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Land of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time!
Land of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time!
by Conrad Barski M.D.
Edition: Paperback
Price: £32.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining guide to functional mastery, 3 Aug 2013
Over the last few years there's been a strong resurgence in the functional programming paradigm. New languages such as Clojure and Scala, which synthesise functional features with a modern-looking syntax, have engendered enthusiastic communities. While JavaScript, CoffeeScript and TypeScript developers increasingly want to code in a functional style.


Understanding key functional concepts is widely considered to be an essential part of a software programmer's skill set. One which invariably results in higher levels of proficiency with other languages.



However, anyone who has tried their hand at functional programming knows it necessitates a different way of thinking. This mindset shift invariably takes some time to accomplish. Many give up before the proverbial light bulb is illuminated.

What would help is an engaging and entertaining introduction to functional programming. Land of Lisp aims to provide just such a solution.

It's a comprehensive 500 page guide which covers the full breadth of functional programming topics, from using simple lists to defining your own macros. Throughout exercises and code examples are practical in nature, with an underlying gaming theme.

The author's informal style, combined with a fluid pace, well structured content and those wacky-yet-informative illustrations, are a breath of fresh air in the often insular world of functional programming.

Although the book's content and code listings are based around CLISP (an ANSI Common Lisp implementation), the lessons learned can be applied to other Lisp dialects, or languages that support a functional style of coding.


The question is whether this book succeeds in easing the path to functional programming mastery? I think it does.


Enterprise Games: Using Game Mechanics to Build a Better Business
Enterprise Games: Using Game Mechanics to Build a Better Business
by Michael Hugos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.65

4.0 out of 5 stars accomplished entry point to the world of Game Mechanics, 19 Nov 2012
In fitting with the subject matter this book has a lively, engaging and conversational delivery. In structure it's loosely divided into three parts.

Part one addresses the business-centric application and potential of what Hugos refers to as Game Mechanics. It stresses the need for game-like goals and rules, real-time feedback, player engagement and generating a desire to participate. Here you'll find a succession of insightful thoughts and challenges to the status quo of business operations.

The second and third sections are filled with examples to illustrate Game Dynamics in action. Examples as divergent as multi-player online games, social media, mobile apps, 3D animation and visual data analytics. These sections are quite similar in form, with the latter focusing more on the social implications.

Is the book an informative and thought provoking guide to Game Mechanics? Yes it is. Does the book contain examples of how specific companies employ Game Mechanics today to attract, engage and motivate your customers or employees? Absolutely.

However, this book doesn't answer the puzzle of how to implement Game Mechanics inside your own organisation. It's left to the reader to find their own path within the gaming framework. Such a description isn't really possible. After all, there are so many routes to take, so many options to explore, there isn't one simple formula that will work for every organisation. A positive book in nature, the optimistic highroad focus means it doesn't really explore the potential drawbacks and consequences of a game-centric approach.

The world of Game Mechanics is at an embryonic stage. Enterprise Games is a comprehensive and accomplished entry point to exploring this new world. In the coming years it will be interesting to see who's had the foresight, bravery and determination to make it work.


Write To Sell: The Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting
Write To Sell: The Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting
by Andy Maslen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars a constant companion in my copywriter activities, 24 Sep 2012
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Write to Sell is a focussed, content-rich guide to the craft of copywriting. Maslen's highly regarded experience, knowledge and skills really shine through the pages.

I particularly liked the book's format. No padding waffle, no excessive repeating of points and advice, no drifting into marketing mode. Just richly-packed pages with masses of relevant, plainly stated and insightful information.

Split into six sections, the first three aim to clarify and focus the reader's thinking, and encourage them to view things from the buyer's perspective. The last three sections guide the reader through copy generation. It's an easy and engrossing read from cover-to-cover. However, the clear layout, numerous summaries and abundance of tips also make for a great reference book.

I think Maslen has created a gem. The techniques, advice and tips are applicable to reporting, presentations and writing in general. As a source of inspiration and advice it's become a constant companion in my copywriter activities - which says it all really.


Win-Win Selling: Turning Customer Needs Into Sales (Wilson Learning Library)
Win-Win Selling: Turning Customer Needs Into Sales (Wilson Learning Library)
Price: £9.97

4.0 out of 5 stars a book that's as easy to read as it is informative, 24 Sep 2012
Selling isn't an easy profession. In a rapidly changing world with increasingly savvy consumers, the techniques that worked yesterday might not succeed tomorrow.

The approach discussed by Win-Win Selling takes the well known needs-fulfilment salesman scenario and extends it to the 'counselor evolution' model. This model is all about creating a close relationship, or even longterm partnership, between the salesman and the customer.

