Book Review: The Noticer

The Noticer by Andy Andrews, published by Nelson Nelson, is a newly published work that aims to teach the value of perspective. By noticing the different perspectives from which we approach the decisions in our lives, we gain understanding. This can be understanding of how others see us, understanding of the consequences of our actions, or understanding of how our lives intertwine with others.

The NoticerThe central figure in The Noticer is an impossibly old and mysterious man by the name of Jones. Not “Mr. Jones”, just “Jones”. He is goes by other names to non-Anglo individuals and appears of differing ethnicity to those other cultures also. Jones tends to appear basically out of nowhere to comfort and advise troubled people during their darkest hour. While the story takes place in a small Gulf Coast town, it might as well be “Anywhere, USA”. The town and the name of the protagonist aren’t important. What is important is the lessons he imparts.

The book is a quick, enjoyable read and falls into that category of self-help books that try to convey advice through parable. While the book is enjoyable and the advice worthwhile, I found The Noticer a bit hard to get through in places simply because the story was just too cloying. Much as you really get tired of the mice in the business book Who Moved My Cheese?, you start to get tired of the characters and predictability of their reactions in the work. If the book was much longer, you might just put it down.

As it stands though, this is the type of book that you will read, get out of it what you need, and then pass along to someone else because out of the 180 odd pages you will find four or five that speak directly to an issue you have. And for that, it is worth the price. (The explanation of the four ways that love is conveyed and perceived was just that tidbit for me.) I can also see The Noticer being given by many as gifts for those entering into new relationships, business opportunities, or even graduation. And in those situations, again, if the reader can even find just four or five pages that speak to them, then the reading will have been time well spent.

Note: The publisher gave me a copy of this book for the purpose of. There were no strings attached, and that gratis review copy in no way swayed my opinions towards this work.

Collapse Of Distinction

Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails by Scott McKain is exactly the book that anyone involved in running a business should be reading right now. McKain, who is Vice Chairman of Obsidian Enterprises, recently named one of the “fastest growing public companies” in the country, cuts a clear path through all the marketing claptrap to arrive at what is really the problem with most of today’s businesses – a lack of distinction.

collapse_of_distinctionWhy would you have any loyalty to a store, restaurant or other business when their only point of differentiation is pricing. As soon as the price changes, the customer moves on. And the price will always change because there is always someone willing to sell a little cheaper, cut a few more corners, or take a bit less profit. Where loyalty and longevity are established is through our points of differentiation.

Not only does Scott McKain make it clear, through repeated interesting and insightful examples, that we currently have this problem, he suggests way in which we can combat the problem. His four “Cornerstones of Distinction” provide methodologies that someone in any business, or even personal endeavor, can use to separate themselves from the pack, create interest from the customer, and then concentrate on that customer experience to build loyalty. This works in service industries, sales, consulting, and even civic organizations.

Something else that is as almost as exciting the book itself is the distribution method. With this book, Thomas Nelson Publishing launches what they are call “NelsonFree”. What this means is that when you purchase the physical book, you also get access to it in electronic and audio format. So, you could read the paper version by your bedside, keep the electronic version on your iPhone or Kindle for reading on the train, and then have the audiobook format available for listening to while driving. The additional formats are just a simple and free download from the web. This is revolutionary and could, if it becomes widespread, dramatically increase the spread of alternative forms of reading.

So, all together, Collapse of Distinction is an very worthwhile book that can help you see your business through not only during these tough economic times, but through the “normal” times as well. In addition, with one person you get to pick whatever format makes you happy – or choose them all. A great deal by any standard.

Note: The publisher gave me a copy of this book for the purpose of. There were no strings attached, and that gratis review copy in no way swayed my opinions towards this work.

