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Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential
Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential
by Carol Dweck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing book - But Could Have Been Better Written., 1 Aug. 2016
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I loved this book. This is one of those rare pieces of work which really got me thinking, and made me look at life in a new way. Carol Dweck's theory that most of us are controlled by either a "fixed" or "growth" mindset, and that our mindsets make a huge difference to how we succeed in life is intriguing. The reason that I've only given it four stars is because it's in my opinion a poorly written book. Perhaps Dweck should have hired a good ghost writer.

There were a few things which I disagreed with her about, the main one being her criticism of the tennis player John McEnroe. You don't get to the very pinnacle of your sport without having a growth mindset. As a person McEnroe was always a little bit damaged, but his development as a tennis player showed all the characteristics of the growth mindset: he worked hard at eliminating his deficiencies.

The part of this book which really made me think was when Dweck discusses the labels which are put on people, especially children. It's just as wrong to label a child "Intelligent" and it is to call him "Stupid". The former label can cause a child to refuse to face challenges because doing so would challenge the perfect label which has been placed upon him.

Positive labels bad
Macenroe
company leaders too arrogant to fail
first half better than the first
growth thinking is logical thinking
personality is just like a muscle which can be developed.


Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance
Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance
by Matthew Syed
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everybody Should Read This Book!, 19 July 2016
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The hardest lesson that I've learnt in my life is not to be afraid of failure. That's why this book is so personal to me. Personal and professional growth can often only be obtained by failing over and over again - that's the message of this brilliant book. In these 300-odd pages Matthew Syed eloquently explains just why the concept of "failure" should be reassessed. This is one of those rare books which I couldn't put down once I started to read it.

Syed begins the book with the terrible story of the preventable hospital death of the wife of an airline pilot, and how that airman began a crusade to apply the safety culture of his profession - "black box thinking" - to the world of medicine. But Syed also demonstrates how BBT has been successfully applied to everything from David Beckham's soccer training through to James Dyson's vacuum cleaners. And it's an eye-opening and thought-provoking concept. The way in which prejudice, the blame culture and ego hinder the development process is beautifully explained here: terms like "reframing", "cognitive dissonance" and its close friend "confirmation bias" are used to show why so many people and organisations fail to reach their potential.

The true story of the Unilever nozzle sums up what this book is all about. A perfect piece of production equipment was only invented after hundreds of "failures" during a trial-and-error process. And this was after the company's engineers were unable to design the nozzle using scientific design methods. Success was an iterative, evolutionary process.

Reading this book, it struck me that this work would be the perfect companion-piece to Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's ground-breaking book "Freakonomics". Both these books examine the simple but often missed concept that reality is not the same as perception. Only by measuring and gaining feedback can we gain definitive answers to complex problems - and sometimes those answers are not the ones we expected. This message is one which politicians and senior managers would be wise to heed.

If I have a criticism it would be that Syed appears to be a bit naive when talking about healthcare in the USA. The greatest obstacle to progress over there is the brutal litigation culture. With potentially tens of millions of dollars to be lost in a single malpractice case, a culture of shifting the blame and hiding errors is probably endemic. Trying to get doctors to be open about their errors, especially major ones, is, I imagine, very difficult. But there's no harm in trying, I suppose.

This book should be bought and read by everybody. It'll change the way you think about the world. It's a fascinating read.


Linguaphone All Talk French: Levels 1 & 2 (All Talk Complete)
Linguaphone All Talk French: Levels 1 & 2 (All Talk Complete)
by John Foley
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Elementary Course, 13 May 2016
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This is a fantastic way to learn a bit of basic French. This course takes you from zero to a point where you feel confident of speaking a few words to a French person. The pace is nice and slow, so you never really get lost. And it covers practical stuff like booking a room and asking for directions. My only criticism is that there is no transcript of the learning conversations: sometimes you hear a word you don't understand and it's hard to look it up because you don't know how it's spelt.

Buy this if you are planning a long stay in France: it's well worth it.


Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent and controversal viepoint, 23 Mar. 2016
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Everybody, Muslim or not, should read this book. Yes, it's provocative, but it's also very interesting.

Ayaan Hirsi was a Muslim woman who was born into a devout Islamic family in Somalia. After a traumatic journey which took her from her birthplace to Saudi Arabia and then Holland, Miss Ali decided to abandon her faith and to reject the central message of Islam.


The Harrison Ford Story
The Harrison Ford Story
by Alan McKenzie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Buy This Book!, 28 Dec. 2015
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I made a huge mistake when buying this book: I should have looked at the number of pages, It would have been a good clue as to how pathetic this "biography" is. Harrison Ford has been a major movie star for more than forty years and yet all Alan Mckenzie can come up with is a publication which is less than 200 pages long. What a joke.

