Executive Times

Volume 5, Issue 12

December, 2003


ă 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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Thanks to revenue from Executive Times subscriptions, buyers of books through our amazon.com links, and clients of Hopkins & Company, we’ve continued our annual practice of making a donation to a not-for-profit organization as a special holiday thanks to our clients and friends. This year’s donation was 33% higher than last year’s, and was made to the House of the Good Shepherd, a program that helps women and children break the cycle of domestic violence through participation in an intensive three-month residential program. If you’d like to join us in supporting this fine organization, we’ve enclosed an envelope for that purpose, or you can send your contribution to:


House of the Good Shepherd

P.O. Box 13453

Chicago, IL 60613


You can also check out this organization on www.guidestar.org, under “Sisters of the Good Shepherd-Chicago.” Guidestar is a national database of nonprofit organizations. The December 1 issue of Business Week lists America’s top 100 philanthropists, as well as a new ranking of corporate donors. You can view the cover story at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/toc/03_48/B38600348giving.htm.


This month we present our annual book issue, which many readers use to purchase holiday gifts through our online links to amazon.com. (Another gift idea is a subscription to Executive Times.) Fifteen new books are rated in this issue. We read, reviewed and listed a total of 180 books in Executive Times during 2003. We recap in this issue the best and worst books we read this year. We also include a section listing some of the books we look forward to reading in 2004.


This is also the time of year when we update our Shelf of Reproach: the books we feel a little guilty for not reading. A new addition for 2003 has been the Shelf of Ennui: those books we touched, but never finished for various reasons and feel the slightest bit guilty for taking a pass.


For space reasons, pictures of book jackets are eliminated from the print version of Executive Times. To follow all links, and see the version with jacket pictures, visit the web version located at: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/archive/archive1203.htm.

You can also visit our 2003 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 2003 book reviews. Happy Holidays!


Latest Books Read and Reviewed

Review Link



Review Summary


Every Second Counts

Armstrong, Lance

Discomfort. How do you spend your time? Tour de France champion and cancer survivor provides dozens of stories that reinforce the reality that every second brings us closer to or further away from our goals.

It Was Today

Codrescu, Andrei

Dreams. Poets use words and images to show us who we are and where we are heading. This collection does that well, whether we like the images or not.

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home

Colt, George Howe

Twits. Fine writing about a Boston Brahmin family’s 100-year attachment to a Cape Cod summer home that they almost sell outside the family because of neglect and cluelessness.

I Am What I Ate … and I’m Frightened!! : And Other Digressions from the Doctor of Comedy

Cosby, Bill

Yummy. Savor a funny exploration of the joys and sorrows of eating, especially everything that’s not good for you. Readers can almost hear Cosby’s voice and pacing of the text.

Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America

Culinary Institute of America

Bland. Interesting photos and clear descriptions of basic cooking methods that may be helpful for kitchen novices. Boring recipes lead readers to want to eat out.

A Travel Guide to Heaven

DeStefano, Anthony

Cute. Upbeat and comforting view of life in heaven, especially for those who have recently lost loved ones. Even included our image: “,,, reading a really good book by the fireside with a hot cup of tea nearby…”


Dexter, Pete

Raw. Superb writing about dimensions of pain and the struggles of relationships. Spare writing style keeps readers happily glued to every page.


Grisham, John

Heroes. Success at high school football isn’t what life is all about. The players and coaches who achieve that success don’t merit hero status. If for some reason you’re interested in that or if you like Grisham’s writing, this book’s for you.

Our Lady of the Forest

Guterson, David

Dense. Lazy writer overplays guilt and scene, but fails to get enough details right to allow a willing suspension of disbelief.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Larson, Erik

Monumental. Brings alive the creation of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (the White City) by the architects who made it happen, and unravels how a grizzly serial killer (The Devil) preyed on vulnerable fairgoers.

Stone Cold

Parker, Robert B.

Serial. Fourth installment in Jesse Stone mysteries brings serial killers to Paradise, and allows Stone to match wits with smart criminals. Great dialogue, as usual.

Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11

Posner, Gerald, L.

