Just Finished: How to Win Friends and Influence People

I just finished reading How to How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  This book has been in continuous print since 1936 so there’s not much for me to say about it.  It’s a great book and you should read it and I’ll briefly tell you why.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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Just Finished: Spindrift

I just finished reading the novel Spindrift by Allen Steele.  It was an OK read, but I can’t give much of a recommendation.  Spindrift is the 4th novel in Allen Steele’s Coyote universe and I would say it is his first novel in his “cashing in on Coyote” series.

Spindrift by Allen Steele

I highly recommend the original Coyote trilogy, the first of which is simply called Coyote.  After you read the original trilogy just stop, ignore the teaser in the last few pages of Coyote Frontier that set up Spindrift.  It is all promise and very little substance.

You can read the synopsis yourself on Amazon, but basically it is this: an alien object is detected and an investigation mission is hastily sent out to investigate.

Spindrift loosely ties in with events at the end of Frontier and so you think that being in the Coyote universe that Coyote would be somehow integral in the plot, it’s not.  The way it’s tied in doesn’t really hold water.  Coyote is used as a meeting point to protect the location of the home world Earth, but that location is already admitted to being known earlier.  I guess Steele is just hoping you hadn’t been paying attention, or he’s just forcing the tie in to Coyote.

The book feels like a lot of filler and then the interesting parts feel like the summary of another, better, book.  Most of it is devoted to the mundane task of getting the ship ready and character development on the way to the artifact.  I’m all for character development, but you can’t kill off the majority of characters as soon as you get there.  A major plot line was aborted and that was the source of all the intrigue for the first 2/3 of the novel.  The artifact exploration of the artifact is interesting, but after a chapter or two something else happens and it is completely forgotten and then a 3rd party comes in and explains the history of it.  It felt like a short cut instead of having the facts discovered throughout the story they were just laid out as the recap from what happened in another book.  The epilogue makes the whole story of First Contact reduce to a petty revenge on a bureaucrat story and makes it feel even less satisfying, like it doesn’t even mean that much to the Coyote universe.

The thing that most makes this book feel like a paycheck was all the grammatical errors.  Grammar and spelling mistakes are a huge pet peeve of mine, because if I’m busy and I only want to take the time to read something that someone has taken the time to write.  Spelling mistakes are rare in the age of spellcheckers and there were none of those mistakes in this book.  What spell checking can’t do is tell you that two words that you spelled correctly don’t make any sense together.  Here’s an example: “So what else have you able to hypothesize? If that’s not to much ask, that is.” (page 218 hardcover edition).  Notice any words missing? Any incorrectly used homophones?  There’s a mistake like that about every 20 pages.  It bugs me because I feel like I’m only the second (or maybe first!) person to read this.  If your editor could read it would have been caught easily, I’m not talking about nuances in grammar.

In summary, I like the Coyote trilogy, read that.  Steele has a really cool universe that has a “The South shall rise again” historical influence to it.  Skip Spindrift.  There’s not enough story or substance to make it worthwhile.   I don’t think I’ll be reading anything else in the Coyote series based on this first novel after the original trilogy.  It seems like Steele doesn’t have enough left to write about it.

Since I alternate fiction/non-fiction my next book is non-fiction.  I’ll be reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures.  After hearing good things about other Gladwell’s books I’m finally reading one. Stay tuned!

Just Finished: Scorecasting

I just finished an enjoyable read of Scorecasting.  It’s kind of like Freakonomics applied to sports.  It’s fully qualified name is:

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

I found out about it through a plug on the Freakonomics blog and since I loved both Freakonomics books and read the blog daily I thought getting a new copy of this was worth it.  I put it on my Amazon wishlist and the birthday fairy put it underneath my pillow.

While nothing can match that first time you read Freakonomics in shear nerdy pleasure Scorecasting has made the best attempt so far.  It’s at least as good as SuperFreakonomics if not slightly better.  The authors are sports iconoclasts and statistics are their tools.  They go through all major sports: football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer challenging conventional wisdom.  They follow the Freakonomics format where each chapter starts with asking about a conventional wisdom like “is there a home team advantage and why” and then explore why it may or not be true.

In general they do a very good job of explaining their statistics to justify their conclusions.  This is the biggest difference between the book and how sports commentary or news use statistics without justification.  There are a couple chapters I found weaker, maybe 2 out of about 20.  In these I thought they took the form of long essay with more assertions than explanations, but those were the shortest chapters and were greatly out weighed by the strength of the other chapters.  Some highlight chapters for me were “Are the Chicago Cubs cursed?”, “Whistle Swallowing” and “Rounding First”.  IN the plug on the Freakonomics blog they were really hyping up the home field advantage analysis, but I thought it dragged on a little too long in the book.  Still I got the book so it did its job.

Highly recommended.  An easy fun read and good conversation material.

Next up up on the reading list is fiction, since I alternate, and I’m going to read Spindrift.  It’s the last in a series I started a while back.  Stay tuned.