Thursday, December 25, 2008

Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?

Found this on Alabama Book Worm’s blog and thought I'd give it a go since I'm challenging myself to read four of Austen's books in 2009.

To take quiz, please click below:

Themed Reading Challenge 2009

I have a confession. I’ve had Jane Austen’s entire book collection on my shelf for years but never got around to reading them. Why? Because I love to collect dust... is that an acceptable excuse? (Probably explains why I suffer from sinus too)
Anyway, I found a challenge on Caribousmom’s blog and thought... “What the heck! It’s now or never...” So here goes:

I’m taking part in the Themed Reading Challenge 2009 and I choose the first level of participation which is to read four books from the same theme. So what is this theme that I am committing to? Well unlike the other participants, my list is not as exciting or creative. I just want to read any four books by Jane Austen. To ensure that I don’t cheat, I’d like to announce that I’ve read Pride and Prejudice already so I should commit to reading the books that I’ve never read from Austen before. (Sigh... I’m honest, what can I say...)

The challenge starts from 1 February 2009 to 31 July 2009.

Here’s my list and pray for me:
1. Sense and Sensibility
2. Mansfield Park
3. Emma
4. Northanger Abbey 


For further information on the challenge, please click here.

Firmin


“I had always imagined that my life story, if and when I wrote it, would have a great first line: something lyric like Nabokov’s ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins’; or if I could not do lyric, then something sweeping like Tolstoy’s ‘All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’.” How could one resist a book with such an opening?
Firmin is a tale of a rat that has a special love for literature, born in a basement of an old bookstore in Scollay Square, Boston. Brought into a family with 12 other siblings, they “were soon fighting it out over twelve tits” which had a damaging effect on his ability to participate in the feeding routine. Firmin eats on books to survive which amazingly provides him with the ability to read.
Firmin develops a love for reading and relates everything in life to the books that he has read. The first time he ventured out to the outside world on a survival lesson with his mama, Firmin found a piece of old lettuce and described that “it tasted like Jane Eyre”. (I’ve never read Jane Eyre before but if I understand the sentence correctly, I guess I’ll know what to expect.)
Having a love for literature also places Firmin in no man’s land, he shares no connection to his own kind nor can he connect with humans which he describes as his “vast canyon of loneliness”. Though he has extraordinary abilities, he is unable to communicate his humanly thoughts in human vocabulary.
The book tells of Firmin’s yearning to become and to connect to humans (to the extent of studying sign language) and his solitary life as an intellectual rat. Engaging from the first to the last page, you’ll definitely connect with Firmin’s character if you have a look for books. You will share his frustrations, his longing, his love and his loss in a world that is finally destroyed by modernization.
Sam Savage’s first novel is filled with exquisite words and a unique storyline. Definitely a recommended must read.

For other reviews on the book, check out Shelf Monkey and The Bookbag’s blog site.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

TBR (To Be Read) Challenge 2009

I came across a recent article from Cynthia Crossen in The Wall Street Journal about books on our shelves that we’ve ignored for ages, purchased with the full intention of reading but end up collecting dust instead. We give ourselves 1001 excuses and convince ourselves that it’s just not the right time to read them. Quoting Crossen from her article:

“As I scanned my shelves, I found I had convincing arguments why I shouldn’t read each one of the orphans—or convincing to me anyway. I rejected a book called “English, August,” by Upamanyu Chatterjee because it is after all November. No to “The Ragged Trousered Philantrophist” by Robert Tressel because the book jacket says it’s about “the desperate lives of working people.” No to “The Unconsoled” byKazua Ishiguro because I heard it wasn’t nearly as good as “Remains of the Day” or “Never Let Me Go.”

Completely understand what you mean because I’ve done the same thing myself! As I studied my own bookshelves I realized, BOY do I have A LOT of unread books. Anyway, I supposed it wasn’t a coincidence that I saw All About {n} participating in a TBR 2009 Challenge, I take it as a sign that my dusty books need my tender loving attention.
So my orphaned books, I’ve been inspired and will read you next year by taking part in the challenge myself. If I don’t, the whole wide world will know that I have failed you. My lists of books to be read in 2009 are:

1. How to Enjoy Your Life and Your Job- Dale Carnegie
2. I Know This Much Is True- Wally Lamb
3. Veronika Decides to Die - Paulo Coelho
4. A Child Called ‘It’- Dave Pelzer
5. The Last Secret of The Temple- Paul Sussman

