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Adrian Bachmann (Toronto, Canada)

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Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy
Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy
by Jostein Gaarder
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.75
54 used & new from CDN$ 4.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for everyone, Dec 12 2010
If you think this book is for teenage girls in the middle of a life crisis, you should think again. Yes, Gaarder's book is about existentialism, but more than that, it is a great (and fun!) book about the history of the human-kind and tells us a lot about the world in which we are living today. It is a book for everyone! If you had to pick just one book to read in your life, this one probably would be it. They possibly should even be given to each child in every school. Why? Because it clearly and concisely explains the evolution of the human mind - the history of our journey to answer the foremost questions about our way of life: why are we here? What's our purpose in life?

In Sophie's narrative, Gaarder examines the sequence of the main events and discoveries in our history with a focus on how each one lead to our current status and way of thinking. After reading this book you will have a great respect and understanding of the stage in which we live today. Imagine that a diary has been passing hands by generations and all your ancestors left a mark on it. Now, this gift has finally made its way to you. Wouldn't it be a nice gift to receive? That's how `Shophie's World' feels like. Well, sorts of. In certain point, the book turns an unexpectable turn and something unimaginable happens. That, however, I'll live with you to figure it out.

Here's a summary of the insights you'll find in this book:

* Philosophy is extremely relevant to life and if we do not question and ponder our very existence we are not really living
* First, ancient myths were created by people in a need to come up with natural explanations for the processes in the world
* Then, natural philosophers appeared and were concerned with change. Democritus and his theory of indivisible atoms underlie all nature as well as the concept of fate
* Socrates was the first `philosopher' and was wise enough to know that he knew nothing. Plato came after with his `world of ideas' and then Aristotle (who criticised Plato) classified much of the natural world, and founded logic and our theory of concepts (founding the cornerstone principle of science)
* The Indo-European and Semitic cultures start to merge and this lead for the first time to unique challenges - making it the `right time' for the appearance of Jesus
* St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, and the Christianisation of Greek philosophy followed in the Middle Ages
* The focus on humanity marked the start of the Renaissance period and the Baroque time marked start of extremes. Descartes doubted the statuesque and by doing so he demonstrated that everyone could. Spinoza sensed that someone had an awesome power over all of us
* Then, came the empiricists. Locke believed in natural rights and that everything we know is gained from experience. Hume showed that our actions are guided by feelings and warned against making laws based upon our experiences. Berkeley suggested that our entire lives were inside the mind of God
* The Enlightenment period arrives and it is marked by its humane values. Kant unifies the empiricist and rationalist thought
* In the world spirit of Romanticism, Hegel brings a dialectical view of history, and Kierkegaard believes that the individual's existence is primary

How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.17
70 used & new from CDN$ 5.30

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instructive and life changing..., Dec 12 2010
In my humble opinion the best self-help book ever published along with `Think and Grow Rich' of Napoleon Hill. I must confess that I don't like the title (which I believe sends the wrong idea), but Dale's insights are real, and you just have to put it into practice. While some critics think that it's manipulative, I believe that Dale's insights are nothing more than careful observations of the human mind and behaviour - in other words, the rules of the game. If you pay attention to it, you will understand yours and other people's nature. Applying it will not only help you to be more successful in your life but also how to become a better person. You will see that most of the things that you are suggested to do are simply things you wished others were doing to you. Thus, the book is not about how to coerce others to do things that they don't want. In contrary, it is about principle, balance and respect. Dale instructs you that just with a little bit of consideration, all parts can gain and you could still have your ideas/wishes going through.

What follows are the books' 6 major sections and core points. Keep it close with you because, although simple, they are easy to forget:

* Fundamental techniques in handling people:
1) Don't criticize, condemn, or complain
2) Give honest and sincere appreciation
3) Arouse in the other person an eager want

* Why some people are very likeable (or 6 ways to make people like you):
1) They are genuinely interested in other people
2) They are often smiling
3) They remember people's name. For them, this is the sweetest and most important sound in any language
4) They are great listeners. Often encourage others to talk about themselves
5) They always talk in the terms of the other person's interest
6) They make the other person feel important and do it sincerely

* 12 Ways to convince people to your way of thinking:
1) Avoid arguments
2) Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never tell someone that he or she is wrong
3) If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
4) Begin in a friendly way
5) Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes
6) Let the other person do the talking
7) Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers
8) Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view
9) Sympathize with the other person
10) Appeal to noble motives
11) Dramatize your ideas
12) Throw down a challenge; don't talk negatively when a person is absent; talk only about the positive

* Be a Leader: how to stimulate change in people without giving offense or arousing resentment:
1) Begin with praise and honest appreciation
2) Talk about your own mistakes first
3) Call attention to other people's mistakes indirectly
4) Ask questions instead of directly giving orders
5) Let the other person save face
6) Praise every improvement
7) Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to
8) Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct
9) Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest

* 7 Rules for making your home life happier:
1) Don't nag
2) Don't try to make your partner over
3) Don't criticize
4) Give honest appreciation
5) Pay little attentions
6) Be courteous
7) Read a good book on the sexual side of marriage

Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India, and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade
Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India, and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade
by Bill Emmott
Edition: Paperback
55 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable for the novice learner, Dec 11 2010
Bill Emmontt is an expert in the region and his extensive research (presented in this book) illustrates the past, current and future challenges of Asia. Differently than the Americas and Europe, the Asian continent comprehends a large territory and very distinct cultures. What to expect now that three economic superpowers with different interests are going to be competing for the control and influence of the region? The answer can be found in this very interesting, intelligent and thoughtful book.

