Friday, July 31, 2009


Spoiler Alert: The following reviews may inadvertently reveal some details of the books. If you don’t want to be spoiled, refrain from reading this review.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World Class Brand by Al Ries and Laura Ries ISBN 0887309372 Rating: 3Stars/4
Truth to tell, there isn’t really 22 laws but just 2 laws. The first law is to maintain uniqueness, remain focus with your message by being consistent, and don’t muddle your message by trying to become “everything” to everyone. The second law is that a 100% domination of the market is impossible because not everybody has the same need and thus wouldn’t equally appeal to your brand message and purchase your product. If you get 50% + 1 market share, be happy and move on and create another brand. The remaining 20 laws are just rewording of the 2 basic laws. If you have too much time to kill, be my guess and read the book. It ain’t a boring read anyway just repetitive.
The Art of Kissing by William Kane ISBN0312117442 Rating: 3/4
Ever heard of a “butterfly kiss”? Or maybe “Lip – O – Suction”? If you haven’t, read the book. If you’re bored with French Kissing, read the book. However, take my word for it. Reading the book doesn’t make you a good kisser, practice do.
The Laws of Seduction by Robert Greene ISBN 0142001198 Rating: 3/4
This book is the author’s attempt to inject science into the art as well as an attempt to “procedurize” the “step by step process” of seduction. To do so, the book put forth a lot of examples based on real life personalities as well as fictional characters to prove its point. The latter (fictional characters especially from the Tales of Genji and Dangerous Liasons) are much more heavily favored over the former (real life people), which somewhat diminishes the convincing aspect of the arguments. Despite that short coming, I still find the points elucidated in the book to be rather practical and common sensical. Nothing extraordinary actually. As for the value of the book, well, let’s face it. The reason that we read the book in the first place is to master the art of seduction and as such, we wonder if the Laws of Seduction is anywhere applicable. Well, let’s put it this way. If we want to learn about physics, we turn to a physicist with a phD from a reputable school. We all know that Robert Greene is a “professor of seduction” but have we ever heard of Robert Greene, the seducer?
The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action by David P. Norton and Robert S. Kaplan ISBN 0875846513 Rating: 4/4
One of the biggest problem in management is that Business Strategy is always good on paper but not in the real world. This is because Business Strategy is made in the board room, isolated from the real world that is the front line and once this strategy is handed down from the top, frontline executives are at a lost on how to execute such a strategy. Balanced Scorecard as a framework links this Strategy – Performance gap. Norton and Kaplan’s other book, “Strategy Map” deals with the development of an “executable” strategy while this book provides the framework for monitoring and controlling of the “performance of strategy”. The book is not for everybody though. Definitely, this is not a book that a non – business or for that matter, even an occasional business reader could appreciate. This is a hard core business book that is most appropriate for those who understand the nuances of Strategy making, Implementation, and Performance management.
Bioethics and Moral Decision by Florentino Timbreza ISBN 9711181355 Rating: 4/4
This is a basic introduction to the moral philosophy on issues arising from the advancement of biomedical science such as Surrogate motherhood, genetic engineering, etc. The book is especially praiseworthy in the fact that it doesn’t subscribe to only one narrow religious ethico – moral philosophical point of view rather it proffered several ethico – moral philosophical point of views. A recommended reading for people who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the raging bioethical issues.
明代國家權力結構及運行機制 作者 方志遠ISBN 7030221877 Rating: 4/4
A Study into the Political Structure and System of the Ming Dynasty by Fang Zhi Yuan ISBN 7030221877
在諸多關於明代政治制度的史論中,往往看到“宦官干政”,“宦官亂政”的評論。傳統史書把“宦官干政” 視作恆古未之有的異象而加以彈伐。此書之論點與衆不同,它不僅把“宦官干政” 視作明代政治結構的一部分。而甚至把它視作不可或缺的一部分。此書認爲宦官是明朝皇帝的代表,而“宦官干政”更是至高無上皇權的延伸。我認爲此書的論點比較附和歷史實況。尤其是更附和歷代“内朝—外朝”政治權力斗爭規律。由此,我認爲此書對研究明朝政治歷史是非常重要的。
In most history books regarding the political system of Ming China, one would always find a negative criticism on the “political intervention” of the palace eunuch. In fact, traditional historiography would find political intervention of palace eunuch as an aberration, an indirect cause of the downfall of the Ming dynasty. This book however, posited a different point of view, one in which I wholeheartedly agree. The book subscribes to the theory that eunuch participation on the political decision is not only part and parcel of the Ming political system but also an indispensable one. The palace eunuchs as portrayed in the book are the representatives of the Ming emperors and their participation in the political process is clearly an extension of the absolute power of the Ming emperors in the matters of the state. I believe such point of view fits better with the historical reality especially since it conforms to the traditional “inner court – outer court” power struggle pattern of politics in Imperial Chinese. As such, I strongly recommend the book as a must read for anyone who is interested in the study of the political history of the Ming dynasty that is assuming you could read Simplified Chinese.
