“The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Live And Buy As They Do” by Clotaire Rapaille examines how different cultures view products and industries (conceptually). Rapaille, a cultural anthropologist, has helped many international companies explore these cultural codes by examining how consumers really feel about products.
I believe this book should be required for any strategic planner, brand planner, heck, any company that has a customer. Clotaire Rapaille may have Albert Einstein hair and kind of look like a mad scientist or a kook in general, but conceptually his stuff is straightforwardly brilliant (as long as you are a little selective because on occasion he does make some sweeping generalizations). I loved reading the book and I do know that I was at a place where we used his information to create an amazing strategy to help a client out (of course the client ignored it). But I have now seen embodiments of that same strategy in marketing for a variety of companies (and it appears to be working).
Rapaille argues each product makes a unique imprint on members of any given culture. This imprint can be described in only a few words. For example, Rapaille says the American code for cars is “Identity,” while the German code for cars is “Engineering.” Rapaille states the obvious that ‘different cultures are different’ but expands on that idea by explaining how a nation’s history and cultural myths are psychological templates to which its citizens respond unconsciously. Easy to read. Thoughtful. Provides nice general thinking fodder to develop some specific thinking of your own (depending on the situation you yourself are facing).
- The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk
This extensively detailed book chronicles the imperial struggle for power in Central Asia (Afghanistan is central to the book) between Victorian England and Czarist Russia. In a phrase coined by Captain Arthur Connolly of the East India Company before he was beheaded in Bokhara for spying in 1842, a “Great Game” was played between Tsarist Russia and Victorian England for supremacy in Central Asia. At stake was the security of India, key to the wealth of the British Empire. When play began early in the 19th century, the frontiers of the two imperial powers lay two thousand miles apart, across vast deserts and almost impassable mountain ranges; by the end, only 20 miles separated the two rivals.
It is a fascinating book telling an extraordinary story of ambition, intrigue, and military adventure. As you read it is amazing how relevant some of the discussions are to today’s issues and actions in that area. The Great Game was Russia’s version of America’s “Manifest Destiny” to dominate a continent, and the author is careful to explain Russian viewpoints as fully as those of the British. The book ends with the fall of Tsarist Russia in 1917 (but he also wrote a great book about this area and the transition o soviet empire). Today world peace and stability are again threatened by tensions in this volatile region of great mineral wealth and strategic significance and this book can give you some great background as to why it probably will be that way for decades to come.
If you love Paris, or are interested in Paris, and like a good mystery this series of books by Cara Black is awesome. Each book has a little detailed map upfront showcasing the section of Paris the book focuses on. Aimee Leduc (the main character) lives in one of the neatest sections in Paris – the Ile Saint-Loius. The Île Saint-Louis is one of two natural islands in the Seine river (the other natural island is Île de la Cité and also gets featured in a book in the series).
I love how you get a feel for the real Paris, the gritty side, the ease of access to all points in the city and the hidden special places only the locals frequent, as you weave your way through the mysteries.
If you cannot visit Paris then read the series. If you can visit Paris, well, read the series before you go.
- The lyrics from Madman Across the Water
Bernie Taupin is underrated. He provided Elton john a mix of lyrics that tell amazing stories.
- “Tiny Dancer”
- “Razor Face”
- “Madman Across the Water”
- “Indian Sunset”
- “Holiday Inn”
- “Rotten Peaches”
- “All the Nasties”
Each song’s words are pretty amazing, some overall, some just have a section with a sound bite that captures a great thought. To me, metaphorically, this was Bernie/Elton’s strongest mix of songs. And Goodbye is one of the sweetest minute and half songs you will hear.
- Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan and Richard Holbrooke
I am going to write a lot about his amazing book but all you really need to know is that this book explains a lot about the current tensions we face between many countries across the globe today.
The book explores the original intent, constraints, and goals of the diplomats who sat down to hammer out a peace treaty in the aftermath of World War 1. The narrative revolves around the “Big Three” Wilson (United States), Lloyd George (Great Britain), and Clemenceau (France) who dominated the critical first six months of the Paris Peace Conference (although the PM of Italy was also part of the council).
