I’ve been reading Common Sense…

by Thomas Paine, and I’ll quote from it in this post. But hey, I just quoted Angelica Schulyer! Here she is, with her sisters, and other members of the Hamilton company, at the White House.

Now to quote T Paine himself. There’s a wonderful passage from toward the end of Common Sense. Here’s the setup.

We ought to reflect, that there are three different ways, by which an independancy may hereafter be effected… By the legal voice of the people in Congress; by a military power; or by a mob

And here’s the payoff.

Should an independancy be brought about by the first of these means, we have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

Feel free to share your own favorite quotes from Thomas Paine, Lin-Manuel Miranda, or…

Nevertheless, she persisted

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Tor is marking the day with a festival of flash fiction, in the form of stories inspired by the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”.

I’m about to read the contribution of Catherynne M. Valente: The Ordinary Woman and the Unquiet Emperor. I’m looking forward to the other contributions.

I hope that the day goes well for you.

Seven Surrenders on the Seventh

My most eagerly awaited book of 2017 is Seven Surrenders, by Ada Palmer. It is the sequel to my favorite book of 2016, Too Like the Lightning. 7S will be published on the 7th (of March, 2017). So it’s just a few hours away as I edit this post.

What does the title Seven Surrenders mean? I suspect that it means that each of the seven Hives in some sense surrenders. But if so, to whom? To Bridger, the remarkable kid we met early in TLtL? And why, and how, and…

Or the number seven might refer to days of the week. The narrator, Mycroft Canner, tells us toward the end of TLtL that it takes two books (presumably TLtL and 7S) to tell a seven-day story. TLtL covered Monday to Friday. I expect 7S to describe a wild weekend!

These books make me want to write as well as to read:

Future Countries in Favorite Fiction

The world currently consists of about two hundred countries: sovereign states, most of which are members of the United Nations (UN). They tend to be durable entities with rather stable borders.

The world of the future isn’t divided up in this way. At least not according to a couple of recent novels I enjoyed very much. I refer to:

Continue reading “Future Countries in Favorite Fiction”

Reading Matters: Fiction and Links

Reading matters a lot to me. This post is about some current fiction and about some related websites.

A Conjuring of Light is the just-published novel by V.E. Schwab. It’s a fantasy set in Londons: yes, there is more than one London, and there is travel between them, and there is magic. Like many fantasy novels, it’s part of a series. The Kindle edition of the first novel in the series is currently on sale, and the cover illustration is wonderful, so a graphical link to that book seems in order.

I’m looking forward to Seven Surrenders, by Ada Palmer. It’s a sequel to Too Like the Lightning, my favorite novel of 2016. I recommend you sample the first few pages of TLtL (follow the link and look inside the book). If you like the the narrator’s voice, and the way in which he “gazes back” to the 18th century from the 25th, you’ll probably love the novel (or novels, since I don’t think that the forthcoming one will disappoint).

Now for those reading-related websites.

  • Goodreads, where I keep track of my reading, write the occasional review, and see what other people are reading.
  • Tor.com, “a site for science fiction, fantasy, and all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers”. Tor is a publisher, but the site tries to engage interest, rather than to sell books directly. And it often gives books away!
  • Amazon. Yes, those links above are affiliate links, and I’d love to cover my hosting costs from such links. But if you get the books elsewhere, that’s great, because books are great, and so are bookstores and libraries.

If I Were a Patriot, Invited to the White House

If I were a Patriot, I’d be proud, but uncertain about how to reply to the invitation to the White House. The word Patriot here refers to the Superbowl-winning New England Patriots. I’m not a Patriot in that sense.

So, if I were a Patriot, what would I be thinking? I believe Tom Brady’s statement: Everybody has their own choice. I’d respect each teammates’ individual decision, whether it be Brady’s decision to go this time, or the decision of several others not to enter the Trump White House.

I’d go. I’d take a gift for the 45th President: a book on the constitution. Given the recipient, it shouldn’t be a tome. I’d go with The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution. The pages are neither large nor numerous (a little over 200 of them). The type is not small.

Constitutional scholar Richard Beeman adds annotations and a few short chapters to:

  • The Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson’s second paragraph describes governments as “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.
  • The Constitution itself.
  • The Amendments. I might highlight the first amendment, which of course is about freedom: of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of petition.
  • Three of The Federalist Papers: 10, 51, and 78. The last of these is Alexander Hamilton’s essay on the importance of protecting “the weakest of the three departments” of government: the judiciary. I think that the judiciary will prove less weak than Hamilton feared, or than Trump seems to hope.

What would you do, if you were a Patriot, invited to the White House?