The 4/5 stars is only due to the book's extension - which took just over 300 pages to get to possible solutions. Still, this is the perfect book for novice learners (such as me). Highly recommended!

In a nutshell, here are the main insights of the book:

* Asia is going to carry on getting richer and stronger, probably for a long time to come. While, by the late 2020s, China could overtake America as the world's largest economy, India - contrary to popular belief - is no longer simply the world's back office

* India's current economic structure resembles that of earlier developments of Japan, South Korea and China. Private investment has soared across the board and manufacturing is now growing faster than services (as the emergence of the Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car, highlights)

* Japan is beset by an ageing population and political paralysis, but this trend is unlikely to be permanent. Huge public debts and competition from China are liable to engender further reforms and higher productivity. Japan's next ten years will not be as dismal as the last.

* As a result, Asia's gathering strength is not only going to cause tension between East and West but also, for the first time, tension will also rise between its three powerful states - China, India and Japan. China will be expanding its presence across the Indian Ocean as it seeks resources and India will be looking eastwards for allies and markets

* Japan feels especially threatened by China's ascendancy. Tensions are mounting in Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, and Tibet, which are all potential flashpoints that could lead to conflict. So, managing this new Asian rivalry is one of this century's most important tasks: "as long as the three Asian powers have different levels of status in world affairs, resentment, mistrust and suspicion will be engendered between the three."

* In the final chapter, Emmott outlines some ideas on how governments and world authorities should approach the issue: End or restructure the G-8 (expelling Italy and Canada and welcoming China and India); Give India and Japan permanent member veto status on the UN Security Council; Construct an economic union around the East Asian Summit--broad enough to include all three major Asian powers, but not so broad as to make agreements impractical, and which above all should drop the idea that America must always be at the table when topics such as trade are discussed; Set a security pact based on the ASEAN Regional Forum, which would morph into an organization that would impose greater obligations on its members and where in this case America would play a key role as guarantor

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
by Larry Bossidy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.67
168 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Astute yet partial, Dec 11 2010
Mr. Bossidy and Mr. Ram share their experiences and insights leading and implementing strategy projects in several Forbes 500 organizations. The bottom-line is that Execution is a complex discipline but key for any company's success. In this book the authors present through storytelling some great tools and real cases to teach us how to get things done successfully. People, Strategy and Operations are the core issues described, and the approach is: 1) set achievable goals 2) work a visible action plan and 3) document results. Although some of the elements described are pure common-sense, some others may surprise you.

While rich with great examples involving top decision-makers of different MNCs, the book lacks samples/strategies applied by smaller companies or the middle management - who most of the time face different challenges and have limited resources. Thus, while the theory in the book is valuable, some of its practicality could be lost for the small manager/entrepreneur. That's the only reason I give it a 4/5 stars.

What follows is a highlight of the key points covered in the book:

* "Execution is the greatest unaddressed issue in the business world today... the single biggest obstacle to success.... a specific set of behaviors and techniques... the critical discipline for success... the primary differentiator between companies..."

* Execution is defined as "a systematic discipline of exposing reality and acting on it". Thus, the leader's 7 essential behaviour is:

1. Know your people and your business. Engage in active involvement/personal connection and in distilling the challenges facing the business or business units into few (perhaps less than 6) fundamental issues
2. Insist on realism. Practicality is the heart of execution, thus it's about doing what works and stopping what isn't, about people changing or not, about further investing or moving on
3. Set clear goals and priorities. Focus on very few clear priorities that everyone can grasp, top 3/4 that will produce the best results from the resources at hand
4. Follow through. Don't set goals if you don't plan to check on
5. Reward the doers. Measure the results and then reward/promote people who generated them
6. Expand people's capabilities through coaching. Coaching, which is teaching people how to get things done instead of simply giving orders, is the single most important part of expanding other's capabilities
7. Know yourself. Find and exercise authenticity, awareness, self-mastery and humility

* Create a Framework for Cultural Change by linking it to business outcomes:

1. Cultural change gets real only when your aim is execution
2. You need to change people's behaviour so that they can produce results
3. First state the results you are looking for, just after discuss how to get them
4. Reward people for getting the results or provide additional coaching when they don't

* How your corporate culture should look like:

1. It needs to be grounded in execution and results
2. Communications, meetings, emails, reports, etc. should be represented and described into actions
3. Change process behaviourally based, translating thoughts and dialogue into action and closure

* Execution, the job of the leader, is exercising (not delegating) the development of people/leaders, forging a strategic direction and conducting operations. Thus, it requires active management of:

1. People; select and keep the right individuals for the job, direct link strategy to performance/results, and help them develop the leadership skills to sustain the organization
2. Strategy; develop a customer/market accurate actionable plan (6 or fewer building blocks) for allocating resources and defining how to achieve the business objectives. It relies upon a process of rigor and tenacious probing, testing of ideas and business realities and investment in picking and developing a plan and the people who can execute it
3. Operations processes; breaking long term objectives into short-term, measurable, reviewed plan with short term targets, action steps and tasks

* The People Process means no leader should delegate having the right people in place, and have the courage to confront results promptly and take decisive action with non-performers, versus comfort based decisions. "The people process is more important than either the strategy or operations process... its evaluating people accurately and in-depth, then identifying and developing talent... or filling the leadership pipeline"

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do
The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do
by Clotaire Rapaille
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.88
56 used & new from CDN$ 2.22

5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and mind opening..., Dec 10 2010
The book tells you why consumers from different parts of the world think the way they do. Dr. Rapaille uses his long-term experience as a psychiatrist and consultant for major multinational corporations to tell us in an intelligent and entertaining way how he used his 'inprint' reading technique to help his clients to learn what customers from different parts of the world associate their product/brand with. The results are surprising!

Each chapter of the book exemplify a different case, but the main take-away is that to better design or market a product/brand, you must first know what is inside your consumer mind. Knowing that, you can then anticipate how your brand/product will be perceived by your audience or also appeal to their longstanding (and often forgotten) pleasant memories to associate your product/brand with it. As same objects/products create different commotions ("inprints") in each individual (and more so in people in different environment - hence distinct cultures) breaking the `Culture Code' means to crack the association secret.

That's where Dr. Rapaille `inprint' reading technique comes to place. Whereas it was fun and interesting learning about his methods, even more enjoyable was to discover why and how even simple common objects as toilet paper came to represent very distinct associations in different parts of the world. Have fun with it.

Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur
Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur
by Richard Branson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.75
59 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book! Inspiring, educational and entertaining..., Dec 10 2010
Once you read this one you will have a lifestyle and role model to look up to. The book is rich with stories that clearly exemplify Brandson's secret to his own success. Read his first book (Losing My Virginity) for better contextualization. Here is a brief summary of the lessons I took from it. Perhaps 95% of Brandson's success comes from hard work, but all these other factors (the remaining 5%) were incremental in shaping his winning attitude. I've changed my behaviour since becoming aware of it, and as a reminder I always keep this summary handy and look at it often. (I can't be reborn again but I still can change my mind-set)

The secret of educating to success is to:

1) Treat a child as an adult (respecting his/her opinions and sharing ideas with them equally): Richard's parents were never shy to discuss sex, drugs and politics openly with him and not judge his personal opinion. This helped Richard to develop his self-confidence and boost his argumentative and social behaviour skills

2) Induce independence and self-reliance (teaching kids to stay in their two feet): similarly, young Richard often found himself searching for a way in-out because his parents forced him to learn how to get and conquest things on his own. Richard learned that desire is great, but to achieve his ambitions through his own hands was even better - it is liberating and forced him to constantly be looking for alternatives

3) Put the need of others first (do not be selfish): since start Richard has been helping others and his family, and was always surrounded by activities. By helping others he learned that he is actually helping himself

4) Think of ways to make honest money (busting the entrepreneurial spirit): parents or important figures setting the example and challenges

5) Thinking of how to improve and change things (break the rules): as you know this is the core of Virgin's culture. Think outside the box and challenge the status quo by putting ideas diplomatically and through meaningful ways

6) Connect the theory in class with real problems in life (what's the reason behind all that school training?): Richard always had the `let's do it' tactical attitude. He always believed in training for a purpose, not only for the sake of the theory

7) Keep neither a TV nor a radio (keep a journal instead): Writing and adventure are Richard's passions. As a young reporter he learned at early age that by writing you find time to think, follow and reflect about ideas, mistakes, teachings and goals

8) Learn from others (they hold the knowledge after all): still today we see Richard on the media nurturing network and connections in all fields. His lesson is that you can't impossible know everything, so surround yourself by great people, the ones that are greater than you in any aspect

9) Be competitive (in a healthy way): sports, work and group activities teach you how to work in teams and provides the motivation to challenge and improve yourself

10) Have fun while you stepping out of the comfort zone (you've got just one life): think strategically, do what you like and believe, link enjoyment with business/work life

11) Don't try to do everything (it's impossible): prioritize, delegate and create succession are key for expansion and growth

Advanced Presentations by Design: Creating Communication that Drives Action
Advanced Presentations by Design: Creating Communication that Drives Action
by Andrew Abela
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from CDN$ 3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Singular model to to improve communication, Dec 10 2010
This book is a great source for those in search of ways to improve visual communication and can be applied in all spheres of our business life (presentations, negotiations, reports, etc). Prof. Abela has created a singular model to approach the challenging task of summarizing tons of information in a constructive and efficient way. Visit his website for details of the book and other free online tools: [...]

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