Saturday, February 27, 2010

I just finished The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

 I wrote about his previous two books here and here.  This book is more focused, and shorter, than both of his other ones.  Instead of being built out of essays written for magazines, this one feels like one piece of work.

It focuses on how checklists can be used to manage important tasks, whether they are simple, complicated or complex.  As a devout believer in checklists, it was a little preaching to the choir for me, but there were still some good sections.  The parts on what makes a good checklist versus a bad one, and the thoughts on the different types and uses of checklists were interesting and might show up in my work life.

One possible issue - he uses three main areas for checklist discussion - medicine, aviation and construction.  One thing he doesn't spend any time on is the fact that in two of those fields, time is often of the essence.  The book would have been well served in having a discussion of how checklists differ in those circumstances from other activities, like construction, where time is not an issue but consistency over repeated action is.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Last night I finished Love Over Scotland, the third 44 Scotland Street book by Alexander McCall Smith.

I loved the first book in the series but didn't enjoy the second one anywhere near as much. 

I'm not sure if the reason I didn't like the second one had to do with the book, and it's focus on a bunch of characters I didn't find very interesting, or my mood at the time.  In either case, I like the third book nearly as much as the second.  It focuses more on interesting characters - Pat, the girl with the thing for bad boys, Mathew, the rich gallery owner, Bertie, the 6 year old prodigy, and Angus Lorie and his dog, Cyril.

The events in this third book felt more consequential to the characters, while the second book felt more like a space filler between plot ideas.  Another facet of these books that I'm coming to appreciate more and more is the use of poetry.  A number of the characters refer regularly to poetry, usually Scottish, in a very reverential way.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I finished The Master Executioner by Loren D. Estleman a few days ago.

Technically considered a "western", Estleman's books are more like historical fiction that happen to be set the Old West.  They aren't stories of cowboys, gun fights and range wars but stories about characters who feel real.  In this case, it's a carpenter who ends up an executioner, losing his family along the way.

Good book about a man who finds the perfect career for himself, whether or not it is good for him.