Profile for Amazon Customer > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Amazon Customer
Top Reviewer Ranking: 133,458
Helpful Votes: 248

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Amazon Customer (London, England)
(VINE VOICE)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3
pixel
The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life - Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process
The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life - Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process
by Thomas M. Sterner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.78

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short and highly actionable, 17 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a procrastinator and a bit of a dreamer I am finding this short book incredibly helpful. Thomas Sterner uses his own life story as a musician, piano tuner, parent and student to present an effective and rather liberating approach to practice. I say liberating because because Sterner advises using a detached, non-judgemental approach to practice feedback which, paradoxically perhaps, makes it easier to keep yourself happily immersed in the practice process.

I was lucky enough to go skiing a couple of weeks ago, which can be frustrating because I've been a few times over the years but never frequently enough to get really confident. This time I quite naturally started using the Practicing Mind approach on my pre-ski-school day, polishing my turns on some relatively easy runs, and by the time I got into class I was turning mindfully and correctly even on slopes which would have rattled me in the past. To my astonishment, I was literally applauded by our ESF instructor after one descent, for practicing and assimilating her tips.

If you read this and want to take it further by following up Sterner's hints about the helpfulness of meditation, I'd recommend Martin Borosen's "One Moment Master" for absolute beginners, and Martine Batchelor's "Let Go: A Buddhist Guide to Breaking Free of Habits" to follow that. If you are wondering whether you could make this part of a corporate culture, there's a surprising amount of overlap with another book I happened to read recently, Mike Rother's "Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results".


Thinking in Systems: A Primer
Thinking in Systems: A Primer
Price: £7.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why systems generate their own behaviour, and what to do about it, 10 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I recommend Thinking in Systems because it has changed the way I understand and relate to my world. Published after Donella Meadow's death, it introduces Systems Thinking by way of definition, illustration and application.

In Part 1, System Structure and Behaviour, Meadows uses two graphical tools to analyse systems: stock and flow diagrams to show system structure; and charts mapping stock or flow levels over time to explore system behaviour for specific scenarios. The diagrams can be used to display "balancing" (aka "negative") and "reinforcing" (aka "positive") feedback loops, and the charts to explore how these might play out.

While some of the systems might seem simplistic, they build up understanding of a key Systems Thinking insight, that systems generate their own behaviour. And if you're ever wondered why the "heroes and villains" style of explanation only works in retrospect, this is a damn good explanation.

Chapter two, The Zoo, is a library of common system structures and their behaviour. Those of us from the software world will be reminded of a patterns library. Again, these patterns illustrate a deeper insight, that "systems with similar feedback structures produce similar dynamic behaviors, even if the outward appearance of these systems is completely dissimilar." (p 51)

In Part 2, Systems and Us, Meadows applies Systems Thinking to our world. Many of the examples are dated, but I found myself thinking how applicable these patterns and insights were to topics I was currently encountering - for example, I can't help thinking she would have loved the way that Kanban reflects a systems learning, that the ability of people and organisations to execute tasks degrades rapidly as the number of tasks rises beyond a critical limit.

Of course one natural and urgent interest in systems behaviour is how to change it. If worshipping heroes and lynching villains isn't going to reform systems that may exhibit non-linear, perverse or self-preserving behaviour, what is?

In Part 3, Creating Change in System and in our Philosophy, Meadows gives us a dozen leverage points for changing systems, starting with the simplest and ending with the most powerful. She finishes with a list of "systems wisdoms" - attitudes and values that she and others she respects have adopted to make them more effective at understanding and changing the systems we live in.

Like many of the other reviewers, I wish I'd read this book a long time ago. It has its limitations - I'd love to see more recent examples, and can't help wondering if there are any open-source Systems modelling resources. But for me this is a book of timeless value for anyone interested in a better understanding of their world and their options in it.


Corporate Effectuation
Corporate Effectuation
by T. Blekman
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars five habits of highly effective entrepreneurs, 27 Mar 2012
This review is from: Corporate Effectuation (Paperback)
You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but my only problem with this book is its title - I disliked the word "effectuation" so much that I refused to read it for some time, even though I'd been given a copy by Thomas Blekman himself when he was acting as a very helpful mentor at the February 2012 London Lean Startup Machine.

When I finally read it, I was intrigued and impressed. Blekman builds on work by Saras D. Saravthy, which might be summarised as "five habits of highly effective entrepreneurs", and applies these to corporate management. Used as a system, these habits comprise a reactive and adaptive approach to getting things done which he contrasts with what he calls the causal approach of corporate projects driven by big plans. I'm not too sure about "the causal approach" as nomenclature, either, but mentally translating it into "waterfall management" worked well for me, and I found the contrast persuasive and the five principles of effectuation themselves to be empowering and inspiring.

