The Generation at the End of History – Book Review: Generation X by Douglas Coupland

poolA few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend in the pub about how important our bridging of the before and after of the internet era is for understanding my generation.  I’m of an age where as a student essays were handwritten, research involved a physical library and the first email I sent was from a university library computer. Information was scarce and the world less densely connected.

This conversation prompted me to re-read Generation X, the generation-defining novel by Douglas Coupland. Published in the UK in 1992, I first read it two or three years later, just before heading to uni.  My memory was of cool, detached twentysomethings having coolly detached conversations about the world while idling by a swimming pool in the heat. I remember enjoying it at the time, but I have never read anything else by Coupland, beyond his column in the FT Weekend magazine. I wasn’t at all sure how well it would hold up to the passage of time.

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'Sir Vidia’s Shadow', by Paul Theroux. Reading Notes: Part 1.

Summary: I’m halfway through this book having reached the end of the second of four parts, and so far this is a compelling study of an incredible character, that raises unsettling questions. Theroux’s honesty about himself makes the personal memoir aspect engaging, but it is the well observed portrait of V.S. Naipaul as a powerful, driven and flawed character that is the dark fascinating heart of the book. The animating question for me at this point is how much of the whole is necessary: how separable are Naipaul’s virtues and vices. The earliest part of the book shows the allure, and perhaps the need, for people who hold themself and the world to a higher standard. By the mid-point however this admirable and absolute commitment to the truth and to exposing reality no matter how uncomfortable, is shading definitively into contempt and cruelty towards (most of) the rest of humanity.   A second question, how far is the (post-colonial) insecurity underlying Naipaul’s character responsible for the strengths and excesses. Continue reading “'Sir Vidia’s Shadow', by Paul Theroux. Reading Notes: Part 1.”

Book Review: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt, 2011, Profile Books. Overall, an excellent book on strategy. Its two main contributions are a clear and rigorous approach to good strategy and a vigorous analysis of errors in strategic thinking that gets right to the heart of why there is so much bad strategy out there.

rrGood Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt, 2011, Profile Books.
Summary
This is, overall, an excellent book on strategy. Its two main contributions are a clear and rigorous approach to good strategy, which almost everyone can gain from, and a vigorous analysis of errors in strategic thinking that gets right to the heart of why there is so much bad strategy out there.
The first section is the strongest, setting out Rumelt’s approach to strategy and the concept of, and prevalence of, bad strategy. The remaining two sections, whilst interesting and containing useful ideas, are less vital. The third seems rushed and poorly structured even; there is no conclusion at all, the book abruptly ends. When I’ve recommended this book to friends, I’ve suggested they read the first part and skim the rest picking out what’s of interest. Continue reading “Book Review: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt”