Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Welcome!


Welcome to The Sharper Quill Review, a growing database of bestselling books.  Since 2013, I've worked as an editor for a company that writes summaries of bestselling books, and during that time, I've read and analyzed more than 700 titles. 

Each book that I've worked with is listed with its bibliographic information as well as a video by or about the author --- and a little something from yours truly about why each book is a best seller (typically, the author is uniquely qualified and the book has a durable benefit for the reader). 

This website is fully searchable, and you can find books according to topic, genre, expertise of the author, and so on using the drop-down boxes to the right.

Compiled by:

Nathan Barnes, PhD
Senior Editor
The Sharper Quill
www.nathan-barnes.com 
Peter Senge. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization Revised & Updated Edition, Kindle Edition. Crown Business, 2010. 466 p. $28.

Author
A well-known professor at MIT with a PhD from Stanford.

Benefit
How to become a learning organization: critically important for remaining competitive and robust in a disruptive market.


Tom Brady. The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. Simon & Schuster, 2017. 320 p. $30.

Author
Superstar quarterback.

Benefit
None - it's a worthless pile of crap.


Chris Guillebeau. Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. Macmillan, 2017. 273 p. $25.

Author
All-around crazy successful guy who is hard not to like.  Visited every country in the world at a young age, author of several bestselling books.

Benefit
If you're creative and disciplined enough, you can start a side business to supplement your income following this manual.  I'm very tempted to try it.


Brene Brown. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone  Random House, 2017. 209 p.  $28.

Author
Brene is a well-known motivational speaker, professor at the University of Houston.

Benefit
This is a life-saving book. Chicken soup for the soul.


Hillary Clinton. What Happened. Simon & Schuster, 2017. 513 $30

Shortly after Clinton's unexpected loss to Trump in the 2016 presidential election, she wrote her memoir about the campaign.  This is her explanation of her loss, and she affirms what many already think.  Despite her stellar qualifications, she was presenting a fact-based policy package in a post-fact environment, the media didn't give adequate attention to her message (focusing instead on the email issue), James Comey abused his office by making announcements about her emails at exactly the wrong time (days before the primary), sexism, and Russian interference.

This book is not therapeutic for Hillary supporters.  It's a hard look at what happened from Clinton's point of view.


Kerry Patterson. Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior, Second Edition.   McGraw-Hill Education, 2013. 304 p.  $21.

Author
Founder of VitalSmarts, a company that advises business on leadership and change.

Benefit
How people in authority can confront folks who break agreements and successfully work things out.

Satya Nadellla. Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone. HarperBusiness, 2017. 288 p. $30.

Author
CEO of Microsoft - he's a longtime employee who worked with both previous CEOs.

Benefit
This is mostly a memoir.  Satya tries to argue that the empathy he developed while caring for his disabled son guides him as CEO of Microsoft.  He didn't convince me, but it was interesting to read that his vision for Microsoft is to partner with competitors rather than destroying them (as Gates famously did, or tried to do) and empower customers economically and politically.  People are often concerned that technology will put them out of work -- Satya's objective is to use technology to create opportunity.  He's an ambassador for his company in this book (which we can expect), but it sucks the life out of the book.

Ray Dalio. Principles: Life and Work. Simon & Schuster, 2017. 593 p.  $30.

Author
A well-known billionaire investor, founder of Bridgewater Associates. Harvard Business grad.

Benefit
A memoir of a superstar investor who provides some rather insightful guidelines for work.

Beware - although this guy is a CEO, he doesn't have a short attention span, and his arguments are rather complex.


Brendon Burchard. High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way. Hay House, 2017. 405 p. $20.

Author
This guy apparently just writes best-selling books on motivation... think self-made life coach, not academic.

Benefit
Get motivated.




Kurt Andersen. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. Random House, 2017 481 $30

Author
Kurt is an award-winning radio show host (NPR).  Harvard grad, former columnist for The New Yorker.

Benefit
Another detailed review of why Trump won the 2016 election.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ashlee Vance. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. Ecco, 2015. 400 pages.

Author
A widely published business journalist.

Benefit
Elon Musk has done what no one else has been able to do--other than Steve Jobs. He has contributed significantly to very different fields - the electric car, commercial space flight, and online banking. Musk envisioned the company that eventually became Paypal, made a fortune when it was sold, and invested a good portion of his own newfound fortune into Tesla and SpaceX. This risk has paid off so far, but both companies have a huge vision and continue to overcome tremendous challenges.