There are four main sections, namely Relating, Discovering, Advocating and Supporting. The overall aim is to encourage a more customer friendly approach by changing attitudes, rather than imposing a rigidly defined structure. While the primary audience is sales professionals, there's plenty of thought provoking information for anyone connected to sales, marketing or advertising.

Throughout it emphasises the importance of honesty, credibility, competence, and in particular empathy. Empathy is essential to discover your customers attitudes, motivations and feelings, understand their problems and develop a strong, trusting relationship. In this way a successful salesman will identify and fill the gap between the customers current needs and their desired solution.

Once learnt the basic 'relationship' selling principles can be used to form the basis of your own bespoke technique. In fact, the book positively encourages the reader to pursue their own style and best practices based on the information provided.

It would have been easy to create just another 'theory' book. Instead the reader will enjoy a practical style of presentation, one where advice is backed up with a raft of stories and case histories, which clarify the messages and illustrate how they work in real-world situations. My only niggles is the occasionally disjointed layout and flow.

In a crowded marketplace Wilson Learning have created a distinctly individual book that's as easy to read as it is informative. And one that successfully conveys a better way to sell.


Fish! Omnibus
Fish! Omnibus
by Stephen Lundin And Carr Hagerm
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a simple recipe to create a happier you, 5 Jun 2012
This review is from: Fish! Omnibus (Paperback)
We'd all love to have a positive, energetic and happy work environment. For the authors of Fish! this is not only possible, but something we can control.

This omnibus edition combines the original Fish! book with Fish! Tales and Fish! Sticks. The supplementary books take the fishmonger-inspired philosophy and reinforce it with real-world examples and motivational suggestions respectively. Each book is quite short in length, so it's possible to whiz through one in a couple of lunchtime reading sessions.

Fish! imparts its wisdom using a story. Yes, it's a highly Americanised and somewhat corny story, an approach that won't suit everyone. Nevertheless, it's quite easy to spin through the text and draw out the salient points. And what are these salient points? Well, it boils down to four key messages: attitude, playfulness, goodwill and presentness.

Your own attitude is probably the most important factor of all. How you feel about the day, how you respond in different environments and situations, and your relationship with others; it's all under your control. You can be positive, energetic, creative, patient, caring and supportive. Or you can decide to be bored, disinterested, regretful, bitter, hostile or angry. Essentially the message is become whoever you want to be simply by changing your attitude.

Treating every task as a play activity can't fail to engender a sense of fun and enjoyment. Once again it's just a matter of personal perspective and attitude. The authors suggest that even the most serious and demanding tasks can be viewed in a playful light. Though I'm certain transforming some of your most obnoxious chores into amusing entertainment will require more than a little effort.

How does it feel to make someone else's day? Energising? Satisfying? Good deeds invariably bring about good feelings. Money and success, on the other hand, tend to bestow far less in terms of personal gratification. The message here is when you offer your time, assistance, feedback and support, your own happiness levels increase.

Busy lives, weighty responsibilities and relentless deadlines are difficult enough. However, beating yourself up about past events or worrying about what will happen tomorrow, only makes coping with today that much harder. So, the final key message is be present; live in the moment. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet to happen, and often turns out to be strikingly different to what we'd imagined. It's notable how many individuals, when questioned late in life, say what they regret most of all is the time they spent worrying about situations and events that never actually happened.

Of course, you can apply the Fish! philosophy to any aspect of life. A simple recipe to create a happier you.


Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft® PowerPoint® to Create Presentations that Inform, Motivate, and Inspire (Business Skills)
Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft® PowerPoint® to Create Presentations that Inform, Motivate, and Inspire (Business Skills)
by Cliff Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.39

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars create story-based presentations, 28 May 2012
Ever witnessed a slide presentation without bullet points? No? I can't remember one either. Yet, all too often this de facto standard of presentation acts as an aide-memoire for the presenter, rather than a compelling story for the audience.

The aim of Cliff Atkinson's book is to banish bullet points and text-dominated slides. His mission is to encourage you to create a very different kind of presentation. One that engages the audience with a well crafted, highly focussed, carefully ordered collection of headlines and images. A collection that delivers a story rather than a lecture. As the subtitle suggests he wants you to "create presentations that inform, motivate and inspire."

To compose a successful presentation the Beyond Bullet Points (BBP) approach takes cues from other mediums, namely stage plays, newspapers and movies. As with a stage play, a successful story flow will have three acts; a beginning, a middle and an end. Each slide has the kind of strong, memorable headline you'd find in a newspaper. And the complete slide collection is designed in a movie-style storyboard manner.

