Great Webinars by Cynthia Clay – A Book Review

When I saw the 2012 publication date in the small print of Great Webinars, I frankly thought it may be outdated. I could not have been more wrong. During the last year and a half, I’ve attending more online calls, e-conferences, and virtual trainings then ever before in my life, and let me tell you, this book proved prophetic. It still very much applies to today’s world.

Cynthia Clay takes a pragmatic approach with Great Webinars. She first addresses everything that can go wrong with online facilitation. She then provides solutions to those mishaps. She delves into audience, objectives, and interactions as well. She also lends advice concerning PowerPoints, discusses learning transfer, and offers ways to overcome technology trauma. Does any of this sound applicable to your current state?

Honestly, I didn’t even know this level of online training occurred in 2012. If you play any role at all in any method of online education, you will not be disappointed with Great Webinars.

Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – A Book Review

I recently heard about Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard during a WorkLife With Adam Grant podcast. It immediately grabbed my attention because, during the podcast, they addressed that major changes often have to start off with very small, focused steps. I wanted to know more.

I put the book on hold at my favorite library, Normal Public Library, and dug in the minute it arrived.

Nonfiction can always be a little laborious for me. In the past, I’ve found that many nonfiction books tend to deliver the crux of the topic upfront and then provide anecdote after anecdote after anecdote illustrating that main argument without really saying anything new.

Switch is not the typical nonfiction book. It breaks the main topic into three key components evenly distributed throughout the book, and each component builds upon the previous. This creates a pleasant pace that entices the audience to keep reading. Furthermore, while the book is full of illustrative examples, they are all radically different from one another. The Heath brothers deliver stories concerning changes needed in big government, small villages in Vietnam, hospitals, St. Lucia wildlife, department stores, rural American towns, breast cancer centers, a railroad company in Brazil, and much, much more. Best of all? Each change succeeded, and they explain how.

In fact, the Heaths provide three overarching steps required to enact any kind of change, no matter how big or small. What are those steps? You’ll have to read the book.

Quite honestly, out of all the nonfiction I’ve read, this is among my favorites. It’s well written, superbly paced, captivating, and actually applicable to all avenues of life. If you’re seeking change, I highly recommend you read Switch.

All Of the Marvels by Douglas Wolk – A Book Review

As I strolled through the Normal Public Library, the above cover caught my eye primarily because of the little box in the corner depicting two heroic people, just like the comic books I enjoyed as a kid.

I picked it up, read the inside jacket, and–yep!–this book was written specifically for me.

With All Of the Marvels, Douglas Wolk, the author, took it upon himself to read every super hero comic book published by Marvel Comics. Every. Last. One.

We won’t get into the semantics as to how he did this, just accept the fact that he did. From there, Wolk breaks the book into categories dealing with prevalent themes. Some chapter titles include: “The Junction To Everywhere,” “The Mutant Metaphor,” and “The Iron Patriot Acts.” He also provides interesting interludes between chapters like “Diamonds Made of Sound,” “March, 1965,” and “Linda Carter.” Finally, the book finishes with an appendix zipping through Marvel’s overarching eras.

The truth is, the book gets off to a slow start because Wolk spends a lot of time setting the table, so to speak. About three chapters, if I’m not mistaken. However, once he actually dives into the comics and characters, the book flies. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Does Wolk address every single character and event that ever took place in Marvel Comics? No, that would be impossible to do in a work that you actually want people to read. But he finds captivating through lines, amazing coincidences, unintentional connections, and life-imitates-art moments. He also delves into the creators themselves with names such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, and Walter Simonson.

In a book around 350 pages, Wolk successfully provides a substantive, thorough, analytical overview of Marvel Comics history, and he does so in an engaging, informal way. For die-hard Marvel fans, this is a must-read. For those casually interested in Marvel, the comics medium, or expansive storytelling, you will also be greatly rewarded for your time. Needless to say, I highly recommend All Of the Marvels by Douglas Wolk.

Grit by Angela Duckworth – A Book Review

I first discovered research psychologist Angela Duckworth on a podcast called No Stupid Questions. During this podcast, Duckworth’s book, Grit, is often mentioned. I happen to thoroughly enjoy Duckworth’s personality and expertise, and so I finally got the book through my local library.

Grit explores, as the subtitle would suggest, the power of passion and perseverance. It dives into why some people simply have no quit in them. It spends time defining the quality, advising how to grow it from the inside out, and describing how some people grew it from the outside in.

It relies heavily on anecdotes with example after example after example. Like a lot of similar nonfiction, it perhaps overindulges in these narratives. For me, there always comes a point with these kinds of books where I say, “All right, already–I get it!” Of course, quitting a book called Grit would be embarrassing.

The best moments, as one would expect, arrive when Duckworth refers to research, data, and other psychologists. Furthermore, Duckworth also reveals quite a bit about her own story and the story of her family in relation to grit. I knew much of it already from the podcast, but I nonetheless found her candor refreshing. If anything, this aspect set her apart from other authors.

I absolutely found Grit inspiring. I also found it insightful in how to instill grit in one’s own children. While the page count was a bit too robust, the core of it proved fascinating. If this is a topic you find interesting, I highly recommend you give it a try.

Assembly by Natasha Brown – A Book Review

I often pick up thin books in the “new” section at my library simply to try out authors I haven’t read before or for the experience of a quick read. I knew nothing about Assembly other than that I liked its cover and it only had about 100 pages.

Within the first ten pages of Assembly, author Natasha Brown captured my attention and never let it go.

Assembly is told from the perspective of a Black woman living in England. She’s successful in the corporate world of finance, yet that success comes with a price. No, this is not the stuff of fantasy or thrillers. This is the stuff of stifling your personality, putting up with loads of reprehensible behavior, ignoring your own desires to honor the sacrifices made on your behalf, and grinding day in and day out to finally achieve what you long ago earned.

And yet …

Our narrator can’t help but acknowledge the ridiculousness of it all, especially as she visits her “old money” boyfriend’s mansion. His ancestors’ wealth was predicated upon her ancestors’ suffering, and even if a direct line of connection cannot be made, that connection remains even if tangentially so. He does nothing as his wealth grows day by day; she must make her wealth grow day by day.

There’s also the issue of her health. She’s young, ascending, and destined for great things as long as she keeps grinding, so of course she has every reason in the world to preserve her health.

Or so you would assume.

Short, potent, and brutally blunt, Assembly is a little bit novella, a little bit poem, a little bit indescribable, but very well written with a powerful voice.

If you’re looking for a book that actually says something, try Assembly by Natasha Brown.

All the Horses Of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie – A Book Review

I chose this book at my local library because it was so slim. I wasn’t familiar with the author, Sarah Tolmie, at all, nor did I have a particular interest in the horses of Iceland. However, it was touted as fantasy and published in association with Tor, so I figured it was worth a shot.

In the end, I didn’t love All the Horses Of Iceland, but I didn’t dislike it either. The premise of the novella seeks to explain how Iceland gained its horses. Great travels ensue, as does magic, ghosts, trading, and tribal warfare. Yet, even with that being said, All the Horses Of Iceland is an intimate book that doesn’t delve too deeply into any of those things. It touches the surface, offers just enough to propel the story forward, and then keeps racing to the end.

I’m not sorry I read All the Horses Of Iceland. I’m always excited to experience a new (to me) author, but I can’t necessarily say I’d recommend it, either. I believe there is an audience for this book, it’s simply not me.