Posts Tagged ‘non fiction’

Dweck is awesome, and here she’s written an awesome book.

If you’re a parent, an educator, or just someone who wants to be a success at something one day, you need to read this book. How’s that for a recommendation?

This book goes hand in hand with one of my favorite productivity / success books ever: Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.  In that book he talks about the idea that it takes about ten thousand hours of practice before we become a world class expert at a skill. Say for example you want to become a world class expert at playing the piano, you need to log ten thousand hours of practice. That’s about three hours a day for ten years.

Now, it’s not like every minute of practice up until then is going to be useless. Far from it. Somewhere between twenty to a hundred hours in you’ve gone from ‘I haven’t a clue’ to ‘I know the bare basics.’ Reach four thousand and to most people you’re an expert. You know about enough to teach about the skill. Eight thousand hours and you’re better than everyone except those few coveted world class experts.

What this tells us is that everyone can learn how to be good at something if they put enough work into it. So why are there so few world class experts around? Why are there people who reach adulthood and don’t seem to be skilled at much?

This is where Dweck’s book comes in. You see, to be motivated enough to put that work in, you need to have the right mindset.

There are two mindsets. The fixed mindset believes that everything comes from nature. That math genius is born a math genius. That athlete was just born that good. If I join a karate class and suck at it, I will always suck at it and might as well drop out now. Kids are either smart at something, or not smart. You can’t do anything to turn a dumb kid into a smart kid, and vice versa.

Children are told to go away and do their own thing. They’re not signed up for sports or music classes, and if they are they’re allowed to drop out the moment they start to struggle or get bored. It’s obviously not their thing. One day they’ll find that magical skill they have hidden inside them and they’ll become good at something. Until then, let them do as they want.

The second mindset is the growth mindset. This focuses on effort instead of innate skill. This one goes hand in hand with Gladwell’s findings. Every minute practicing something improves your skill in that area. Children are signed up for classes. Parents tend to take more of an interest in their progress at school and whatever other skills they’re working on.

The second group performs better, tends to be happier, and spends longer trying at hard tasks before giving up. They also tend to choose harder tasks to get more of challenge, and enjoy these tasks more than those with a fixed mindset. The difference is so extreme that in one experiment, the situations the two groups were put in differed by only one sentence. For one group the sentence was from a fixed mindset ‘you’re so smart’ the other from a growth mindset ‘you must’ve worked really hard.’

Needless to say, the growth mindset improved a lot more on further tests than the fixed mindset. They chose to take on a further more challenging test more often than the fixed mindset who opted for an easier test. And most surprising of all, when later given a test of the same level as the first one, the growth mindset performed better than they had before, while the fixed mindset children performed worse than their previous score.

I found this book really interesting.  There’s a lot in here I think everyone should know about. And it’s all very well written and easily accessible to a wide range of readers. The examples were equal amounts of entertaining and fascinating. This is a must read for anyone with any interest in the subject.

It would’ve got a five star rating from me, but by the end it got a little repetitive. Good. Definitely interesting and entertaining. But once the idea is explained and you’ve read a few examples, it’s a simple concept to grasp. And then there’s the rest of the book to get through, which is still entertaining, but you can pretty much guess what’s going to be said. So four stars. 

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I loved reading this book. I found it so interesting, but I didn’t walk away from it with anything I can use.

I’d say if you’re a productivity junkie like me then this book is definitely worth a read. The writing style in engaging, the use of anecdotes kept me glued from start to finish. But the most I walked away with is ‘habits are really good. I need to make more of the things I need to do habits.’ And I already knew that.

So, four stars for interesting topic and engaging style. Not five stars because this is more a read for enjoyment book than something that will help you be more productive.

Still, enjoyment is good. Right?

The best productivity booster of a book is still ‘how to be an A star student’ (even for non students like me). But there are a few more on here I’ve researched, and most of them give you a bit more meat than this one.

So decide from this what you will. For more reviews on this book go to:

This is more or less another of my productivity books. Technically it’s more about the strangeness of human behavior than productivity, but it has this giant section on what motivates us to work, that was interesting, both from a personal and an economic point of view.

So it turns out that high bonuses can actually demotivate you! We need enough money to meet our basic needs, but beyond that the most important thing affecting our motivation seems to be how much we value the work. If for example you’re working hard programming a new piece of software, and at the end of making it it’s going to get scrapped, then it doesn’t matter if you’re highly paid for it. You’re still going to be very demotivated.

The part about motivations was my favorite since I’m hugely interested in anything related to productivity, but the other sections had some cool stuff too. Like, why revenge is so important to us. Or why there’s such a big difference between the things we think will make us happy and what actually makes us happy.

There are some pretty cool tidbits to take from this book. Like how the things we think will make us really happy don’t make us as happy as we think. And the things that we think will make us really sad don’t make us as sad as we think.

I’d say if you’re a productivity junkie the motivations might be worth a glance over. It’s more of a reading for interest thing rather than anything you can use for tactics. Unless you’re a manager and have a lot of employees. Then the parts about what motivates workers could be really interesting for you and you might come away with a few things to use in your workplace.

And if you’re really interested in human behavior, motivation, and why sometimes people act plain irrational, then this book is definitely worth a look at.

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This book’s a little difficult to categorize. Some would be in uproar if you called it fiction, and others would be in uproar if you call it non-fiction because that suggests that it’s fact. What it is comes down to a journalist’s interpretations of years of interviews with people who claim to have had a paranormal experience, plus some experiences of his own.

