What I talk about when I talk about running

ImagesHaruki Murakami is best known as the author of “Norwegian Wood”, and the “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” – and many other books. If you haven’t read his books I highly recommend you check them out. But recently I discovered that he is a long-distance runner as well and has written about his running.

I have just finished “What I talk about when I talk about running”, and It is excellent. As a runner I related completely to his journey, his challenges and successes, his apprehension and self-doubt before races, and the acceptance of the unpredictability of marathon-length races.

The philosophy he bring to running – that you need to be as healthy as possible to be effective at what you do, and how maintaining health (in his case by running and doing triathlons), needs to be balanced with what you do. To be mentally sharp and focused requires a healthy body.

He says:

To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible. That’s my motto. In other words, an unhealthy soul requires a healthy body. This might sound paradoxical, but it’s something I’ve felt very keenly ever since I became a professional writer. The healthy and the unhealthy are not necessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum. They don’t stand in opposition to each other, but rather complement each other, and in some cases even band together. Sure, many people who are on a healthy track in life think only of good health, while those who are getting unhealthy think only of that. But if you follow this sort of one-sided view, your life won’t be fruitful.
Almost everything he had to share could have been written by me, or for me. Although I am convinced that any long-distance runner would feel exactly the same.

It is a short and easy read, but a book to be dipped into, reread and digested over time. To get full enjoyment from the book you probably have to enjoy running, but there is plenty to learn regardless of what get you up in the morning.

Book review: The Healthy Programmer.

The Healthy ProgrammerThis book is a practical guide for computer programmers (or any office worker) who want to get more fit and healthy. While the book is clearly geared towards computer programmers, it would only take a minor adjustment to call it something like “The Healthy Office Worker”. While the book uses the Agile programing methodology as a framework, (sprints, retrospectives, unit testing etc), the contents are relevant to anybody spending most of their work days sitting at a computer.

The book goes into a lot of detail, and is full of references, real life stories about programmers that have become more healthy, and practical goals and actions. While it is easy to read, it is detailed and comprehensive, covering topics such as workspace setup, diet, back and wrist pain, exercise and headaches.

The danger is that with so much detail and 19 practical goals, you may be a little overwhelmed. Having said that they are excellent goals and I think you should pick the ones that will work for you and not strive for all 19. One thing that did annoy me is the rather old fashioned notion of counting calories/reducing calories to lose weight. I personally believe that provided you eat the right calories you can eat as much you like and forget about the quantity of calories (basically high fat low carb). This approach has personally worked for me.

The book comes with a free iPhone app (I did not check it out but it is rated 4+), as well as a discussion forum on which the author comments.

Is it worth reading ?- yes most definitely (even if you are not a programer).
Is it going to improve your health and fitness? Well that is up to you.

You can buy the book here, the ebook is $24.

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy, and I run 20km+ races on a regular basis.

Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to publish a book

APE CoverAuthor, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to publish a book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch

Although I would like to publish an ebook at some stage, it is not something that I am looking at doing right now, so the review copy on my Kindle sat there for quote a while before I got to browsing through it. When I eventually got to it, I read the entire book cover to cover in a single day.

This book is for anybody who has or is considering writing, publishing and distribution an ebook, and will save you hours of time and frustration. I have always thought the process of creating an ebook is pretty simple, but there is far more involved that I ever considered.

This book goes into a lot of detail describing the different publishing models, pitfalls to look out for (you will need more than 1 ISBN number), and plenty on the technical aspects of creating a functional and working ebook

There are plenty of links to online resources, including tons of free information on the book site itself (http://apethebook.com/), such as Microsoft Word templates, sample contracts and external links (there are over 350 hyperlinks in the book).

At just under 400 pages it is easy to get through, but it has tons of useful information. If you are planning on wrinting an ebook, I highly recommend you buy it and skim through it before you write a single word, and then jump into the details as you work through the different stages of creating and publishing your book.

Highly recommended, and at less than $10 for the Kindle version, a steal.

Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds

mindfireBook review: Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds – Scott Berkun.

This eclectic series of short essays discusses ideas, questions and concepts that make you think. Sometimes he challenges conventional thinking (why being a follower can be good), and other times he just questions our actions (should you pray for your team to win), there is some advice. And the rest of the time it is just plain interesting.

If you are looking for new ideas, or to find a different take on old idea, you will enjoy this book. As a Toastmasters, there are some great ideas for your next speech.

Some of the ideas discussed are:

  • The cult of busy
  • Why you must lead or follow
  • The size of ideas
  • How to keep your mouth shut

Many of the essay’s are on Scott’s website, so you can check them out before you buy the book.

