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The Powell's Playlist | August 8, 2014

Peter Mendelsund: IMG The Powell's Playlist: Water Music by Peter Mendelsund

We "see" when we read, and we "see" when we listen. There are many ways in which music can create the cross-sensory experience of this seeing...... Continue »
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Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed by Mary E. Marshall
Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed

Grady, February 11, 2014

`All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.' Walt Disney

Mary E. Marshall speaks with the authority she has learned and earned. She is a dynamic thinker and writer and what she has accomplished in this book is what every person in business dreams - a path to success, whether from the CEO chair of a huge corporation who wants to stay on top and ahead of the game, or those many minds searching for a recipe for starting a small business and seeing it actually succeed. Mary's credentials speak clearly: she is herself an entrepreneur who has spent her career making small businesses into successful ventures, both as a CEO and business owner herself, and as an executive coach and consultant. Mary also shares her expertise with Social Venture Partners and teaches a class for entrepreneurs at The Small Business Administration. In January of 2014 she was nominated by the SBA as a candidate for the 2014 SBA Small Business Awards Competition, Minority Small Business Champion category. Breathe.....

To review a book of the importance and magnitude of PUTTING TOGETHER THE ENTREPRENEURIAL PUZZLE it is tempting to summarize Mary's secrets: that would in many ways defeat the purpose of this book - a volume that depends on reading the complete tome in the sequence she has written it as each section builds to the next one and in many ways is the way to follow the leader in piecing together the pieces of this puzzle. Mary introduces her topic with some heady facts about the atmosphere of business today - the growing proliferation of small businesses that are producing the resource for employment and output in a time when the mega corporations are suspect in their management and approach to the public.

What Mary accomplishes in this book is to teach us to think from the bottom up - with an emphasis on the goal and end product to help us avoid the inevitable pitfalls of the road to entrepreneurial success. `My wish for you as you apply what you learn in this book is that you develop productive employees who are aligned with your vision and values, that you attract happy customers, and that you make lots of money and have a lot of fun along the way.' Sound like pie in the sky thinking? Then read this book and become convinced that Mary knows the final look of the successful entrepreneurial puzzle.

Her puzzle pieces (without delving into the meat of the book -that is your job) are: Intentional purpose, Intentional culture, the CEO's role, Hiring, HR and you employee handbook, Marketing, Sales, Financial metrics, Strategy + Operations=Execution, and Exit strategy. The amount of useful information within each of these `piece' is staggeringly helpful. Read this book and realize why some people make a business successful and the reasons others fail to appreciate the puzzle pieces. A brilliant contribution to the business world. Grady Harp, February 14
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Painful Secrets by Tim Hutchinson
Painful Secrets

Grady, March 22, 2013

An Emotionally Immersing Memoir

Tim Hutchinson has essentially written two books in this one volume titled PAINFUL SECRETS: one is a profoundly moving study of a young boy sexually abused by a friend of his completely dysfunctional family, who finds no support from a distant and abusive father and an uninvolved mother, a member of a large family where the children are treated as excess unwanted baggage and spend their childhoods in multiple `shelters' - in other words a completely emotionally abandoned and isolated boy who turns to crime out of need for financial support and as a means of reacting with uncontrollable anger and physical abuse to lash out at a world that refuses to accept him. The other book is a version of a self-help book - teaching from experience why living on the wrong side of the law brings only defeat and that turning life into a positive direction brings personal fulfillment. What makes this book work in both ways is the manner in which it is written. It succeeds as a rollercoaster ride of a novel, but when the reader remembers that this is a memoir and that every word is true, it succeeds in providing a handbook for young troubled teens who are in desperate need of emotional and paternal support in order to find meaning to life that has been eluding them.

Tim Hutchinson is at his best when recreating his past history - a battleground of parental abuse, complete lack of self esteem, meeting the challenges of life with association with gangs, drugs, guns, prostitution, and even a transient alignment with the Ku Klux Klan in the Twin Cities. The beatings, the incarcerations, the near death episodes, suicide attempts, the fully planned mass killings in a school where `those that have' bullied him (thankfully not carried out), inability to form meaningful relationships, failed marriage, loss of a child (thought dead but in reality simply withheld by a trashy ignorant mother) - all of this leads to temporary jobs usually ending because of inappropriate behavior and a life that has become an ugly flat line of despair.

