Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Manga Edition)

Author: Patrick Lencioni
Illustrator: Kensuke Okabayashi
Published: 2008
Paperback: 174 pages

A must read for those executives who wants to bring about team leadership culture  in their organization. Also highly recommended for Agile Coaches, ScrumMasters and Scrum Team members since Agile highly values  teamwork.

Read more about this book in my Professional Blog.

Friday, December 23, 2011

World History - 50 key milestones you really need to know

Author:         Ian Crofton
Published:   2011
Publisher:    Quercus
Hardcover:  210 pages
The aim of this book as per the author is to focus on 50 key developments and events of the world history and lay basic foundations for the readers to build on. The economic, social, geographic and cultural factors surrounding these events are covered.
The time period covered in this book ranges from beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago to the 9/11 attack on Twin Towers in 2001.
The author allocates four pages to describe each milestone . 
A detailed timeline of dates and events accompanies the main text. 
The main text is also supported by selected contemporary quotations to bring the flavor of the period being described.  Personalities as diverse as Aristotle, Saladin, Christopher Columbus, Galileo, Thomas Jefferson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Lincoln, Winston Churchill etc. are quoted.
In addition there are one or two mini articles for every milestone being discussed. These articles cover a range of fascinating topics - Nazca Lines, Renaissance man, Confucianism, Alexander the Great's horse, Islamic science, Barbary corsairs, Enigma code, the atomic bomb etc.

It would have been better if in addition to the above if all the dates and events for all the milestones were captured in a single tabular column, with each column representing a milestone.Also this book lacks a bibliography.
Nevertheless an interesting, handy and well laid out reference book which may serve as an appetizer to know more about the milestones.

Milestones Described in this book:

The beginnings of agriculture; The first cities; Egypt of the pharaohs; Classical Greece; Alexander the Great; The spread of Roman power; The fall of Rome and its aftermath; The rise of Islam; The Vikings; The Crusades; The Black Death. 

OTHER WORLDS: Precolonial India; Imperial China; The Mongols; Japan, the island empire; Incas and Aztecs; Empires and kingdoms of Africa. 

THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD: The Renaissance; The Ottoman empire; The voyages of discovery; The Reformation; The Counter-Reformation; The English Revolution; The Scientific Revolution; The age of empire; The Enlightenment. 

GATHERING PACE: The American Revolution; The French Revolution; The Napoleonic Era; The Industrial Revolution; Nationalism in Europe; Slavery; The expansion of the USA; The American Civil War; The rise of socialism; Women's rights. 

THE 20th CENTURY AND AFTER: The First World War; Lenin and Stalin; The shadow of Fascism; The Great Depression; The Second World War - Europe; The Second World War - Asia and the Pacific; The Holocaust; The Cold War; The end of empire; The Vietnam War; The Arab-Israeli conflict; The fall of communism; The resurgence of China; 9/11 and after.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Gandhi - Naked Ambition

Author:         Jad Adams
Published:   2010
Publisher:    Quercus
Hardcover:  336 pages
I doubt whether there is any Indian who has not heard about Mahatma Gandhi. We revere him as the Father of the Nation and generally have some idea (however vague it may be) about the values and ideals he stood for. His role in leading India to independence from the British Raj is well recognized all over the world.  
But how many of us  really know beyond what met the public eye and know him as a person? I must confess that apart from Gandhi's autobiography: My Experiments with Truth, which I read more than a decade ago (and forgotten almost all its content), I had not read much about his life. That's the reason I borrowed this book from the British Library.

This biography is mainly based on Gandhi's own writings and that of his secretaries Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal. It is a fairly well narrated account of Gandhi's life. I came to know several little known facts about Gandhi.
While the author has based this biography on authentic sources he has his own interpretation of the facts. In his introduction to the book he conveys that:
  • Gandhi was very image conscious and knew very well how to make best use of the media to promote his image.
  • Gandhi's striving for truth was not an attempt to reach unquestioned factual accuracy, but stretching out towards spiritual perfection.
  • The battle with the government over Indian rights was what Gandhi did, the struggle with his sex drive was what Gandhi was.
  • Gandhi was an intensely ambitious man. The ambitious was not for fairness of laborers or Indian independence but for spiritual perfection.
The above interpretations form the underlying theme of the entire book . 
While I am not sure how far these interpretations are correct, the book is quite an interesting read. However one needs to read a few more books on Gandhi to get a complete picture and understanding of  his multifaceted and often contradictory character.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

The PMP Exam - How to Pass on Your First Try

Author:         Andy Crowe
Published:   2009
Paperback: 556 pages

Overall seems to be a pretty useful aid for PMP exam preparation.

Read more about this book.