6. The View From Castle Rock- Alice Munro
7. The Pillars of the Earth- Ken Follet
8. The Book Thief- Markus Zusak
9. The Diary of A Young Girl- Anne Frank
10.The Hound of the Baskervilles- Arthur Conan Doyle
11. The Russian Concubine- Kate Furnival
12. Evening is A Whole Day- Preeta Samarasan

Alternate list:
1. The Glass Palace- Amitav Ghosh
2. The Queen & I- Sue Townsend
3. A Spot of Bother- Mark Haddon
4. The Almost Moon- Alice Sebold
5. They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky- Deng, Deng, Ajak
6. Screw It, Let's Do It- Richard Branson
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou
8. The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy
9. Labyrinth - Kate Moss
10. A New Earth- Eckhart Tolle
11. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
12. The Good Earth- Pearl S. Buck

If you are interested to take part in the challenge, please click here to visit MizB’s blog where the challenge is being hosted.

The Pagan Stone


From the book:
The Pagan Stone had stood for hundreds of years, long before three boys gathered around it to spill their blood in a bond of brotherhood, unwittingly releasing a force bent on destruction...

Gage Turner has been running from his past for a long time. The son of an abusive drunk, his childhood in the small town of Hawkins Hollow was tough and his only solace his friendship with Fox O’Dell and Caleb Hawkins. But, aged ten, the boys unleashed evil on their town: every seven years murder and mayhem reign, events that seem to be escalating with each cycle.

Now Gage has returned home to help his friends save Hawkins Hollow, but a lifetime as a loner has made him wary of emotional ties. And who can make plans for the future when their present is so uncertain? For unless they can find a way of using the Pagan Stone against the demonic force, everything they know and love will be destroyed.
My 2 cents worth:
I have been waiting for this book for MONTHS! When it finally arrived in Malaysia, I rushed myself to the bookstore to get my hands on it. The Pagan Stone is the third and final installation from Nora Robert’s latest trilogy ‘The Sign of Seven’.
A couple of months ago during one of my weekly Sunday pilgrimage to the local bookstore, I came across the first of the ‘The Sign of Seven’ trilogy, ‘The Hollow’ and once I started reading it I absolutely fell in love with the characters and the storyline presented. Immediately after that, I got the second book ‘Blood Brothers’ and after waiting for months, am happy to say that I have just completed ‘The Pagan Stone’.
I love the women’s character in each of the book, especially Quinn and Cybil, they kick ass! The storyline is filled with adventures challenging evil that seems to want to take over the peaceful town of Hawkins Hollow and a fair share of romance for each of the three boys. Plus, the conversations between the characters are often smart, witty and funny.
I’ve never read any of Robert’s work before this but I absolutely love her writing style and will definitely read more of her books.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

HBR Classics- Managing Oneself, Peter F. Drucker


From the book: 
In Managing Oneself, Peter F. Drucker explains how to create your career path by knowing when to seize opportunities and when to change course. This influential Harvard Business Review article helps you unlock your full potential by discovering your strengths, recognizing how you best work with others, and identifying the work environments that are right for you.

My two cents worth: 
According to Peter Drucker, in order for us to become great achievers we would need to learn to manage and develop ourselves so that we are able to place ourselves in the right organization and make better contributions which also translates to greater career achievements.

In Managing Oneself, Drucker provides key insights and important questions that can be used to assess our strengths and weaknesses. To identify our key strengths he recommends that we use the ‘feedback analysis’ system. I’m a strong believer in feedback but my methods rely solely on the feedback of co-workers or bosses. Drucker’s suggestion however is to record key decisions or actions made at work. The actual results should then be compared with our expectation after a specific time (Drucker recommends a period of nine to twelve months) for this system to work. Personally, this would take a lot of effort especially since we live in a fast paced working environment and make decisions every second but it’s worth a try.

Drucker also recommends that we concentrate on improving our strengths rather than improving our weaknesses which is often the case with many of us. I believe it’s only natural that we focus on the negative. Drucker believes that concentrating on improving areas of low competence “takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence’. Interesting point.

Other questions that we should also ask ourselves are: 
  • How do I perform?
  • How do I learn?
  • What are my values?
  • Where do I belong?
  • What should I contribute? 