This is a sloppy, lazy piece of work from a writer who clearly hasn't bothered to do any of his own research. Instead, McKenzie has simply read a few books and articles about Ford and then cynically regurgitated the facts. There is nothing new or original here. But the worst thing about this book is its lack of quantity and depth: the author has made a whistle-stop tour of this actor's career, only briefly touching on the intriguing moments of Ford's amazing life. Entire pages read like terse newspaper articles rather than a biography.

Harrison Ford is known in Hollywood to be a very private man and has never written an autobiography, so finding out stuff about him is always going to be difficult, but McKenzie hasn't even tried to discover anything original. And there is very little here about Ford's life away from the cameras: it's almost all about his career. If you want to know anything about his marriages or kids then forget it.

With the exception of a handful of portraits of the movie star, there are no photos in the book, either. Pictures of Ford in his early and later roles, family photos and even studio-authorised promotional pictures are all missing. Any good biography should have at least twenty photographs to compliment the author's words.

This is an amateurish and frustratingly brief biography. Don't buy it.


French: Beginner's CD Language Course (Hugo in 3 Months CD Language Course)
French: Beginner's CD Language Course (Hugo in 3 Months CD Language Course)
by Ronald Overy;Jacqueline Lecanuet
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Language Books In The World!, 14 Dec. 2015
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I am a massive fan of these Hugo language books. Many years ago I learnt Spanish; the "In Three Months" book was my most useful tool in getting the job done. I'm now learning French, and once again this book is my primary source of knowledge.

The great thing about this book is that it takes you from having absolutely no knowledge of French and, by the end, gives you a very good grounding in the language. Like all Hugo courses, grammar is the foundation on which everything is built. If you work your way through this course then you will have a very solid understanding of how French is constructed. Key French verbs, nouns and adjectives are all included too.

If I have a criticism of this book it would be that everything is very condensed. You are only ever told anything once, and it's vital to remember it because each chapter is built on the preceding ones. My way of dealing with this is to go slowly and absorb everything in a chapter before moving on to the next one. French is not an easy language to learn and my advice is to just stick at it and keep repeating the exercises and keep listening to the recordings.

I am using other methods to learn French other than this book, but French in Three Months is extremely useful in expanding my knowledge of the language. I've almost reached the end but will go back and re-read most of it to make sure as much as possible sticks.


Total French Foundation Course: Learn French with the Michel Thomas Method
Total French Foundation Course: Learn French with the Michel Thomas Method
by Michel Thomas
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £69.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A New And Refreshing Way To learn French, 8 Dec. 2015
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The title of this course is misleading. It should really be called something like "Elementary Conversational French", because that's what it is. Anybody who buys this product expecting to speak fluent French at the end of it will be sorely disappointed. This course is just a few hours of listening to a teacher while he gets his students to master the basics of French grammar. At the end of this course you should be able to speak and understand simple French sentences, but no more.

Many years ago, I learnt Spanish; I taught myself the hard way using just books and cassettes. The Michel Thomas method is a far more exciting and interesting way of learning - but it does have its limitations. The great advantage of this type of learning is that it's "hands off". You can listen to the recordings anywhere. My favourite place to study was on the bus to and from work: it was a great way to employ dead time. The journey time would always fly by.

Thomas's system is unique: after giving you a few words and explaining basic French sentence structure, he prompts you to make simple sentences in the language. You learn by having to think your way through things. And you don't have to remember all the words: if you forget he will just tell you again and again. Your role is the silent third person in his class with two other students.This system is very effective. The key to its success is that by getting you to work things out yourself you end up remembering so much more than if you were simply told how to say things in French. And the continuous repetition of key words and phrases eventually makes them stick. Thomas avoids confusing you with complicated verb tables and gramatical terms. You learn French just like you learnt English - by hearing and repeating words.

But this course does have its weak points.

Firstly, because it is all audio you're not going to make much headway in learning to read and write French. There is an accompanying booklet containing a list of most key words and phrases in the course, but it is very limited. Secondly, and most importantly, there just isn't enough material. For a course which calls itself "Total French" there is a huge amount of stuff which should be a part of any basic language course but which is not covered here. Things like how to count in French, how to say the time, the days of the week, the months of the year, colours and everyday nouns and adjectives are not included. And the grammar teaching is very basic.

But maybe I'm being a bit too critical. The great strength of this course is that it demystifies French: if you can't speak a word of the language then this is a good place to begin. It breaks through the skin and gets you started on what is, for me, a tricky language to speak and understand. But if you are serious about learning French then I would advise you to buy the Hugo "French in Three Months" book and accompanying CDs and study them in parallel with this course. And try typing "Alexa French" in YouTube and watch some of Alexa Polidoro's free on-line French lessons: they are excellent and ideal for the absolute beginner.