Infighting. Exploration of twenty years of fumbled investigations and misplaced priorities leads to one conclusion: 9/11 did not need to happen.

A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America

Steinfels, Peter

Turbulence. A readable and insightful exploration of recent decades of change for the Catholic Church, the impact of the sexual abuse scandals, and what’s likely to happen next.

Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty

Turow, Scott

Evolution. Novelist and lawyer shares his real life struggle over his position on the death penalty. Read and watch your thinking evolve with his.

Heavenly Days

Wilcox, James

Charm. Life in Tula Springs presents encounters with real characters and some prolonged chuckling at their relationship foibles. Some serious brushes with racial and religious tolerance.


Best Books of 2003

Review Link




Review Summary


Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value

George, Bill

Oct 03

Journey. Outstanding book by former Medtronic CEO, who “gets it.” There are five dimensions to being an authentic leader: understanding why you want to lead, practicing solid values, leading with a heart, establishing connected relationships, and showing self-discipline. Read this book now.

Oryx and Crake

Atwood, Margaret

June 03

Tomorrow. Finely crafted novel of what our world could become as we experience the missteps of genetic experiments, corporate imperialism, the values of games and media, and the ability of one person to make all the difference.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bryson, Bill

Aug 03

Connections. Bryson’s wit and basic questions grabs our attention and holds it as the answers lead to more questions about astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology, and physics.

Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman

Buchan, Elizabeth

Apr 03

Sweet. Rose’s assistant takes her husband and her job in the same week. Through Buchan’s wit, grace, charm, poignancy, and very fine writing, readers enjoy Rose’s gradual transformation through the stages of grief and into a new life.

The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: The Guide for Achieving Success and Satisfaction

Citrin, James M.

Oct 03

Provocative. No matter what degree of success or satisfaction you’ve achieved in your career, you’ll find something to think about when you read this insightful book based on analysis of successful executives.


Dexter, Pete

Dec 03

Raw. Superb writing about dimensions of pain and the struggles of relationships. Spare writing style keeps readers happily glued to every page.

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround

Gerstner, Louis V.

May 03

Fandango. Former head of IBM discloses why he took the job, how key decisions were made, and what it took to transform the organization. Well written, insightful, with some “aha” moments for long-time IBM watchers.

Liars and Saints

Meloy, Maile

July 03

Family Ties and Lies. Rare for a debut novel to win four-stars. This tale of four generations and the lies that unite them should win awards. Meloy’s writing soars, and we come to know her characters for all their human qualities and frailties.

Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life

Noor, Queen

Aug 03

Personal. If there’s only one memoir you read this year, make it this one. Noor describes her relationship with King Hussein, family life, and politics with an articulate voice helping you learn more than you may expect about the Middle East and about personal, loving relationships.

Good Faith

Smiley, Jane

June 03

Real Estate. Smiley immerses readers into the real estate boom of the 1980s and the S&L debacle through a tale of the faith we place in others and where than can lead us.

Reversible Errors

Turow, Scott

Jan 03

Paradise Lost and Regained. Turow’s best novel yet tackles death penalty errors, love, loss, human nature and redemption. Lawyers, judges, criminals, and other readers will love this book.


Watson, Larry

Oct 03

Artistic Vision. Must one understand an enigma in order to portray it to others? Well-crafted novel presents complicated relationship between artist and model, and their respective spouses. Intimacy and alienation co-exist.


Worst Books of 2003

Review Link




Review Summary


Ready For Anything

Allen, David


Nov 03

Oz. Wizard of productivity takes readers behind the curtain where they find: not much. 160 pages of recycled, repetitive, rambling drivel. Take a pass and do something productive instead.

Golf for Enlightenment

Chopra, Deepak


June 03

Lights Out. Our first exposure to a Chopra book left us wondering what others find good about his writing. Take a pass, or just play through.

Leading Geeks

Glen, Paul


Apr 03

All Geek to Him. Geeks aren’t as different from the rest of us as Glen proposes. There may be worse books on the business shelves this season, but we haven’t read them (yet).

