Friday, July 13, 2007

July 2007

I've not had much time this month to read fiction, but still some interesting books:

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times makes an interesting argument on why globalization and outsourcing is good for the United States, using ancedotes and interviews with today's business leaders. But he also makes the point that the U.S. has to step up to challenges today, writing, “In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears – and that is our problem.”

The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyer
All over the country, newspapers are slashing staff and closing bureaus as they try to maintain high profit margins. Is this the best solution for newspapers? Meyer offers a business model for papers, and writes that, first and foremost, newspapers must continue to preserve quality. For anyone interested in the future of newspapers, this is a must-read.

The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business by John Battelle
An interesting look not only at the history of Google, but also what factors led it to become the behemoth it is. Also, an explanation of how search is impacting marketing and news.

For a change of pace now:
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (audio)
Protagonist: Harry Potter
Setting: Hogswart Academy
Rating: 4.6
"Oh, you have a fine on this," the librarian tells me when I finally return it. OK, but it was a rather long book (and I hear the books that follow it are even longer!). This is the fourth in a series, and much darker than the first three. I read the first three years ago, but with the series coming to an end, now is the time to jump back into the books. Sure, it's a children's / teen book, but don't we all wish we could have gone to Hogswart?

Bleeding Hearts by Ian Rankin
Protagonist: Michael Weston
Setting: London, Edinburgh, U.S. (from NYC to Seattle)
Rating: 3.5
Rankin is one of my favorites, but this book didn't capture me the way his Rebus series does. In fact, I found it very hard to finish. It's told from the point of view of a hired killer, Michael Weston. No matter how nice the guy, it's hard to sympathize with someone who kills people for a living. Premise: Weston is anonymously hired to kill a TV reporter, but a series of events after the killing lead him to try to find out who hired him -- and why. It eventually leads him to a cult in Seattle, with a private detective, Hoffer, hot on his trail. In a twist, Hoffer has been hired not only to find Weston, but to kill him. Ultimately, there is a confrontation.

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (pen name for John Banville)
Read on audio by actor Timothy Dalton
Protagonist: Quirke Griffin
Setting: Dublin to Boston, in the 1950s
Rating: 4.0
The first in the Quirke series, this is more a novel of family secrets than a detective story. When Quirke, a hard-drinking pathologist, finds his brother-in-law changing the file of a dead woman, he becomes almost compulsive in finding out what is going on -- and in the process uncovers far more.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (audio)
Protagonist: Kathy H.
Setting: Hailsham school, somewhere in England, in the 1990s
Rating: 3.8
This is a slow-moving book, set in a typical English school. Except the students aren't typical -- they are clones, being raised solely to donate organs when they become adults. NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan said of this book that it "takes time to settle in a reader's mind" and that's exactly how I feel (and have felt about previous Ishiguro books). It took me a while to decide that, yes, this is a good book, but while I was reading it, it made me feel uncomfortable -- or unsettled. Now that it's settled in my mind, as Corrigan says, I can say that it's a worthwhile read.