In a nutshell, once we understand how we perform, how we gain our experience and understand our principles; only then would be able to identify a suitable organization or even the industry that would fit our values and strengths. Once these questions have been ironed out, we could then concentrate on how to provide the best contribution based on our skills. 

Drucker also mentions that it is worth to look for a parallel career path in the second half of our life so that we do not suffer from boredom with our current job scope. 

Most of what Drucker mentioned in the article is definitely useful in order to assess if we are moving in the right career path. I like Drucker's idea of looking for a parallel career path. I've been in advertising and marketing for close to eleven years now and am already facing boredom doing the same thing repeatedly. Maybe a new career path would make it more interesting and pose new challenges in my career. Something which I will definitely ponder on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Book Meme

I got this Book Meme from Sorrow at Sills Bend’s site. I’ve never done a book meme before, but hey you only live once so I thought I’d give this meme thing a try:

1. What was the last book you bought?
That’s easy. Just came back from a bookstore and bought Nora Roberts’s The Pagan Stone, the final installation for The Sign of Seven Trilogy. Have been waiting for this book for almost six months and finally it arrived in Malaysia. Can’t wait to start reading it!

2. Name a book that you’ve read more than once:
I’ve never read a book more than once. I want to read as many books as I can and I don’t waste time reading a book over and over again, no matter how much I love it.

3. Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Quite a few but the latest one is The Last Lecture from Randy Paush. I admire his positive attitude and the way he faces his greatest challenge from cancer. I love his philosophy in life and have adopted it as my own. To quote Randy, he says that “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”. The book changed my outlook in life.
4. How do you choose a book? E.g. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?
I’m a sucker for great covers that’s how I got my hands on The Gargoyle. But usually I read reviews on other book review blogs or Amazon and get recommendations from friends.

5. Do you prefer fiction or non- fiction?
I read fiction mostly and some of the non-fiction books that I tend to read are on self-help and motivation.
6. What’s more important in a novel- beautiful writing or gripping plot?
Gripping plot! I don’t get easily annoyed by bad writing cause I wouldn’t be able to tell whether it’s good or bad anyway *lol*.
7. Most loved/memorable character?
Edward Cullen from the Twilight Saga, if only such a man existed...sigh.....

8. Which book or books can be found at your nightstand at the moment?
A Far Country by Daniel Mason. I use to have ten bazillion books by my bed but it got really messy so I've made it a point to keep all my books in my study bedroom instead.

9. What was the last book you read?
Tales of Beedle the Bard from J.K Rowling.
10. Have you ever given up a book halfway?
I’m embarrassed to admit this but YES. I can’t stand books that develop in turtle pace speed. If it makes me yawn, out it goes!

I’m not tagging anyone for this book meme. I’m only doing this because I’m suffering from bloggers block heh heh... Anyway, if you’re interested to participate just list your link or your answers on the comments section below.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard


From the book:
The Tales of Beedle the Bard contains five richly diverse fairy tales, each with its own magical character, that will variously bring delight, laughter and the thrill of mortal peril.
Additional notes for each story penned by Professor Albus Dumbledore will be enjoyed by Muggles and wizards alike, as the Professor muses on the morals illuminated by the tales, and reveals snippets of information about life at Hogwarts.
A uniquely magical volume, with illustrations by the author, J.K. Rowling, that will be treasured for years to come.
My two cents worth:
In the introduction section by J.K. Rowlings, she explains that The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of classic stories written for young wizards and witches similar to that of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to Muggle children. The stories collected from Beedle the Bard from the fifteenth century have messages that are meant to teach children morality through magical tales; some are fantastic and some horrifying.
The book is translated by Hermione Granger and each story includes commentaries from beloved Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
The book provides light read short stories. Simply told, the tales can be appreciated by both children and adult. The best part for me is Professor Dumbledore’s analysis on each story featured, providing his thoughts and understanding on each book, sharing his great wisdom to the readers as he often did to the students of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.
I won’t go into detail on the tales featured so that I won’t spoil it for those who have not read it yet but my favourite from the five featured is The Wizard and the Hopping Pot and The Tale of Three Brothers.
The recently released book would make a great Christmas gift for both children and adult.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Then She Found Me


From the book:
April Epner teaches high school Latin, wears flannel jumpers, and is used to having her evenings free. Bernice Graverman brandishes designer labels, favors toad-size earrings, and hosts her own tacky TV talk show: Bernice G!

