Category Archives: Non-fiction

Walking the Talk

I’ve finally managed to read the book! Walking the Talk is a “how to” book, a methodology on managing large cultural change programs within an organisation. Culture change is usually seen as something fuzzy, something that can not be changed or embraced in the same way other enablers of a successful organisation can. But the same successful organisations have all been able to create a strong culture within their business. This book shows how to address culture and make it a key success factor of your business. It goes hand in hand with the “Walking the Talk” service offering (which my company offers) but can be used independently. It is full of practical advice, real-life examples, and tools to manage small and large culture change. I highly recommend it to HR and change management practitioners all over the world. The culture change reference manual.

In this video, the author, Carolyn Taylor, introduces her book:

Leave a comment

Filed under Author interview, Books, Non-fiction, Reading

The Tiger, by John Vaillant

The Tiger, by John Vaillant had been on my list of books to read for a while, but because of travel and work, I hadn’t got to it yet. I have now read it. It didn’t take me very long, which is a good sign. This is non-fiction, but Vaillant is fairly good at creating an interesting narrative out of a true story. In Far East Russia, an Amur (Siberian) tiger has been shot at and wounded by a logger and poacher. The tiger stalks him, kills him and eats him. This sends the Primorye region into turmoil, because in spite of the bitter cold, its inhabitants have to go into the Taiga to make a living. There are a number of tigers living there, but they normally don’t attack people. This tiger, however, proved it can be different. Because he was wounded (and indeed many times) he found it hard to hunt, and was starving as a result. After killing and eating his first man, he turned to others and killed a second person from the same village as the first one. This is not new – many similar stories have happened and still happen in India. A search mission was instigated, and the tiger killed. This is all that happens in the book (and not just quite enough for my liking), but Vaillant excels at describing the region, its people, and their drastic living conditions. He also distils very interesting information about Amur tigers, which is why I found the book fascinating. Having said that, after reading the story you don’t really want to go there – if you forget about the beauty of the Taiga, the living conditions and the poverty of the people are just staggering. I have always been fascinated by this part of the world and this is one of the reasons why I picked up this book. I’m less sure now, but come to think of it, I’d still go at the drop of a hat. I know the other side of the border, Chinese Manchuria, and as too often happens in China, not much of the original natural environment remains (and forget about tigers or any kind of animal!). Russia is a different story. Vaillant’s descriptions of the living conditions and unemployment remind me of a few stays I had to make in Moscow in the years 1989-1990. These were tough times, and I do not have great memories of the place. I just couldn’t find anything decent to eat or drink. Quite an experience, but not one I was looking forward to at the time. I understand things are different today. If you are interested in discovering Far East Russia (North West of Vladivostok) and want to know more about the fascinating Amur tiger, then this book is for you. Amur tigers (like most tigers) are heavily poached and their numbers are ever decreasing – this is partly due to the interest and beliefs of the Chinese in regard to the potency of Tiger organs, meat, paws, claws etc. They are ready to pay a fortune for them. This is bad news for the tiger, just as shark fin soup is bad news for sharks. I won’t delve more into the lack of environment protection in China – we’re all aware of it – but as far as tigers are concerned, The Tiger is a great book.

Here’s a link where Vaillant talks about his book:

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, China, Non-fiction

Chinese Characters, by Han Jiantang

I was a little disappointed with “Chinese Characters”, a book by Han Jiantang, who is Professor of Chinese at Tianjin Normal University. The book is full of information about Chinese characters, but unfortunately, it is a little hard to digest at times. The presentation and structure of the text could be improved and the English translation is not always the best. It’s a shame because I was really looking forward to reading it. Having said that, if you don’t mind spending a bit of time searching for what you are looking for, the book is full of interesting information.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, China, Language, Non-fiction

The Girl in the Picture, by Denise Chong

The Girl in the Picture tells the true story of Kim Phuc, the nine year old Vietnamese girl who runs naked on a road after a Napalm attack on her village during the Vietnam War. This photo, taken by Nick Ut, is probably the most famous photo of the Vietnam War, one that had a great influence in making the public aware of the atrocities of the war, and in helping – in some way – to end it. This is a fascinating story, very sad at times, scary, depressing but also full of hope. Denise Chong has done a lot of research and she starts her book with a detailed story of the life of Kim’s family before the event. This in itself is very interesting and you learn a lot about the way of life of Vietnamese people in the country. Kim’s life will be changed by the attack forever: she will suffer from deep burns all over her body but will miraculously recover; she will be used against her will by the Vietnamese Government as propaganda material; she will travel a lot, ending up studying  in Cuba for several years before taking refuge in Canada where she currently resides; she now works as ambassador for peace at UNESCO. You will be touched by her story, but also by the plight of the Vietnamese people. Chong does a good job with detailed descriptions, clear explanations, and well-researched facts, making this book a very interesting read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Non-fiction, Reading

Casey Calouette: “The Little Black Gas Book”

Hello Casey, could you please describe yourself in five words?

Fragmented engineer with a cause.

What can you tell us about The Little Black Gas Book”?

Back in 2008 during the height of the financial crisis I was working on ways that I could try to save a few bucks on gas, which was becoming increasingly expensive. What I found online was a wealth of knowledge, though fragmented, so I began to compile it and review it with an engineers eye and found a good deal of it to be nonsense, junk, lies, and outright fraud.

As my list grew I thought other people could get some use, and hopefully enjoyment out of it. It began as something to point out what worked to save you money on gas but turned into a bit of economic theory on the pricing of gas, what does work and to what extent and my favorite chapter on what doesn’t work. It was really entertaining to see the junk science that some people tried to sell others with no regard for the science.

