What I’ve Been Reading

1.Positioning: How to be Seen and Heard in the Overcrowded Marketplace by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Considered a classic for marketing professionals who position products in the minds of customers. Recommended. Thanks to Kevin Gentry for sending this.

2. Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t by Stephen Prothero. This is a marvelous book that will interest the religious and non-religious alike. Prothero starts by showing just how dismal religious literacy is in America. Interestingly, literacy among believers — about their own religion or that of others — is little better than atheists. As the historian R. Laurence Moore has written, "Americans are stupefyingly dumb about what they are supposed to believe." In addition to a useful religious glossary in the back and a humbling quiz at the beginning, there is a more general background on religious views in America in the middle which is edifying. I’m taking a "Bible as Literature" class in the fall.

3. Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness and Success of Boys — and the Men They Become by Stephen Hall. My expectations for this book were, pardon the pun, too high. I’ve been taller than normal my whole life (I’m currently 6′ 4"). Growing up, this meant I was good at sports, more often the bully than the one being bullied, and often mistaken / treated as older than I really was (this helped during my foray into the business world). In this book Hall suggests that the benefits I reap from my height today derive primarily from the social success that came from being a tall kid. The self-esteem benefits you get as a tall young person carry into adulthood, not as much that people discriminate as adults in favor of tall people (to explain why the CEO ranks are dominated by height). This is a compelling point. Unfortunately, the author tries too hard to seem scientifically legit — rambling on and on about growth charts or diving deep into the psychology of bullying. To me, his too-careful seriousness detracted from the overall enjoyment of the book.

4. Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill by Gretchen Rubin. With dozens of biographies already written about Churchill, Rubin takes an absolutely unique approach: she writes forty short chapters examining different angles of his life and how those angles have been portrayed in different biographies. Not surprisingly, she reveals contradictory accounts and highlights the impact of a historian’s bias. I knew very little about Churchill going in so I found this thin volume an excellent introduction. Btw, this is the Gretchen who writes The Happiness Project.

4 comments on “What I’ve Been Reading
  • I have a friend who’s 6’4″ and he towers over me. I’m only 5’10”. The book on height seems to be interesting, but I’m guessing height hurts your self-esteem only if you’re way shorter than normal.

    When do guys normally stop growing? I’ve heard between 17 and 25.

  • I recommend reading Churchill himself. His writings are generally fascinating. I took an old testament history class once which I dropped because it moved too slowly. Every one else in the class was a Christian; I was the only atheist. Yet, I already knew most of the history we were learning while they didn’t. I’m not certain how one can determine that one is an atheist without being familiar with at least one religious tome; but apparently, you can consider yourself a Christian without a similar familiarity.

  • No. 3 got my attention. Pity I didn’t make time for St Gallen where you met a friend of mine, who is a Southern European young woman nearly 6′ tall. Suffice it to say, she and I are about a foot apart in height. 🙂

    We have both spent better part of last 5-6 years hanging around our faculty building, so, many people have seen us enough and none of us is a wallflower. Randomly asking people in our faculty interestingly will give you data that assesses the difference in our heights at 6-8 inches.

    Stature is something that bears an odd relationship with height. The first impression of height often changes over time depending on the stature of the person – works both ways, favourably and unfavourably.

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