Alain Saffel's Bookshelf

Titles pulled from my bookshelf and reviewed. You'll also see reviews of current books.

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Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Former journalist and former accountant. I now run an Edmonton SEO (search engine optimization) company called Page One SEO. I still write and love photography. My personal blog is: http://alainsaffel.com

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Kitchen Con: Trevor White

It has been a while since I've posted, but it certainly doesn't mean I haven't been reading. Kitchen Con: Writing on the Restaurant Racket, by Trevor White is the latest book on my nightstand.

I heard it being discussed on CBC one day. The next week I was in the library and spotted it among the new books. Being a bit of a foodie (how qualified I know not) I decided to pick it up. I was especially interested in it from a journalism perspective, that being my chosen profession. (Well, a writer anyway.)

White discusses restaurant critics and how reliable there ratings really are, and exposes the underbelly of restaurant criticism. I'm not sure how much anyone has ever really trusted these ratings, unless you're Michelin or Zagat, but even then.

I thought the best part of the book was that in which he discussed the state of nutrition (or lack thereof) in modern society. Our diet is full of what can only be described as garbage, and he tackles that subject nicely.

It's obvious from how the book is written that it evolved as he wrote it. It is certainly not predictable, which is part of its charm.

If you're looking for a good read that will leave you laughing as well as having learned a little, you ought to pick it up. If you want to know what White thinks about some of the famous TV chefs out there like Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, I won't tell you here. Pick up the book.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Free books?

Who doesn't like a free book? I sure like them, as long as they're good. How about a classic?

I recently added a StumbleUpon toolbar to my Firefox browser and I have found some really interesting stuff.

Of note? Well, I found ReadPrint, a free book website. They are electronic and they are classics of course. They're out of copyright obviously. I'm not going to load them all up, put them on my laptop and start reading in the bath, but they are fine if you want to read on the laptop in bed.

Another site I stumbled upon was the Modern Library's top 100 novels list. That was an interesting read. I looked down the list and thought I should get reading even more than I do! I'll cross-reference with the ReadPrint list and see what I should start with.

Here's their board's picks for the Top 100. Let me know what you think. I'll follow that list with the reader choices. I think their readers were big Ayn Rand fans and probably Scientologists.

At least there was one Canadian author, Robertson Davies, on that list. I didn't recognize if any others were.

Board's Top 100

1 ULYSSES by James Joyce
2 THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3 A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
4 LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
5 BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
6 THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
7 CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
8 DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
9 SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
10 THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
11 UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
12 THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
13 1984 by George Orwell
14 I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
15 TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
16 AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
17 THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
18 SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
19 INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
20 NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
21 HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
22 APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O'Hara
23 U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
24 WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
25 A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
26 THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
27 THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
28 TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
29 THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
30 THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
31 ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
32 THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
33 SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
34 A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
35 AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
36 ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
37 THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
38 HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
39 GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
40 THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
41 LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
42 DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
43 A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
44 POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
45 THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
46 THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
47 NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
48 THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
49 WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
50 TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
51 THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
52 PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
53 PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
54 LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
55 ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
56 THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
57 PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
58 THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
59 ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
60 THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
61 DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather
62 FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
63 THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
64 THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
65 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
66 OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
67 HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
68 MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
69 THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
70 THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
71 A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
72 A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
73 THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
74 A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
75 SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
76 THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
77 FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
78 KIM by Rudyard Kipling
79 A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
80 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
81 THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow
82 ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
83 A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
84 THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
85 LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
86 RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
87 THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
88 THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
89 LOVING by Henry Green
90 MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
91 TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
92 IRONWEED by William Kennedy
93 THE MAGUS by John Fowles
94 WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
95 UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
96 SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
97 THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
98 THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain
99 THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
100 THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