Ann Coulter. Adios America! The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country in to a Third World Hellhole. Regency, 2015. 400 pages. $17.

This is racism in its purist, unadulterated form. Living in the South, most of my friends and I have an uncle or a grandfather who occasionally says something shockingly racist and the younger generation has the responsibility to identify and educate. This book is like that grandfather getting drunk, listening to FOX news commentary, and angrily ranting for several hours. The really worrisome thing about this book is that it's a bestseller, which means that a lot of people in America are buying it and feeding on its garbage.

Henry Marsh. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery. Thomas Dunne Books, 2015. 288 pages. $16.

Author
Henry Marsh is a highly respected neurosurgeon with a speciality in brain surgery.

Benefit
This is a book about his mistakes. It may appear a bit self-aggrandizing, because his mistakes are different... they are a matter of life and death or permanent, severe disability, and Marsh is already operating at a very high level. That is, he's a master surgeon, working at the very top of his field, and his mistakes are exceptional in that most people will never have Marsh's extreme level of competency. So the context of a mistake for Marsh exists in an almost incomprehensible level of perfection. In any case, medical professionals normally don't talk about their mistakes whereas Marsh openly struggles with his shortcomings.

Willie Nelson. It's a Long Story: My Life. Little Brown 2015. 400 pages. $19.

Author
The country music sensation.

Benefit
The first song I remember hearing is On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, and I remember when he was ridiculed by the media for his tax problems. I also live in Fort Worth, TX and he's very well known for his work with Farm Aid and of course his 4th of July picnic. One time I even saw his tour bus on the side of the interstate with a flat tire. So I love, love, loved this book! It has the same kind of unpredictable, free rhythm of Willie's voice. He tells the story of his early life, loves, the making of his music, and his triumph over the IRS.

Judy Blume. In the Unlikely Event. Knopf, 2015. 416 pages. $9.

I remember reading about Blume's Fudge when I was in grade school, so I was happy to see In the Unlikely Event on my reading list. This is a very different animal—Blume tells the story of a small town that suffered three plane crashes in a period of eight weeks the 1950s.

Review
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/books/review/judy-blumes-in-the-unlikely-event.html

Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement in a Complex World. Portfolio, 2015. $30.

Author
A well-known United States general - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_A._McChrystal

Benefit
In this book, McChrystal outlines a philosophical argument for creating a team of teams that can be dynamic enough to respond to unpredictable outcomes produced from complex challenges. McChrystal argues that the traditional organization of businesses and the military only work in response to complicated systems that have predictable problems. Therefore, the organization can respond slowly, and the people at the top can micromanage and the workers at the bottom don't need to react in real time, thinking on their own.

 McChrystal observes that CEOs of winning companies that can compete in a changing marketplace have adopted unconventional structures that place new value on employee input according to a shared vision. In order to respond to the unpredictable nature of the Iraqi insurgency, McChrystal had unparalleled success because he revolutionized the ways that his staff collected, interpreted, and acted on intelligence, and his methods will prove valuable in today's business.

Stephen King, Finder's Keepers. Scribner, 2015. 448 pages. $10.

Author
The man with the golden pen.

Benefit
This is a suspense thriller, not horror. I've been trying to get friends to read this, and they expect a tale like It, Pet Cemetery, or The Stand. But Stephen King has more than one voice, obviously. In Finders Keepers, King gives us a limited cast of fully developed characters who come together in a thoughtful plot with unexpected outcomes. The story revolves around the stolen manuscripts of a famous author who is murdered by a disgruntled reader. The murderer buries the loot—along with $20k—just before he is arrested for another crime. Thirty-five years later, he's out of jail and ready to start a new life. But in the mean time, a teenager has recently discovered the money and the manuscripts—and he lives in the murderer's old house.

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow. Gallup Press, 2009. 266 pages. $32.

Authors 
Tom Rath and Barry Conchie have a cottage industry producing incredibly useful books on strength-based leadership.

Benefit 
Most companies focus on developing weaknesses rather than developing strengths, and Rath and Conchie present years of Gallup research to demonstrate that this approach is precisely backwards. The alternative, of course, is focusing on strength, which increases everything that we like—retention, productivity, and profit.

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book. Amber-Allen Publishing, 1997. 160 pages. $13.