The five principles he starts with are

- Bird in hand: start with what you have, asking yourself questions like "Who am I?" (What are my characteristics and preferences?), "What can I do?", and "Who do I know?"

- Affordable loss: by deciding up-front what you can afford to lose on a project you create room for light-weight experimentation as opposed to a possibly costly, premature commitment to success

- Crazy quilt: seeking alliances with other internal and external players in your value network

- Lemonade: opportunistically turning setbacks into openings

- Pilot in the plane: using the other four principles to make things happen

Blekman contrasts this approach with top-down management as a method of making large changes, or optimising "business as usual" for smaller refinements, and makes a compelling case that the effectuation approach is more suitable for times of rapid change and high uncertainty, for resisting rapid commoditisation, and for innovation in general. He then supports this with a series of case studies by his co-authors, which form the second half of the book.

I found the book both helpful and energising, and I recommend it to would-be entrepreneurs as well as to managers.


Damascus Nights
Damascus Nights
by Rafik Schami
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Story-telling, updated, 24 Nov 2011
This review is from: Damascus Nights (Paperback)
This book, using a traditional Arabian-nights structure of stories within a story, is a brilliant feat of story-telling. Not only are the tales successful as turn-the-page stories, but their rootedness in the Damascus of 1959 (when the main narrative is set) illuminate the Syria of then and now, as well the everyday challenges of being any human, anywhere.

En-route you will get magical tales of demons and monsters, you will learn what America looks like to a newly arrived post-war Syrian immigrant, you will encounter the diversity of the Syrian people and you will experience courage, love, loyalty and an inadvertant betrayal.

If you like great story-telling, humane values and an opportunity to learn something of a culture that is (at the very least) not fully represented in Western media, Damascus Nights is a sound bet - and I'm off to read Rafik Shami's others.


Let Go: A Buddhist Guide to Breaking Free of Habits
Let Go: A Buddhist Guide to Breaking Free of Habits
by Martine Batchelor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing yourself, one habit at a time, 22 Mar 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Let Go is the only book (and I'm a book junkie) that remains on or near my bedside table, as I cycle every few weeks through another of the eleven short chapters, each with its neatly boxed meditation exercise. And as each chapter comes round again, I find I bring something new to it, and take something new from it.

Let Go explains how to use mindfulness (anapanasati) and insight (vipassan') meditation to let go of unwanted patterns of habit and response which can poison our relationships and sabotage our dreams. The book is firmly rooted in Buddhist practice, but doesn't require any metaphysical beliefs at any stage, and has very positive explanations of how meditation relates to and supports other techniques such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), 12 step addiction and even an obsessive-compulsive therapy.

Martine Batchelor spent a decade in a Korean Zen monastery, and since then has practised in environments as varied as rural meditation centres and a South African jail. She brings her experiences as an individual, family member, author and practitioner to the book with a light and self-deprecating voice, but her explanation of how unwanted mental habits are acquired, grow upon us and eventually constrict us is detailed and convincing, as are the explanations of how to become aware of them, of their triggers, and how to discard them. The whole analysis is as clearly built on her experience as on her command of Buddhism's many centuries of practice and refinement.

I recommend this book in the hope that it will help others, as it I believe it has helped me, to become someone that they and those they love will find easier and more rewarding to be with.


Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
by Stephen Batchelor
Edition: Hardcover

60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding a way, 5 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Stephen Batchelor weaves together the tales of two lives to present a new - or possibly very old - form of Buddhism.

The first life is his own, a suburban London teenager who took the hippy trail to the Dalai Lama's exile in Dharamsala where he studied Buddhism and became a monk. From there he goes to Switzerland, and Korea where he joins a Zen monastery. Eventually he abandons the theologies of both, marries and disrobes, to concentrate on applying Buddhist practice and philosophy to the existential challenges that lurk beneath the surfaces of our everyday lives. In common with some (but not all) existentialists, Stephen Batchelor appears to appreciate the ridiculous side of life's essential absurdity - his memoirs are lively and occasionally, in a straight-faced way, laugh-out-loud funny.

The second life is that of the Buddha. By restricting his sources to the Pali canon (those scriptures written in the language the Buddha spoke) and by ignoring everything from the pre-existing Brahminical spiritual culture, Batchelor re-creates a set of teachings and a context which are, if not actually atheist, at least supportive of his own existential Buddhism.