The book walks through how the peacemaking Council of Four, representing Britain, France, the U.S. and Italy, conducted six months of parleying concluding on June 28 with Germany’s coerced agreement to a treaty no Allied statesman had fully read. And in the end although President Wilson had insisted on a League of Nations, even his own Senate would vote the league down and refuse the treaty. As a rush to make expedient settlements replaced initial negotiating inertia, appeals by many nationalities for Wilsonian self-determination would be overwhelmed by rhetoric justifying national avarice. The Italians, who hadn’t won a battle, and the French, who’d been saved from catastrophe, were the greediest, says MacMillan; the Japanese plucked Pacific islands that had been German and a colony in China known for German beer. Wilson got nothing; returning home, he suffered a debilitating stroke. The council’s other members horse-traded for spoils, as did Greece, Poland and the new Yugoslavia. There was, Wilson declared, “disgust with the old order of things,” but in most decisions the old order in fact prevailed, and corrosive problems, like Bolshevism, were shelved. Hitler would blame Versailles for more ills than it created. The book extensively encompasses all the continents the peacemakers vainly carved up.
- The Economist
This magazine is oh so British. Oh so worldly perspective (versus USA today). Oh so well written.
It is insightful. Maybe a little liberal in its views but I have always found it generally fair in its coverage of topics globally. And I love the fact they (in a very interesting way) provide an opinion on every topic (and generously lampoon anyone at anytime). How they provide opinions is wonderfully entertaining (snapshots of some headlines and subheads):
- Binyamin Netanyahu cocks a snook at the American president
- An Irish riddle wrapped in a mystery
- Coconut Leader: A coup leader who is tough on the outside and softer underneath
- A New way to Annoy a Neighbour
- The War on Bambi: taking back the gardens
Delightfully irreverent tone even when talking about serious issues.
And don’t worry. The US edition is exactly the same as the international version as far as I can tell (they simply shift the entire American over view article section upfront to appease our egos).
Ah, J Peterman clothes and items, the stuff is pretty nice. But the descriptions are written so you don’t buy the stuff. Really if you do end up buying something you are buying what you will become if you wear or use the stuff. Wonderfully written catalog. Mini stories about each item. Hey, it’s not just a striped shirt you just bought. You are Picasso at the moment he is sitting behind an easel. It is not a dress. It is a quiet moment with Audrey Hepburn at a cocktail event. Maybe what I like most is that I learn something. About someone. About a moment in time.
Standing on the quay at Douarnenz, watching the sardine fleet head out into the Atlantic, just as it has done for eons.
A stiff breeze blows in from the southwest. Not a chilly breeze, but you definitely want to be wearing something.
After a few millennia of fishing under these conditions, this is what the fishermen on the Brittany coast have come up with.
Breton Sailor’s Shirt (No. 2499). Found in a marine supply store near the harbormaster’s office.
It’s made from 100% cotton canvas sailcloth, which makes it sturdy enough to stand up to about a 5 on the Beaufort scale, yet soft to the touch.
Pullover style with a sailor’s collar, v-neck and loop and button closure.
There’s also an inside chest pocket for valuables. Perfect for taking out the E-Scow, raking the leaves, or a walk across the commons.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is a piece of our American history that depicts racism and prejudice, childhood innocence, and the perseverance of a man who risked it all to stand up for what he believed in. Wonderful book and one I will read again .. and again .. and again (and I will give a copy to everyone I know). If somehow the book itself has passed you by, or if (sadly) it was imposed on you for a class assignment when you were young, revisit it. It’s one of the best books ever written.
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus the story surrounds the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. The book explores big issues through the eyes of a child. The result is tough and tender talking of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up. Everyone who reads it has a favorite section in the book. Mine will always be the relationship between Dill and Scout.