Enter a girl named Jennifer who saw his innate goodness and an encounter with a Holocaust survivor named Lustig who remains Tim's guardian counselor and mentor and helps Tim see the world from a different vantage. Burying his heinous past with a new identity works for a while until Tim realizes that the only way to survive is to accept his past and change his perspective and add religion, marriage to Jennifer (a bright daughter of a physician) and four children, etc to make a new life - one that places his lack of a loving family relationship as a child to that of a caring father and traditional family values unit he always craved. Yet trouble is not over - Tim suffers from a gastrointestinal disorder that is near fatal until after failed medical attempts to turn his dwindling physical being around, his body corrects itself. Tim now has committed his life to ministering to disturbed teens and working with down and outers who need guidance and a mentor - much the same as Lustig formed for Tim.

The first 200 pages of this 318-page book are compelling and fascinating and paced breathlessly. Unfortunately that last third of the book, that part when he has turned his life around and the world becomes positive, is less well written. The reason lies in the manner in which Hutchinson deals with his GI distress. He never tells us what this mysterious disorder is - even when it finally subsides - nor does he share the medication he needs (that turns into a countrywide internet connection with caring people who help him with finding the meds), but instead his story becomes a vitriolic diatribe against the medical profession and far too much of an embittered sad sack story on which to end the book. This last addendum adds little to his mission to present a book that is meant to help those in like need and instead draws focus, poorly and certainly not wholly described, to a personal vendetta against a medical system that refuses to meet his demands.

In the end this book is well worth reading and as for the quality of writing it is excellent. It may appeal to a wider audience because of the broad focus of the information shared. It will be interesting to see if Tim Hutchinson takes his obvious gift for writing and turns form memoir to novel. It seems he would be highly successful along those lines.

Grady Harp
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The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long by T Colin Campbell
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long

Grady, February 2, 2013

Harsh realities - we are what we eat, if given the choice....

In an age of crises, of media blitz campaigns both written and in that ominous Cloud where all data on everything and everyone is stored and available for dissecting, this volume THE CHINA STUDY by Doctors Campbell is fresh and illuminating. Early on in this tome we read, `'Hippocrates said, `There are, in effect, two things: to know and to believe one knows. To know is science. To believe on e knows is ignorance.' And what follows in this book is a close examination or scrutiny of nutrition and how it affects health and disease.

Though the book is lengthy and dense it is surprisingly easy to read and understand. The Campbells wade through the various obsessions about weight control that come from (on the positive side) nutritionists and health gurus, to companies who are involved in the `health industry' with such plans as prepared meals for dieting, groups who gather like AA clones in the often lost battle to get thin, to `scientific articles' that take a small study and show us why we should avoid certain foods only to bow out within a year or so having found another wayward dietary measure that guarantees health, etc. This book shows how the growing epidemic of obesity in this country has nurtured Medicine Man Wagons who play on the fear of overweight citizens in order to make money - the big culprits being the food industry - and encouraged those lobbyists who pester the national government to foster communication for the good of corporate greed and not for the health of the citizenry.

But politics aside (and that is a big part of the message in this study) the main message here is to alter our perception of what foods are healthy and how we can so easily change our eating habits by depending on plants and whole foods instead of animals as our food source. No, this is not a treatise on vegetarianism. Instead this is an explanation about how our preference for animal products (`protein source') is a misconception that has foster the persistent proliferation of cancer, cardiovascular disease, the effect on early aging, obesity, diabetes, and other malfunctions of the human organism. It is an eye-opening study that is certain to benefit all those who commit to the time to read it. At least the reader will be informed as to the misconceptions that the obesity epidemic has fostered. From that point, the progress is up to us. `Eating the right way not only prevents disease but also generates health and a sense of well-being, both physically and mentally.'

Grady Harp
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Gathering Strength: Conversations with Afghan Women by Peggy Kelsey
Gathering Strength: Conversations with Afghan Women

Grady, December 15, 2012

A Path to Understanding the Enigma of Afghanistan

This beautifully conceived and written book is likely one of the most important books to be published in recent years as it finally serves as a cogent, sensitive, skilled and informed introduction to the true history of Afghanistan as perceived through the brave eyes and minds and memories of Afghan women. Peggy Kelsey has more than written a profoundly interesting book, filled with her own (and some visiting photographers) photographs of places and portraits of the Afghan women she has interviewed during two extended visits to Afghanistan in 2003 and 2010. This book goes far beyond fascinating interviews with all manner of women in that country about which we know little except that we as a nation have been present there `keeping the peace' for an expensive and very long time. After reading Kelsey's book the reader will understand the importance of this country and how it has suffered through great misfortune: there is a reason to extend a helping hand to such a brave people.