The two stories work together. One of the existential themes running through the book is the contingency of life - the uncomfortable randomness that brings us into being (as illustrated by the moment his mother shows a teenage Stephen a war-time photo of a soldier, saying that if things had turned out differently this man "would have been your father"), and that dictates the course and duration of our lives. By highlighting the contingency in both his life and the Buddha's, Batchelor uses the structure of his book to demonstrate the deep acceptance of contingency that he advocates.

As an atheist with an interest both in existentialism and in mindfulness meditation, this book might have been written for me. I find it obvious that meditation should be about more than stress reduction, but like many in our age, I cannot use a "more" which relies on the supernatural. By re-engaging meditation with the well-developed ethics and philosophy of Buddhism, Stephen Batchelor has, I believe, found a way that will help many.


The Santa Trap
The Santa Trap
by Jonathan Emmett
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wicked fun!, 10 Dec 2009
This review is from: The Santa Trap (Hardcover)
This is book is a great Christmas morality tale about the brilliantly bad Bradley Bartleby and his evilly ingenious whole-house trap for Santa (who always gives him socks), with an entirely satisfactory outcome.

It went down a storm with my four-year-old - highly recommended for anyone who enjoys the Addams family, or just wants a little saccharine-free entertainment.


Jim's Lion
Jim's Lion
by Russell Hoban
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for children facing hospital, 10 Dec 2009
This review is from: Jim's Lion (Hardcover)
To illustrate that this book is not just for children facing hospital, I introduced this book to my aliens and martial arts obsessed (and not in the least hospitalised) son with

"I think that the man who wrote this story must have known a little boy who was going to hospital, and who was feeling scared, and I think he must have written this for that little boy".

When I finished, he asked me to read it to him again, and then fell asleep on the final page. Anecdotal evidence maybe, but good enough for this dad.

This book is a very special combination of a moving story (that happens to illustrate, in child's terms, a great technique for dealing with fear) and lovingly large and beautiful illustrations.

I really care about good children's books, but this is the first time I've felt that five stars weren't enough, for something that's rather more than just a good book. I'll be returning my copy to the library where maybe someone who needs it more will find it. But please bring it back into print.


Playful Parenting
Playful Parenting
by Lawrence J. Cohen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.59

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why playful parents make happy humans, 21 Nov 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Playful Parenting (Paperback)
Keynes famously said "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist" and in a similar way, many of us are probably unwitting inheritors of a behaviourist view of parenting that suggests we somehow *should* be punishing or rewarding behaviour at its face value.

Lawrence Cohen offers another perspective, based on personal and professional experience, and two simple and reasonably common-sense ideas. The first idea is attachment theory, which he explains with the metaphor of a cup - when a child's "attachment cup" is full (of attachment and connectedness to an attachment figure) then they have the confidence and security to explore their world and the people in it. The second idea is that children use play to model and test whatever's on their mind, especially roles and relationships.

So when a child says "you're a stinker", Cohen's response is to take it playfully not personally. He whispers "Don't tell anyone my secret name - only my closest friends call me Stinker" and the play begins.

The whole book is informed by his life as a father and his work as a play therapist, and I have found it to be immensely practical in reducing the stresses and conflicts caused by misunderstanding situations and communications. I'm currently re-reading the book after a year or so, and it's almost scary to recognise how many recent minor parenting triumphs had their roots in my first reading of the book.

Is there a down-side? Of course - sometimes it's hard to find the energy to play on the floor, or the time just to sit together on the sofa. But how much energy and time does it take to do things the other way, and with how much less laughter and pleasure?


Into the Forest
Into the Forest
by Anthony Browne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't panic!, 18 Sep 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Into the Forest (Paperback)
Into The Forest is the beautifully and imaginatively illustrated story of a boy who's upset by his father's absence, and is then given a cake by his mother to deliver to his grandmother.

Our hero decides to take the short cut through the forest where he encounters various fairy-tale characters who want him to give them his yummy cake. He, however, is determined to give the cake to his grandmother, and all ends as it should. It's worth mentioning that he's shown in full colour, whilst the forest and its fairy-tale characters are all black and white, apart from a red cape which he dons with interesting results.

It's ironic (or perhaps not) that a book about dealing with anxiety should generate so much anxiety, starting with this parent - I find the book rather more scary than my four-year old, who cruises through it with great pleasure, happily finding the characters hidden in the forest illustrations.

I think that children have their own fears, which Anthony Browne understands well. These do not include worrying about whether the father's absence is properly explained (I'd say it's there in the book) or whether the book's suitable for children (I'd say it shows that being worried about something doesn't mean that you have to give in to fairy-tale anxieties).

My advice - lose yourself in this forest of brilliant story-telling and intriguing illustration.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3