published Friday, April 29th, 2011

Books are still the building blocks of culture


by Donnie Jenkins

Today I’d like to focus on the value I’ve received from a very old piece of technology: the printed page. We tend to forget how valuable books have been to those of us who read constantly. We are certainly moving into a digital age, so I’d like to pay tribute to a few that have been helpful to me.

  • “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow” by Marsha Sinetar. The title says it all. The author encourages readers to discover talents and tendencies that lead to employment as well as inner happiness and peace. I love her casual but very concise approach, and she makes the process very personal. Anyone who loves technology will relate easily to her approach, but the book is great for anyone pursuing any career.

  • “Empire of the Air” by Tom Lewis. It tells the stories of the three men most responsible for the development of radio and television. While this book is technically detailed, the author makes the tale personal and entertaining. Ken Burns developed a documentary based on the book. It can be found on Netflix and other online sources.

  • “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg” by Joseph Chilton Pearce. This book is one I read at least once or twice a year. What I like most about it is the way Pearce poses questions, not so much the answers he provides. I learned in studying technical engineering that a solution to a problem may often depend upon asking the right question in the first place.

  • “Conceptual Blockbusting” by James Adams. This book is a must read for problem-solvers of all kinds. The author draws on years of experience as an engineer to share several approaches, many of which will surprise you. If you’ve heard engineering is bland or cut and dried, reading this book will change your mind.

  • “Systemantics” by John Gall. This wonderful book takes a look at the strange behavior of systems of all kinds. If you wonder why governments, cable and phone companies and other large entities get it wrong, get this book. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

  • “Dolly” by Alanna Nash. This is a biography of Dolly Parton. I mention it here because the most forgotten aspect of technical achievement is the ability to visualize and dream the results you want to manifest. No less a scientific authority than Albert Einstein maintained that imagination is far more important than knowledge in science.

I like to say that Dolly Parton sprinkles fairy dust on everything she touches. Yes, she’s a dreamer but take a look at the accomplishments she has manifested. She would have been a great technician or engineer had she chosen to, for she concentrates on results.

  • “You Can Negotiate Anything” by Herb Cohen. This is a humorous and technical look at the art and science of negotiation. Cohen makes the point that we negotiate all the time in every relationship we have, so we might as well be good at it. I have found his teachings especially useful in negotiating contracts and agreements for tech work, as he emphasizes the win-win approach for both parties that I prefer.
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