Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The 7-day Christian

A simple but inspiring read, I was very pleased with The 7-day Christian by Brad Wilcox. The title of this book refers to the idea that Christians need to be consistent, living their beliefs seven days a week. Scattered throughout the book are stories of various Christians who emulate the examples that Wilcox is trying to teach. This plants the idea that if all Christians really lived up to their beliefs, and did so consistently every day of the week, we could really change the world for the better.

Perhaps my favorite chapter of the entire book is the chapter entitled, "Seven Days of Re-Creation." In this chapter, the author talks about what happened during each of the Creation, and how the same events need to happen in our own lives as we become changed through Christ. To make his point, the author also uses the example of getting in shape and training for a half marathon. Using these two examples help make his point quite clearly.

Another neat thing about this book is the fact that it is written by a Latter-day Saint, but everything in the book is generic and applies to any Christian, no matter what denomination they belong to. Any person who considers him or herself a Christian would benefit by this book. This book talks about how we can and should be changed by Christ, and how we should then use that influence to change the world. Truly, the world is in desperate need for 7-day Christians who are willing to stand together for the cause of Christ and His teachings.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dream It, Do It

Last Christmas I received a copy of Dream It, Do It: My Half-Century of Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms by Marty Sklar. I loved reading this book! Not only did it give me some neat insights into the world of Disney Imagineering, but it also gave me insider information about the Disney company, and great management principles as well.

Marty Sklar was the last person to retire from Disney that was involved with the opening of all 11 current Disney parks. He is also the person who wrote the official statement regarding Walt's death (an assignment he still feels bitter towards to this day). He eventually progressed to become the head of Disney Imagineering. His biggest focus was to continue to do things the way Walt would have done them, especially with regards to the Florida Project (Walt Disney World). He describes in candid detail the challenge of building the various Disney parks, especially those outside of the country. I really loved his few descriptions of how some rides came to be, such as Space Mountain (sorry, you'll have to read the book to get that story).

It was also interesting to read his opinion of various leaders of the Disney company, and also to get a glimpse of the politics that were played. Many leaders had self-serving agendas that made certain areas in the company suffer. I was really interested in his perspective of Michael Eisner and his strengths and flaws. A lot of stuff I had already heard, but reading everything from someone who was actually there gave me new insights to the whole situation and what led to various ups and downs in the Disney company.

I was not expecting to learn so much about how to be a good manager by reading this book. In all honesty, I want to go back through and read it again from this perspective, because I am sure there is much that I missed. But here are a few things the author discusses that I really liked:

When all is said and done, there is only one name on the door--Walt Disney's (Pushing for personal glory will get you nowhere because everything you do is to promote someone else)

What is normal and mundane for you may be the first and only experience for a guest, so make it a good one!

Giving bare minimum performance to save a buck now, may end up costing you a lot more in the future.

A leader's job is to be responsive and make decisions.

 Empower your employees; make sure your voice is not the only one you're listening to.

Be passionate about whatever you do.

Never rest on your laurels.

I know there is more, but like I said, I'll need to go back and re-read the book. I'm grateful that Marty Sklar decided to write this book and share his wisdom. It was fun to read about Disney, but also neat to see good manager skills put into practice.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations Facsimile Edition

Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations Facsimile Edition was the second book published in the Joseph Smith Papers project. I have it sitting on my shelf for a few years now, but I finally met the daunting task of reading it. There is not a lot of new material in this book as far as printed word goes; most of the revelations included in this book are also found in the Doctrine and Covenants. What makes this book so unique is that every single page of the original revelation books has been photocopied and a color reproduction has been included in this volume of the Joseph Smith Papers series (hence the term "Facsimile Edition).

This book gives a glimpse into the recording and printing process for many of Joseph Smith's revelations. Although the revelation books from which this volume draws its information were most likely not the original copies of the dictated revelations, a lot can still be gleaned from their pages. The editors were able to identify most of the scribes who made changes/corrections to the manuscripts which gives insight into writing style and also the preparation they underwent to have these revelations published.

I was very impressed with the pain-staking work the editors have gone through to decipher writing that seems entirely illegible. To do this, they not only used special equipment and lighting with the original documents, but they also studied individual writing styles. I can't imagine how many years it must have taken to complete this one volume alone. It really gave me a lot of appreciation, respect, and trust for the work of these scholars. Because of their diligent work, the editors are able to transport me back to the 1800's and gain a new glimpse into the world of Joseph Smith and the revelations he received, dictated, and eventually had published. I am eager to continue reading more books in this project.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Shadow Throne

I was very sad that this series had to end. The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen concludes The Ascendancy Trilogy, and it is a fantastic conclusion. This book had everything I love about Jaron's character, but also made him very real. Jaron always seems to have a plan and tends to outsmart everyone. However, in this book there comes a point where he seems to be completely broken with no more plans up his sleeve. At first this discouraged me, but I quickly appreciated the realism portrayed in this book, and then I was completely satisfied when Jaron begins making his plans again.

I was talking to one of my friends about this series and how we both found it fantastic. He commented that he thinks it's the best fantasy series since Wheel of Time. The author deserves this praise. I would recommend The Ascendancy Trilogy to anyone.


One thing that often bothers me with great stories is how nobody important ever dies, and if they do, it is highly unsatisfying to the reader. It is a paradox. I want the story to be realistic, but I also don't want to lose any characters I love. I thought Nielsen did an incredible job with meeting both needs for me. Several main characters "die" in this book. As a reader, I went through all the emotions of losing a beloved character, and it really helped me connect more with the main character. But then, against all odds, the author is able to save these beloved characters. I love the way it was handled.

These books come highly recommended. Thank you, Jennifer, for providing such fantastic books to read!