books

An Appreciation of “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”

As a Stephen Colbert fan, I was very happy to learn that Colbert will be the new host of The Late Show with David Letterman when Letterman retires in 2015. However, I was considerably less happy to learn that Craig Ferguson – who once was rumoured to be next in line for the hosting job on Letterman’s show – will be leaving The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in December of this year. (Apparently he has a new gig as a game show host starting this fall.)

I am a big fan of Ferguson and of The Late Late Show. And so is John Doyle, the TV critic for Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Doyle wrote a column that pretty much nails all the reasons why Ferguson is such a great host(more…)

Some Thoughts on Orly Lobel’s “Talent Wants to Be Free”

I had the pleasure of meeting Orly Lobel this past September at the Employment and Labor Law Colloquium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As it happened, the colloquium was held just a few days before Orly’s book, Talent Wants to Be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free Riding, was officially published. At the colloquium, Orly gave a brief talk about the themes of the book , and I was so intrigued by what she discussed that I bought the book as soon as it was available here.

I was hoping to have posted something sooner about Talent Wants to be Free. But the book was so thought-provoking for me that I ended up reading a part of it, putting it aside to think about what I had read, and then reading some more. So it took me a while to get through the entire book – but that’s an indication of how much valuable information there is in it, and how smartly it’s written.

(more…)

Some Thoughts on Sutton and Rao’s “Scaling Up Excellence”

I’ve written before about my general cynicism toward most business books. But one business book that I greatly admire – not only for its eye-catching title, but also for its sensible and forthright attitude – is Bob Sutton’s The No-Asshole Rule, which should be required reading for anyone involved in any aspect of hiring. Recently Bob offered “active influencers” preview copies of Scaling Up Excellence, the new book he has co-authored with his colleague Huggy Rao. When I saw the offer on Twitter, I thought, (more…)

Some Thoughts on Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath”

At last I got to the top of my public library’s waitlist for Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath – so I finally had the chance this week to read the entire book.

The impression that I came away with was: this is not a good book.

It starts out promisingly by using the story of David and Goliath to introduce the idea of the triumph of the underdog. However, (more…)

Malcolm Gladwell and His Critics, Round Two

Malcolm Gladwell’s promotional tour for his book David and Goliath is rolling along, but his responses to criticism aren’t getting any more persuasive.

When he appeared on CBS This Morning, he was asked about the contention that he  “cherry picks” from published research, and only discusses results that support his points. Here’s his answer: (more…)

Who’s David, and Who’s Goliath?: Malcolm Gladwell and His Critics

Malcolm Gladwell’s new book David and Goliath is on both the New York Times bestseller list and the Amazon bestseller list – and since I’m number 15 on its waiting list at my local public library, there’s clearly an eager audience waiting to read it. However, the book has received some less than positive reviews, even from admitted Gladwell admirers, and has also been the subject of some harsh criticism. The most widely read critiques are probably this article by dyslexia expert Mark Seidenberg, contending that there are significant factual errors in the book’s discussion of dyslexia, and this article by psychologist Christopher Chabris challenging some of the book’s reasoning and research. Chabris’ article generated this response from Gladwell himself, which was unfortunately more of a personal attack on Chabris (and his wife) rather than a response to Chabris’ criticisms.

A couple of themes have arisen in discussions of the book. I want to (more…)

Caring, Not Caring, And Success

I’ve just finished reading David Epstein’s excellent book The Sports Gene, a fascinating exploration of the research on genetic and physiological factors that may contribute to exceptional athletic performance. Ironically, I got the book only a few weeks before I saw the fascinating Alex Gibney documentary The Armstrong Lie, which was intended to be about Lance Armstrong‘s 2009 return to competitive cycling in the Tour de France, but instead ended up being about Armstrong’s secret use of performance-enhancing drugs. Clearly anyone who takes PEDs is trying to gain a physiological advantage in competition, but watching Armstrong’s behaviour in the film made me wonder about another factor in exceptional athletic performance: (more…)

Malcolm Gladwell’s Weak Defense of the “10,000 Hour Rule”

The “10,000 hour rule” – the idea that 10,000 hours of practice is the amount needed to excel in an activity, as described in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers – has been getting more attention than usual recently. The attention is partly because of the release of Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath, but it’s also because of the discussion of the rule in another new book –  The Sports Gene, by former Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein. In his investigation of what leads to outstanding athletic performance, Epstein points out some contradictions to Gladwell’s rule – for example, that athletes at the same level of competition can have very different amounts of practice time or playing experience, and that success in sports isn’t determined only by how much an athlete practices.

A few weeks ago, in this article in the New Yorker, Gladwell responded to Epstein and to other critics of the “10,000 hour rule”.  Since I’ve written a blog post about Gladwell’s misinterpretations of the research cited in Outliers in support of the rule, I was very interested in what Gladwell had to say. But it seems that the article is full of  (more…)

Why (Most) Business Books Suck

Whenever I go to a bookstore, I always take a look at the section with business books, and inevitably I walk away feeling discouraged or mad. I couldn’t really put my finger on why, until I read this article by political scientist Andrew Gelman and this response by his blogging colleague Henry Farrell. Gelman and Farrell have identified some of the things that really annoy me about popular-press business books, and I’m going to (more…)

Randall Sullivan’s “Untouchable”: The Business of Music and the Art of Using Sources

Randall Sullivan’s Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson was released in November of last year. It’s an epic piece of work – 776 pages long, including nearly 175 pages of references – and it got some less-than-positive reviews, including the New York Times, which called it “dreary”, “bloated”, and “thoroughly dispensable”. I just finished reading it, and I think it deserves much more credit than that, because it’s a remarkable work on several levels. Sullivan has constructed an extremely complex narrative that is more than a biography – it’s also a very sobering look at how the music business operates. And it’s an excellent case study in how writers can manage challenging or difficult source material.

I get the sense that (more…)