But behind the glitz and glam, Bernice has followed the life of the daughter she gave up for adoption thirty-six years ago. Now she’s ready to be Mother of the Year- and she’s hurtling straight towards April’s quiet little life.

My two cents worth:
I read this book sometime last August and wrote a short review on the book on my Living Social network. My thoughts on the book then:

“I love the contrast of characters in this book. April is so unlike her birth mother, Bernice. Her frustration with Bernice who is from a different world altogether is understandable and laughable. I was also surprised by Dwight’s character and found him to be witty and quite romantic in a mature, straightforward kinda way, far from how he was first introduced in the book. If you love a book that revolves around the theme based on growing relationships, then this would be one book to read. It is definitely a light read and has its funny moments.

I have yet to catch the movie but I truly believe that Bette Midler and Helen Hunt would be able to carry the character from the book to perfection”

The movie:
It’s a public holiday here in Malaysia today so I finally managed to catch the movie version of Then She Found Me.

The movie version’s storyline is so much different from the book. Instead of April being a single, lonesome thirty something who opens up to love and relationship, you find her at the beginning of the movie as a newly wedded wife who is dumped by her boyish husband (played by Matthew Broderick). April is still the simpleton school teacher in the movie and Bernice the celebrity hosting her own morning show. Bette Midler’s character did not have as strong a presence as she did in the book but yet she carried Bernice’s role up to my expectations- absolutely fabulous (I’m biased, I love Bette Midler. They also played down Bernice’s character as the attention crazy mother)

After her husband’s departure, April falls head over heels with Colin Firth, a single parent who sends his son to the school April teaches. Colin Firth was funny and I found him absolutely sexy playing the role of the heart-broken, responsible single father.

The movie version was good. It was funny and romantic and despite the storyline being different from the book, it was still engaging.

Ps. I’d just like to add that Helen Hunt looks like she’s really aged in this movie. I haven’t seen her in any other movie for quite a while and her appearance shocked me a bit. How old is she anyway?

Verdict: Sorry Elinor. I love the movie more than the book.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

From the book:
Charting loss, love, and the difficult art of growing up, these stories unfurl with wicked humour and insight. Two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab; a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to ‘Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers’ (cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Insomniacs; Cabin 3, Somnambulist..); a Minotaur leads his family on the trail out West, and finally in the collection’s poignant and hilarious title story, fifteen girls raised by wolves are painstakingly re-civilised by nuns.
My two cents worth:
This must be one of the weirdest collection of short stories that I have ever read in my life. Karen Russel’s short stories mostly feature young characters; sisters living in a Gator Theme Park, a young boy and his family lead by a father who is a Minotaur to a new world of opportunities, girls who were raised by wolves and re-educated to fit in with the ‘purebred’ human society.
Most of the stories presented feature characters that live in the Florida’s everglades, so in that sense I learnt a lot from the book about the geographical and environmental offerings of the setting. Seriously never knew there were endangered sea turtles in that part of the world. So, I learn something new from the book.
The stories mostly touch on the end of adolescence, with the characters discovering about sexuality, responsibility, fitting into society; themes that are reflective of youth moving on to adulthood. The tales are short, mystic, haunting some enjoyable and some are not.
What frustrates me about Russel’s stories is that they end abruptly. What I like about Russel’s writing is her style; unique storylines and the language used to describe a person or a situation. However, I do somehow feel that the words she uses maybe a bit too big to reflect characters that are at such a young age. (I think there were about three or four words that I had to look up in the dictionary while reading this book and I’m 33! To be fair, I’m Malaysian and English is a second language so the words use may not be bombastic to most other readers).

Overall, the book was different. The stories are unique. The themes had some depth. I finished the book with a bit of jealousy towards Karen Russel’s writing abilities; who at 25 was able to come up with tales that is imaginative and surreal. My favourite among the ten featured is ‘Haunting Olivia’.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Evening


From the book:
July 1954. An island off the coast of Maine. Ann Grant- a 25 year-old New York career girl- is a bridesmaid at her best friend’s lavish wedding. Also present is a man named Harris Arden, whom Ann has never met...

