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review 2017-01-15 15:46
The Right Kind of Crazy
The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation - Adam Steltzner,William Patrick

Mr. Steltzner has an interesting job: he led the team of engineers and scientist that designed the Entry, Decent and Landing systems for the Mars Science Laboratory (aka the Curiosity Rover).  He has written a memoir with the help of co-writer William Patrick titled The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation



The book jacket proclaims that the book will provide a first person account of innovation that will describe


  • How his team learned to switch from fear-based to curiosity based decision making
  • How to escape the “Dark Room” the creative block caused by fear, uncertainty and the lack of a clear path forward
  • How to tell when we are too in love with our own ideas to be objective about them – and conversely, when to fight for them
  • How to foster mutual respect within teams while still bashing bad ideas.


I started The Right Kind of Crazy in November as part of the Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season.  I can’t quite articulate why, but didn’t quite live up to the hype of the book jacket and couldn’t hold my interest.  The parts where Mr. Stelzner was philosophizing on management theory and saying his mia culpas were a particularly slow slog.  The Right Kind of Crazy has spent a lot of the last two months sitting on my (physical) library shelf with me looking at it and asking “am I going to DNF? Nah, I’ll get back to it later.”  The factual story regarding the development of the rover landing system (and the projects that trained Mr. Steltzner for that role) was compelling enough that I did eventually decide to power through and finish before the book ran out of renewals.


Counting towards 2016 and not counting for the 2017 Library Love Challenge since the majority of the reading happened in 2016.

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review 2016-11-24 03:38
When Breath Becomes Air
When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi,Abraham Verghese

Part autobiography, part exposition of personal philosophy on life and mortality, When Breath Becomes Air is the dying legacy of Paul Kalanithi, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer near the end of his neurosurgical residency.   While Paul deservedly is given the main billing, credit also needs to be given to his widow, Dr. Lucy Kalanithi and a team of editors who refined a partially finished manuscript and brought it to publication.


I’d read enough about When Breath Becomes Air to know to bring a big box of tissues, and I used plenty in the evening I spent devouring the slim volume (and again when finally trying to put my thoughts down). In many ways When Breath Becomes Air is just another cancer memoir, but like the best of them there are moments of insight from the liminal space that just sing.  The most simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming part for me was when Paul talked about the decision that he and Lucy made to have a child, and his thanksgiving for the joy that daughter Cady brought to his dying months and days. 


You can see a trailer for When Breath Becomes Air, including video by Dr. Paul Kalanithi himself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aetY_zS7Q6M



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review 2016-10-21 21:28
Until We Are Free
Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran - Shirin Ebadi

This is the first book of my new challenge to read all the women Nobel laureates! It was a great start. While Ebadi does cover her level of involvement in setting up the Nobel Women's IniativeOne Million Signatures, and later the establishment of the Center of the Defenders of Human Rights, this is mostly a memoir of her life during these times. She talks more about big life changes, her fears and her outrages, and the overall state of women in Iran. It's not the book I thought it was, but that's not a bad thing.

This book is mainly about what happened after she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. As eluded to above, the government Iran was not pleased with her award and her work and the way it all made them look. She became a target and so did everyone around her, not that it stopped everyone from doing the work that needed to be done. This was a great book about her personal struggles and the rationale behind many of Ebadi's decisions. It also provides an interesting insight into the events that were dubbed the "Arab Spring".

I listened to the audiobook, read by Shohreh Aghdashloo. I didn't recognize her name but Aghdashloo has been in several movies and tv shows. Her voice had been somewhat familiar but I recognized her face right away. The link will take you to her IMDB. She does a great job narrating the book. As always, I appreciate getting to listen to names in other cultures that I would not only butcher but not get a chance to hear how gorgeous they can be.

I would have liked to hear more about Ebadi's work and details on some speaking engagements, but the lack of that information didn't deter from being able to appreciate the book and what she does tell us. She continues to work for Iran through the center mentioned above, visit their site for updates on her work and statements.

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review 2016-09-15 18:03
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter - Carmen Aguirre

I think my favorite thing about this book is that Aguirre doesn't pull any punches. She describes the different fears that were a part of her life, the way people looked after beatings, and her belief in what she was doing. She relates what happened around her and what she did and that she wasn't just sitting on the sidelines and hoping that things would get better.

I appreciate that she just gives her opinion without trying to convince the reader of right and wrong. It isn't a plea or an argument and she doesn't justify what she was doing to the reader. She just tells you what it was and what she did on account of it. She also doesn't pretend to be perfect or brave all the time. Showing how hard something, especially something like revolution, is hard and it does everyone a disservice when we pretend it can happen in a day or night.

I listened to audiobook, and I loved both her writing style and that she narrated the book for herself. I loved the inclusion of the epilogue and that she relates what was happening in those countries during the publishing back to the resistance because progress doesn't happen in a vacuum. It was an interesting look into what was happening in South America in the late part of the twentieth century. It's definitely not one that we get in the US often.

I had originally found this book as part of the Diverse Books Tag that I did about memoirs (click here for mine). It was my book for "set in South America. Coincidentally, it's also my first review during Hispanic Heritage month!

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review 2016-08-22 03:19
A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back
A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back - Kevin Hazzard

Shortly after 9/11, journalist Kevin Hazzard was looking for a way to "make a difference," so he became an EMT.  A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back chronicles his 10 years providing emergency medical services in Atlanta. The story follows him from terrified greenhorn EMT to excellent seasoned paramedic to jaded, burned out veteran. 


This is the last in the run of memoirs that just didn't quite grab me, though I wonder how much of that has to do with external influences on the mood of the reader rather than the book itself (and no, I don't intend to get specific in an online forum).



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