I knew I had to read this book after watching the movie which claims to have been based on true events. The film by the way was nicely put together, and is one of my favorites. Watch the trailer here:

Now here’s where it gets iffy, because the book is very very different from the film. What the film basically did was take the scariest elements of years of different accounts, shake them up, tweak them a little and put them together in a spooky race against time plot. It’s a really good movie, and it’s a good book, but don’t expect to be reading the book version of the movie and vice versa.

Here’s the blurb:

West Virginia, 1966. For thirteen months the town of Point Pleasant is gripped by a real-life nightmare that culminates in a strategy that makes headlines around the world. Strange occurrences and sightings, including a bizarre winged apparition that becomes known as the Mothman, trouble this ordinary American community. Mysterious lights are seen moving across the sky. Domestic animals are found slaughtered and mutilated. And journalist John Keel, arriving to investigate the freakish events, soon finds himself an integral part of an eerie and unfathomable mystery…

There’s a lot of talk about the validity of this book. Not just the interviews, because there’s always a bit of question in witness statements, particularly when we don’t want to believe them. And to be honest, a lot of them are pretty out there. But the main controversy comes from the author’s own experiences. There are times when he claims to have got pretty face to face with spooky goings on, but has no evidence other than his own word. You would have thought being a journalist he would’ve got something, even if what he says is true and paranormal goings on disrupt recording equipment.

While I’m not sure what to conclude about the validity of what he’s writing about (aliens, separate dimensions, lots of mysterious events), this is a good book to read if you’re interested in that sort of thing. I definitely found it enjoyable and would recommend it to those with an open mind. Just go into it viewing it as some interesting ideas that may or may not be true, instead of expecting gospel.

For more reviews on this book go to the following link:

Non fiction book this time. I’m a little addicted to self help books, mostly any that can improve my word counts. There are people on the nanowrimo forums who can write one million words in a month. One million! Meanwhile my best is still around 70k in a month, and I haven’t matched that for a while.

Now, I don’t think this book will get me to a million in a month, but it’s one of the more useful books I’ve read.

Basically it is as it says on the cover: all about willpower. Do you want to resist that chocolate cake? Start exercising more? Or like me, put more hours and focus into something? This will help you. Each chapter talks through a useful piece of psychology, and ends with practical exercises showing you how you can put it into place.

This is where this book stands out from others I’ve read. Some other self help books talk the talk, but they don’t show you how to walk the walk. This one does. I picked up some useful things from my first read through, and I’m going through it a second time (which is almost unheard of for me since I hate repeating things) slower, paying more attention to all the exercises.

The great thing about this book is you can use it multiple times, going through it with a different goal you want to work on, or taking your last goal a step further.

Here’s the blurb:

Willpower – the ability to control your attention, emotions, appetites and behaviour – influences your physical health, financial security, the quality of your relationships and your professional success. We all know this. But why is it so hard to control and why, sometimes, do we have so little of it? Maximum Willpower brings together the newest insights about self-control from psychology, economics, neuroscience and medicine, explaining how we can break old habits and create healthy habits, conquer procrastination and manage stress and emotions. Discover why we give in to temptation and how we can find the strength to resist. By understanding the limits of willpower you can prioritize goals, make conscious choices, change old habits and give up the pursuit of perfection. This book focuses on strategies that can help you transcend limitations, strengthen self-control and escape the grip of chronic stress and procrastination. Whether you are trying to break a habit, improve your health, or find your focus, this book will change the way you think about willpower and help you make real and lasting changes in your life.

The writing style is easy to read, and the examples the author uses made this a enjoyable read for me. It’s not a dry self help book. This one is interesting and in my opinion as fun to read as any fiction books. In fact, I rushed through this the first time because I enjoyed it so much.

Five stars. No question. This is one of the few books I can think of nothing negative to say about. It’s that good.

And in case you want to read more reviews on this book, follow the link:

Here’s where my inner nerd shows through. One of my favorite periods of history to read about is world war two. Maus and Schindler’s Ark are two of my recent reads on the topic (both great books – check them out).

199 days: The Battle for Stalingrad is more of a textbook than those two. Maus is a graphic novel, and Schindler’s Ark is a set of autobiographical accounts put together to make a fantastic book that reads almost like a novel. Still, don’t let the word ‘textbook’ put you off. I found this an engaging read. It was easy to understand, and I read through it relatively quickly.

One major criticism of the book seems to be that it doesn’t go into enough detail. I’ll agree that it’s more of an overview, but it had enough details to be really interesting. It was published in 1999, so is a little out of date, but I enjoyed it. That’s important. So many history books can be dry and boring. This was one of the few that proved it doesn’t need to be that way. History is interesting, and world war two is one of the most interesting periods of history in my opinion. I don’t understand why some authors seem to go out of their way to make it sound like something designed to put you to sleep.

Though the focus of the book is Stalingrad (as hinted by the title), there’s an interesting overview of events leading up to the battle. It talks about Stalin’s purges, and Hitler’s overconfidence. The structure is sound, leading you through the events that led up to the battle, and then the battle itself, and then a little about afterward. It flowed well. There’s nothing worse for me than a history book that skips around. I find it all gets muddled up in my head as to what happened when. This laid it all out for me in a way that let me understand it.

In my opinion, if you’re interested in world war two like I am, then it’s worth a read. There are more up to date books out there, but few I’ve come across as engaging as this one.

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