After three marriages and five children, Ann Lord lies dying in an upstairs bedroom of a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. What comes to her, eclipsing a stream of doctor’s visits and friends stopping by and grown children overheard whispering from the next room, is a rush of memories from a weekend 40 years ago in Maine, when she fell in love with a passion that even now throws a shadow onto the rest of her life. In Evening, Susan Minot gives us a novel of spellbinding power on the nature of memory and love.

My two cents worth:
“Let’s just say that you won’t see the leaves change this year” was Dr Baker’s honest answer to how long Ann had left in the world. As she lies dying from cancer with little time left in the world, heavily medicated and rarely lucid, her mind goes back in time from one memory to another of how her life was spent.

Her most significant memory was from 40 years ago, over one weekend in Maine at her best friend’s wedding, where she found and lost her true love. In between, her memory also jumps to her three other husbands who she could not love to the fullest owing to the memory of the man she met that one weekend at the wedding.

It can be quite confusing to read the book at times as the story is told from a perspective of a delirious woman on her death bed. The memories get jumbled up and you may have to read certain parts twice just to be sure if it was from the past or present. Despite the confusion, the book brings out the highs and lows of Ann’s life which in reality we could all relate to in our own lives.

The book had a realistic feel to it- how children are affected by a parent’s illness; their plans to move forward; an ailing woman on her death bed who reflects on the significance of her life. Evening touches on life and death, love and loss and is a beautiful novel to read.

The movie:
I’ve been wanting to catch this movie for the longest time but decided to hold it off until I finished the book. With a bit of free time over the weekend, I managed to get my hands on the DVD, sat myself down on the sofa and dedicated my full attention to the movie.

One cannot help but feel star struck with the list of cast for the movie which included Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Toni Collete and Natasha Richardson. Even with the star studded cast, unfortunately the movie came across flat and did not highlight the different characters as the book did. The movie also had moments that were dragging (to be honest I dozed off at one point).

For those who have not read the book, the movie might be acceptable. But for those who have read the book, you will find that the storyline had changed drastically to fit the screens. However, the movie did successfully carry the essence of the book which still touched on life and death, love and loss.

Verdict: Both the book and the movie are draggy but the book had more depth in terms of storyline and character. So book wins again.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Twilight

Anyone who knows me well enough would know that I have been raving about the Twilight saga for the longest time and that I’ve been impatiently waiting for the movie. Well it finally arrived in Malaysia last week and luckily I had invites to the preview and was one of the first people in Malaysia who saw it.

I’m probably not giving the movie a fair review seeing that Malaysian authorities have a habit of editing every single thing they deem as offensive. Yes, can you believe they edited some parts of Twilight???? There was nothing sexual or violent about the movie at all for God’s sakes! Urghhhhh... am so getting myself a DVD.

Well first off, I’ve mentioned before in my previous blog that I thought Orlando Bloom would have made a better Edward Cullen but of course I don’t think he would take on such roles. I had my doubts about Pattison playing the role in the beginning but he turned out ok. In fact he outdid my expectations in terms of acting just that I felt he didn’t cut it in terms of looks or my visualization of how EC should look like. Kristin Steward played her role well and Bella’s character was as annoying on screen as she was in the book (...I’m just jealous).

As an ardent fan of the book, I had high expectations for the movie but somehow it came across as B Grade. The chemistry between Edward and Bella which was the winning point of the book came out somewhat corny in the movie. Overall, the movie depicted the book’s storyline almost to perfection and is an ok movie to watch, just not remarkable.

I also felt that the scripting was weak and some of the clever banter between the characters that were really funny from the book was not prevalent in the movie which would probably have made the movie better.

Plus can I just add that the part of the movie depicting how some of the Cullens became vampires looked really stupid. In those scenes, it should have been scary but it turned out funny instead.

Anyway, I bumped into someone as I exited the cinema and she told me she loved the movie; I suppose it’s a fair review from a person who has not yet read the book. But for a fan, I left slightly disappointed.

Btw, I lead my boyfriend to believe that this was a true vampire movie (he wouldn’t have gone to the cinema with me if I said otherwise). No doubt he was expecting darkness, violence and gore ala Blade. Little did he know it was not all about vampires but more about romance *chuckles*. Anyway sorry for misleading you, at least you didn’t snore at the cinema baby.