Looking Ahead to Books for 2004

Amazon.com Link




The Hornet’s Nest

Carter, Jimmy

Will a Revolutionary War novel by a former U.S. President be entertaining?

The Innovator’s Solution

Christensen, Clayton M.

Author of The Innovator’s Dilemma presents the sequel.

The Boy’s Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe 1944-1945

Fussell, Paul

Is it time for a fresh World War II book?

A Look Over My Shoulder

Helms, Richard

Inside view of the Central Intelligence Agency from late former director.

The Complete Far Side 1980-1994

Larson, Gary

For those of us who miss the master cartoonist, here’s the first complete collection to savor.

Remembering Jack: Intimate and Unseen Photographs of the Kennedys

Lowe, Jacques

Many negatives of master photographer were destroyed on 9/11. This collection survived.


Paolini, Christopher

Teenage novelist’s debut sounds promising.


Peters, Tom

Are we ready for more shouting from Tom Peters?

Dealing with An Uncertain World

Rubin, Robert E.

Will the former Treasury Secretary tell all?

There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere: the AOL Time Warner Debacle

Swisher, Kara

The story of how a company without assets acquired a company without a clue.

The Shelf of Reproach 2003 Lowlights

Amazon.com Link




A Whistling Woman

Byatt, A.S.

Last of a tetralogy, we kept procrastinating about whether to start here or read the three earlier ones. Memories of Possession kept up the attraction, but didn’t lead to reading this one.

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963

Dallek, Robert

40th anniversary of JFK’s death would have been a good time to read this new biography. Instead, we let it gather dust, unopened.

The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage

Elie, Paul

Does not reading this book make me not want to save my life? Somehow the prospect of reading about Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor left us a little bit intimidated about the prospect of how our lives measure up to theirs.

The Hedgehog, the Fox and the Magister’s Pox: Mending the Gap Between Science and the Humanities

Gould, Stephen Jay

We’ve liked reading books by the late author, but we’ve walked by and around this one for months, feeling a little guilty at the avoidance. Maybe we don’t really care about the gap (but should we?).

American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center

Langewiesche, William

Read parts of this in The Atlantic, then picked up the book, but never slugged through this story of 9/11.

Tearing Down the Walls: How Sandy Weill Fought His Way to the Top of the Financial World … and Then Nearly Lost it All

Langley, Monica

Despite admiring Sandy, and being interested in reading this book, never quite gor around to it in 2003.

Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas America’s Most Controversial Supreme Court Justice

Murphy, Bruce Allen

The recollection of reading Douglas’ autobiography, Go East Young Man, over thirty years ago, led me to stop reading this new bio on page 12, when I realized that Douglas told tall tales.

Being America: Liberty, Commerce and Violence in an American World

Purdy, Jedediah

Enjoyment of earlier book, For Common Things, allowed the passage of 246 pages into this book, when we exercised liberty, and skipped the remaining hundred pages.

DNA: The Secret of Life

Watson, James D.

Readable and interesting presentation of the genetic revolution from Nobel winner on 50th anniversary of double helix discovery but dropped off at page 87 out of 450.

 The Shelf of Ennui 2003 Highlights

Amazon.com Link




The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight

Ackmann, Martha

The story remains untold, as we stopped reading at page 51.

False Prophets: The Gurus Who Created Modern Management and Why Their Ideas Are Bad for Business Today

Hoopes, James

We loved the title and were interested in the debunking anticipated. Out of boredom, we dropped out on page 65.

Something for Nothing: Luck in America

Lears, Jackson

Got as far as page 25 and reached this decision: you have to care a whole lot about gambling to read this book.

Off With Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business

Morris, Dick

Loved the title, but never bothered cracking open the book. Who cares what Morris has to say?


Rush, Norman

The tea scene on pages 114-15 kept up interest and momentum, but not enough to avoid a dead stop on page 142.

Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

Theroux, Paul

Too gloomy to bother reading, despite some pleasure from earlier Theroux books.

John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy

Thomas, Evan

Read a few good reviews of this book, then let it drift away.

The Songs of the Kings

Unsworth, Barry

Despite some pleasure at earlier Unsworth novels, dropped this one at page 51.


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