Fittingly, the book begins with a BBP success story, and by the end of chapter three you'll have acquired a solid overview of the steps required. At this point many readers may want to head off and apply their new found knowledge immediately. However tempting this might be, only by reading the rest of the book will you discover many valuable nuances, and learn how to avoid some of the more common mistakes.

Content organisation is excellent, with a smooth transition from chapter to chapter. More advanced information and reference material is relegated to one of the five appendixes, rather than clutter up the book's main flow. As you'd hope with a book focussed on presentation, the page layout and general styling is clear and effective. Nevertheless, with the PDF version there is an occasional problem with text contrast, the result of some poor colour choices; namely black-text-on-dark-grey and white-text-on-light-grey. Although no such problems on my Kobo Touch e-reader.

The book's website has a number of very useful downloadable resources, including toolkits and templates for a range of Microsoft Powerpoint products (2003 to 2010).

I believe this book will help anyone create better presentations. Whether you create them as part of your job, or as an ad hoc activity for work, clubs or social groups, I heartily recommend it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2013 3:47 PM BST


The Art of SEO (Theory in Practice)
The Art of SEO (Theory in Practice)
by Eric Enge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an absorbing read for anyone interested in SEO, 25 Mar 2012
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has a reputation of being a rather mysterious, even clandestine practice. The aim of this book is to lift the lid on this art form.

The book's four authors are highly active in the SEO field and have associations with organisations such as the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), Stone Temple Consulting, Netconcepts, Science of SEO and SEOmoz. This high-powered meld of business intelligence, technical knowledge and practical expertise has the potential to deliver a rich reading experience.

So, I already had high expectations as I started to work my way through the book. A glance at the table of contents hints at a meticulous eye for detail and comprehensive approach. After reading each subsequent chapter this feeling is only intensified. The tactics and methodology covered range from straightforward but essential SEO information to deep, sophisticated insights aimed at the advanced practitioner.

Subjects discussed include search engine theory and behaviour, key analytical tools, the impact of social media, user-focussed data, effective website creation, result tracking, SEO best practices and much more. The text is full of links to relevant organisations, in-depth reports, appropriate industry analysis and case-in-point websites. In addition the content is supported by a website, artofseobook.com, which contains content updates plus hands-on resources and guides.

The authors also found space to include a chapter on the merits of whether to build an in-house SEO team or outsource the operation. At over 30 pages this chapter is just as comprehensive as any other topic, and of significant value to any manager responsible for delivering a high quality SEO solution.

Despite the detailed coverage I found the material easy to read and understand. My relatively limited SEO knowledge didn't allow me to verify the accuracy or fine-grained quality of much of the book's material. However, I can say my own SEO knowledge was greatly enhanced by this book.

In conclusion I feel The Art of SEO is an absorbing read for anyone interested in SEO, and a book that will become a well-thumbed encyclopaedic reference for practitioners. As the authors note in their final chapter, SEO is an evolving art form, so it's obviously difficult to write a truly definitive book. Yet, I feel the Art of SEO is as close as you'll find anywhere.

After all, in today's marketplace taking full advantage of search technology can be the difference between a dominant success story and a business failure.


Microsoft Excel 2010 Formulas and Functions Inside Out
Microsoft Excel 2010 Formulas and Functions Inside Out
by Egbert Jeschke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.04

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a strong product in this competitive marketplace, 24 Feb 2012
There's plenty of books on the subject of Excel, so I was interested to see how 'Microsoft Excel 2010 Formulas and Functions Inside Out' would fare in such competition. Weighing in at 1088 pages, and split into four sections, it certainly falls into the comprehensive reference category.

In the first section a problem solving approach offers a speedy orientation to some of Excel's most useful formulas and functions. The many insights, tips and tricks also whet the appetite for what's to come.

The second section lifts functions out from the worksheet cells, and spotlights how they can be used within macros to deliver more sophisticated programming solutions. It's a good place to discover new concepts and ideas. Many of these solutions also include visual and charting scenarios, plus there's an introduction to creating custom functions with Excel's built-in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) development tools.

In both these sections the content is attractively presented in a practical step-by-step flow. Most pages have at least one colourful image, figure or table. The text is further supplemented by plenty of embedded boxes containing notes, tips, associated information and references to sample files. It's a presentation style that lends itself to the experimental approach, rather than a long reading session.

Although not strictly in the formula and function domain, the authors have also thrown in examples of the new PowerPivot in action. A feature I'm sure will be heavily utilised by 2010 edition owners.

