Thursday, July 01, 2010

Drive and Kite Runner

I was going to pack up the kids and go to the farmers' market in Tacoma today, but alas, the day semi-dawned crappy and we're staying home.

Just three posts in and I'm already running out of steam on this book thing, because I don't really want to write comprehensive reviews, I just want to like-it-or-not-and-why and get back in the habit of posting things every now and again. But halfway through this week I've finished a couple of books already so I thought I'd better buck up and post about them.

So...Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink is a work of non-fiction. I try to throw a few non-fiction books into the mix from time to time, even though I'm usually less than enthusiastic about them. The premise of the book is that reward/penalty systems don't work; that they, in fact, screw everything up. This is supposedly a whole new approach to motivating people, but it's essentially something any parent could have told you - if you pay a kid for something once, they will expect to be paid from there on out. The book gives a shout-out to the interest-based way we school, but is primarily about motivating employees with a little bit of aside for self-motivation and kid-motivation. There are echoes of Alfie Kohn, the hero of wussy parents everywhere, for whom I harbor an irrational hatred mainly because his ideas make no practical sense. Drive spends all of 6 pages talking about how to avoid extinguishing kids' love of all things new and learn-y and yet manages to impart more actual attainable advice than Kohn puts out in several hundred pages of "whaaaa my parents sucked *hurt hurt*". People are born loving to learn for no other reason than that it is satisfying to learn. The really interesting thing about this book is how much research went behind proving that we don't stop loving to learn, we just get fucked up by the way parenting and schooling typically work. The other great thing about this book is that the author doesn't go as far as Kohn goes; he says that when something is boring and can't be made more interesting, it is appropriate to have a reward/punishment system. This TOTALLY makes sense to me, and it takes parents off of Kohn's overly permissive wishy-washy never-tell-your-kids-what-to-do (entirely impractical) hook. I got pretty caught up in how this book applies to parenting and schooling, but that wasn't the main focus of the book. Overall impression: if you manage people, even little obnoxious underaged ones, you should probably read this book.

Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini has been sitting on my bookshelf for at least three years. I don't really like reading deep real-life personal-memoir books, because my deep personal real life has enough deep personal thoughts already. About 80% of my reading is escapism and the other 20% is practical application. I can see how this is a good book and why this book had such a following when it was first written. The writing was good, the story felt very real, and I really have nothing negative to say about it except that I wasn't really excited about it. I much prefer A Thousand Splendid Suns, by the same author, because I connected better with that book. Overall impression: worth reading but not on the top of my list.

This week we did lots of things other than reading, so I'll have to post again.

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