Posts Tagged ‘book review’

Good to Great

Monday, January 24th, 2011

“My grandfather said that if you read too many books, your head would fall off.”  -Peppermint Patty

Five more books to read from the 2010 Veterinary Economics Summer Reading List!  I have three on my nightstand, one ordered and one on the way through interlibrary loan with Omaha Public Libraries.  Woo!  Can you think of ANYTHING more exciting?  Um…well, I am very excited.  Here is a review of the latest one I finished…

Good to Great

Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t


Jim Collins

Five Stars!


First I will cover…the cover. It is beautiful – red with black and white text, and the faintest upward-trending graph in light red, not pink, more of a contrasting-the-background shiny red that you can see if you shift the book in the light.  I carried Good to Great with me everywhere I went, and it looked lovely with my purple tennies and red mittens.

On to content…well, not yet.  On to context. This book has TONS of research behind it.  A research team of twenty people spent an estimated fifteen thousand hours gathering and analyzing data for the book.  Who am I to say Phillip Morris is not a great company?  By the very rigid, exacting and well-studied parameters of the Good to Great Research Team and the definition they agreed upon in order to study greatness from a common vantage point, it is.  And we all have much to learn from the companies, the book, and the team behind it.

And now the book itself… When I finished arguing with the book about the definition of greatness, I settled in and learned things that have been integrated as permanent components of my own definition of greatness.  The concepts that are stuck in my head and going onto my vision board today are the Hedgehog Concept and the Flywheel.

The Hedgehog Concept: Hedgehogs are focused on what is important to them.  (Here is my veterinary summary:  Danger!  Roll!)  If we are similarly focused, we will invest our energy into what we are passionate about, what we can be best at, and what drives our economic engine – the Hedgehog Concept.  I love it.

The Flywheel: The Flywheel is a visual picture of the process of continuing forward, making the right decisions, doing the right things, until you have built momentum, and you are successful.  Awesome.  Explained much better in the book.

The book is extremely detailed and profiles several companies that have successfully moved from “good to great” over many years.  It has many other concepts that are relevant to veterinary medicine and life in general.  I honestly can not think of a color of mitten that would not look nice with this book, so now would be a great time to start it.

Bunny Trails: Before Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote Built to Last, which I have often heard is worth reading.  In Good to Great, the author says that after finishing both books, he actually thinks Built to Last works better as a sequel to Good to Great.  Awesome!  I am right on track!  I will definitely be reading Built to Last soon.

Mr. Bean, my constant reminder of the Hedgehog Concept

If you need a reminder too, his handmade friends are available from Artists for Hope, and bonus, you would be helping kids in Haiti!

Coming Soon to Riley and James!

“The Farmer, A True (Short) Story”

“Happy Heartworm Free February”

“You Say It’s Your Birthday…”


Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard


Chip Heath and Dan Heath

I loved it!  Five Stars!


I have had friends AND coworkers make fun of me for reading every single word of every book I read, starting with the table of contents.  I need context people!  I started this book with a search for the relationship between the authors.  In case you are not as neurotic as I am (or in case you are), the last sentence of the “about the authors” synopsis on the back cover reveals that they are brothers.  Now I was ready to begin.

I often say I do not like change.  In the middle of change, I moan about it.  After change, I gripe about it.  A year later, I look around and realize that change was the best thing for me.  As a new change comes up, I complain about it…

The authors challenged that attitude almost right from the beginning (p.4).  I liked getting married…that was change.  I liked having both kids enter our life…that was change.  I liked moving home to Omaha…that was change.  In response to their challenge to rethink our attitudes towards change, I have decided never to say “I just don’t like change” again.  There.  That will not change.  Ha!

They explained how to motivate others or even ourselves by breaking down the components of change into our rationality (rider), our emotions (elephant) and the path to change.  While I was reading, I kept coming back to some of my own “What if” big change dreams…

What if kids in Haiti were not hungry?

What if puppy mills were gone?

I already obsess about this and other stuff, of course.  We all have our “What if” dreams, I guess.  This book made me think “What if…I could have something to do with the changes?”  And that is huge.