Here If You Need Me

In truth, I resisted this book for a long time. I saw reviews of Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup in some magazines. I also heard her interviewed online. Finally I saw a podcast of her speaking before a group. Then I walked into our local library and the book was sitting on an end display. OK already, I will read the book! In the end, I was pleasantly surprised.

here_if_you_need_meHere If You Need Me is the true story of how Braestrup overcame the sudden death of her husband, took care of her kids, became a chaplain for the Maine Game Wardens, and basically put her life back together. But it is far more than that. It had to be, because I don’t normally go for warm fuzzy perseverance stories. For one thing though, Braestrup tells her story honestly but with a sense of humor. She never dissolves into self pity or the woe-is-me attitude that many would. She still asks the hard questions, but she asks them with power.

And that leads to another reason I enjoyed this book. Although she might deny it, Braestrup is a strong women. Outside events may happen to her, but she alone chooses how she handles the events and how she reacts. She refuses to be a victim and in the end actually becomes a champion for the victims. By choosing the road of becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister, as her late-husband had planned to do, she explores her faith and her strength. But by becoming a chaplain with the game and wildlife service, she puts that faith and strength to use together with her compassion. She makes a difference, pure and simple.

Here If You Need Me is not a long book and it is not a complicated book, but it is a good book. I would recommend it for anyone trying to find meaning in their life or for those who are trying to help others find that meaning. And truthfully, I would recommend it for people who are simply looking for a good read with a good story line that has some humor and human angst thrown in. And if it jumps on you from the end cap at your library, take the hint.

Coraline – Neil Gaiman

Still on my Neil Gaiman kick, I picked up Coraline from the local library. My daughter laughed at me and said that some of her friends at school had read it. For what it’s worth, I have no problem reading “young adult” books and told her as much. She shrugged saying that at least her friends had said it was a good book.

Coraline is a short book of about 160 pages and is a very quick read. Originally written for Gaiman’s daughters, it is the story of a young girl who feels bored and unappreciated in her home and end up finding herself in adventure on “the other side” that will not only bring her some excitement but also give her self image some definition.

As for a review? Good book. Definitely dark and maybe a little too dark for those under say, 11? Over that age there should be no problem at all with the imagery and action. It may even be ok for kids under that age since there is no outright blood, gore, abuse, etc… But, if the young adult in question already has a fear of what is under the bed or in the closet, this book will only make that fear worse. Oddly enough I watched the movie “Bridge to Terabithia” last night with my kids and wife. The movie was certainly more disturbing than this book. By a long shot.

On a side note there is a movie adaption of Coraline coming out soon. Gaiman posted a like to a video of the trailer which is up on YouTube so check it out here.

Don't Do The Dip

On a roll with the Seth Godin books, as well as the Neil Gaiman ones, so I picked up The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) from the local library. Of course my first surprise was that it is only about eighty pages long – eighty small pages many of which have large pictures on them and lots of white space.

Basically the book is a discourse on the fact that there are great rewards for being at the top of whatever field you are in, but before you get to the top and to the rewards you must make it through “the dip.” The dip is that chasm of effort that separates the amateurs from the pros, the lounge singers from the superstars. As a corollary to that, if you aren’t prepared to what it takes to get through the dip, you should quit early so that you can spend your efforts on what is important to you.

Seriously, that’s about it.

Now there are some really good points buried in the book. My favorite, which is much like “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, is a brief section about how you should thank your difficult customers and praise your hard problems because they are helping you differentiate between yourself and others. They are keeping the less qualified from coming up to your level. That is a valuable lesson to learn, and one to be reminded of everyday.

I guess what I am saying is this – for a book, it is a little short on content. Specific tools to tell the difference between dips and cul-de-sacs would have been nice. Acute advice on how to manage through the dip would have been welcome. But overall, we get a high level lesson without the specifics.

Now I really hate saying all this because I like Seth Godin, and I like his book. So, by all means read The Dip. You will definitely gain some insights. But, my advice is to either pick it up at the local library, or just sit down with it for a while at the bookstore. I simply can’t recommend spending the money.