others, by presumably blasting a boat, whose captain was her unaware husband. I wish there were less pages on Marian’ sex experiences, as it does little to unveil her character. She likes sex, with both men and women, we get that. There is no apparent need to delve on it. I skipped almost entirely the chapters about the third female character – a fictional Hollywood starlet of our times. Her inner struggles and confusions do little justice to Marian, whose character she is supposed to play in a movie about the legendary flight around the two poles.

The book is said to be well researched for historical events and surroundings spanning over 100 years on different continents. A truly commendable effort. At times it felt as if the author actually lived there and then, at other times, it felt a bit too documentary to me.

This book had many DNF reviews. I also almost dropped it, yet if you are patient or selectively skipping parts of it, you might be rewarded when you get to “The Flight” chapter on the actual culmination of the life of Marian.

I always read the “Acknowledgement” section. There are always little treasures there if you look. This time it was a writing app – Scrivener.

I always give 5 stars to books, and my review is very personal, which has little to do with the author’s labour, which I cannot judge.

“A traveller at the Gates of Wisdom” by John Boyne

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Some human stories on this planet are universal. Father – son relationships, revenge, unfulfilled potential, unhappy marriages, rich and poor. Same goes for human emotions of fear, faith, greed, contentment, courage, love and hate. What is curious is how Boyne constructed the plot or rather the succession of plots to tell us this universal story. He takes the reader on a journey in time and a globetrotting of some sorts spread over a thousand years of struggle to reach peace.

The main character (Boyne himself, I think) meets known and unknown characters and lives through historic events as he attempts to give sense to his own life. A rather futuristic last chapter of life on an orbit was rather unexpected to me, yet, I gather, it is meant to give the reader an optimistic and hopeful ribbon to hold on to perhaps.

“Redhead by the side of the road” by Anne Tyler

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“Redhead by the side of the road” is almost a day in a life of Micah – a man encapsulated in his own world where he puts the order of small things about the joy and mess of human interactions: “He lives alone; he keeps to himself; his routine is etched in stone.” When a 17 year old knocks on his door, distressed and in need of a roof, Micah’s life is shaken. His realisation of past relationships failures push him to rekindle his last one in an attempt to embrace the joy and messiness of a life shared with a loved one.

I read it in almost one go, so if you a looking to read something unsoliciting and light, this can work.

“The Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri

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The Beekeeper of Aleppo is about profound loss, but it is also about love and finding light”, Lefteri tells us. This is what she witnessed on the camps in Athens during her time as a volunteer. This is a work of fiction, yet its story line is as real as the lives of millions of refugees of war and famine.

Lefteri’s writing is marvelous, marked by poignant honesty and the lightness of early mornings. I held my breath, I shed tears and I smiled as Lefteri took me on Nuri and Afra’s journey from war-torn Aleppo to England, from the loss of their only son to a reconnection, from murder to overcoming an animal desire to kill, from the loss of a business to a newly found passion for training others to succeed, from blindness to vision, from bottomless sadness to relived giggles of companionship. Books like this are a great reminder not to judge anyone – you never know what the person has been through. We are all migrants on Earth, in a sense or another.

“Ten Things About Writing” by Joanne Harris

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Joanne Harris knows a thing or two about writing, as a world renown author and the Chair of the Society of Authors. I was delighted to discover her book about writing. I love it when people are generous in sharing their knowledge.

The book will take you into the insights of the writing process from start to the publication and beyond. It will unveil the secrets of what makes a story, characterisation and detailing. And it is all written with honesty and no-non-sense. Joanne is incredibly encouraging towards aspiring writers: “Remember, … , that just writing is an act of bravery. You have the courage to do what it takes to give your voice the chance to be heard. Don’t do it because you want to be the next J.K. Rowling, or Maya Angelou, or Margaret Atwood. Those are already taken. Do it because your voice is unique. Only you can take this chance. No one else will ever be you, or tell your story the way you can”.

After this book, I also realized that I am more demanding as a reader. Joanne is right. If after 10 pages I am not fully absorbed by the story or if the author states the obvious (“the rain is wet” ), I will close the book and look for something else to read.

“Battle mind. How to navigate in Chaos and perform under Pressure” by Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg

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If you are looking for inspiration in times of adversity, you’ll find it in this book: “My basic reason for writing this book is that I believe that people can become better at dealing with adversity, if they know the concept Battle Mind, and master the underlying techniques.” the author tells us.

The concept of Battle Mind came from military psychology. Accordingly, the Battle Mind is “a state of mind that helps soldiers survive, focus, and take action in military operations, where there is no room for hesitation.” Merete takes forward the question why do some people perform better under pressure, while others lose control and offers practical guidance and techniques to master the art of dealing with crisis and emergencies. 

In addition to the practical advice and actionable tips it offers, I appreciated the book for a number of other reasons. It is rich in real life stories from battle fields to corporate floors to learn from. It contains numerous references to other great books and research papers to get further in-depth inspiration for a “yes, we can” mood any project manager needs to exhibit for the team to follow suit.

“Independent people” by Halldor Laxness

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“Do yourself a favour and read Independent People. Opening this book is like opening a chest of treasures.”. – Chicago Tribune. Indeed, though arm yourself with a ton of patience, I would say. This was not a fun reading and I suspect it was not a fun translation job. It has to be said that the English translation by J. A. THOMPSON is considered one of the finest into any language of Laxness’s masterpiece.

The main character, Bjartur, requires a lot of patience. His stubbornness is monumental and costs him his wives and children’s lives. His idea of an independent man as an owner of sheep and land is explained at length against the background of economic rise and fall of Iceland during the WWI and shortly after. At some point, the novel felt like a economics and political science book, which was rather annoying, as it did not seem to add to the understanding of the character. Nevertheless, the value of the book of this author awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and its translation in English remains indisputable.

“The strange adventures of H” by Sarah Burton

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A “from rags to riches” story line in London’s epic times of plague and big fire, this novel is heartwarming. H, a 15 year orphan, survives the streets of London without loosing her humanity, kindness and integrity, against all odds.

It is a truly epic journey of a girl in only a two year time lapse to remind us that “there is no disaster which can befall humanity, that we will not fail to make worse by our own hands, for it is fear that makes us cruel.” A happy ending, a marriage on a ship, justice restored and new born babies will bring a smile to the reader’s face at the end of this epic journey.

“Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys

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“The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the deadliest disaster in maritime history, with losses dwarfing the death tolls of the famous ships Titanic and Lusitania. Yet remarkably, most people have never heard of it”, Sepetys tells us why she wrote “Salt to the Sea” in the Author’s Note. The effort and extent of the research she went through, together with an impressive number of people, is truly admirable.

“Salt to the Sea” is a story of refuge to the west during the WWII. It dispels the myth that people in the West had it easy. Once again, as in “Between shades of gray”, Sepetys chooses to tell the story through the eyes of children and youth, who caused none of the atrocities, yet endured it all: “Abandoned or separated from their families, they were forced to battle the beast of war on their own, left with an inheritance of heartache and responsibility for events they had no role in causing.” Books like these acknowledge them in ways no history book does it. And this is why Sepetys deserves all my respect for her work.