Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I've Been Reading: November

Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West—One Meal at a Time by Stephen Fried

I mentioned last month that I had been reading Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West—One Meal at a Time, which I picked up when we were at the Grand Canyon in August.  I enjoyed the book, although I will say it's not for everyone.  At times I had to force myself to keep reading, but it was worth it.

The book covers the history of the Fred Harvey Company, one of the earliest examples of a company starting small and expanding into a large, country-wide and multi-faceted organization.

All of that was interesting enough, but Stephen Fried went further than just recounting the company's history by integrating how the United States was developing as well.  For instance, Fried claims that the railroads were the driving force behind creating time zones.  If this is true, it was really interesting to learn who had the power in this country around the turn of the century.

The Fred Harvey Company story is also a good study of business strategy and customer service.  I wonder if MBA students are aware of this book.  They should read it!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

In September I reminded everyone to read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close before the movie comes out in January.  It's been a few years since I read it, so as soon as I finished Appetite For America, I cracked open Extremely Loud, and a few days later I was finished.  It's seriously a really quick read.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells the story of a boy living in NYC and his life following his father's death on September 11th.  He ends up going on an adventure of sorts, but that's all I'll tell you.  I don't want to give anything away!

Extremely Loud is one of my favorite books.  It's written through a few points of view and it jumps back and forth through time depending on who is narrating.  I will warn you though: it's emotional and you will most likely cry.  Keep your tissues close.

How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein

Before we left for our Great Western Adventure, Nick and I discovered the TV show adaptation of How the States Got Their Shapes. It is hosted by Brian Unger and it is super entertaining. We loved it!  For my birthday, Nick got me the book and I didn't get around to reading it until now. I didn't get very far though because it was boring and nothing at all like the show. How is it a New York Times Bestseller?

My issue with it is that it's written so matter of factly. This group and this group both owned land and the settlement made the state line here. That's how the entire first five states' chapters were written! The fun tidbits and interesting storytelling that was in the TV show were sadly not present in the writing. Perhaps I gave up too early, but one day's worth of train reading was all I could handle.  Has anyone read this book and enjoyed it?


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