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P. Pechey (London, UK)

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Real Leaders Don't Do Powerpoint: How to speak so people listen
Real Leaders Don't Do Powerpoint: How to speak so people listen
Price: £5.03

3.0 out of 5 stars Useful but not compelling, 19 April 2014
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The subject matter alone means that this book is never going to worth more than four stars. Essentially Christopher Witt has written a text book for public speakers and I would say he's done a fairly decent job. There is lots of useful and practical advice, and Witt's main point is if you want to move people with your speech or presentation then focus on conveying your message with conviction and passion using stories and imagery that your audience can relate to. Relying on slides or visual aids only tends to distract your audience's attention away from you the speaker, which is not what you want.
Other reviewers have commented that the book is aimed at high-flying execs or regular public speakers, and is therefore not as useful for the average office Joe Bloggs like you and me who need to present to small or medium sized audiences on a regular basis. I agree that the author seems to be writing for the aspiring TED talkers among us, but in fact I think there is lots in here that is applicable to everyday office life. Indeed I highlighted lots of wise words that I shall review next time I prepare a talk.
The great shame is that Witt didn't aim his book more towards the masses. In my view he has missed an opportunity to really take a stand against the scourge of bad, dull, bullet-laden Powerpoint presentations that pervades the corporate culture of today. A real leader would have used his passion and insight to inspire a widespread popular movement against the use of Powerpoint in the office. (Surely someone must have done a TED talk on that by now?!)
Instead he wrote a text book, and a slightly padded out text book at that. There's nothing wrong with that, and there's plenty of value to be found in Witt's writing. However, for an equally useful, and slightly better written book on the subject of presentations, I would also urge a look at the first half of Life's a Pitch by Bayley and Mavity.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert B. Cialdini
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Very enlightening and insightful, 22 Mar 2014
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If, like me, you are fascinated by human psychology then you will definitely enjoy this book. Robert Cialdini brings to life the wealth of academic research into the psychology of persuasion in a very engaging book. He outlines six principles that when employed correctly generate almost automatic compliance (what he calls "click-whirr" - like pressing play on a cassette) in the other person:
- Reciprocation
- Commitment and consistency
- Social Proof
- Likeability
- Authority
- Scarcity

Each principle is explained in detail and illustrated with real examples from both academic research as well as everyday life. Cialdini is very engaging and makes each chapter into a compelling story. A few of the examples may be well known to the reader, such as the famous shock experiment in the 60s into the effect of authority on compliance, but the author uses his examples perfectly, and it is his skill as a writer that makes the book so fascinating and the subject matter so vivid.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Commitment and Consistency, which was a real eye-opener, especially some of the research examples. You can't help thinking how on earth are people so easily swayed into making big commitments purely by agreeing to almost trivial commitments first? But now I'm aware of the principle I have noticed it myself first hand.

So why only four stars? My only niggle with the book is the author's somewhat negative or defensive stance on the subject. I bought the book hoping to learn how to be a better, more influential leader and manager, and in many respects the book met my expectations. But Cialdini's stance is very much that each principle of persuasion is a "weapon of influence" to be defended against by the unsuspecting victim. The epilogue certainly emphasises this view, and each chapter contains a section on how to recognise and defend against that compliance tactic.

I can certainly see why this might be useful. There are plenty of unscrupulous tricksters out there trying to dupe us one way or another, and it is definitely wise to be vigilant to their tactics. But in general I felt that these are the minority of cases and that Cialdini projects a slightly too negative tone at times. Instead I would have liked him to explain how the majority of leaders employ the principles of persuasion for good. That minor point aside, "Influence" is an excellent book and well worth reading.

Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
by Christopher McDougall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and wonderfully compelling, 31 Jan 2014
McDougall weaves together wonderful story-telling with sporting and anthropological history as he recounts his personal quest to understand how humans are able to run for hours on end for up to 100 miles and why modern running shoes are doing us more harm than good. If you enjoyed Feet in the Clouds then you will undoubtedly find this a similarly gripping read.
McDougall's writing is natural and witty and he uses the full palette of colour and vibrancy to bring to life the characters he befriends on his journey to run with the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. Caballo Blanco and Barefoot Ted and their contrasting personalities particularly stand out the page.
The author's personal story is intertwined with a brilliant narrative that explores the science and evolutionary roots of our ability to run long distances. McDougall writes superbly tense accounts of some of the world's hardest trail races and paints vivid portraits of some of the tough-as-nails ultra-marathoners who compete in them.
The human side to the story is very engaging and expertly told, but in my opinion the best and most interesting chapters are the ones that reveal the human race's evolution into natural runners. I was totally fascinated for example by the chapter on persistence hunting. The author's main point of course is that modern running shoes have destroyed our natural running style and created an epidemic of running injuries that didn't exist prior to 40 years ago. It is a compelling argument for barefoot/minimalist running and well worth reading.