Also, this book made me cry, which of course, even given my overly sappy nature, leadership books are not supposed to do.  The story that got me was the story about the transformation of an underachieving high school to a very successful high school brought about by the incoming principal (p. 173-175). She changed the entire school’s outlook on learning by changing the school’s grading system from A, B, C, D, F to A, B, C and NY (not yet).

(Side note:  Comments in parenthesis – Five Stars!  ✩✩✩✩✩  If the authors write a book containing everything they say in parenthesis in this book, and add some equally smart alec material, I will pay anything for it.  I found myself flipping ahead to read their usually related, always hilarious, smarty-pants side comments.)

One more “This Book is Awesome” point, then I will just let you read the book for yourself.  Anyone who mentions FlyLady and Dave Ramsey, two of my favorite leaders and authors, in the same sentence (p. 134), gets five stars just for that.

Bunny Trails: The images of an elephant and his rider as a person’s sometimes dueling emotions and mind are borrowed from The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.  I have a feeling if these authors like a book, I will too.  So that’s on my “What’s Next” list.  Chip Heath and Dan Heath also wrote a book before Switch called Made to Stick which I assume is equally awesome.

Pile it on!  I’ve got plenty of bookmarks!  I’ve had bigger stacks on my nightstand!

This is number…something…of the twenty-five books I am reading in Veterinary Economics Leadership Series. As of this past weekend, I have all of the 25 books tracked down, and only seven more of them to get my hands on.  Thank you for all of your help with this fun project!

Blogathon 2010 – Speaking for Spot

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

(I cropped out the oil painting of the smoking clown that is on the wall next to this clock.  Because I love you guys.)

Speaking for Spot

by Nancy Kay, DVM, Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Five Stars!


I took a twenty-four hour break from reading books so I could do this crazy Blogathon!  Most of the books I have been reviewing have been from the Veterinary Economics Summer Reading List.  I have thrown other fun ones in now and then too as I have come across them!As you may have heard, I will only review books to which I can give five stars.  I speed-read the second half of Speaking for Spot this week so I could tell you about it tonight – I knew from the moment Jana Rade recommended it (thanks Jana!) that I would love it.  Maybe I should quit apologizing for judging books by their cover, and we could change the saying to “Always judge a book by its cover.”  I have not steered you wrong yet, have I?

I have never seen a book anything like this one.  It is a guide to help you be the best advocate for your dog’s health that you can be.  If I saw a client come into my office with this book under their arm, I think I would want to hug her.  (Do not worry if you were planning on doing just that – I will restrain myself.)  I LOVE when clients are proactive about the care of their pets.  Most are – this is going to help you be even more so!

Get this book now, before you are in a medical crisis – you can read it with your pup on your lap in your big comfy chair.  You will be SO prepared when a medical situation comes up that you do not know how to handle.  It even covers “routine” situations like wellness exams and vaccinations.  I really think every pet owner ought to have this book.

(Side note:  Illustrations by Beth Preston – Five Stars! ✩✩✩✩✩  I LOVE the pictures!  I wish I knew the illustrator – I would give her every single new notebook and sketchbook I bought and commision her to “hide” some dog sketches here and there.  It would make me happy every time I saw them. *sigh*)

If you buy this book during the Blogathon, Dr. Kay will donate five dollars from the purchace price to Bradyn’s service dog AND autograph your book.  Thank you Dr. Kay!  Here’s the LINK.

(Note 11/27/10 THANK YOU for buying this awesome book during the Blogathon and simultaneously supporting Bradyn!  A donation has been made to 4 Paws for Ability because of your awesomeness.)

Yes?  You in the front?  In the mitten box?  I do not know.  I will ask.  Dr. Kay?  Max the Cat would like to know if you have a “Speaking for Max” book planned.

Clicking here will bring you to the webpage with information about Bradyn and an opportunity to donate towards the training of his service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. ♥

I Can’t Believe I Read the WHOLE Thing!

Friday, November 5th, 2010

You know those super obnoxious restaurant contests where you get your dinner free and your picture on the wall if you finish a gigantic steak that ought to be cut into ten servings??  Well, I feel like someone owes me a giant free book.  Oh wait, never mind!  (Thank you Omaha Public Library!)



David McCullough

Five Stars!


