Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Those are the THE FOUR examined by author Scott Galloway in his first book, out early October. Having listened to an advance review copy, I was astonished by some of the material not covered in earlier tech and marketing related books such as Future Shock, Rise of the Robots, Wonderland, and Brandwashed. Galloway is a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and has served on the boards of Eddie Bauer, The New York Times Company, Gateway Computer, and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where he teaches Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing. He is the founder of several firms including L2, Red Envelope, and Prophet. The takeaway quote from his new book: “It has never been easier to become a billionaire, and never harder to become a millionaire.” What he means is that domination in markets has become an endgame in which only those few giant corporations that utilize data mining and artificial intelligence can gobble market share, and end up controlling not only how people make their purchases, but what they are exposed to, and how they perceive the world (think.) This goes beyond what Wal Mart has done, in going to rural America with big box stores and putting mom and pop shops out of business by undercutting their prices. This is spying and influencing on a subliminal level, and then utilizing influencers in sports and entertainment and politics. Product placement is old news, as in the movie Mission to Mars when a Coke saves the crew by finding a leak in the hull. Today it is all about controlling the entire experience of living, making you rely on the brand to service your every need. Facebook can hear every sound in your room when you’re on their site. They may know more about you than you do. They cooperate with the FBI, and while this sounds like a good thing, they also sell your data to third parties, who may then be hacked. Amazon began with books, and now sells electronics, food delivery, and soon cars. Jeff Bezos, he says, will be the first Trillionaire, and his vision of the future is robots replacing humans everywhere. (This was also my plot in The World’s First Trillionaire, a scifi satire at Amazon.) Better get that robotics degree or high tech trade license! Standing in line at AGT is a futile gambit in a winner-take-all culture in which the judges make more per show than the ultimate “winner” gets. Apple has a billion credit cards in their system, and are paranoid about security and secrecy. At their product launches the stunning images are offset by a CEO and tech guy who come out dressed in jeans and untucked shirts like rappers, the message being “we’re just like you. We’re cool.” Then they get into their new red Ferraris. Google can punish companies by demoting them in their search results. “Page two is like being dropped off the Earth,” says Galloway. Shareholder value can plummet overnight. Cooperate or else. “In the future,” the author says, “one percent will be lords, and the ninety-nine percent will be serfs.” In many ways, we are there already. A must read for anyone wanting to survive in an age when fitness must be mental, and willingness to change, emotional maturity, empathy, and knowledge are the four keys to success.
Fear and horror makes headlines. From Kim Jong-un to the IT movie. So what about it? World leaders and the news hunt for viral videos with extreme events, extreme weather, and Stranger Things which may generate the most clicks, (so that they can get votes or sell soda and junk food, along with prescription drugs.) We have a rubberneck culture looking for escape. But what are the real dangers? Driving while drunk, sitting too long in a chair watching TV while ignoring health, not reading enough to get the full picture. (Twitter is dumbed down reading into polarized belief reinforcement.) The answer is audiobooks, listened to on the road or while exercising, and without eyestrain. Here are a couple new entries… —In the new audiobook FantasticLand a hurricane has ravaged Florida, and a group of teens fight for survival at a theme park cut off from civilization. Meanwhile, in The End of the World Running Club, Edgar Hill is thirty-five and caught in his own headlock. Overweight slob, under-performing husband, and reluctant father-—for Ed, the world may as well have already ended. So when it does end in a catastrophic asteroid strike and Edgar and his family find refuge in an Edinburgh army barracks, it comes as something of a relief. But nothing’s ever that simple. Returning from a salvage run in the city, Edgar finds his family gone, taken to the south coast for evacuation by an international task force. Suddenly he finds himself facing a grueling journey on foot across a devastated United Kingdom. Edgar must race against time and overcome his own shortcomings, not to mention hundred-mile canyons and a heavily flooded west coast, to find the people he loves before he loses them forever. This is a vivid, gripping story of hope, long-distance running, and how we break the limits of our own endurance. Tired of playing the watcher or victim? New non-fiction includes The Last Arrow. (Shades of The Hunger Games?) When you come to the end of your days, you will not measure your life based on success and failures. All of those will eventually blur together into a single memory called “life.” What will give you solace is a life with nothing left undone. One that’s been lived with relentless ambition, a heart on fire, and with no regrets. On the other hand, what will haunt you until your final breath is who you could have been but never became and what you could have done but never did. The Last Arrow is your roadmap to a life that defies odds and alters destinies. Discover the attributes of those who break the gravitational pull of mediocrity as cultural pioneer and thought leader Erwin McManus examines the characteristics of individuals who risked everything for a life they could only imagine. Imagine living the life you were convinced was only a dream. We all begin this life with a quiver full of arrows. Now the choice is yours. Will you cling to your arrows or risk them all, opting to live until you have nothing left to give? Time is short. The Last Arrow is about the quest for life.