A Crowdfunder's Strategy: A Late Look at Jamey's Book

Who? Jamey Stegmaier, co-founder and president of Stonemaier Games, and author of A Crowdfunder’s Strategy: Build a Better Business By Building Community. Games from Stonemaier include Viticulture and Scythe.

What? This is a look at, rather than a review of, Jamey’s book. I haven’t read the physical book cover to cover, although I am familiar with the material, having read it (usually in fuller form) on the Stonemaier website.

When? I’m writing this in early November 2016. Jamey’s book was published in September 2015. So is this really a late look? I think that it is, partly because 14 months is a long time on the web, where crowdfunding happens.

The book is written for creators of reward-based crowdfunding projects, such as the project that Jamey created for Scythe on Kickstarter. In return for funding the project, backers received rewards, mainly in the form of the game itself. They did not receive equity in Stonemaier Games; had they done so, we’d be talking about equity-based crowdfunding.

The primary explicit message of the book is “that you will significantly increase your odds of crowdfunding success if you focus on building community, empathizing with supporters, and developing trust-based relationships.” You might already have guessed that from the book’s subtitle (“Build a Better Business By Building Community”).

A secondary, less explicit, but still vital message of the book is that: in crowdfunding, details matter; and there are a lot of details to consider, and decisions to make, before, during, and after a crowdfunding project.

Jamey discusses many of the decisions and details involved in crowdfunding. He does so using his experience as the creator of multiple Kickstarter campaigns for tabletop games. I think that he generalizes well from his own experience: he is keen to share the lessons he learned, while being careful not to over-generalize. I find him to be an engaging writer, but you can judge that for yourself using the online sample chapter.

Do I recommend A Crowdfunder’s Strategy? Yes! Am I going to address some specific qualms you might have about giving Jamey and his book your time, attention, and (possibly) money? Yes! Am I going to carry on in Q&A (question and answer) format? Yes!

Do I recommend it for projects other than tabletop games? Yes. The book was intended from the start for “all types of entrepreneurs who are intrigued by the idea of crowdfunding”. The book as published is true to this intention.

Do I recommend it for platforms other than Kickstarter? Yes. It’s about crowdfunding and community, rather than about the specific platform Jamey and Stonemaier used. It does include a paragraph on each of multiple platforms, but that’s the sort of content that can rapidly become out of date, and hence may be better accessed on the web than in a book.

Do I recommend it, given that Jamey has blogged much of the same content? Yes. The book is not a hasty paste of words from the web. The content was largely rewritten, and then organized and edited to make a coherent book. I should add that I recommend both the book and the blog: they are complements, rather than substitutes.

Do I recommend it, given that it was published over a year ago? Yes. The main lessons on crowdfunding and community are still valid. For example, Jamey explains mistakes he made, so that his readers don’t have to: those mistakes are still easy to make, and well worth avoiding.

Do I recommend it, even for people who may never create a crowdfunding project? For some specific groups of people, yes. You may be researching a school or college project. You may be a fan of Stonemaier Games interested in the background to the games themselves. You may be interested in how the tabletop game business is changing; it has certainly changed a lot over the last few years, with many of the changes related to crowdfunding.

Having recommended the book, I’ll close by pointing out one of the ways in which a blog may be better than a book: it may allow discussion of its own content. So feel free to leave a comment here. Thank you!

A Darker Archive of Viciousness

Victor readjusted the shovels on his shoulder and stepped gingerly over an old, half-sunken grave. His trench billowed faintly, brushing the tops of tombstones as he made his way through Merit Cemetery, humming as he went. The sounds carried like wind through the dark. It made Sydney shiver…

He stopped humming, rested his shoe lightly on a tombstone, and scanned the dark. Not with his eyes so much as with his skin, or rather with the thing that crept beneath it, tangled in his pulse.

That’s from the first page of Vicious, a novel by V. E. Schwab. Perhaps I should just let the writing speak for itself, but I’ll add a couple of things. First, while the quote suggests that Vicious falls within the horror genre, it actually draws more from the superhero genre. Second, the most horrifying (to me) revelation comes a few pages in to the novel, when we find out what Victor’s parents do.

I have so far read three of Schwab’s novels, and been impressed by each of them. I just finished Vicious. I previously read A Darker Shade of Magic, also “by V. E. Schwab”–and hence also “for adults”.

I started with The Archived, “by Victoria Schwab”, the name under which the author publishes her Young Adult (YA) fiction (and the name on her main Goodreads account). Strange though it may seem, I’d say that The Archived is the most likely of the three books I’ve read to give the reader nightmares.

I’m glad to say that each of the three is the first of a series. I am sometimes wary of prolific writers who write series, rather than standalones, but Schwab writes well and distinctively, while being able to find the right tone for each particular book/series.

