Category Archives: Books

“AI and the Project Manager” by Peter Taylor

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Finally! The promised land of a project manager who is looking forward to enhancing own abilities, freeing the agenda of routine, necessary yet boring tasks, and, more importantly – finding ways of supporting decision-making process through forecasting and risk management. I can see clearly the many benefits an intelligent and ethical application of AI brings to my professional and personal life. With an estimated 80% of saving effort provided by AI, I will eventually find time to write that book I am thinking about.

One feature which distinguishes Peter’s books from the hundreds of books on project management is authenticity and unreserved sharing of own experience, with all its ups and downs of “the old and the wise”, delivered in a no-non-sense style. It responds to my brain’s need to learn from others. Another point of attraction for me is his very own perspectives on conceptual matters, such as, for instance, Actionable Information, for AI. I get that more than the widespread understanding of the acronym, especially if in your own language the word “intelligence” is void of the meanings it has in English. 

The book is meant for reflective practitioners. Peter asks many important questions and invites us to stay inquisitive. After all, AI does not stay put. From a brief introduction and dismantling some myths surrounding AI, categories of AI into the core if it all – “people -centered AI”, each of us will find things to learn from and ponder on. Projects are about, by and for people, no doubts there. 

And those afraid of or resisting AI should remember this: “The danger of artificial intelligence isn’t that it’s going to rebel against us, but that it’s going to do exactly what we ask it to do” (Janelle Shane). 

My main takeaway: Stay calm, learn to benefit from AI and help people thrive! Thanks, Peter! So, when is a legacy sequel coming up?

“The silence of the girls” by Pat Barker

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The story of the war of Troy has been told and retold, yet never before it has been brought to light by the voices of its women. “The silence of the girls” is a historical fiction, yet aren’t all (his)stories fiction? The novel has something important to say and for me it’s the truth that (his)story would look differently if it would have been written by young girls and boys, parents, elderly or anyone on what we call “the loosing side”.

The author’s imagination takes us to places no longer on Earth, to minds of people we never knew existed. And Barker does so with so much respect that my own imagination worked slowly through the story of slavery to freedom, glory to dust, cruelty to honor under the light of lines written with microscopic truthfulness about human nature on Earth.

“The eighth life” by Nino Haratischvili

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Haratischvili takes the reader through historical events on Georgian soil with the ease of a seasoned local. She introduces us to events as if she was there at that time: “It’s ten thirty on a beautiful sunny morning scented with cardamom, coffee, dust, and cloves, the kind of morning you will only find in Tbilissi.” That was the day Stalin robbed the Tsar’s carriage in plain day in the center of the town.

« The eighth life » could be the story of any family on Georgian soil, who had members living in Russia, as the events of those times joined and separated people of these two countries at most unexpected crossroads. And Haratischvili gives us the story with the intimate knowledge of someone who might have lived more than one life on earth. It is beautiful, touching and utterly brave.

Haratischvili does not take us on a simple straight journey. It is rather a carpet weaving as she adds characters and events to the story. And she does so because « I often used to wonder what would happen if the world’s collective memory had retained different things and lost others. If we had forgotten all the wars and all those countless kings, rulers, leaders, and mercenaries, and the only people to be read about in books were those who had built a house with their own hands, planted a garden, discovered a giraffe, described a cloud, praised the nape of a woman’s neck. I wondered how we know that the people whose names have endured were better, cleverer, or more interesting just because they’ve stood the test of time. What of those who are forgotten? » Yes, what about those?

Anyone wishing to understand more about recent history of Georgia and the reasons behind many of its current institutions should read “The eighth life ». And do that with an open mind, as our guide David said: «Nino was very considerate to the reader in presenting many facts of our recent history. She probably thought that it would be to complicated to grasp for those who have not lived through those times”.

“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.