Verdict: Book wins hands down, so read it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Five People You Meet In Heaven


From Amazon.com:

Part melodrama and part parable, Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven weaves together three stories, all told about the same man: 83-year-old Eddie, the head maintenance person at Ruby Point Amusement Park. As the novel opens, readers are told that Eddie, unsuspecting, is only minutes away from death as he goes about his typical business at the park. Albom then traces Eddie's world through his tragic final moments, his funeral, and the ensuing days as friends clean out his apartment and adjust to life without him. In alternating sections, Albom flashes back to Eddie's birthdays, telling his life story as a kind of progress report over candles and cake each year. And in the third and last thread of the novel, Albom follows Eddie into heaven where the maintenance man sequentially encounters five pivotal figures from his life (a la A Christmas Carol). Each person has been waiting for him in heaven, and, as Albom reveals, each life (and death) was woven into Eddie's own in ways he never suspected. Each soul has a story to tell, a secret to reveal, and a lesson to share. Through them Eddie understands the meaning of his own life even as his arrival brings closure to theirs.
Albom takes a big risk with the novel; such a story can easily veer into the saccharine and preachy, and this one does in moments. But, for the most part, Albom's telling remains poignant and is occasionally profound. Even with its flaws, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a small, pure, and simple book that will find good company on a shelf next to It's A Wonderful Life. --Patrick O'Kelley
 
My two cents worth:
I’ve always liked Albom’s simplistic style of writing with the ability to deliver strong messages across to the readers. Like his other books that I’ve read, The Five People You Meet in Heaven also succeeds to pull at the heart strings.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven begins with an introduction of the main character Eddie who lives in solitude after the death of his wife. The only human contact being his colleagues at Ruby Pier where he heads Maintenance.
Eddie losses his life in a freak accident and encounters five people in heaven that proceeds to teach him lessons in life. The people that he encounters; some strangers and some he knew have all significantly affected his life, with or without his awareness of their significance at that point.
The underlying theme of the book is that we are all connected to each other. Each decision we make in life will affect another person whether it is someone you know or a complete stranger and this message is strongly delivered from the five different people he meets in the afterlife. Other messages that came across is the importance of sacrifice, forgiveness, love and life itself.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven is poignant and provides important lessons that would make a reader reflect on what’s important in life after reading the book. I love the messages that came from the book but I found the storyline not as engaging as his other books. To date, Tuesdays With Morrie still remains my personal favourite from Albom.

Quote

I thought this quote would be a nice follow-up to my previous review of "The No Asshole Rule":
“The toes you are stepping on today may well be attached to the ass you need to kiss tomorrow”

Friday, November 14, 2008

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

From the book:
In a landmark article published in the esteemed Harvard Business Review, Stanford University professor Robert I. Sutton addressed a taboo topic that affects every workplace: employees who are insensitive to their colleagues... corporate bullies... bosses who just don’t get it- the kind of people who make you exclaim in exasperation, “What an asshole!”
Now in a definitive book that addresses this growing problem, Sutton shows you how you can work with unsavoury people- without becoming one of them yourself...

My two cents worth:
Please excuse my language but I’m kinda enjoying writing this review.
Let’s start with the correct definition of Asshole in this context: It’s not fair to call every person that pisses you off in the office an Asshole. A person who deserves such a grand title has to have a habit of aiming his/her venom at people who are less powerful and leaving the victim feeling oppressed, humiliated, de-energized and belittled, basically making them feel worst about him or herself. I bet you have someone in mind already right? (I do and I’ll definitely tell you about my experience later)

In The No Asshole Rule, Sutton provides recommendations on how the rule can be implemented successfully into an organization that is serious about changing its culture for the better. Allow me to state this clearly again, this book is suitable for organizations or top influential decision makers that are serious about changing its culture but if you are happy with the ‘pro Asshole’ rule in your organization then don’t bother but the book may give you some useful insights on the pro’s and con’s of keeping to this rule.

