Book Reviews: January 2017
The Speed of Sound by Thomas Dolby
Dolby, nee Thomas Robertson, the son of a Trinity College classics professor, was the youngest of 6 children and the only one not to continue higher learning beyond secondary school. Despite a lack of classical music training, he soon became an in-demand keyboardist and a solo artist, probably best known for She Blinded Me With Science. Disenfranchised with the music industry, he founded a Silicon Valley startup that pioneered audio on the internet and eventually mobile phones, including the tune behind the Nokia Waltz. A well-written and insightful book on a very interesting life.
To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levi
Pixar is a fascinating company that has been covered previously in excellent books on its history and management, but this is the first book to focus on the business side of the equation. Levi was its CFO, handpicked by Jobs to find a path to profitability and IPO after the 10-year-old company had consumed over $50m of Jobs’ personal money. They were wildly succeeded on all fronts, creative and business, but as Levi recounts it was a close call at the time. A recommended book for anyone interested in Jobs, the business side of entertainment companies, and the IPO process for Silicon Valley startups.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
If you liked the movie Trainwreck or her stand up, you will definitely like this memoir-of-sorts by Schumer. I laughed out loud often throughout the book and I suspect that women will laugh more than men (there’s a lot of jokes about vaginas in here). She provides an interesting antidote to her public image of a loud, sexual, and often drunk girl. Instead she notes that she is, in person, a strong introvert, albeit one who also gets on stage every night to do standup. Interestingly I find she’s more interesting when commenting or observing others, rather than documenting/exaggerating her own life. I hope she extends her gaze outward more often in the future.
Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform our Lives by Tim Harford
I’ve liked Harford’s previous books such as The Undercover Economist, but I just couldn’t get into this one and indeed failed to finish it. His thesis, I think, is that disorder/messiness is a powerful thing for creative people, but to prove this broad idea he takes a Gladwellian-to-the-extreme mix of anecdotes and scientific papers to back up his remarks. Insights include the fact that brilliant scientists typically worked in multiple areas, not just one. But is this correlation really causation I’d ask? Perhaps I’ve read too many books by Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer over the years, but this one fell flat for me. Incoherent thesis and no real building of ideas over the pages.