兩漢縣行政研究 作者 邹水傑ISBN 754385404X Rating: 3/4
A Study of the Xian (County) Administration during the Han Dynasty by Bao Sui Jie ISBN 754385404X
This book is all about an analysis of the xian or county administration during the Han dynasty period in Chinese history. The book utilizes the latest archaeological findings in developing brilliant insights into the mystery of xian administrative practice during that era. Also, because xian administration is the most basic level of government during the Chinese imperial era, it is the institution that had the most dealings with the societal forces at that time. As such, the book also indirectly touches on the societal development as well as the social reality during the Qin, Han, Three Kingdom, and early Jin dynasty period. Personally, I think this book is a big help for those serious academic study on the societal development in Ancient China. Again, assuming of course, you can read Simplified Chinese.
赫遜河畔談中國歷史 作者 黃仁宇ISBN 9571300462 Rating: 4/4
Conversation on Chinese History by the Hudson River, authored by Ray Huang ISBN 9571300462
首先我要說,黃仁宇是我最尊重,最喜愛的歷史學家。我總覺得他的大歷史觀是一個卓越的歷史解讀方法。他從上層政治勢力與下層社會力量的各自演變,發展以至後來的沖動,對抗再者往後的容和連接來解釋中國歷史的演變。這就是大歷史觀。在我的看法,黃老師寫這本書的最大目的就是要探討為什麽資本主義社會(Capitalist Society)不能在中國誕生或者落地生根。早在一千多年前,中國社會已經進入了前工業化時代(pre – industrial society)。 然而,在條件俱備,臨門欠一踢的情況下,中國古代卻未能引發工業革命(Industrial Revolution)。也由於此,中國社會政治制度未能徹低的改造。此書從頭到尾,一直牽引讀者去縱橫一千年中國歷史至到元初。目的就是讓讀者親自了解中國滯留原因。黃老師把這本書寫到元世祖時代而只字不提元,明,清往後的歷史是因爲過了元世祖,中國已喪失了工業化的機遇條件至到二十世紀。他在寫這本書的最後結論是在研究理學。雖然他沒有直接指責理學為中國落後的原因。然而很明顯,他是持有這樣的結輪。
First of all, I like to say that Dr Ray Huang is one of my favorite historian. To me, his thesis on Macro – history is such a brilliant concept of historical analysis. Using the development and growth, the conflict, and the eventual merging and harmonization between upper echelon political forces and the lower strata societal forces, Dr Huang has masterfully recasts our understanding of Chinese history with his Macro – history analysis. In this seminal book of his, Dr Huang attempts to discover the underlying reason as to why Capitalism as socio – political system didn’t take root in China before the 20th century. According to his theory, a thousand years ago, China is on the verge of an Industrial Revolution (approximately 500 years before the West). It’s society has already exhibit properties of a pre – industrial society. Yet, the Industrial Revolution failed to ignite at that time despite the conducive environment at that period. As a result, Chinese socio – political system failed to transform leading to stagnation which eventually allows the West to overtake it in the 19th century. In this book, Dr Huang manages to take the reader on a roaming journey over a thousand years of Chinese history allowing readers to personally “understand” as to the reason behind China’s eventual stagnation. It’s a lucid read. The book ends in the era of Kublai Khan, the first Mongol Emperor of Yuan China. It didn’t tackle further the latter history of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The reason behind this treatment is that to him, after Kublai Khan, China has already lost its golden opportunity to industrialize. By then, it has lost all it’s pre – requisite advantage to jumpstart an Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, Dr Huang in his concluding chapter wrote about Neo – Confucianism. Although he didn’t directly pin the blame on China’s eventual stagnation to Neo – Confucianism, it is quite clear in his writing that he does harbor such conclusions. By the way, the book is written in Traditional Chinese. And though Dr Huang is fluent in English and has studied in an American University, there is to my knowledge no English version of the book available.
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein Rating: 4/4
The book despite it’s “eye catching” title isn’t about religion or faith but rather is a book on the “history” of the development of risk management. It began with the telling of the invention of mathematics, then shifted to the discovery of probabilities and statistics, then to the conceptualization of the idea of risk, and finally to the modern development of risk management. The process by which Peter Bernstein tells the history of risk management is through the introductions of the key concepts in risk management (such as probability theory, normal distribution, variance etc) by way of meeting the personalities behind the “creation” of such concepts. In this sense, the book feels like an amalgam of biographies of “eccentric” but otherwise pretty interesting mathematicians. Though the book is about mathematics, surprisingly, the book seldom talks about numbers. Instead, the book delves almost exclusively on the theoretical concepts. In fact, the discussions on the theoretical concepts usually turned profoundly philosophical in nature. Because of that, I find the book not only interesting to read but enlightening as well.
Acknowledgement: I like to thank for my old pal, Jerry for proof reading my reviews in Chinese. Thanks, pare!

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