Included in the book are case studies and research on the effects of allowing Assholes to run wild in an organization. It de-motivates employees, diminishes productivity, causes low self-esteem, increases turnover and lo and behold: IT WILL AFFECT YOUR COST and in some cases PROFITS. (You don’t really need a book to tell you that do you? The increase in turnover alone is a waste of resources because you would constantly need to interview new people to come on board)

Victims of Assholism (he he... there is no such word of course just bear with me here) will also find this book useful as it provides tips on how to survive these nasty people. If you have worked in an organization, chances are you’ll be lucky enough to come across an Asshole at least once in your lifetime so the tips are quite handy. It also provides a self test to see if you yourself are a certified Asshole. (Phew! My results say that I’m not an Asshole but I do admit that I can be a ‘temporary Asshole’ at times... I’m only human)
I found this book’s content based on common sense but what makes the book insightful is the case studies and research presented on how a ‘pro Asshole’ rule can effect an organization and its employees. The No Asshole Rule is not one of those business books that can put you to sleep within minutes. It’s definitely a good read and I definitely had a trill saying the word Asshole so many times in a day. (I don’t swear a lot so I take this opportunity with open arms)
For more information visit Bob Sutton’s blog on other useful organizational tips.

My story:
I’m writing to share my experience of what working with a mean spirited person can do to your overall well being and how best to survive. I once had a boss that was so vile that I nick named my tormentor '666'. I was hired because of my past achievements and strategic background in growing a business, but when I came on board none of these qualities were utilized.

My comments were constantly ignored during meetings, when in rare occasions my opinion was sought I would be shot down for giving such a stupid idea (only for the idea to be presented again at an opportune moment for 666 to take credit). 666 constantly berated me and as if it was not enough to torture me from 9-5 Mondays to Friday’s, 666 would call me up over the weekends just to taunt me on matters that were not even under my portfolio and always made sure to point out that I was the most incompetent and dumbest person in the world before hanging up. In other words 666 was CRAZY!
I’m described by my closest friends to be a person who is emotionally strong, seldom do I let unjustified comment bother me. But even the strongest person can fall prey to breakdown if the psychological abuse is provided in little doses consistently. Most of my other colleagues suffer the same torment but they’ve all noticed that I seemed to be her favourite subject of abuse.
There was little that we could do to overcome this challenge because despite being mean spirited, 666 was considered a treasure to the company. I hate to admit this but 666 produced results, was efficient and very hard working. The only flaw was that 666’s leadership qualities were based on fear. Because of 666’s leadership style, people feared making mistakes and even the nicest people were quick to point fingers to save their own skin...myself included; thus resulting in the lack of trust amongst peers.
The stresses of working in such an environment can cause sleepless nights; I had nightmares related to work, I was constantly afraid of being humiliated, constantly questioning my own abilities and worst I began to project the same attitude as 666. I was so stressed out that my relationship with my boyfriend and my parents became rocky. I was always snapping at them, imagine that, snapping at people I love the most. This was when I was also diagnosed with severe acid reflux and was once rushed to the hospital at 5 am in the morning.
I could tell you countless stories of 666’s evil ways but what I’d rather do is concentrate on ways to keep your sanity intact while working with such a person. My suggestion for those who are suffering the same predicament; LEAVE- life is too short and you do not deserve the abuse no matter how incompetent you are. We all have our strengths that can be useful contribution to an organization and there are always ways to improve your weaknesses.

Not long after I joined, I made a decision to leave the company but couldn’t do it immediately as I wanted to be very careful with my next employment selection. If you’d like my recommendation on how to survived such an environment, here’s what I did:
  1. Avoid contact as much as possible. Use the email or phone rather than face to face contact.
  2. Remind yourself of your positive attributes every day. This kept my confidence intact whenever I questioned if 666’s baseless accusations were true. It helps if you remind yourself of the things you’ve achieved in life.
  3. Make jokes of the horrors you have experience so that you don’t take the verbal abuse personally. For example, every time 666 said something nasty, I’d joke and tell myself that 666 was only doing this because I’m smarter or prettier or whatever that would tickle my funny bone.
  4. Don’t show emotion- Always act professionally when a nasty comment is given. Don’t give any indication that their comments are getting to you. Ignore them and trust me your indifference will annoy them more. All they want from their action is a sense of power and they will only be satisfied if you show them your weaknesses. If you act indifferent, they know they can't bully you and eventually they will leave you alone.
  5. If you need to talk it over, confide in a friend. Trust me, you’ll feel better once you’ve let it all out and you’ll realize that you’ve just wasted energy on a useless cause.
  6. If your achievement at work is non-existent, find other ways to have a sense of accomplishment like re-decorating your house or take part in activities. Even a simple thing like re-organizing your bank statements will give you a sense of achievement.
  7. Keep yourself busy and don’t mull over the comments too much, take it with a pinch of salt but be realistic. If you’ve made a mistake, take the point constructively, learn from it then move on. One of my colleagues started going to the gym and he mentioned that running on the treadmill helped him shed all the pent up anger he kept inside.
  8. Don’t look at the experience negatively; you actually learn a lot from Assholes as they can be a benchmark of who you DO NOT want to be in life.
  9. Finally, if you’ve done all the above and many more and still feel abused then my only advise is LEAVE. Seriously life is too short to spend it with people who generate negative energy.