Spanish Among Amigos: Conversational Spanish Beyond the Classroom
Spanish Among Amigos: Conversational Spanish Beyond the Classroom
by Nuria Agulló
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - But Where's The Audio CD?, 20 Oct. 2015
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As someone who has been learning Spanish for years, this book was a breath of fresh air. It gets behind the routine stuff that you learn in text books and gets you to understand the real stuff spoken by the Iberian locals. However, this book has a fatal flaw: it absolutely had to be accompanied by an audio CD so that we could actually hear the dialogues being spoken. I've searched Amazon and still can't find a colloquial Spanish book which does this - huge gap in the market!

But this book was very amusing and informative; I read it three times and tried to absorb as much as possible. It made a significant addition to my knowledge of the language. Time for a new edition - with an audio CD!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2015 11:01 AM GMT


So, Anyway...
So, Anyway...
by John Cleese
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Only Half the Story... But a Very Interesting Half, 12 Oct. 2015
This review is from: So, Anyway... (Paperback)
I've always been facinated by John Cleese. I'm not a huge Monty Python fan but I did love Fawlty Towers and much of the other stuff he's done; and the man himself intregues me. This book is very much about Cleese the person rather than Cleese the artist. It's open and honest, which is why I liked it.


Man in the Rockefeller Suit, The : The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter
Man in the Rockefeller Suit, The : The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter
by Mark Seal
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Really Is Stranger Than Fiction - And Here's The Proof!, 10 Mar. 2015
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I first heard about the "Clark Rockerfeller" story while listening to a British radio interview with the American journalist and novelist Walter Kirn. The tale immediately gripped me and compelled me to buy Kirn's book on Rockerfeller (see my review of it). Sadly, Kirn's account of the story was extremely badly told, focusing too much on the writer's tenuous relationship with the imposter (they were casual friends). Frustrated, I sought out another book on the case and fortunately found this one. Joyfully, this book is everything that Kirn's wasn't. Unlike Kirn, Mark Seal travelled to Germany and across the United States to fully research his subject. Dozens of people who knew or had worked with Gerhartstrieter were interviewed. Seal spoke to persons who had known the German both as a child and an adult. The result is this wonderful book.

The life of Christian Gerhartsreiter reads like a badly plotted novel. As a German teenager in the late Seventies he decides that he wants to come to America to make his fortune, and so he enters the country as a student and determines that he's never going back. He then spends the next thirty years lying, scamming and conning his way across the USA. But Christian Gerhartsreiter is no small-time con artist: he's a highly intelligent, ruthless, brazen charlatan whose motto was, "The bigger the lie the more they'll believe it." With an exceptional talent for acting, and a mind which could soak up information like a sponge, Gerhartsreiter managed to convince a number of gullible Americans that he was either the scion of a powerful German industrial family, a minor member of the British royal family, or latterly, a member of the extremely wealthy American Rockerfeller clan. Gerhartsreiter had very early on realised something about Americans and their society: that everybody wants to associated with the Elite.

After ingratiating himself into a small privileged Californian community and tricking small amounts of money from wealthy, naive, mainly female residents there, Gerhartsreiter suddenly leaves and heads for the big game: Old Money East Coast America. There he hits the jackpot when he meets Sandra Boss, a highly intelligent but emotionally weak and unworldly career woman. They marry and for twelve years she swallows his outrageous lie that he is a member of the Rockerfeller family. The fact that she never meets another Rockerfeller, and that her husband apparently has no money himself, somehow didn't raise any suspicions. The German conman apparently always had a lie to explain everything away. Happily,the couple managed to survive purely on Boss's considerable working income.

It all comes crashing around Gerhartsreiter's ears when his wife finally decides she's had enough of him and abandons the fraudster, taking their young daughter. After a court awards Boss full custody of the child, the German foolishly decides to kidnap the youngster during a routine legal visit; this sparks a national manhunt and, worst of all for Gerhartsreiter, a blaze of publicity. The lies, the numerous false identities and the scams all quickly come to light.

But worse is to come.

The reason for Gerhartsreiter's sudden dash from California is revealed: he murdered a man there, and probably his wife too. Mark Seal's book ends just before the murder trial, but Gerhartsreiter was convicted of the killing of a fellow called John Sohus. The body of Sohus's spouse Linda was never found. The conman was sentenced to 27 years-to-life for the crime.

This is an utterly fascinating and compelling story, and it's brilliantly told by Mark Seal. This book is well worth a read for anybody who's interested in true crime. I couldn't put it down.

Fantastic.


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