Reader's Top 100

1 ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
2 THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
3 BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
4 THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
5 TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
6 1984 by George Orwell
7 ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
8 WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
9 MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
10 FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
11 ULYSSES by James Joyce
12 CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
13 THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
14 DUNE by Frank Herbert
15 THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein
16 STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein
17 A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
18 BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
19 THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
20 ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
21 GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
22 THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
23 SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
24 GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
25 LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
26 SHANE by Jack Schaefer
27 TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM by Nevil Shute
28 A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
29 THE STAND by Stephen King
30 THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN by John Fowles
31 BELOVED by Toni Morrison
32 THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison
33 THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
34 LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
35 MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
36 ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
37 OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
38 WISE BLOOD by Flannery O'Connor
39 UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
40 FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
41 SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
42 ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
43 HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
44 YARROW by Charles de Lint
45 AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS by H.P. Lovecraft
46 ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
47 MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
48 TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
49 THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
50 TRADER by Charles de Lint
51 THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams
52 THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
53 THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood
54 BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
55 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
56 ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute
57 A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
58 GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
59 ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
60 THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
61 THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
62 STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein
63 THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
64 THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving
65 SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury
66 THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
67 AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
68 TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
69 INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
70 THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
71 THE MAGUS by John Fowles
72 THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein
73 ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert Pirsig
74 I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
75 THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
76 AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O'Brien
77 FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
78 ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
79 WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
80 NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
81 THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy
82 GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
83 THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein
84 IT by Stephen King
85 V. by Thomas Pynchon
86 DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein
87 CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
88 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
89 LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
90 ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey
91 A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
92 THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
93 SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey
94 MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
95 MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
96 SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
97 MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
98 ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach
99 THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
100 THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Richard Marcinko: Violence of Action

I just finished Richard Marcinko's book Violence of Action. It's part of the Rogue Warrior series I've been reading a lot lately.

Marcinko was a U.S. Navy Seal and had quite the career. It's a long explanation, so if you're interested, read his first book: Rogue Warrior. I read that one as well. It was a great read.

I have really enjoyed the entire Rogue Warrior series, but I wasn't quite so impressed with this one. I had read some things online about how the books had gone downhill after he and his co-author John Weisman parted ways. Why it happened, I don't know.

I don't know if this was the first to be written without Weisman, but I was starting to agree with the criticism I had heard. The first part of the book was tough to get through. There wasn't a whole lot of action, and much of it seemed to be self-congratulatory chest thumping. A certain amount of that is fine before you think "get on with the damn story!" You don't have to like it Mr. Author, you just have to do it!

Normally, I can't put the books down, but I had trouble staying awake in the first part. I stuck with it, and was finally able to get into some action. Marcinko has lightened up a little on the acronyms, thankfully. I noticed the glossary, normally a feature of Rogue Warrior books, is also gone. Good.

The rest of the book was actually quite good, and I did have trouble putting it down. I'm a voracious reader, so when I get into the good parts of books, it makes for late nights and lots of coffee the next day.

This book was written after 9/11, so there are references to it. This is the first Marcinko book I've read that was written after it. The topic of this one? Homegrown terrorism. Some Navy Seals are white supremacists, steal a portable nuclear bomb and threaten to blow up Portland. That's the short version.

Something new in this book was torture. It was timely in the sense that it is a big issue in the U.S. with the Bush administration. You can see the justification for it, and I think Marcinko illustrated it well. It raises an interesting question. In a situation like this, if you were looking for a stolen nuke that could kill up to 500,000 people, would torture be justified? I think if you took a vote among the half-million potential victims, you'd probably find unanimity.

On the other hand, I think the Bush administration uses torture as a routine tool, without solid justification. It's interesting how Marcinko seems to weave his political philosophy into the books so you're not sure whether he really believes it or it's just the character. I tend to believe that that is his actual philosophy.

Conclusion: Overall, it is actually quite a good book once you get over the slow first section. Stick with it and you will be entertained.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Canadian bestsellers

I recently posted the bestseller list for the New York Times, so I figured I'd better see what was happening here in Canada for bestselling books!

