Book reviews: Influence, Deadly Sunset, Ninja Apprentice

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I’ve had a chance to read more than a few books I’ve bought or received lately, and I owe those authors reviews, so let’s dig in. If it weren’t obvious, I’m stuffing this post with affiliate links to Amazon, too. Just so we understand each other.

Mark W. Schaefer’s Return on Influence

Book reviews: Influence, Deadly Sunset, Ninja Apprentice 1I enjoyed Mark’s book quite a bit as I think he did a great job of looking at influence overall. He did his homework for sure, interviewing dozens of people and getting different perspectives on what constitutes influence in the digital age. He also explores Klout and other influence scoring mechanisms and offers some solid basic advice on getting started. I would have liked for him to explore some of the stranger manifestations of influence, but that’s perhaps a good followup book. Overall? If you’re doing work in social media marketing or you care about influence, grab it.

Bonus item: when Mark interviewed me, I recommended picking up Robert Cialdini’s work on influence as well, from a psychology perspective.

Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff’s Fatal Sunset

Book reviews: Influence, Deadly Sunset, Ninja Apprentice 2If there was a book I’d nominate for productivity book of the year, this would be it. Give it to your employees and they’ll never, ever go on vacation again. Seriously. Fatal Sunsets is a collection of stories about mishaps, murder, and other incidents pulled straight from the headlines that makes you wonder why anyone travels without armed guards and body armor, from the disappearance of Natalee Holloway to unlucky vacationers getting sucked into a surf blowhole and shredded by volcanic rock. All that being said, Nemcoff also does a great job of explaining what should be common sense safety precautions to take when traveling so that you don’t end up vanishing mysteriously on a cruise ship (like don’t go getting dead drunk and hanging out by the railing alone) or incurring other holiday sorrows. Overall? I’d recommend grabbing it as long as you’re not prone to anxiety when traveling. If your personality is such that things like ghost stories and the news makes you anxious, perhaps avoid this one.

Jon F. Merz’s Ninja Apprentice

Book reviews: Influence, Deadly Sunset, Ninja Apprentice 3Ostensibly, this is a work for young adults, but for us regular ol’ adults, it’s also a terrific read and a race from start to finish. Jon Merz has taken his experiences in the martial art we both practice (he’s one of my teachers at the Boston Martial Arts Center) and turned them into a great young-adult read. I won’t give away any of the spoilers or the plot, but it’s a worthwhile adventure that I would have loved as a kid. For the parents who are content-aware, the book contains no sex but realistic and accurate violence (with appropriate consequences). It also contains accurate portrayals of several martial arts in it, notably Togakure Ryu ninjutsu, Kukishinden Ryu hanbojutsu, and their modern interpretations. Overall, if you’ve got a kid (or you are a kid inside) who loves an adventure read to far off lands, martial arts action, and other cultures, they’re going to love Ninja Apprentice.

Amusingly, Jon shopped this book around to a variety of publishers, all of whom said enlightened things such as “boys don’t read”. By the looks of the numbers for his book on Amazon, I’d say it seems like boys read plenty.

If you or your publisher have sent me books to review, they’re on my desk and I will get to them at some point. Pro tip: some publishers have started sending Kindle/eBook copies for review instead of dead tree editions. I can safely say that if you send a Kindle version for review, the chances of it getting reviewed in a timely manner are greatly increased, because I don’t have to lug the thing around.

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