This book is kind of a “Chicken Soup for the Philosophical Soul”, and gives you interesting ideas to consider, without being too complex or deep (most of the stories are only a page or two, but the could be expanded into longer essays or books). If I had to criticise, I would like to see some more depth to some of the articles, I feel that sometimes he is just touching the tip of some very complex idea.

But then to contradict myself, it is refreshing to read a chapter that gets my brain engaged, but is only a few hundred words long.

The entire book is just short of 200 pages, but I don’t think that I would read it cover to cover. For me it is a book that you jump into from time to time, find an interesting chapter and read it. They are the kind of chapters that you can re-read a few times.
You can buy the print or Kindle version from Amazon.com for just under $11.

I’m feeling lucky – book review

I’m Feeling Lucky. The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

Doug Edwards

This book is for anybody looking for an inside view into the growth of one of the biggest brands in the world. Marketers, techies or anybody wanting to learn what it is like working at Google should ready this book. He tells a personal story, describing his own misgivings, challenges and successes as an early employee. He describes the people culture, technical and marketing challenges, and the chaotic and crazy startup days.

The book provides Insights into Google as it grew from startup to large business, and provides some valuable lessons to take into our own organisations. For example, make decisions quickly, but made key decisions.

While the book provides a very detailed and almost daily account of his work, it is sometimes almost too detailed (I sometimes felt a little like I was reading the minutes of every discussion and meeting at Google). If you just want to find out about Google, there are plenty of shorter and easier to read books. But if you are looking for a personal and detailed account for life at Google, this is a great book, and worth reading.

You can pre-order from Amazon.com

Grow your Voice to Speak with Confidence

Grow your Voice to Speak with Confidence

Dr Petro Janse van Vuuren

This book discusses aspects of public speaking that we often neglect, and that is using your voice as an effective tool to get your message across.  Instead of telling you how to structure your presentation, how to use the stage or to use body language, she focuses understanding, developing and using the core muscles required to have an effective speaking voice.

It is a little like a Pilates or Yoga course for developing your speaking voice. It is written in 6 chapters, each building on the previous chapter to help you to develop your speaking voice. The accompanying CD takes you through the physical and vocal exercise in the book. While the exercise are good for developing the core muscles (hence my Pilates comment), they are also good for general warm-up (thinking about it they remind me of choir warm-up exercises from high school).

Dr van Vuuren has plenty of experience in the theatre, and many case studies to backup her approach. The book is for sale on her website for R190. You can find out more about her book and workshops on her website.

This is a good book to compliment traditional public speaking training, and I see a place in my bookshelf for it.

Book review: Obstacle Illusions

Obstacle Illusions: Transforming Adversity into Success.

Stephen J. Hopson was born deaf but quickly learned to speak and began attending public school. At five years old, he told his parents he would become a pilot and was dismissed as being foolish, but as an adult he made aviation history by becoming the world’s first deaf instrument-rated pilot.

He says “As a transformational speaker, my audiences expect no less from me. When I’m up there on the platform, I have a huge responsi-bility to bring forth ideas and concepts that have the potential to truly transform lives but if I try to be someone else then the mes-sage gets lost. The audience subconsciously turns a deaf ear.”

Having a blind wife exposes me to many disabled speakers that have achieved despite having a disadvantage in life. This is not just another life-story written by a disabled person.

In the preface, Stephen says that it can be read in a single sitting, and he is right. It is not a long book, and it is very easy reading. However, it is the type of book that you keep going back to. Rather than writing a chronology of his entire life, he presents his message through a series of 25 vignettes, each describing what he learned through something that had happened to him (and often things that he caused to happen). Each chapter ends with a something to think on, and a reflective exercise on how you can apply the lessons that he has learned to your own life.

Stephen is a remarkable person, and he has written a remarkable book. The stories are inspirational, and perfect to put your own perspective back on track. You can buy it from Amazon.com for $16.10, or find out more about Stephen on his website.

Book Review: Everyone Communicates, few connect by John Maxwell

Everyone Communicates, few Connect by John Maxwell

Published by Thomas Nelson

***look below for a free copy – contest closed

Many of us have intentions to read more self-development books, but by the end of the work-day we are simply too tired, so we end up in front of the TV or reading a light novel.

This book is one of those that you can pick up at the end of the day. It is filled with stories and anecdotes drawn from his own experience and from others; all of which illustrate the points that he is trying to make. The story telling style makes it easy reading; yet still a book of substance. This is typical of what I have come to expect from his other books. At 250 pages it is not a long read, but you can always go back to it again and again.

