Summer Reads – So Far

Here’s what I’ve read so far and have been putting off writing about (images off Amazon. That explains the click to look bit):

It’s been a while since I read something from the how-we-transformed-our-business genre and this book doesn’t disappoint. It reads a bit like a business potboiler with all the right elements. Phrases right out of the Dilbert mission statement generator, heartbreaking tales of rightsizing (why can’t they just call them layoffs?), the joy of products successfully launched, dramatic and symbolic gestures of shutting stores so the baristas could learn to pour a good espresso, tales of customer satisfaction and the coffee shop experience. Like I said, the elements of a good potboiler. But it’s good to remember that the “problems” they solved were mostly self created to begin with.

Anyone who saw two Starbucks stores right across the street from each other in an almost dead downtown must have wondered how the company made money from them. If you read the book, you can find out how long it took the company to realize they weren’t making money from those stores. Anyone who complained about the burned taste of Starbucks coffee must have wondered why they didn’t serve a blend that didn’t taste burned to the average coffee drinker. The book tells you how Starbucks came up with the Pike Place roast.

It’s good to read about what Starbucks is not willing to compromise on – fair trade, health insurance for baristas, and some touchy-feely stuff (I find I have less patience for it now that I’m back in India). The book is easy to read and doesn’t drag for the most part. But it’s hard to tell a good story about a business when all its successes and failures are as visible as those of Starbucks. And there’s something missing in the narrative. You end up with a feeling that Schultz might one day want to run for President or participate in a beauty pageant. Either way, the book is too feel-good for my taste. It’s a good substitute for a romance novel (I detest the term Chick Lit) as an airplane read but not much else.

When I heard that my brother and sister-in-law had just finished reading this one, I had to read it too. Especially because it was on sale on Flipkart and also because I’m hoping to be the mother of an overachieving child or two myself. So there, I said it Annayya.

There’s not much to say about this book. I don’t think the Tiger Mom is any worse than the Indian mom. I can readily identify a few Indian moms whose main take-away from reading this book would be “I’m being too soft with my children”. And I would want to keep this book away from those who run IIT coaching centres. But having said that, the book provides highly skewed but useful insights for people who look at some of the Asian grad students in the US and wonder how they manage to work for 14 hours every single day.

The book made me think about a lot of things. How tough should a parent be? What’s the point of being a parent, anyway? How much should an immigrant attempt to assimilate for real? When do generalizations based on observations border on racism? What’s the price of success? Who pays this price?

To me it seems like the same old story of a parent who has dreams for her children and wants what’s “good for them”. In time, the difference between what a parent wants the child to do for the child’s sake and what the parent pushes the child to do for the parent’s sake is not as clear anymore. No parent will admit that they have their own selfish motivations for wanting their child to be a certain way. They may never even be consciously aware of it. But it’s a truth that can’t be denied.

Of course the book is extreme. No one would want to read about how my parents raised two kids to be a little better than average. The drama feeds the controversy which in turn sets the stage for a sequel, no? All in all a quick read. And possibly worthwhile read.

Lest you think that all I read is fluff, here’s a quick overview of the book I’m reading now:

I have about two chapters more to go but I would strongly recommend reading this book if you can lay your hands on it. Everyone seems to have an opinion about climate change and we have our own ideas about how much the scientific community can and cannot be believed. The American media in particular is highly polarized and it’s understandable why. The decision of believing or not believing in climate change can make the difference between life as usual and making tough choices. Climate change is a reality and global warming will happen whether we believe it or not. Why not be better informed about the topic?

In general this book will (among other things):

– Drive home the difference between local weather trends and global climate change
– Clarify some of the myths propagated by the news media
– Help you understand the forces that drive climate change
– Clarify how cap and trade and offsets are misleading
– Tell you how alarmingly close the tipping point is

It’s not a particularly well written book. The author readily admits that he’s not a great communicator. But it’s not a badly written book either and I learned a great deal from it already. There’s a lot of space devoted to policies and politics in this book. One would expect that science is independent of politics and policy but, well, that’s not how it works and we might as well just accept that.

If you’re tired of Fox News anchors who state that a blizzard is proof that climate change is a hoax and the people who readily believe them, you might want to strengthen your argument. I haven’t read any other books on this subject to recommend that you read this one in particular. But I do think everyone should read one book about global warming.

Three books are good enough for one post. Two more coming up soon!

4 Replies to “Summer Reads – So Far”

  1. onward sounds good to me…I will add it to my to-read list 🙂

    Nice reviews here and all these books I hadn’t heard of so thanks for introducing 🙂

    waiting for the rest

    1. Thanks! I’m enjoying my last free summer for a while and I hope to read a couple of books a week at least. Have fun with Onward. I hear his previous book was better, though.

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