Top Paperback Fiction – Canada - Canadian Booksellers
June 3, 2006

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Angels & Demons (Dan Brown)
3. Broken Prey (John Sandford)
4. Cross Bones (Kathy Reichs)
5. The Lighthouse (P.D. James)
6. The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Edition (Dan Brown)
7. Three Day Road (Joseph Boyden)
8. Velocity (Dean Koontz)
9. A Complicated Kindness (Miriam Toews)
10. Digital Fortress (Dan Brown)
11. The Girls (Lori Lansens)
12. With No One As Witness (Elizabeth George)
13. Resistance (Daniel Kalla)
14. Deception Point: Premium Edition (Dan Brown)
15. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

It's interesting that Dan Brown occupies 5 of the 15 spots on this list. I guess I should actually read one of his books to see what all the hype is about. I guess his publisher has pulled out all his old, unsold books and put them out on the market! "We need to make room for copies of the Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt books of baby pictures!"

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Freight Train Graffiti

If you've read one of my other blogs, Train Graffiti, you'll know about my interest in the art form.

I decided to do a search on graffiti on Technorati this morning. I actually ran across a book called Freight Train Graffiti.

It looks like a fair size book, and runs 349 pages. It was published quite recently, coming out in 2006.

There are several authors and according to the info on Amazon, there are 1,000 colour photos and 125 in-depth interviews with graffiti artists.

I'll have to add this one to my Christmas list. I'm not sure I'll be able to wait though. I might have to save up my pennies to read it a little quicker.

Graffiti World

Doing a little more searching I ran across Graffiti World, yet another fat book on graffiti.

I'll add this one to my list of books I have to read. It's a specialized topic to be sure, and one that won't appeal to everyone. I appreciate graffiti as art, but it's not that way for everyone. I'm not a big fan of tagging, partially because taggers really pick the worst places (most visible) to ply their trade.

Graffiti artists typically choose rail cars and back alleys to do their art. It's not much of a step from graffiti art to a mural. The difference is social acceptance and the time of day it's done. I'm not sure there are many graffiti artists who are actually paid for their work.

One of these days when I become wealthy and have an extra room in my house, I will track down a talented graffiti artist to decorate one wall of the room. It would be most appropriate to have it on one wall of a games room. I don't think my wife would go for having it in the bedroom.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bestseller list for this week

Curious what's on the New York Times bestseller list? If you're looking for some good summer reading, I've got the paperback fiction list below. I might actually get to the Da Vinci Code sooner than later. I'm going to have to buy a hammock and get into summer reading mode.