Attitude Is Everything: Change Your Attitude... Change Your Life!
Attitude Is Everything: Change Your Attitude... Change Your Life!
Price: £1.93

3.0 out of 5 stars Long on truisms and rhetoric but short on practical advice, 10 Jan 2014
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If you're looking for a book that will persuade or even cajole you into changing your attitude then this is a worthwhile read. The author clearly and strongly advocates the benefits of adopting a positive attitude in life. His message is that if you want to be successful at anything worth achieving that you have to start with a positive attitude and stay positive in the face of numerous setbacks. I agree with everything he says.
The book is well written and quick to read. The author uses anecdotes and examples from his own life and those of his friends and acquaintances to illustrate his points. However the book falls down for me in two respects. Firstly, I would have liked to see some real evidence from research in psychology and neuro-science to fully back-up why and how positive attitude leads people to be more successful. Readers are expected to take the author's assertions at face value, and without proper evidence to support his arguments I suspect the readers that most need to be convinced to change their attitude are also the most likely to stay doubters.
For example, we're told that "we become what we think about" e.g. someone wanting to earn £1m needs to start by believing that he/she can achieve it. This is perfectly true - believing you can do it is a pre-requisite to achieving it, but just believing it doesn't make it so.
Which leads me to my second criticism. Because the author doesn't give an explanation of why some people are more positive than others he lacks any real, practical advice that would benefit those who could most use it. His message basically boils down to: be positive and associate with positive people because it will do you good; be resolute in the face of setbacks and never give up.
While this is all well and good and very true, unless you're looking for a brief motivational caffeine shot to get you moving the book lacks any substance that will really help pessimists systematically get out of the cycle of negative thinking. For a far more practical and helpful book I on the subject I recommend Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman.

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators (J-B Lencioni Series)
Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators (J-B Lencioni Series)
Price: £11.74

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely helpful if a little self serving, 22 Jan 2013
I really like the five dysfunctions model and find it a very helpful way to think about and explain how and why teams don't always work together. There are a lot of practical ideas for how to overcome the dysfunctions, and I will definitely try out as many as I can.
Two things I didn't particularly like: 1) the book feels quite padded out. It could easily have been shorter and simply added to a revised version of the original book, which itself is quite short, but I guess why charge for something once when you can make people pay twice? 2) the author refers several times to his other work and online material that he'd love you to pay for. I realise now that I'm in the wrong industry.

Timeguard TG77 Day Compact Electronic Timeswitch
Timeguard TG77 Day Compact Electronic Timeswitch
Offered by Fastlec
Price: £9.83

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Both failed within a month, 31 Dec 2011
I was really pleased to find this product on Amazon so I ordered two. Both timers worked perfectly for about a month and then, within a week of each other, they both stopped switching. When I returned the product to the seller they (Vasi4ko) claim that the parcel has been mysteriously lost in the post. My stupidity for not sending the package via registered post. Avoid this product, and this seller.

Proporta iPhone 4, iPhone 4S Aluminium Lined Finest Quality Leather Protective Pouch Case Cover with Pull Tab and Contrast Stitching
Proporta iPhone 4, iPhone 4S Aluminium Lined Finest Quality Leather Protective Pouch Case Cover with Pull Tab and Contrast Stitching
Price: £22.34

3.0 out of 5 stars Good to start with but doesn't do it's job for long, 6 Nov 2011
I was really impressed with this case when I first got it. It fitted my iphone 4 absolutely perfectly. So snugly in fact that I could only get the phone out by pulling on the well designed tab that ejects it from the case - which was exactly what I wanted: a thick skin for my iphone that I could take off whenever I wanted to use it. However, after only a few months the case has stretched ever so slightly, but just enough that it no longer holds the iphone as tightly as when I first bought it. Tipping the case upside down will now allow the phone to easily slide out, which has caused my phone to unexpectedly fall out on more than one occasion when I wasn't paying attention to how I was holding the case. Disappointing.

What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How successful people become even more successful
What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How successful people become even more successful
by Marshall Goldsmith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not a classic, 6 Nov 2011
I'm an avid consumer of the books of this genre but I can safely say that this one didn't grab me. The author devalued his own advice by being far too fond of his own self-worth and telling the reader why you should listen to him. There may well be useful advice to be gleaned from this book but I rather suspect that it depends on you being able to associate it with specific character traits that you probably already know about, which therefore makes it rather superfluous and lacking in any real insight.

Rosie's Walk
Rosie's Walk
by Pat Hutchins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Timeless classic, 6 Nov 2011
This review is from: Rosie's Walk (Paperback)
My 2 year old loves this book, although she's not sure about the fox. Despite there being very few words the illustrations tell the story wonderfully and there is plenty to discuss on every page.

The Sound Of Birdsong
The Sound Of Birdsong
Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I wanted, 6 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Sound Of Birdsong (Audio CD)
I bought this to listen on my ipod in the office so that I can block out background noise and still concentrate on my work. It kind of does the job but because each track is an individual bird the overall effect is not quite as natural as I had hoped. I'll probably try out more of a dawn chorus soundtrack instead.

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