The key idea at the center of the book is to know how much gas you are using. If you become aware of your usage you will reduce it. A medical study was done on weight loss and proved that if you tracked your caloric intake you ate less food, so why couldn’t that hold true for fuel usage? I tested it myself and was quite stunned at how much gas I used, and I thought I was careful!

Later in the book I got into the alternative fuels and where they stand today along with potential fuels for the future. There is some really exciting technologies at work right now and it’s going to be interesting to see which technologies end up lasting and which go away. 

Who’s your favourite author?

Matt Taibbi has been getting a lot of my reading time lately. He tells it like it us and isn’t afraid to pull any punches. For someone who covers Political stories he is refreshingly honest, not taking a side but pointing out stupidity, fraud, and lies. It’s nice to get someone to tell it to you straight these days.

Do you have tips for budding writers?

Write, read and know your subject. If you don’t write none of the other points matter. If you don’t read you won’t learn from others. There are tricks in prose and style that you become aware of once you start writing that you don’t notice as a reader. Knowing your subject guarantees you won’t sound like a fraud. Try to BS your way through a story and the reader will know.

Also know your style, if you sound too strange you become an oddity but if you sound like everyone else you become a commodity. Striking that balance is what makes for a fresh, unique story. 

What are you working on now?

A collection of outdoor short stories based on fly fishing, kayaking and the outdoors. After technology my love is for the outdoors so I’ve decided to spend some time writing fiction in that genre. I also found that nonfiction doesn’t generate the buzz or readability that fiction does so I’m going to step out of my Engineer writing shoes and putting my fishing waders on for some inspiration. 

Where can we find you online?

My primary haunt is at 

Leave a comment

Filed under Author interview, Books, Non-fiction, writing

Yvonne Joye: “Ten Fingers and Ten Toes”

Hello Yvonne, could you please describe yourself in five words?

Wife, mother, writer, grateful, optimistic, laughter

What can you tell us about “Ten Fingers and Ten Toes”?

Ten Fingers and Ten Toes is a true story and though it is my own personal story, it is a story that belongs to so many. It is a snapshot of 13 months when our lives unravel culminating in the death of our fourth child and third son, Matthew. However, it is a story as much about life as it is about loss and tells of the strains and humour of trying to have it all in Celtic Tiger Ireland, trying to be the uberparent and the perfect wife. This is not a book about how to deal with the loss of a child but rather a narration of a time when we did! It is a short book with most people reading it in one sitting!

Who’s your favourite author?
Very very difficult to answer that, as difficult as whats my favourite book… All depends on what I need, where I am and how I am feeling.

Do you have tips for budding writers?
Just sit down and start. The writing will come.

What are you working on now?

Another book, another snapshot of life and another story that belongs to so many.

Where can we find you online?

Read the first chapter of Ten Fingers and Ten Toes and why I wrote the book here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author interview, Books, Non-fiction, writing

Paul Garrigan: “Dead Drunk”

Hi Paul, could you please describe yourself in five words?

A believer in second chances

What can you tell us about “Dead Drunk”?

Dead Drunk documents a journey that led  me to a Thai temple where I defeated my alcohol addiction. I describe growing up in Dublin and the reasons I found drink so appealing in the first place. In the beginning alcohol worked well for me; it helped me cope with teenage problems and gave me confidence. It wasn’t long though before I started getting into trouble because of my fondness for drunkenness.

For two decades my life was a complete mess as I moved from one disaster to another. At age twenty I entered my first treatment centre; five years later I ended up homeless in London and begging for money to buy booze. I later moved to Saudi Arabia because I heard that alcohol was illegal there, but this turned out to be a huge mistake. I eventually ended up living in a Thai village and this is where I lost all hope. I was drinking myself to death until I came across information about a Buddhist temple that treated addiction.

Thamkrabok temple is considered to be the toughest treatment facility in the world. It tends to attract the hopeless cases that have failed every other type of addiction treatment. The novel program, involves daily vomiting sessions mixed with periods of meditation. In Dead Drunk I discuss my experiences at the temple and the interesting people I met during my stay.

There are lots of books that describe the fall into addiction and all the bad things that can happen when we lose control. In this book I’ve been completely open about my past in Dead Drunk but I don’t do this for mere titillation of the reader. This is a story about second chances and how we can all make a comeback no matter how far we have fallen in life. People can change and my story is proof of this.

Who’s your favourite author?

It is difficult to say; it depends on my mood. If I had to say then I suppose I enjoy writers like Irvine Welsh and Rodney Doyle. I would probably tell you two different writers if you asked me next week.

Do you have tips for budding writers?

 I’d say that it is much better to write than to talk about writing. I no longer see it as anything too special, and I don’t take myself too seriously. I’ve worked full time as a writer for the last 2 years and it is much like other jobs. The more you write the better you get at it; if you have a bit of talent then so much the better. My advice to anyone who wants to make a living as a writer is to never pay money to have your work published by someone else– ever.

What are you working on now?

I’ve signed a contract with my publisher to write a new book for 2012. This is going to be about my experiences fighting Muay Thai – the toughest martial art in the world. It will be a real challenge to step into the ring at my age. I’m hoping that it will be an interesting book that will inspire other people to live their dreams.

Where can we find you online?

You can find out more about Dead Drunk here

You can follow my exploits in Muay Thai here


Filed under Author interview, Books, Non-fiction, Reading, writing