Good Reads: ‘The Greater Journey’

‘The Greater Journey’ by David McCullough, contains two of my favorite elements; history and Paris. Admittedly, I have read just about every book this guy has written. I like the way that he is able to take such a massive amount of historical information and present it in a way that reads like a novel rather than a text book. Acknowledging that this type of book is not for everyone, here is my take, in case it sounds interesting–

In the decades preceding the civil war, and up until WWI, scores of prominent Americans traveled to, and lived in Paris during a time that became an era of cultural cross pollination between French and American culture. This book details the experiences of several such Americans during their time in Paris. One (un)surprising takeaway from the book is that descriptions of Paris written by the Americans of yore, heavily overlap with my present day sentiments about the city. Bread and butter fa’ life!

Good Reads: ‘David and Goliath’

B is a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. This book ‘David and Goliath’ was my first exposure to his work. It is a quick read. I was able to knock it out during a recent flight. Overall, I enjoyed the book. But I had to take it with a grain of salt.

The premise of the book is that the most favored to succeed can actually sometimes be at a disadvantage by conforming too rigidly to the accepted paradigm of “success” in the respective field. To bolster this thesis, Gladwell gives various examples of underdogs leveraging some unique characteristic to dethrone the heavily favored alternative. As an illustration for this phenomenon Gladwell uses an inverted parabola that roughly equates to the economic law of diminishing returns. In layman’s terms, he makes the argument that there can be too much of a good thing (money, intelligence, athletic ability, etc..).

While I found the book entertaining, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that being and underdog can be leveraged advantageously in all instances. I agree that in certain cases that can be true, the same way that there are exceptions to almost every rule. In my opinion there was enough data and analysis that it wasn’t just another “embrace your flaws!” fluff piece. I thought it was worth the read.