Section three is dedicated to in-depth function explanations, suitably organised into category-specific chapters. Despite the technical nature of the content, even here there's no shortage of colourful graphics and informative boxes.

And finally, the appendixes contain the obligatory function lists in A-Z and category arranged format, plus a summary of the features new to Excel 2010.

The comprehensive nature of this reference is further enhanced by a suitably large collection of downloadable sample files. These samples are fully cross referenced by chapter usage at the front of the book.

In conclusion this book is a strong product in this competitive marketplace. It's certainly a book I could recommend to anyone with a basic understanding of Excel and a desire to dig deeper into its potential. And despite being aimed at Excel 2010, there's still a great deal of value for 2003 and 2007 version users.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2012 10:10 AM GMT


Gardens of the Sun (Gollancz)
Gardens of the Sun (Gollancz)
by Paul McAuley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.40

4.0 out of 5 stars sequel to equally impressive The Quiet War, 21 Jan 2012
This book is the sequel to The Quiet War. Having thoroughly enjoyed that book I expected great things from this novel. And I wasn't disappointed.

There's a smooth transition from the first book to the second. In fact, there are so many references to Quiet War characters, events and story lines, I can only encourage everyone to read that novel first. After all, it's an excellent book.

Once again, I found my imagination stimulated by the richly described gene-engineered gardens. Spectacular habitats created by gene wizard Avernus and Sri Hong-Owen (Sri is Avernus's biggest admirer and would-be successor). These passages endow a convincing sense of realism, no doubt greatly helped by McAuley's Botany Ph.D, research activities and lecturing experience.

Yet I'm also impressed by McAuley's ability to craft a rich collection of three-dimensional characters, high-quality dialogue and any number of fully believable scenes - whether they be on Earth, the Moon or within the gas giant systems of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. When combined with its great sense of pace and fast moving plot, I found the 439 pages simply whizz by.

The only low point for me was the weak penultimate chapter. It exhibited such a different voice, style and pace, I had to wonder if it was written by the same person. But it couldn't spoil my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

There are more of Paul McAuley's words at his 'unlikely worlds' blog site.


One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com
One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com
by Richard L. Brandt
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliantly told story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, 2 Jan 2012
The Amazon effect. Hard to ignore. It's already led to significant changes on our local high streets. Bookshops have almost vanished, and those that remain struggle for profits. Pavement footfall on a cold winter's day has been replaced by mouse clicks by the fireside.

Richard Brandt's excellent book brings to life the story of Jeff Bezos - the man, the business executive and the visionary. And it explains in wonderful details how Amazon grew from the humblest of beginnings, to be mentioned in the same breath as Google and Apple.

There are fascinating insights into Bezos's early life. It's easy to see how his self-reliant, NASA-influenced, book-filled upbringing led to such high academic achievements and a love of technology. A boundless self belief helped sling shot him into a highflying executive career and ultimately to become one of the world's most influential entrepreneurs.

Yet, it was the early Internet, and its 2,300% yearly growth, that really caught his attention. A huge business opportunity just waiting to be tapped. The result was a classic US West Coast startup story, beginning as it did with a garage, one computer, two employees, a wife and a short course on book selling.

Amazon's stellar growth was only possible by forgoing all notion of profits, cutting non-essential costs, operating with a can-do attitude and attracting the right kind of investors. A strategy that resulted in a stock market floatation after only two years, those original $18 shares yielding a company valuation of $429 million. Only one year later the shares were $105, raising the valuation to in excess of $5 billion.

Despite the problems caused by the dotcom crash, Amazon expanded into CDs, DVDs, games and a host of other marketplaces - a trend that continues today with their wildly successful Kindle ebook devices. Yet, like any natural entrepreneur Bezos is always looking for the next big thing. The groundbreaking Amazon Web Services, which provide hosting services for a multitude of other companies (even some competitors), only confirms his impressive vision and boldness.

Amazon's phenomenal success, and his own billionaire status, has allowed Bezos to indulge in very personal projects. The Blue Origin company - with its aim of safe, affordable, commercial space flights - has its roots in those early childhood dreams of space exploration and NASA achievements.

On reading this book, it's clear the success of Amazon is down to Jeff Bezos's highly individual thinking, customer-obsessed focus, unconventional management style, unshakable self-belief and undoubted entrepreneurial skills - with an occasional slice of lady luck thrown in.

It's also clear Richard Brandt has the gift of conveying considerable amounts of information with splendid clarity, while maintaining a satisfying pace and sense of movement. I for one will be reading more of his work.


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