Summary: I recommend the fiction of Victoria E. Schwab, whatever the book cover calls her.

Books: To E- or not to E-?

16019808532_3c6a940a6c_oI love books, and am getting used to the idea that a book isn’t necessarily a physical object. These days, I buy more books made of electrons than books made of dead trees.

The photo shows the first three books in Lemony Snicket’s current series, All the Wrong Questions. Each is in different form.

  1. Who Could That Be at This Hour? I have in hardback. I’d been meaning to try out the series for a while. I bought this particular edition because it was only $4 at a book fair at my kids’s school. Reading it made me want more books in the series, preferably in dead tree form. Although this is not a long book, this is a pleasingly chunky volume, with apt illustrations by Seth.
  2. When Did You See Her Last? I have in paperback. I bought it from Amazon, where the paperback edition was $7, and the Kindle edition only 35c cheaper. Still I wanted more.
  3. Shouldn’t You Be in School? I have as an ebook: on Kindle, to be specific. That edition was only $2 when I bought it (it now, a couple of weeks later, $4). I did have some concerns that the illustrations wouldn’t work as well on a tablet’s screen, but the cover and other illustrations show pretty well, I think.

As you can see, price sways me toward ebooks, but a lower ebook price doesn’t always defeat dead trees. But sometimes time defeats dead trees: a download takes seconds, rather than the hours or days involved in dead tree pickup or delivery. Sometimes ebooks win because they don’t take up shelf space, or gather dust.

How do you make the decisions between the ebooks and dead tree books?

Business Book Recommendations

Some rather hardy MBA students recently asked me for book recommendations, on top of the book I’d just recommended to them, which in turn was on top of the books and other materials I’d assigned for the course. This post provides those recommendations, and shares them with you, even if you are not one of the students who made the request. (It also provides an Amazon affiliate link to each of the books, but I’ll be pleased if you just consider some of these books, and there are lots of other ways to obtain them.) The book I recommended is:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. I recommend it for reasons including the following. It’s about an important and interesting topic: how people influence each other. It is founded in research (including Cialdini’s own research), but it is approachable and applicable. It is well-structured, with each of the six central chapters focusing on a different “weapon of influence” (e.g., Liking, Authority). Each of these chapters includes a section on self-defense, that is, on resisting assaults using this particular weapon. So the book is for, not just influencers, but also potential influencees.

Two of the books I did assign for the course belong here. Each is similar to Influence in that it is approachable, applicable, founded in research, and relevant to “behavior in organizations”*.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Dan Pink is not an academic researcher, but he does make sure that he understands research relevant to his topic. In this, my favorite of his books, his topic is motivation, especially intrinsic motivation. Driven blends clear explanations of research with strong examples from practice, and suggests ways in which readers can better harness their motivations.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Daniel Kahneman is one of the most influential social scientists of the last hundred years. He is a psychologist best known for his work, with Amos Tversky, on judgment and decision making. He won a Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002. Why did research in psychology earn the economics prize? Because it showed how human judgment and decision making depart from rationality, and it did so convincingly, extensively, and influentially. This book makes Kahneman’s thinking about human thinking very accessible. While it might be more academic than Influence or (especially) Drive, it is also more personal: it is dedicated to Tversky’s memory.

I wrote something similar to this post for Business Week about eight years ago. BW asked a bunch of business school profs for book recommendations: mine are still online. The first recommendation from 2006 certainly belongs here.

Co-Opetition by Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff. I wrote in BW that:

This is my favorite book on business strategy. The combination of competition and cooperation has become if anything more important in the decade or so since Co-Opetition was first published. It delivers solid content while avoiding heavy writing.

The only change I’d make to is to note that it’s now almost two decades since Co-Opetition was published, and it continues to wear extremely well. In fact, looking back to BW, but without looking back into all the books, I would still make most of those previous recommendations (although if you want a view from two veterans of The Economist magazine on how the world is changing, you might go with their recently-published The Fourth Revolution, rather than A Future Perfect).

Although the title of this post refers specifically to business books, I see that my BW piece concluded with recommendations for fiction, including some fantasy. I do still enjoy novels set in other worlds, such as:

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. If you follow the link, you’ll be able to look inside the book and read the first few pages. (See, these Amazon links can be useful to you.) If you enjoy those early pages, chances are you’ll enjoy the rest of the book. If you enjoy the book, chances are you’ll enjoy the second and third in the series.

That’s enough from me for now. Please feel free to leave your comments, whether they be remarks on the books recommended, recommendations of your own,… Thank you for reading this far, and thank you to the students who prompted this post.

* What I term here behavior in organizations is more often, but less logically, called organizational behavior (OB). It is related to organizational psychology and to a bunch of other more or less impressive-sounding terms.