Friday, March 9, 2012

Reflections: The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking

 Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on Dale Carnegie's The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking:

"I'm always willing to give an unknown book a try if I get it for free or an extremely reduced price.  This was the case for books like The Thirteen American Arguments by Howard Fineman and Rights from Wrongs by Alan Dershowitz.  Some of these unknowns ended up becoming true gems that I found great value in and others didn't have all that much to offer.  The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie was one of those freebies I picked up after completing a school project, along with Dale Carnegie's very well known How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I can't help but think of Snake Oil when I see a title on any book that begins with "The Quick and Easy Way . . ."  Although Mr. Carnegie's book isn't Snake Oil, simply reading the book isn't a quick and easy way to effective speaking.  To his credit, Mr. Carnegie explicitly states that his ideas and suggestions have to be practically implemented in order for anyone to become a more effective speaker.  The book provides interesting insights, ideas, axioms, and anecdotes, but nothing revolutionary.  Although, I can't help but think that more contemporary self-help / effective speaking books might offer more research based information but probably not that much more in terms of general principles.  It’s hard not to be reminded of what the Preacher had to say so long ago: “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Reading The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking was somewhat of a one-off for me.  I more than likely would not have purchased such a book, but picking it up for free gave me an excuse to spend a few days with it.  I'm sure if I ever have to share some thoughts on effective speaking, especially public speaking, I'll flip back through its pages for some interesting quotes or thoughts, but I probably won't think that much about the book aside from that."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reflections: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on the third book in the Harry Potter series:

"My debt is paid.  Around a year ago, I lost a bet to my wife.  The condition of my losing was to read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  So as to not read out of order, I read the second book and have finally gotten around to finishing the third book.  As I said after reading the second book, how I felt after reading the third book in the Potter series would really determine whether or not I'll continue with the young wizard through four more books.  The third book was not an exceptionally persuasive reason to finish the Harry Potter series.

My biggest problem with the book is also the biggest grumble I had against the film version.  I think J.K. Rowling can be somewhat cheap with her fantasy.  She establishes, often far too conveniently, laws in her particular universe, but then treats them rather flippantly or ignores them altogether.  No doubt many admirers would plead the case that the books are for children, and therefore a finer attention to detail is unnecessary.  That's fine.  But cheap is cheap, sloppy is sloppy, and it doesn't bother me any less because the author is directing it toward kids.

The strongest parts of the book are its revelations about Harry Potter's family history and the various personalities that intertwine with it.  I was the most engaged when reading about events that haven't taken place in any of the Harry Potter books.  In fact, Harry Potter as a character is far less interesting than many of the characters that interact with him.  Also, I don't think anyone can or should deny J.K. Rowling's creativity.  Her world is fun and full of interesting creatures, people, and discoveries. 

I might finish the Harry Potter series.  But it won't be because of some deep and abiding motivation to do so.  Furthermore, if I do finish the series, it will no doubt be over several years and after long absences away from Hogwarts.  Or could I lose another bet."