What I’m Reading Right Now

books
Work has quickly returned to the fairly normal breakneck pace. The box office has returned thanks to some surprising numbers from End of Watch, Hotel Transylvania and Taken 2. I’m trying to catch up on some reading, whether blogs books or otherwise and wanted to share some of what I’m reading right now.

First, since I live online, here’s what I’m reading there:

  • First on the list is the terrific new blog from the folks behind Uncrate — GALLIVANT, a travel guide for guys. The site is divided into five categories: Stay, Scarf, Sip, Shop and See. Exposing great hotels, restaurants, bars, stores and locations in cities around the world. Really obsessed with this site right now.
  • Fake TV Character Twitter accounts from Aaron Sorkin TV shows. Love Will McAvoy from HBO’s The Newsroom (who I wish was a real news anchor and debate moderator) and Fake West Wing President Josiah Bartlett. (Consequently, both accounts are actually written by the same guy.)
At work, I’m reading some short reads on new and current approaches to building websites.
  • Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski. A part of the brilliant A Book Apart series and a terrific follow-up to Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design that I just finished. These books are written by guys who have actually done it. As someone in the middle of a project like this, I’m intrigued by these new approaches.
And the books I’ve recently read or am currently reading for enjoyment:
  • Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. I love Hornby. High Fidelity is one of my all-time favorite books. But for the last several years, while he’s collaborated with Ben Folds and written young adult fiction, he just kinda lost his way. Juliet is really a return to the style that made him famous.
  • Love Wins by Rob Bell. I’m a fan of most stuff that Rob Bell writes. His latest is pretty controversial. Looking forward to reading it. Hoping that it inspires me somewhat.

So what are you reading?

Six Pixels of Separation

I was fortunate enough to get a preview copy of Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected, Connect Your Business to Everyone. Joel is the president of Twist Image, an interactive agency from Montreal, and is an authority on blogging, podcasting and entrepreneurship on the Web.

The book is an extremely quick read and is great for people who are interested in getting their businesses involved in social networks like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others.

Everyone is connected. Connect your business to everyone.

Not only does he have a catchy subtitle, but Joel backs it up with many stories about the successes and failures of companies and individuals over the past decade on the Web. I found so much of the book extremely relevant to my work at Cerner, although for someone who has been working on the Web for as long as I have, a lot of the concepts were ones that I am aware of and have been talking about at work.

I guess I’ve got a head start on the majority of Joel’s audience. I’m not saying that arrogantly — I found a lot of value in the book and it was nice to have someone speak so clearly about the strategies that I’ve been attempting to implement. But for those that work in the arena of social networking as a part of their profession will find themselves maybe saying once or twice: “I’ve heard that story before.”

There are lots of great nuggets of information peppering the chapters of Six Pixels of Separation. I particularly appreciated his section on Web sites and why they are one of the most important parts of your brand (I especially appreciated it since I am, by profession, an online marketer, and I make Web sites sometimes).

I recommend it for entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers and anyone who is ready to get connected to their customers online. Mitch Joel has made this ever-changing new world of the social web approachable, interesting and implementable. It’s becoming more important to businesses everywhere and those that are doing it well are seeing benefits to their bottom line.

One important thing that Joel points out in his book is it’s not too late to get involved. Most of these platforms are still in the very early stages of growth (Twitter launched only 3 years ago!) and while there are some companies who are already in these venues, companies and entrepreneurs can still get involved.

Go pick up the book on Amazon now. It is released on September 7.

Hit and Miss

I recently completed two books that I’ve been reading for a while, Mike Gayle’s Turning Thirty and Nick Hornby’s Slam.

I’ve long been a fan of Hornby’s. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that his book High Fidelity (yes, the same book that the movie starring John Cusack is based on) is one of my favorite ever, up there with Catcher in the Rye and The Lords of Discipline.

I’ve only been introduced to Gayle in the last couple years. He’s one of the many authors that emerged as a part of the Hornby movement, guys who write stories about guys who are relationship-phobic and completely flawed, but lovable. These authors are almost all British as well, although accents don’t really translate into print. I’ve read a couple of Gayle’s earlier novels…really enjoyed My Legendary Girlfriend but not so much Dinner for Two. Turning Thirty seemed an appropriate read for me (at least a couple years ago when I bought it) and I enjoyed it well enough, but not sure if I’d recommend it. Thirty-year-old unmarried males might find it a good read and it has some decent characters, but it’s just lacking somewhat.

As far as Slam goes…this book represents Nick Hornby’s first foray into the world of “young adult literature” as it centers around a 16-year-old kid who is interested in skateboarding and Tony Hawk and ends up getting a girl pregnant. I actually started reading Slam about 6 months ago and put it down with less than 75 pages left. It’s been sitting on my nightstand as a reminder for the past several months, but I’ve never been motivated enough to finish it until this week. If that’s not a condemnation of my feelings for the book, I don’t know what is.