Author
Don Miguel Ruiz is a neo-shaman spiritualist who re-interprets Toltec wisdom for modern living.

Benefit
The four agreements are very simple life principles to follow in order to achieve happiness. Millions of people have been inspired by Ruiz's simple, direct approach to wise living. The four principles are:

1) Being impeccable with your word
2) Don't take anything personally
3) Don't make assumptions
4) Always do your best

 It's Toltec soup for the soul.

Carol S. Dweck. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books, 2008. 288 pages.

Author
A professor at Stanford - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Dweck

Benefit
Dweck focuses on two opposing mindsets: fixed and growth. The underlying principles are very simple, but the applications are life-changing. The fixed mindset is a perspective that embraces the idea that talent, intelligence, and personalities are stagnant—they never really change and don't need to be (or cannot) developed. The growth mindset recognizes the need for development. These are very basic ideas that are easy to understand—but these mindsets define the way that we approach very significant challenges in life, and Dweck demonstrates that the growth mindset is far more beneficial.

The fixed mindset is not prepared to face new challenges. When someone with a fixed mindset is unsuccessful, it is a negative reflection on their character—it is an opportunity for humiliation. Because of this, CEOs may have become successful doing things their way, affirming their talent and intellect, but implode when they fail. CEOs with a fixed mindset rule their companies with an iron fist and surround themselves with worshippers and people who are afraid to speak their minds—such companies have been unable to compete in the changing marketplace. The growth mindset, however, embraces challenge and recognizes the contribution and worth of employees.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W. W. Norton, 1999. 496 pages. $19.

Author
Jared Diamond is a modern polymath. He is a professor of geography, but started out as a PhD in physiology. He is well known for drawing on multiple disciplines in his books, including anthropology, biology, and ecology. In addition to his significant academic training, he draws on personal experience living in Papua New Guinea for three decades. This particular book won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1997.  Note: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Diamond

Benefit
Diamond addresses the question of why Eurasian peoples conquered American, Australian, and African peoples -- and why wasn't it the other way around. Diamond explains (or more precisely, theorizes convincingly) why Eurasian people were so successful against much larger groups of people on their own land: it has to do with the domestication of plants and animals, the development of diseases, and even the languages that were written and spoken. Diamond's book presents a fantastic solution to a question that has often been answered in racist or at least ethnocentric terms.


Joseph J. Ellis. Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789. Vintage, 2016. 320 p. $16.

Author
Joseph J. Ellis is an American historian who won the Pulitzer prize in 2001 for Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation.

Benefit
There was a fundamental change in the motivation for the Revolutionary War and the arguments related to the formation of the United States by the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Ellis calls this second movement the second American Revolution. The so-called founding fathers had to address a few significant problems to keep the Revolutionary spirit alive—most importantly a fair, national taxation for the support of the Revolutionary army.

 The quartet of leaders that Ellis examines—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay—were tasked with finding ways to unite the states in a revolutionary cause that inherently contradicted the Revolutionary spirit that motivated them to fight against the British: concern over personal liberty from a centralized government that taxed them without adequate representation. So the United States had to come together in a way that established a national government without undermining individual liberty—at least to the point that enough states would ratify the Constitution in time for the Revolutionary army to withstand the British invasion.
John Krakauer. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Doubleday, 2015. 416 p. $17. 

Author
Jon is a respected journalist and well-known author.  I confess that he's one of my favorite journalist writers even though a lot of folks think that he's full of shit because of his Everest book (which I also love).

Benefit
This is a fantastic book, but boy, it's a difficult read. This is perhaps the most difficult book that I've ever read. It is difficult because it affords us a very frank look directly into the face of evil. Krakauer investigates the culture of rape, impunity, and football in a college town. It's disturbing to read the detailed accounts of various rapes -- sometimes gang rapes -- but even more disgusting is the indifference of the community, law enforcement, and the district attorney's office regarding the victims. 

The greatest value of this book is the investigation into the trauma of the rape victim, explaining why victims may not immediately know that they have been raped (the incident is so traumatic) and why rape victims are so vulnerable to being ignored by prosecutors (the nature of consent and questions concerning character in the context of parties, alcohol, or drug use).

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Nancy Mace The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book) Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. 416 p.  $20.

Authors
https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/36-hour-day

Benefit
This book has gone through six editions -- it is the leading handbook on how to care with a family member who suffers from dementia.  I found it extremely useful but heartbreaking.