As Kelsey states, `I was inspired to create the Afghan Women's Project in 2002 after I met with a delegation 14 Afghan women who came to Austin Texas. The women I met were so different from the black and white, sad pictures of Afghan women in the media at that time--these women were multifaceted, diverse from each other and in many ways like you or me. As a professional photographer who has spent time in Asia and the Middle East, I saw that I could provide a more complete picture and understanding of their lives. I visited Afghanistan in 2003 and again in 2010 to photograph and interview women. On the last day of the second trip, I knew the time had come to write a book in order to do justice to the stories and perspectives that the women had shared with me. They wanted me to show that their country was much more than just war and terrorism.'

What happens in this book (and happens is the correct verb in this case) is a gradual understanding of the complexities of struggling to survive in a country assaulted by Russian occupation and Taliban control and now dealing with the new government under President Karzai. To open the book, Kelsey gives us her own story of how this book happened and then she proceeds to introduce us to the women she interviewed, women who in many instances took great courage to speak out about their own situation first as women and then about their country. Each of the women interviewed (with a few painful exceptions) is portrayed with one of Kelsey's exquisite photographs. The women are named, enter into a question and answer format (carefully planned by Kelsey) that addresses such topics as the role of women in Afghanistan in a male dominated country where women are little more than hidden possessions of their husbands, where punishments for being seen in public with a burqa or scarf etc can mean arrest, where there is simply nothing resemble women's rights.

The book is divided into sections of topics of discussion, such as the elderly care and treatment, women's rights, the life of artists, imprisonment, refugees and how they are housed in neighboring countries when the government changes, voluntary returnees from refugee camps, Islam (in a more sensitive discussion about those religious beliefs than has been offered to date), health workers, education, women in business, sports and fitness for women, the Taliban as in inside story, youth, and women now in Parliament. Kelsey's well-considered questions allow her groups of women to respond in an honest, safe and comfortable manner, and from this atmosphere we learn more about Afghanistan that we thought possible.

In addition to being a compelling read, GATHERING STRENGTH provides insights into women's rights and the advances these women have made (and continue to fight for) and the possibility for progress and change and hope that exists. This is a most worthy book that hopefully come to the attention of many: it should be required reading for us all.

Grady Harp
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Grady, November 27, 2012


Tossing a Different Pitch into the Major Leagues

This review is from: The Chicago Cap Murders (Paperback)

Warren Friedman knows his stuff. This debut novel proves that dreams can and do come true. Friedman is a successful pharmacist who apparently has had a lifelong wish to become a writer, and in the substance of THE CHICAGO CAP MURDERS he shows that he can concoct a mystery thriller as well as a complex pharmacological prescription.

This book will particularly appeal to diehard (no pun intended) fans of baseball, but as one who is not involved in that passion the grit of the character development and the pacing of the story with a beautiful arc line that throws a great ending at the reader, makes this book appeal simply as literature.

The story has been summarized many times here in these reviews: the pennant-less Chicago Cubs have a strong following and the fans every year - but this one in particular - are pushing for a chance at the World Series. Into this mix arises a serial killer who murders fans and leaves a signature bit of evidence - a Chicago Cubs cap, very properly placed on the murder victims' bodies. Enter Detective Slats Grotsky, fighting a history of being a fallen cop due to alcoholism and a fractured personal life: `when the going gets tough the tough get going' applies to the manner in which Slats lands in the center of this seemingly insoluble case. After a maze of fascinating incidents paced like a trip through a mirror-distorted carnival fun house the case is solved, and likely few will figure it out before Friedman lets us in on it.

Where the novel gains stature is in the pacing. Friedman has the concept of tossing in background information, dated in time, in a way that keeps his story rolling forward. The layout of the book is conducive to fast reading also: the font size is excellent and there is space between paragraphs and conversation lines that subconsciously gives the reader the sense that the story is moving at an even more rapid rate than the fastball tale. So for even non-baseball addicted readers this is, simply put, a fine adventure of a story.

Grady Harp
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