- The lyrics to Sheryl Crow’s Wildflower
Oh, what an overlooked CD Wildflower is. Sure. There are some forced rhymes here and there. (but that is the bane of a songwriters’ existence) “Good is good and bad is bad but you don’t know which you had.” Plus. I am not sure there is a better female singer out there delivering lyrics when she stays in the lower range of her voice (which she does a lot on Wildflower). Some great metaphors. And, in general, some straightforward lyrics communicating some really nice thoughts.
- It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose by Roy M. Spence Jr. and Haley Rushing
I have noted several times I don’t particularly like reading business books. And then you run across one like this one and it renews your faith in perusing the business book section seeking something to read. This book is chockfull of interesting anecdotes and sound bites.
The premise of ‘purpose driven’ has been talked about before but possibly never so articulately. While I believe every business owner should read this (I believe it should be mandatory reading for every business class in universities) I hope that readers take to heart the individual message. The message that if you, as a person, can identify the purpose that drives them that they can truly live an extraordinary life.
This is an extraordinary book. It communicates some great messages and gives you some excellent behind the scenes stories which are just plain fun to know about.
- Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young
This book (which was written in 1937 for advertising people) is relevant to anyone’s work. This little book is one of the simplest summaries of commonsense—and articulating common sense is this book’s greatest virtue. The book lays out a five step process for generating novel and not-so-novel ideas, crisply articulating them so that you can put to them to immediate use. It is a powerful guide for gathering information, stimulating imagination, and recombining old elements into dramatic new ideas. It is so simple you wonder why so many consultants make it so much more difficult.
- Mostly True Collected Stories & Drawings by Brian Andreas
I didn’t even know Andreas existed until 2000 when an amazing young woman I knew gave me a print as a gift. I know he creates things as life lessons for kids (kind of) but his little drawings and quirky thoughts are wonderful insights into everyday life. While every little book he has published is worth it. If you don’t trust me on this go for one of his first two books. I guarantee you will find at least one thing insightful that will make you stop and think and probably want to share with someone in either of his first two (Mostly True… and Still Mostly True). If I were an advertising guy I could build a great campaign around his thoughts.
- The Lost Constitution by William Martin
A rare, annotated draft of the U.S. Constitution is at the heart of this entertaining historical fiction novel. Throughout the book you get an understanding of how people have always tried to use the Constitution for their own purposes, including right-wing Christian fanatics, survivalist gun nuts, liberal gun-banners and greedy entrepreneurs now seeking the lost draft. It is also clear that the Constitution—drafts and all—was intended as a unifying agent. This is a good mystery and an excellent examination of constitutional issues. It is a fun read with some historical significance.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This is a powerful document that stands the test of time. This is the American vision of what government should be. Many people think that America is a democracy but it is actually a constitutional democracy. The Constitution of the United States sets limits to the powers of government and outside of these enumerated powers the government has no authority to do anything else.
Along with the Bill of Rights, which lays out the few rights of the people and states that are absolutely not to be infringed upon, if you want to get a sense of how frickin’ smart our forefathers were then sit down and read these documents. It will make you appreciate what they did (and maybe what you have for a country).
- The Eight by Katherine Neville
Even readers with no interest in chess will be swept up into this really fun fantasy-adventure-historical fiction novel. The story revolves around a search for a legendary chess set once owned by Charlemagne. All characters in the book covet the fabled chess pieces, because the chess service, buried for 1000 years in a French abbey, supplies the key to a magic formula tied to numerology, alchemy, the Druids, Freemasonry, cosmic powers. As the story shuttles between the 1970s and the 1790s, you are introduced to 64 characters, including Mireille, a spunky French nun who helps scatter the individual chess pieces across Europe lest the set fall into evil hands. Involving Napoleon, Talleyrand, Casanova, Voltaire, Rousseau, Robespierre and Catherine the Great in the quest, Neville has great fun rewriting history and making it all ring true. With two believable heroines, nonstop suspense, espionage, murder and a puzzle that seems the key to the whole Western mystical tradition, this is first-rate escapist entertainment.