Other reading recommendations that could help:
  • Dealing with People You Can’t Stand by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Graveyard Book


From the book:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Well, he would be perfectly normal is he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of the ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more.
But it is in the land of the living that real dangers lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
A deliciously dark masterwork by bestselling author Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by award-winning Dave McKean.

My two cents worth:
I first came across Neil Gaiman’s name through the movie Stardust (excellent movie, definitely my all time favourite). Since then I’ve read one or two of his books and have enjoyed them tremendously. The Graveyard Book is no exception. I truly admire Gaiman’s imaginative abilities and his talent for putting it down creatively on paper.
It didn’t hit me that the book was channelling Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book until I read the credits at the end. In Jungle Book the orphan was raised by occupants of the jungle whereas in The Graveyard Book, Nobody Owens or Bod is raised by occupants of the graveyard. It’s a book targeted to children, but adults who love adventures can definitely enjoy the book too.

Growing up in the graveyard gave Bod fascinating adventures among the dead as well as the living and the illustrations by Dave Mckean makes the stories come alive. To quote Patrick Ness’s review title on Gaiman’s latest work published in The Guardian UK “Neil Gaiman’s tales from the crypt are a deathly delight”, that about sums up my thoughts on the book.

Final thoughts: I think The Graveyard Book has great movie potential (yup me thinks it’s that gud) and I reckon Tim Burton can make it happen if he chose it as his next project. Anybody know how I can get this message across to Mr. Burton?


Monday, November 10, 2008

The 2009- 100+ Reading Challenge


Yes... it’s that time of the year where you start thinking about what you want to do for the coming New Year. Instead of starting with my personal resolutions for 2009 (which is still the same from like ten years ago, so I don’t have to bother really) I’m starting with a book challenge hosted by J. Kaye’s Book Blog.

What’s great about this challenge is that you don’t have to decide on your books ahead of time. You can add or subtract from your list during the year.

If you don't own a blog, don't despair. You can still sign up for the challenge in Yahoo Groups.

Happy Reading Everybody!

  1. An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever Given
  2. Confessions of a Fallen Angel
  3. Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland
  4. Power is the Great Motivator
  5. The Book Thief
  6. Love Letters of Great Men
  7. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  8. Northanger Abbey
  9. Juggling Elephants
  10. Burning Bright
  11. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  12.  The Hound of the Baskervilles
  13. The Necklace
  14. The Ambitious Guest
  15. Inkheart
  16. The Time Traveler's Wife
  17. Who Moved My Cheese?
  18. The Elephant's Child
  19. Veronika Decides to Die
  20. Philosophy: A Graphic Guide to the History of Thinking
  21. The Book of Lost Things
  22. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
  23. The Rocking Horse Winner
  24. Kira-Kira
  25. The Three Incestuous Sisters
  26. The Traveler
  27. The Cellist of Sarajevo
  28. The Gashlycrumb Tinies
  29. Early American Advertising
  30. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  31. A Child Called 'It'
  32. Memories of My Melancholy Whores
  33. Three Cups of Tea
  34. City of Thieves
  35. Coraline
  36. Rod Sterling's The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33
  37. Rod Sterling's The Twilight Zone: The After Hours
  38. A Game of Thrones
  39. Dead Until Dark
  40. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rodrick Rules
  41. Living Dead in Dallas
  42. Quotations of David Ogilvy
  43. Club Dead
  44. Dead to the World
  45. Dead as a Doornail
  46. The Forest of Hands & Teeth
  47. Three Shadows
  48. Fahrenheit 451
  49. Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite
  50. Mr. Toppit
  51. Zombie Blondes
  52. Vampire Diaries
  53. Kenny & the Dragon
  54. Ariel
  55. Definitely Dead
  56. I, Coriander
  57. The Vampire Diaries, The Fury & Dark Reunion
  58. Odd & The Frost Giants
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