Thursday, January 24, 2008

blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Subtitle: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Overall Recommendation: Yes, if you know what you're getting into. Not a fast read but it's a very interesting read. Blink is so different than anything I've read for awhile. Non-fiction, lots of case studies, I had to actually think a bit to make sense of all the information. It was good for me. It was a bit laborious, but I'm glad I finished.

Case Studies or Examples I liked: The Pepsi Challenge--so cool to find out the reason behind New Coke! I'm not much of a cola drinker, but many near and dear to me are. I think the difference between good for a sip and good for a whole case was very interesting.

Rule of Improv--Facinating! This will change the way I watch comedy!

Watching a movie with the autistic man--again, so cool! It was one of the clearest explanations of the social disconnect people with autism have. I thought the research here was very accessible and clear.

The screened auditions for the orchestras--we've heard examples like this before, but I thought it was cool to hear the one judge talk about how she prefers them because she gets distracted by little things. At first this was distracting because I thought it was opposite of the first impression idea, but it fits with the concept of too much information blurs the truth.

Case Studies or Examples I struggled with: The whole Millenium Challenge--it was interesting, but a little drawn out. All of the computer simulated quick responses--I just found these too contrived. Maybe I don't have enough experience with them, but they were too off the wall for me to really get into.

What I liked: I was initially concerned the author was going to suggest that we should trust our first impression wholly, which is kind of radical. Never judge a book buy its cover, right? I do think we all agree that our gut instinct or mother's intuition is right on a lot of the time. I just wondered how a book would prove this, and how would you justify the stereotyping and profiling that embracing this theory would lead too. BUT, I think the value in the book is the idea that we educate ourselves, gather all the facts, do the research, then let our subconscious make quick decisions.

I think Gladwell is right on when he explains that we often have to made choices without the luxury of time to weigh all the options. This reminds me of what we learn in our youth and try to teach our kids; we need to weigh the evidence and prepare for meaningful decision making before the heat of the moment. I'm thinking of saying no to drugs and staying morally clean. We can't necessarily trust our instincts if we haven't gone through the logical and reasonable facts before we are faced with a split-second decision.

I completely agree with his phrase, "paralysis through analysis." When we overload ourselves with choices or information, it becomes more difficult to know what the right choice is. We don't always make a better decision just because we have more information. I guess the trick is finding out what is essential, what is distracting, and what is just irrelevant.

What bugged me: Where this got confusing, and a little inconsistant for me was when the opposite seemed to be true. To understand facial expression, it suggests gathering tons of information. The research in the beginning with the couples also confused me in that way. Like I mentioned above, the simulated or computer studies (race with car salesmen, old age word references, gun or wrench) just seemed a little forced. I know that studies like this are done in all fields, and are considered valid, I'm just not convinced that it transfers directly to life. I got bogged down with all the technical details in some of the studies. Gladwell's style isn't my favorite. I think he was trying too hard to make a complex idea readily available to his readers, because the repetitive loops were pretty annoying. Each chapter rolled back to his previous example, which kind of gave me the feeling, "see I told you so, and now I told you again and again and again."

Also I think the information he presented was being manipulated to make his point. I wrote enough papers in college to know how this is done. Some of the studies I felt like you could use to prove the contrary. He would say things like "just under 50%, then just over 50 %" and I'm just not convinced there was a difference. I'm not convinced the numbers really proved what he insinuated they did.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book List

Because I'm working backwards and I said I wouldn't write about books that I haven't freshly read, I thought I'd list the one I can remember that I read in 2007 and see if it brings any comments.


The Interpreter of Maladies--very unique collection of stories, some more sad than others, recommend

The Memory Keeper's Daughter--SOOO sad, still a good book, but it might make you cry

The Bridge to Terebithia--Loved it, never read it as a kid, nice quick read

Peace Like a River (re-read, one of my favorites)--If you haven't read this you must. I LOVE it.

Frankenstein--Didn't care much for it, but it was nice to know the story behind the legend, I coudn't stand Dr. Frankenstein, read up about Mary Shelley--that's the real interesting story!