The main premise of the book is that while we spend a huge amount of time communicating, we are not necessarily making the right effective connections that are crucial to effective communication and leadership.

The book is divided into two main sections; principles and practices. It is self explanatory, but he gives a few simple principles on making better and effective connections, and then shows how to implement them.

The book is aimed at anybody wishing to make better connections; and could be applied in both your personal or business life. He gives simple tips at the end of chapter, divided into three main areas, namely one-on one, a group or an audience.

For the public speakers out there; some great tips (and affirmation of some things you already know), for those of you in corporate business, some tips on working with colleagues, in teams at or in a group environment, such as at meetings. And one-on one communication is important to us all.

An unusual feature of the book is that John Maxwell posted the manuscript of the book on his blog www.johnmaxwellonleadership.com, and he received over 100,000 view over eleven weeks, resulting in over 70 quotes, stories and anecdotes from readers which resulted in over 100 revisions. Every contributor is acknowledged in the book.

I am a fan of John Maxwell, so it is difficult to be unbiased, but as a communicator and public speaker, this is a great book, and it is going to help you to become even better.

It is available from Amazon in hardback for $17.15.

The folks at Thomas Nelson have kindly provided 5 free copies to readers. Leave you name in the comment section below, and I will randomly draw 5 names on 28 July who will each receive a copy.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the (signed) review copy.

Hackers: book review

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition Steven Levy

The book provides an interesting view of the history and growth of computers, seeing through the eyes of the hackers; the somewhat elusive group of people that have never cared much for contention, have pushed the limits of both computing hardware and software, and have at the same time engage in headed and headstrong arguments about computers, hardware and software.

The book discusses three main groups of hackers, representing the early era’s of modern computing. The first were the group of mainframe hackers bases at MIT in the 50’s an 60’s, using computing time on the hulking mainframes, trying to get the monolithic batch-processing machines to bend to their will.

The second group were the so-called hardware hackers; a group of hardware junkies at Berkeley, figuring out how to assemble pieces hardware to create their own working computers in the 70’s. This was the days of Alteir, the beginning of Intel and Steve Wozniak (who created the original Apple and Apple II).

The final group focuses largely on computer games; an industry which sprung up in the 80’s with the proliferation of arcade games, and the mass movement of computers into people’s homes.

While the book is not specifically written for computer junkies, it is far more interesting for the hackers (or at least want-to-be hackers) out there. Somebody without a passionate interest in computers or programming would probably get a little board with the level of detail.

However, for those like me who work the field, it is a fascinating story of some eccentric people that literally shaped the computing world as we know it today. While there is a strong focus on the development of Apple, and the gaming world for the Apple (at least in the second half), there is very little mention of the IBM/Microsoft route, and the development of applications and games for the so-called PC world. This almost reflects the modern Apple/PC divide.

While at times I find the book little verbose, it is nonetheless a fascinating story. The edition I read was a 25’th anniversary edition of the book, which was originally published in 1985, a testimony to the longevity of the book. Well worth reading.

Thanks to the folks at O’Reilly for the review copy.

Confessions of a Public Speaker – review

Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Burken

When I received a copy, my initial reaction was that it was yet another publich speaking guide. Paging the book, I quickly realized that I was wrong. This books provides a very different perspective on public speaking, Written by somebody that clearly has experienced many hours on the stage, he not only gives the usual information that you would expect from such a book (how to structure your speech, using PowerPoint, body language etc), he also gives a huge amount of guidance on things that you only learn from experience, such as the easiest way to hook up a lapel microphone (unplug it, drop the cable through the inside of your shirt, and then reconnect it), how to full the front row (give stuff away), and how to use silence to make a point.

This book will help anybody interested in become a better public speaker, as well as those who are starting to do more than just the occasional presentation at work. It is loaded with tips and tricks that you only gain from experience on the road. It is written in a lighthearted manner, and is incredibly easy to read, the author has a quirky sense of humour, and he is happy to poke fun at himself. Chapter titles include “do not eat the microphone”, “the science of not boring people”, and “what to do if your talk sucks”. Even if you have been around for a while, you will still learn a trick or two from the book.

While there are many photos in the book, they are black and white, and are generally not very clear. However, you are not buying the book to look at the photos.

The book is easy reading, full of tips, and provides valuable advice to both the beginner and more experienced speaker; well worth reading.

You can buy the book from Amazon.com ($16.49), or find out more about Scott on his website

Thanks to the Folks at O’Reilly for the review copy.