The Everything Store -- Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone, Little Brown '13, $28, 372 pages, ASIN #0316219266. Index, notes, appendix, no bibliography, grouping of b&w and color glossy images.
Readers seen to have an unquenchable desire to learn how today's geniuses -- such wizards as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Zuckerberg -- earned their spurs. Rather than discovering a universal template for success, they find stories as varied as the subjects themselves.
In his new book, Internet journalist Brad Stone relates the saga of a boy named Tim, better known to general readers as Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who many know as the online bookseller. He'd earn a place in history if that were all, "But he stands out for his restless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in much the same way Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing -- with a ruthlessness that is matched by a commitment to delivering superior customer experience."
A decade or so ago, I was in attendance when Bezos received an honorary degree from the University of Hartford after delivering a spellbinding address. Displaying his little-boy side when university bigwigs hung a ribbon around his neck, Bezos began giggling like a kid on Christmas morning, saying, "This is just SO COOL!"
Particularly fascinating is Stone's probing into what makes the Seattle-based Amazon empire tick, with such traditions, described in his Prologue, as abandonment of PowerPoint decks or slide presentations in favor of six-page written narratives to unveil proposals (who says the written word is dead?).
Brad Stone has covered Amazon and technology in Silicon Valley for 15 years for such publications as Newsweek and the New York Times. He lives in San Francisco.
One Simple Idea -- How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life by Mitch Horowitz, Crown '14, $24, 338 pages, ASIN #0307986497. Index, note on sources, footnotes, unillustrated.
From the dust jacket:
"The power of positive thinking. It is a cultural axiom that has so deeply infiltrated the American consciousness -- from Oprah to The Secret to prosperity ministries -- that people rarely consider its foundations. One Simple Idea is the first definitive history of how this New Age tenet seeped into mass modern belief from an expert in the field -- Mitch Horowitz, publishing executive and noted spirituality historian.
"From Ronald Reagan's 'Nothing is impossible' to President Obama's 'Yes, we can,' political messaging taps into the pervasive idea that positive thought can break down barriers to success. Slogans such as the U.S. Army's 'Be all you can be' and Nike's 'Just do it' transform positive thinking into the cultural zeitgeist. Positive thought is at the root of studies on the placebo effect, the 12-step approach to overcoming addiction, and the mind-body connection in treating illness.
"For all its influence across popular culture, religion, politics, and medicine, this psycho-spiritual movement remains a maligned and misunderstood force in modern life. In response, One Simple Idea corrects several historical misconceptions about the positive-thinking movement, rescues its pioneers from obscurity, and explores the lives of its most dramatic personalities, including Napoleon Hill and Norman Vincent Peale."
Author Mitch Horowitz is vice president and editor in chikef at Tarcher/Penguin, the division of Penguin dedicated to metaphysical literature.
The Pagan Lord -- A Novel by Bernard Cornwell, Harper '14, $27.99, 299 pages, ASIN #0061969702.
Veteran novelist Bernard Cornwell has written more novels than nearly anyone writing today, including nearly two dozen books in a series he calls The Sharpe Novels. In his latest work, the writer The Wall Street Journal calls the most prolific and successful historical novelist in the world today "returns to his Saxon tales saga with the epic story of divided loyalties, bloody battles, and the struggle to unite Britain. In a brief Q&A with blogger Terri-Lea Laurie, Cornwell discusses the writing of his new book:
Q. When you sit down to write a book in the Warrior Chronicles, do you have to revisit any UK settings in the flesh? Do you need to stand beneath the walls of the real Bamburgh (or similarly sited structure) to reignite that drive Uhtred has to take back his ancestral right?
A. I certainly don't need to reignite Uhtred! He has enough drive already. I just let him out of his box. And yes, I do visit the places that feature heavily in the stories -- I do that for just about every book. I call it 'research,' but really it's a pleasure.
Q. Is there any particular story within the sagas and Norse culture that has been a source of inspiration or contemplation for you and if so, why?
A. The biggest influence is Old English poetry, of which we have a lot. Why? Because it's a glimpse into how they thought.
Author Bernard Cornwell is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers 1356 and Agincourt among many others. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, S.C.