The Glass Castle--I probably should do a review on this because I'd love to talk more about it. Great writer, great perpective (non-judgmental, objective), SAD story, pretty happy ending.

Little Women (Abridged!)--I read this for book club not realizing the copy I've had for 20 years is abridged. After listening to the other ladies, I'll stick with the abridged version I love!

A Train to Potevka--Great story, very different from most books I read. Nice spiritual element, the writer is LDS. Don't let the scary spy beginning turn you off the book, the rest is more mild.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I can't believe this has been out for 5 years and I never knew it. Obviously other people have heard of it: Tina Fey mentioned it on 30 Rock this week, and in my researching of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer praised it.

I would recommend this with hesitation because of the creepiness.

Overall Impression
This is the book Graham bought for my stocking. When a 14-year-old is assaulted and murdered in the first chapter, I thought, "Seriously? How long have we been married?" But I did finish this book, and I like several things about it. I thought the point of view was creative. I thought, though painful, the affects of the death were realistic. The characters were interesting. I thought the author's interpretation of heaven was sweet.

When things randomly showed up in Susie's heaven because she had been subconsiously longing for them: like the dogs.

Mr. Harvey, duh. The way that the author had to try to show his twisted childhood. She didn't seem to be trying to justify his behavior, but maybe just humanize him.
I didn't want to read about it.
I also hated the title. The quote in the book it came from was weak. I thought it was forced and didn't fit it.

Twilight/New Moon/Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

This is the book that inspired me to start a blog. The advantage to being the last person you know to read a book is that you can talk to everyone you know about it! I have loved that about reading Twilight. I realized I want to know what my friends think about other books I've read and will read, and there just isn't always enough time in person.

I would recommend this book to most of my friends. I think it will be kind of a litmus test. But actually most of my friends have read it.

Overall Impression
Immediatly absorbing for me. I loved Bella and how unassuming she was, completely unaware that Edward would like her. I think the magic of this book is how quickly we can relate to her. The excitement and anxiety of falling in love and not knowing if your love will be returned is so familiar to all of us. I've been saying it over and over, but I think Stephenie Meyer did a great job of describing the kind of passionate self-restraint that Mormons are all too familiar with. So many adolescent novels and movies lead up to the moment of complete abandon. I can't pinpoint what exactly I liked about her style of writing, but I felt very much a part of this book from the beginning. Knowing that he was a vampire from the beginning could have made her early discoveries annoying, but I didn't feel that way. It's been a long time since I've read a romance, and this was a good one.

How well the author captures the feelings of love, and lust.
The way that Bella's emotions physically overtake her body, and not in a cliched way.

The scary parts of course. But I appreciated that the gore was omitted.
The fact that Bella didn't tell Edward that his smell, even his breath was intoxicating.
That the cover and some other references I've read infer that she wanted Edward because he was forbidden. I didn't see it that way.
Next Two Books
I was excited to continue the story. I got into New Moon quickly, Eclipse took me a little bit longer. Part of it is just when you read a series and the author has to repeat the background stuff that you already know. That is always annoying. I think Stephenie Meyer did a good job of creating more of a story line, two sides, not necessarily good and evil. I hated the creepy Volturi parts, and the dialouge between Ella and Edward isn't as good I don't think. All that said, I think Twilight is the superior book, but I will definetly keep reading this series. I'm excited to see the movie interpretation when it comes out. I am fascinated that the author, who was at BYU when I was, who has three boys like me, was able to create such an intricate, and I think, original saga.


I love to talk about books. I hope you do too. Please make many, many long-winded comments. That's the point. I want to think about the books I've read, I want to know what you think about them.

My plan is to start now and write a review for every book I read. I might write ones for the last couple I've read too. I don't want to try to remember books that I read awhile ago, because they aren't fresh anymore. I'm not going to do a synopsis, but instead write my thoughts, likes, and dislikes. I'll try not to give away too much.

Thanks for coming.