I loved this book!  I did not think I would.  I am not a history buff.  (I mean I was not a history buff, now I am.)  I thought I preferred lighter reading.  Ha!  I honestly strained my finger (LF digit #4 if I were a dog) picking this book up off my nightstand and putting it down over the past several weeks.  I learned quickly to pick it up with two hands!

From the first chapter, I was caught up in learning about the life of President Truman.  He was a great man and a great leader.  For all of the major world decisions he was called on to make, he was, at heart, a midwestern farmer with solid values, making every decision seemingly from that perspective.

The author spent ten years researching, interviewing and writing.  That alone is enough reason to investigate the book – what kind of person could keep a biographer’s attention for ten years??  I do not know how to explain what a great job David McCullough did at making this a fascinating read – it contains mainly facts and dates, which ought to be a recipe for a dry portrayal of American history, but it is quite the opposite.

This morning I finished the book at two o’clock am, glad to have accomplished another twenty-fifth of my reading project, but sad to come to the end of the life story of Harry S. Truman.  When a book keeps me up till all hours even to the very end, it is one I will highly recommend!

Bunny Trails: I would like to read all of the books written by David McCullough.  He is an amazing story teller.  I would also like to read more history books in general.  I will focus on this project for now though!  Eleven books left to read!

I have not yet found eight of the twenty-five books on the reading list.  Omaha Public Library has been awesome at tracking down books and sending them my way!  All the bookstores in Papillion and Omaha are used to me rummaging through all their shelves.  (I already did that before I started this project!)  If you have any of the books on the Veterinary Economics Summer Reading List that you would be willing to loan out, please let me know!  I would also like a congratulatory picture on your bulletin board when I finish it.

4/30/2011 In writing a summary of this book project I learned that David McCullough narrated the movie  Sea Biscuit which was neither here nor there, but I thought it was really interesting, and now it is here. : )








Houdini Was…

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

In the midst of reading the 25 leadership books recommended by Veterinary Economics, I snuck in this super awesome book that I HAVE to tell you about because I LOVE it.

Houdini Was…

Written and illustrated


the Second Grade Students of White Bluffs Elementary in Richland, Washington

I bought the book because of the very cute hamster on the cover.  (I judge books by their cover, which you should not do, and though I can usually tell at first glance whether I will like a book or not, my reasoning is not always quite…linear.)

This book covers in impressive depth the human-animal bond, pet loss, processing grief, the value of pets, lessons to be learned from our relationships with our pets and even the value a classroom pet adds to the educational experience*.  What impresses me is that all of this is done so poinently and concisely…by second graders…mostly by crayon.  I love the pictures.  I love the humor.  I love seeing Houdini hamster through the eyes of those who knew and loved her.  It almost makes me want to treat my Fuzzy-loss with a hamster…



…but I won’t.


Houdini Was…

Five Stars!


This book won the 2010 Scholastic “Kids Are Authors” contest and is available at all the Scholastic Book Fairs going on now!  I got it tonight during Parent-Teacher conferences :)

*Click here for information on “Pets in the Classroom”, a very fun CareFRESH grant program that assists with the adoption and care of small pets in the classroom.


What I am Reading this Week – The Same Big Important Books

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I am reading through Veterinary Economic’s Summer Reading List.  Ha, very funny Veterinary Economics!  This is not summer reading!  This pile of books is taller than Wuzzy Rat!  At least the Bible in a Year gives me, you know, a year.  From the “summer” list, I am currently reading Collapse, by Jared Diamond, and Truman, by David McCullough.  I expect to be here for quite some time!  So, no reviews for a while!  I am loving Truman, which surprised me.  I am not usually a big history buff, but it is a great book.

Wuzzy Rat and Phil discuss whether I can actually finish this project, while Bunny tries to jump from the lamp to the Bible.


What I am Reading This Week – Big Important Books

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I have not reviewed a book from the Veterinary Economics Summer Reading List here for a while because I have apparently saved all of the big, huge books for last, and they are taking me FOREVER to read!  I am almost halfway done with the twenty-five books.  I am still having fun, and I am learning lots, but I may not have much to say for a while.  I will complete the list, but most likely not by the end of summer!

I found a cute star template weeks ago and have not gotten to use it yet.  So I will give you my input on a Book NOT on the list, you know, so I can use my stars…

Word of God – Five Stars!