Paperback Fiction

This
Week

Weeks
On List
1 THE DA VINCI CODE, by Dan Brown. (Anchor, $14.95 and $7.99; Broadway special illustrated edition, $22.95.) A murder at the Louvre leads to a trail of clues found in the work of Leonardo and to the discovery of a secret society. 9
2 ANGELS & DEMONS, by Dan Brown. (Pocket Star, $7.99.) A Harvard scholar tries to save the Vatican from the machinations of an underground society. 140
3 BROKEN PREY, by John Sandford. (Berkley, $9.99.) Lucas Davenport, working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, searches for a serial killer. 4
4 VELOCITY, by Dean Koontz. (Bantam, $7.99.) A bartender becomes an unwitting accomplice in choosing a serial killer's next victim. 5
5 A WEDDING IN DECEMBER, by Anita Shreve. (Back Bay, $14.95.) Seven friends reunite for a wedding and remember the tragedy that drove them apart. 4
6 DIGITAL FORTRESS, by Dan Brown. (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, $14.95 and $7.99.) A cryptographer at the N.S.A. breaks a mysterious code. 37
7 TRUE BELIEVER, by Nicholas Sparks. (Warner, $12.95.) A hip young New Yorker finds love with a beautiful librarian who lives in North Carolina. 7
8 MAP OF BONES, by James Rollins. (Avon, $7.99.) An ancient secret society steals the bones of the Three Wise Men to accomplish a nefarious goal. 5
9 * THE INNOCENT, by Harlan Coben. (Signet, $9.99.) An ex-con who was unjustly sent to prison years earlier finds himself a suspect in a pair of murders. 5
10 A GOOD YARN, by Debbie Macomber. (Mira, $7.99.) The lives and loves of a group of women who meet at a knitting class in Seattle. 5
11 DECEPTION POINT, by Dan Brown. (Pocket, $9.99 and $7.99.) An intelligence analyst is sent to the Arctic on a special assignment by the White House. 66
12 GHOST HUNTER, by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle. (Jove, $7.99.) A powerful ghost hunter and his former fiancée investigate a disappearance. 1
13 THE UNDOMESTIC GODDESS, by Sophie Kinsella (Dial, $12) At her wit's end, an attorney leaves London and winds up a housekeeper in a small town. 1
14 NO PLACE LIKE HOME, by Mary Higgins Clark. (Pocket, $9.99.) A woman who is trying to conceal her past becomes the target of a killer. 10
15 THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, by Lauren Weisberger Broadway, $13.95; Anchor, $7.99.) A young woman gets a job at a fashion magazine, and a difficult boss. 3
16 * GOODNIGHT NOBODY, by Jennifer Weiner (Washington Square, $15.) An unhappy mother gains independence by investigating a murder. 1
17 THE KITE RUNNER, by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead)
18 PAWLEYS ISLAND, by Dorothea Benton Frank (Berkley)
19 THE MERMAID CHAIR, by Sue Monk Kidd (Penguin)
20 MARRIAGE MOST SCANDALOUS, by Johanna Lindsey (Pocket)
21 THE TWELFTH CARD, by Jeffery Deaver (Pocket Star)
22 THE ENGLISHER, by Beverly Lewis (Bethany House)
23 CROSS BONES, by Kathy Reichs (Pocket Star)
24 EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING, by Lauren Weisberger (Downtown) First Chapter
25 THE HAZARDS OF HUNTING A DUKE, by Julia London (Pocket Star)
26 BURNED, by Carol Higgins Clark (Pocket Star)
27 X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, by Chris Claremont (Del Rey)
28 IMPULSE, by JoAnn Ross (Pocket Star)
29 LIE BY MOONLIGHT, by Amanda Quick (Jove)
30 SATURDAY, by Ian McEwan (Anchor) First Chapter
31 THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, by Mitch Albom (Hyperion)
32 WICKED, by Gregory Maguire (ReganBooks/HarperCollins)
33 HOT ITEM, by Carly Phillips (HQN)
34 KILLER TAKES ALL, by Erica Spindler (Mira)
35 MY SISTER'S KEEPER, by Jodi Picoult (Washington Square)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Wal-Mart Effect

The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy.

This is a book I'll be adding to my bookshelf eventually. I'm not really a big fan of Wal-Mart, but I'm always interested in the company and what it's up to. I read Sam Walton's book a number of years ago and found it quite interesting.

I am not really sure what the perspective of this book is, but I'm sure it will be an interesting read either way.

Interested in getting another perspective on the company? We watched PBS Frontline's "Is Wal-Mart Good for America" in my business ethics class. It was quite interesting. Check out the website to watch the entire show online. Make sure to check out the other Frontline shows. You can watch them online too.

Recently read: The Tipping Point

I recently finished The Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference, by Malcolm Gladwell. He's published another book I'll have to pick up called Blink.

This book was originally published in 2000, so it's not the most recent one out there. I don't always pick books up immediately, as if that wasn't obvious. I like to wait a while and see if I can pick up the bestsellers on sale, at Costco or maybe in a dump bin somewhere. If it is really compelling, I'll pick it up at full price. I wish I had done that with The Tipping Point, it's that good.

Fundamentally the book is about information and how it travels through society. If you're in marketing, chances are you'll have read it already. It should be required reading in any marketing program. I didn't read it in any of my university marketing courses though. I should have!

I found the discussions on crime, youth smoking, Sesame Street and Blue's Clues to be quite interesting. His view on the drop in U.S. crime rates is especially interesting. His reasoning behind the drop is counter-intuitive. If you want to read an even more radical view on that drop, pick up Freakonomics. I'm almost done reading it.

I know I'm not coming up with anything particularly pithy about this book, but it is a very good read. If you're interested reading a well-written book about the flow of information in society and how social trends really work, you'll want to pick this up. The writing is good and it's an easy read, meaning, it's not written in a scholarly manner. A textbook it is not!

Currently reading:

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Here be Dragons: Telling tales of people, passion and power by Peter C. Newman