Sadly, almost all of 2014 has been relatively uninspiring to me when it has come to books. I know there are great books out there that I haven’t read, but somehow nothing has been that memorable for me (although my first book of December has me hooked – you’ll have to wait on that one).
I’ll give you the bad one first.
Behind the Shield by Jack Mullen – Admittedly, I picked up this book for a mere 75 cents at the San Diego Goodwill. I was looking for a trashy cop novel that I could finish over a long weekend by the pool. Initially, I was excited that the book I randomly chose just happened to be set not only in San Diego, but in the neighborhood we were staying in (what are the odds?!). It’s your basic crime drama: detective relentlessly pursues criminal that evades capture. However, there was sooooo much dialogue, and so little character development, that by the end of the novel, I still couldn’t describe what the main character looked like, or tell any of the other supporting detectives apart. In addition, the antagonist was a serial rapist (later killer) who occasionally got his own first person narrative; a very graphic and disturbing narrative of his crimes. I like a lot of disturbing stuff (some would say I like it a little too much), so if I think it’s gone too far, then you know it’s crossed a line. Then just when I thought I might be able to finish the book only slightly disgruntled, it took a cheap turn during the last 20 pages. Spoiler: The old detective’s aspiring new partner gets killed in a random traffic stop.
If you’re looking for a good detective novel, go back to some of the Lawrence Sanders Deadly Sins series instead.
On to the good one:
How to Get People to Do Stuff by Susan M Weinschenk – Although I bought this book under the guise that I’m interested in how to motivate my students to get more productive work done, I might also have desperately hoped I could get Thor to buy me a new Land Rover. No really, this book has a lot of good stuff to say, and I love that it cuts to the chase. It gives very specific strategies based on a lot of credible research to help you figure out how to influence people to take action in the way you want them to. I also appreciated that she discusses the possible controversy of manipulating versus motivating but ultimately I agree with her that if you are getting people to do things that are good for them or for society, then what’s the problem? If you’re doing it for your own personal gain (or the gain of a company), then it’s manipulation and that is a problem.
If you are a manager of people (no matter the career field), I highly encourage reading this book. Ultimately, I think when we treat people respectfully and professionally, they’ll have no problem doing things for you – but understanding the research behind these strategies gave me a greater foundation for motivating those around me to “do stuff.”