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  • The excellent Jeanette Winterson reviews Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood in the New York Times:

    Fatefulness about the survival of the species is not new. Religious thinking has end-time built in, and for most of our sentient life on the planet humankind has been predominantly religious. That has changed in Westernized countries, but only relatively recently, and alongside advances in scientific knowledge. Our new pessimism no longer depends on a deity to wipe out this wicked world. Since the Manhattan Project, we have learned how to do it ourselves.

    Nuclear, ecological, chemical, economic -- our arsenal of Death by Stupidity is impressive for a species as smart as Homo sapiens. Yet fire or flood may belong to an Armageddon whose awful grandeur may not be our fate. Plague -- unlovely, heroic, unstoppable, might well get us first. That's what happens in Margaret Atwood's new novel, The Year of the Flood, her latest excursion into what's sometimes called her "science fiction," though she prefers "speculative fiction." If we have to have a label, that's a better one, since part of Atwood's mastery as a writer is to use herself as a creative computer, modeling possible futures projected from the available data -- in human terms, where we are now (more...)

  • With politicians and celebrities as daft and as crooked as the ones who dominate the pages of the tabloids and the increasingly-inane news headlines, you'd think there would be precious little room left in the world for satire. But, each year, the Private Eye Annual proves that whilst public life if full of attention-seekers regularly making fools of themselves that doesn't mean that further mockery can't be had. Let the pompous cower, Private Eye is here!

    After another long year's wait, the Private Eye Annual 2009 has arrived in all its sardonic majesty, presenting the year's best cartoons, jokes and spoofs.

    With its pages of parody that are Illustrated throughout with sketches and photo-bubbles, the Private Eye Annual has become both a seasonal institution and a perennial Christmas bestseller.

  • Tuesday Top Ten -- Peter Taylor

    Tue, 13 Oct 2009 04:52

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    Despite his title of The Lazy Project Manager, Peter Taylor is in fact a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in project management; currently as Director of a PMO at Siemens PLM Software, a global supplier of product lifecycle management solutions. He is an accomplished communicator and leader; always adopting a proactive and business-focused approach and he is a professional speaker with City Speakers International.

    Here is Peter's Tuesday Top Ten:

    Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

    Helping you get the important things done and off that 'to do' list that we all have, especially as we have a tendency to keep moving the 'nasty' jobs down to the bottom of the list. There's an old saying that if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that it's probably the worst thing you'll do all day.

    Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

    A simple tale about change in your life, change in your work, and how to deal with such change. A parable about cheese and mice! But one that teaches you how to deal with change and move out of your comfort zone to accept the new (and life is all about change these days).

    Why business people speak like idiots by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway & John Warshawsky

    For fans of 'bullfighter' everywhere (in case you have never heard of this it is a simple tool that you can download and run against Word documents and PowerPoint presentations -- the tool provides a 'bull' factor that allows you to a) improve your efforts b) laugh at other peoples efforts and c) make yourself easier to understand). This is a funny, entertaining, readable book about a serious, important, undervalued issue: communication.

    That Presentation Sensation by Martin Conradi and Richard Hall

    Be Good, be Passionate, be Memorable is the tagline and if you take to heart the lessons to be learned in this book you can improve your presentations and communication skills.

    100 Things Project Managers Should Do Before They Die by Rita Mulcahy

    A 'left field' quick list of 100 things that project managers, or anyone involved in projects, should look at and pick one or two to try out. Cancel a meeting and see what happens for example. Adds an element of fun and a new edge to work to help improve team working.

    7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

    This popular guide to self-improvement. The "habits" are common-sense: be proactive, or "seek first to understand, then to be understood". The writing is clear, presenting each habit in a way which is easy to apply to oneself. If you're looking for a self-help guide to living a more focused, targeted life, you can hardly do better than this.

    Good to Great by Jim Collins

    A book based on Collins' research, conducted over five years and focusing on eleven companies that met his team's criteria for Good to Great i.e.: they went from average performance to outperforming the market and sustaining it for 15 years. Try and compare your company to the 'great' ones.

    The one minute manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

    This is a good, fast paced read. It contains very basic people management skills information, wrapped into a story. The basis of the story is that there is a manager who can restrict his contact with colleagues to one minute bursts and be the most effective manager in the organisation.

    The Art of War by Sun Tzu

    We know business is not really war but it does you no harm to understand some good behavior from an old master.

    Never hit a jellyfish with a spade by Guy Browning

    Short, funny and well put together -- stories about how to Survive Life's Smaller Challenges.

  • In Manhood for Amateurs, "Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union, offers his first major work of nonfiction, a memoir as inventive, beautiful, and powerful as his acclaimed, award-winning fiction. In these insightful, provocative, slyly interlinked essays, Chabon presents his autobiography and his vision of life and explores what it means to be a man today:"

    A shy manifesto, an impractical handbook, the true story of a fabulist, an entire life in parts and pieces, Manhood for Amateurs is the first sustained work of personal writing from Michael Chabon. In these insightful, provocative, slyly interlinked essays, one of our most brilliant and humane writers presents his autobiography and his vision of life in the way so many of us experience our own lives: as a series of reflections, regrets, and reexaminations, each sparked by an encounter, in the present, that holds some legacy of the past.

    What does it mean to be a man today? Chabon invokes and interprets and struggles to reinvent for us, with characteristic warmth and lyric wit, the personal and family history that haunts him even as -- simply because -- it goes on being written every day. As a devoted son, as a passionate husband, and above all as the father of four young Americans, Chabon presents his memories of childhood, of his parents' marriage and divorce, of moments of painful adolescent comedy and giddy encounters with the popular art and literature of his own youth, as a theme played -- on different instruments, with a fresh tempo and in a new key -- by the mad quartet of which he now finds himself co-conductor.

  • The publication of the complete, illustrated letters of Vincent Van Gogh is something of a publishing event. Doubtless, this is an expensive set of volumes, but it is also one of the most beautiful book-objects you're ever likely to read. An astonishing work of scholarship, a stunning achievement:

    Vincent van Gogh's letters have long been prized as some of the most valuable documents in the world of art. Not only do they throw light on Van Gogh's own complex and intriguing character, they enlighten the whole creative process as seen through his eyes. Now Van Gogh's entire existing correspondence is to be published in the most complete edition ever produced, illustrated extensively throughout, and drawing on fifteen years of scholarship and dedicated research. For the first time, all the works to which Van Gogh refers will be shown alongside the letters not only the paintings and drawings that he himself was working on at the time, but also the works of art by others that he mentions. Sketches that Van Gogh made throughout the letters themselves are all reproduced here at full size. In over 900 letters we can observe Van Gogh's thoughts and opinions at first hand, as well as his close ties with his brother Theo, his sometimes troubled relationships with friends and fellow artists, his personal doubts and fears, and above all his overriding passion for his art. This edition is not only an immense treasure trove of biographical and art-historical information, it provides a lasting pleasure as a personal written testimony to a life consecrated to art.

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