I might start doing regular posts to roundup books. Here are a couple:
In Search of Stupidity, Merrill R. Chapman, available here from the book company. This is a pleasantly vicious work that satirises business guru drivel like In Search of Excellence, Good to Great etc and argues cogently that success in the tech industry hinges on avoiding egregiously stupid errors, examples of which provided.
In some ways, the book is showing its age – Apple is an example of stupidity but has, at least, made a comeback selling MP3 players and a few expensive desktops, while Dell still rules the world. But then, who expected Nokia, RIM and Co. to pull the stupid crap they did in 2008-2010? He also makes the excellent point that the key to stupidity isn’t that you make a mistake, it’s that you persist with the mistake, double down and pour in more resources, silence people who warn you about the mistake, etc. Smart people make mistakes, but recover from them. It is also funny. Recommendation from Richard J.
Rockets and People, Boris Ye. Chertok, available absolutely FREE from the NASA History Office at least once the Americans turn their government off and turn it back on again.
Absolutely, crushingly comprehensive memoir of the Soviet space programme from a key engineer and one of the very few people who managed to remain friends with Korolev, Glushko, Mishin, and the rest of the duelling egos. I’m going to have much more to say about this, so this is just a notice. Please note that the NASA-issued PDFs are slightly, precisely wrong on a Kindle so you can either have tiddly text, but one page per screen, or else one paragraph scrolling horizontally. Recommendation from James Nicoll, Charlie Stross, several others.
Sierra Hotel: Flying Air Force Fighters in the Decade after Vietname, C. R. Anderegg, at the book company hereat the book company here.
In 1974, the Soviet integrated air defence systems had seriously rocked the balance of power away from the US and allied air forces. What did they do about it? Tells the story, including the re-imagining of Nellis, the development of the F-15, F-16, and A-10, the creation of Red Flag, and interestingly, the realisation that their training pipeline was a form of education and had to work like that. And, despite being an aviation weirdo for years, I finally understood the roll-and-pull/pull-and-roll thing. Please note that the e-book is a bugger’s muddle with footnotes in the middle of the text and basically none of the maps, charts, or diagrams correct or even visible. Recommendation: Robert Farley.
D’une petite rafle, Nelcya Delanoe, with the book company.
French micro-history of the arrest of a dozen Jews in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon in 1942. Mostly interesting for the point that the reason why the French loathe any kind of statistics involving ethnicity is that Vichy kicked off its first order of business by making a list of Jews, and then further lists of undesirables, foreigners, Axis nationals, Allied nationals, so on and so forth, and then giving them to the Germans. Just saying that “we don’t do that because Vichy” involves opening the warehouse full of 40′ containers full of cases of cans of worms, hence all the “spirit of the republic” stuff. Which I ought to have understood, what with being an ID card opponent of the first hour. A bit too much stuff about her house in the sunny south. Recommendation: Soizick, Nathalie.
The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club, Hook Peter, at the book company.
Probably no need to introduce Hooky. The best I can say about this is that each chapter finishes with the year’s short-form P&L statement for FAC51 Ltd, documents of progressively more spectacular self-delusion, mismanagement, and chaos. Also, I knew the first ever act was Bernard Manning, but not that it was the same night the Falklands task force hit the beach at San Carlos Water – a coincidence that has somehow failed to cause a superb BBC TV series by Shane Meadows.
Another interesting point: they were a Whitbread tied-house, something that sounds about as incongruous as Winston Churchill with an iPhone. In fact, the beerage played an important role in the general financial disaster but I’ll leave you to read the book. A special mention goes to the lighting technician who was in the habit of stealing the (very expensive and capable) rig in order to rent it out on his own account. Also, if you’ve formed a limited company, don’t then wriggle out of the liability limitation. Recommendation: Jamie Zawinski.