What I am Reading This Week: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Next in the leadership series…

How to Win Friends and Influence People


Dale Carnegie

Since I am only reviewing leadership books of the Veterinary Economics suggested reading list to which I can give five stars, I think I will start each review the same way…I loved this book!  Five stars!

And I did.  How to Win Friends and Influence People was published in 1936 and I absolutely LOVE Dale Carnegie’s writing style.  He wrote as if he were wearing a top hat.  Unfortunately, I read a rereleased edition that Mrs. Carnegie published in 1981.  She updated some of the stories and language.  So every time I read a story in the first person that occurred after Mr. Carnegie passed away in 1955, I would do a double take – a sort of “I-just-saw-a-ghost” jump and yell.  The lessons in this book are invaluable and timeless.  I will buy it for sure if I can find an original edition.

Bunny Trails Several times, when Mr. Carnegie needed an especially pure or great example, he would turn to a story of a dog.  What struck me was his emphasis on the effectiveness of positive reinforcement training (which he did not word in that way of course, as it is a relatively new term, though not as new of a concept as I had assumed.)  When he wanted to emphasize how kind words are more effective than harsh words, he would remind the readers how much more quickly our pets learn when we train with kindness and rewards.  I began to think it would be very fun to trace the history of animal training.

Of course, as far back as the Old Testament, Balaam was reprimanded by an angel of God Himself for mistreating his poor donkey.  But I had until now assumed that “Positive Reinforcement Training” as a replacement for “Negative Reinforcement Training” had just tipped into favor in the last few decades.  Apparently wise, successful people knew all along that kindness and compassion are the best way to treat anyone, whether human or animal, and just did not have a nifty name for the concept yet.

Also, of course, I would like to read the other books Dale Carnegie has written.  He had an engaging writing style, and fun stories with solid morals.  And while he was a great man in his own right, he also seems to have been one or two degrees from every famous person of his time, which also makes for a fun read.

What I am Reading This Week: Start-Up Nation

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Next in the leadership series…

Start-Up Nation, The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle


Dan Senor and Saul Singer

I LOVED this book…

Five Stars!


I have a special place in my heart for Israel, and the multilayered reasons for that do not even fit in the “What in The World Does This Have to Do with Pets?” section of this website.  That would be another website entirely!  The history contained in this book is fascinating, and has changed the way I view world history overall.

But this is not a book about heart or emotions or passion.  It is a book about achieving success against seemingly insurmountable odds, which is a theme that I absolutely love.  It is a book about Israel, which I have already told you I love, and it is a book about entrepreneurs and start-up companies, especially those in the technology sector, which, until this past week, I did not care one bit about.  In fact, I had to open the book and change every single vowel in my spelling of entrepreneurs, as I am quite sure I have not ever used the word before today.

And I love that about the book too.  I found myself caring very much why start-ups are successful or not, why Israeli start-ups tend to be SO successful, and even caring about the details of the businesses profiled in the book.

I suppose most of all I love a book that can make me care about things I did not know I would care about.  And in that regard above all, this is a great book.

Bunny Trails: The publishing company of this book intrigues me.  The book was published in November 2009 by Twelve.  They publish at most one book a month and invest in the long term success of the books they publish.  When I have time, I will read the other books published by Twelve.  Theoretically, if I can catch up with what they have published so far, I should be able to keep up by reading one book a month.  Woo!  I need another reading project!  Well, no I don’t.  But I am excited to have one.

What I am Reading This Week: Blink

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Next in the leadership series…

Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking


Malcolm Gladwell

I liked this book very much, maybe even more the second time than the first.

Five stars!


That’s all I’ve got.  Also, I took careful note of the cover on this one.  White like the rest of his books.  Classy white, not boring white.  I love it.

Bunny Trails: Now I want to go back and read Tipping Point, Outliers and What the Dog Saw again.  Malcolm Gladwell may very well be my favorite author.

More Bunny Trails: Click here to see a video of my brother Dave Nelson of Secret Penguin and Matt Helt playing paddleball with Malcolm Gladwell.  That would actually lend itself better to a discussion of Tipping Point, but once again, that’s what I’ve got.  And how fun!!