What makes for a good summer read? Regardless of whether you enjoy suspense, mystery, romance, biography, or non-fiction, one great option is to try an audiobook version of the book. No eye strain at the beach, or you can watch the scenery go by as you travel instead of having your nose in a print book.
Or you may prefer a print book nonetheless. Or an ebook reader. Your best choice should depend on where you are, and how much time you have. No matter what, smart people make time for books.
Here is the audiobook blurb from The End of Advertising: The ad apocalypse is upon us. Today millions are downloading ad-blocking software, and still more are paying subscription premiums to avoid ads. This $600 billion industry is now careening toward outright extinction, after having taken for granted a captive audience for too long, a choice that has led to lazy, overabundant, and frankly annoying ads. Make no mistake, Madison Avenue: Traditional advertising as we know it is over. In this short, controversial manifesto, Andrew Essex offers both a wake-up call and a road map to the future. Essex helped run what was generally considered to be the hottest shop in the industry, Droga5. He is therefore uniquely qualified to report on the industry’s demise—and what it must do to reinvent itself. He gives a brief and pungent history of the rise and fall of Adland—a story populated by snake-oil salesmen, slicksters, and search-engine optimizers. But his book is no eulogy. Instead, Essex boldly challenges global marketers to innovate their way into a better ad-free future. Rather than clutter our world, ambitious marketing campaigns could provide utility, services, gifts, investment, and even patronage of the arts and blockbuster entertainment. Ads could become so enticing that people would pay—yes, pay—to see them. With trenchant wit and razor-sharp insights, Essex presents an essential new vision of where the smart businesses could be headed, to the cheers of brands and consumers alike. Interesting, huh?
Have you ever thought about just getting away from it all, whatever “it” is? (A cubicle job, McNews, social media, traffic.) A 20 year old named Christopher Knight did just that permanently: just walked away, into the woods. In an amazing story chronicled in THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS, written by journalist Michael Finkel, Knight left his home in Massachusetts and drove to Maine, where he set up camp in the wilderness in 1986…and stayed there for the next twenty-seven years. Not speaking to anyone. You’ve seen the show “Naked and Afraid” and “Survivor.” What if the show never ended? Why did he do it? “I never fit in anywhere,” Knight said. He was shy, but intelligent. He learned how to store water and food. He hunted. He stole from the nearest town, and left cabins in such a way that one could ever be sure anyone was there. He never visited a doctor. “I was never sick,” he said. “You get sick by being around other people.” He read books, and was eventually caught and jailed…then released. He felt remorse, but also contentment. He preferred to be alone, to be private, with no desire for money or fame or what American culture thinks vitally important. Subtitle is “The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit.” On audio it is narrated by actor Mark Bramhall. It is profound in parts, and reflective. Often we need someone with a completely different viewpoint to hold up a mirror to what we are doing to ourselves. Is his a good example for others? Obviously not. But there is a middle ground between fanaticism and being a hermit or monk, and we can all learn from such a story.
In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for “her” kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents’ expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public—postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age. Narrator Cassandra Campbell, Audie Award–nominated narrator and winner of several Earphones Awards, has performed in regional theaters across the country and in several off-Broadway shows at the Public Theater and the Mint Theater. In addition to narrating audiobooks, acting, and directing, she is a commercial and documentary voice-over artist.
Other new books include SET YOUR VOICE FREE by Roger Love, subtitled “How to Get the Singing or Speaking Voice You Want.” Also THE POWER OF MEANING by Emily Esfahani Smith, subtitled “Crafting a Life That Matters.” PARIS FOR ONE, stories by Jojo Moyes, read by a full cast on audio. RING OF FIRE by Brad Taylor, a thriller read by actors Henry Strozier and Rich Orlow on audio. THE WAY OF STRANGERS: Encounters with the Islamic State by Graeme Wood, read on audio by the author. A WORLD IN DISARRAY by Richard Haass, read by Dan Woren and subtitled “American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.” For scifi buffs, TAKE BACK THE SKY by Greg Bear, read by Jay Snyder. BLOOD VOW by J.R. Ward, a fantasy read by Jim Frangione. And THE REVENGE OF ANALOG by David Sax, a music memoir read by the author.