I shouldn’t be that surprised. Slam was, afterall, written for the “young adult” set and I’m not really in that target demographic. However, I’ve always felt like Hornby’s ability to describe characters could supercede the genre and still manage to be compelling. Unfortunately, Slam really comes off more as a public service announcement against teenage pregnancy than anything else. I just want to junk-punch the main character Sam (another reason why I’m unlikely to be a dad) because all he does is make one bad decision after another. I suppose that’s the point, considering that is what most teenagers typically do, but at the same time, it just annoyed me.

My penchant for reading has really gone in the crapper lately, but I’m trying my best to get back into it. With a vacation coming up in July, it will be to my benefit to have some good stuff to read. I’ve got a stack of books about 2 feet high on my “to-read” table…now I just have to put them in order.

What are you reading?

Angels & Demons

(Author’s note: I realize that this “Every Day in May” post is a bit late, but you will have to forgive me, especially since the only person who really cares about the every day part is me.)

angels_and_demons

On Saturday, we headed out to see Angels & Demons with Alli’s folks. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of The DaVinci Code, I’ve really liked Dan Brown’s books and I was hoping that they would make a better movie out of A&D since the actual source material is better than DaVinci Code. (It’s not that DaVinci Code is a bad book, it’s just that Angels & Demons is better.)

My issue with the movie adaptations had first and foremost to do with Tom Hanks. I never really bought him as symbologist Robert Langdon, so that was an issue that I had to come to terms with. Honestly, I still think that another actor would have done a better job with the role, but at least they cut his hair in A&D so that he didn’t look so ridiculous.

The plot of Angels & Demons centers around an age-old conflict between religion and science as played out by the Catholic Church vs. The Illuminati, a secret society of scientists led by Galileo that opposed the way the church was teaching the Earth as the center of the universe.

The movie runs two and a half hours long, but I could find very little stuff that I would have taken out of the movie. It’s intense and suspenseful and Ron Howard does a good job (although not as good as Dan Brown) of keeping secret the identity of the main villain behind it all.

I really thought that they did a great job of portraying Rome, considering there were only certain elements that they were able to shoot on location.

And as far as book adaptations go, I’m always hesitant to go see books that I like, but I really enjoyed this one. It’s enjoyable and it doesn’t taint the original source material too much. Also, the movie leaves out the absolutely ridiculous ending to the book (those who have read the book will know what I’m talking about) and I’m beginning to get on board with Hanks as Langdon.

I say go see it, even if you haven’t read the book. It’s a good, suspenseful action movie and the scenery is great.

Watchmen

watchmen

Just as many did today, I went out and saw Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation of the crazy popular cult classic graphic novel  Watchmen. Prior to seeing the movie, I picked up the full graphic novel at Target and finished the tome an hour before Alli and I went to see it at the Fork & Screen over lunch.

I enjoyed the book. It’s heavy and dark, but it’s extremely well-written. Alan Moore’s words and Dave Gibbons illustrations create the alternate-history 1985 in which Richard Nixon is entering his 5th term as President and the Cold War is at the height of madness, enough for there to be a Doomsday Clock, which scientists use to count down the annihilation of the world via nuclear weapons.

The movie follows the same basic plot, but lacks much of the depth that makes the graphic novel a classic. Zack Snyder is a good filmmaker, but the source material that he was provided with does most of the work for him here. Snyder recreates some scenes frame-for-frame identically to Gibbons’ original drawings.

That’s not a bad thing, but there are parts of the movie that got cut over others that I felt shouldn’t have. Snyder manages to find five minutes for a 5-minute long softcore porn scene, but other more critical plot points are glazed over (I would have liked to have seen more development of the New Frontiersman vs. the Nova Express part of the story, which is absent entirely from the movie until the last 5 minutes when it doesn’t even make sense).

Unfortunately, our experience with the movie was not great. The movie started and stopped 5 times before it finally continuously began and even then, we still missed the first few minutes. That was unfortunate because I felt it would have set the stage of impending doom better than what we saw.

The other thing that bothered me was something that bothered another reviewer (that I can’t remember now) regarding the ending. I won’t reveal what happens, but here’s what I’ll say: the ending is really one of the only major plot changes the movie makes to the book. And if you’re going to make a shot-for-shot recreation of a graphic novel, you should go all the way. By changing the end, it alters the story enough that it is noticeable.

The casting hits about as much as it misses. Jackie Earl Haley is perfect as Rorschach but I thought that Matthew Goode was the wrong choice for Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. I also was totally impressed by Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl, especially after reading the book. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a good Comedian, but I could take or leave Malin Ackerman’s Laurie/Silk Spectre.

Like I said before, the movie version really lacked the layers that make the graphic novel so good. I imagine that most fans of the book will nitpick the movie to death. Others will be turned off by the extreme violence, while others will say it’s not violent enough based on the source material. But there are a lot of people who will appreciate the movie a lot. I liked it. I probably would have liked it even more had I not read it. It has really interesting things to say about human nature and what it truly means to be heroic. Sure, those messages come straight from the source material, but at least they didn’t get muddled.

I’m not sure if I’d recommend this movie. If you’re interested, you might think about taking a look at the Wikipedia page for the comic just to get a plot overview.