BOOK REVIEW: The Emoji Revolution by Philip Sergeant

Emoji are part of today’s language and this book explains them wonderfully.

emoji

I promise I will not use emoji to illustrate this article. I promise I will not use emoji to illustrate this article…

… but it’s not going to be easy.

This really is a wonderful book, a fantastic guide and a fascinating exploration of language, gesture and how we call communicate.

There are those who think emoji are symbols that children use, but their importance stretches out in the world and probably as far back as cavedwellers who used to like writing on walls.

Like many, I use these strange symbols and I find myself doing that more often as social networks begin to proliferate, but I usually use the same ones without any real idea what I’m trying to say. After reading this book, I now know how much detail and subtlety is needed when using them.

On first look, I didn’t think I’d feel this way. The cover was underwhelming, the pages were as shiny as the heaviest of academic books and the text was, bizarrely, unillustrated apart from black-and-white emoji. I expected a stodgy read.

My experience was the polar opposite. Coming in at just under 200 pages, the book is not a quick read, but the information therein is delivered with aplomb, beautifully written and full of old and future knowledge.

From the weird control of the 12 Western people who sit on the board of the Unicode Foundation to Marcel Duchamp to Moore’s Law to the etymology of obscure words such as ‘snollygoster’, this is a work that loves words as well as symbols.

As a person who loves books and words, I learnt more here than I ever would in three Malcolm Gladwell novellas and with enough emoji knowledge to hold my own at a dinner party… or children’s tea party.

After years of reviewing books, this was the greatest surprise of them all and if you were wondering what snollygoster meant, it was an early 20th Century word, favoured by Harry Truman, describing a shrewd, but dishonest person, especially one involved in politics.

Sound familiar? Perhaps we could bring it back… and without an emoji in sight.

BOOK REVIEW – Civilized To Death – Christopher Ryan

Civilized (To Death) may be spelt with a ‘z’ and not the correct ‘s’, but this intriguing book makes up for it.

civilized

Civilized To Death will not be published until October 1st, but the wait will be worth it. This book is smart, timely and well-written.

Christopher Ryan is a psychologist and author who was previously the co-author of the New York Times best-selling book Sex At Dawn.

I read the book in three sessions and while it did preach to the converted and I naturally had writer-envy while digesting it, there is a lot here.

Not only to ‘enjoy’, but also to remember, not least Ryan’s obvious love for when foraging was the world we were… and seemingly all the better for it.

Unfortunately, my relationship with UK foragers is difficult after overhearing a conversation last year at the very entitled Port Eliot festival and a very entitled (and clearly) wealthy woman talking about her upcoming foraging weekend, but even so I learnt a lot of things about this type of civiliSation.

Civilized To Death is scrupulous and researched in a way that only journalists know how to and repeats what most of the good ones know… we are going to hell in a fucking handcart unless we change all of our habits. Ryan seems to think we can only do this by dissolving civiliSation.

Good luck with that one, mate, but he may have a point. It was Albert Einstein who said he did not know how World War III would be won, but he knew how World War IV would be won… and that would be with sticks and stones.

That world will probably come with foraging, and as long as there’s not too much radiation hanging around and I can still find a decent Porn Star Martini, then I’m there with Ryan. I liked Civilisation To Death, but please, next time, spell it with an ‘s’.

BOOK REVIEW: Lifescale by Brian Solis

Lifescale (How to life a more creative, productive and happy life) is a life-affirming and fabulous read by a great writer and friend.

Lifescale
The first to be said about this book is that it is a very, very heavy book and by that, I mean it’s heavy by weight, not by content. I have never read a hardback that is so heavy to tote around, but that is the only criticism I can make from this gloriously upbeat book.

The content is light and pithy, fun and important. I read it while on a tour of NE England, channelling George Orwell on the road to Scarborough in 2019, not Wigan Pier in the 1930s. These were not glamorous locations, not least the Grimsby hotel where I finished Lifescale.

I also have a disclaimer to make because the author Brian Solis is a great friend of mine and somebody who I meet regularly on the global speaking circuit. We met three years ago in Beirut when I interviewed Steve Wozniak and we went drinking afterwards in a huge amphitheatre; truly glorious days.

But I had never know what all the fuss was about. Whenever I’ve put pictures up on social media of Brian and I on stage or at events together, so many of my friends in the business express amazement that I know Brian. To me, he’s just a great bloke, not any type of hero or visionary… or anything like that.

However, now that I’ve finally read one of his books, I DO see what all the fuss is about. He has the greatest knack of sharing information that not only increases the reader’s knowledge, but is done in such a way that it is seamless from page to brain.

He is smart with quotations, images and displays, the prose is as fresh as poetry and, most importantly, he makes the reader feel that they are listening to a friend, somebody who really has their interests at heart.

This truly is a feel-good book, even for an old cynic such as me. I implore you to buy or download it, but if you’re feeling a little weak in the upper arm, perhaps one to download. This book is light, not heavy… no need to carry the load. Recommended.

BOOK REVIEW: The Human Workplace by Andy Swann

The workplace is changing in ways that seemed impossible only recently. Andy Swann’s book explains what is happening in lovely business language.

workplace

I’m really not a fan of business books and as somebody who’s worked from home or a beach for the past decade, I’m not really interested in ‘workplaces’ either, but I really enjoyed this super-fast read.

I’ll disclose now that I’ve met Andy Swann a number of times and although we operate in different, ahem, work places, I’ve always been impressed by his demeanour and manner; he also loves what he does, so I promised that I would review his book.

Admittedly, it has taken longer to do so than I thought because I don’t read business books, but this is a nicely written book that will interest those who work in office management, HR, head-hunting and even psychogeography.

It does suffer from the devilry of small text and font, but that might just be my eyes. Swann uses many modules, graphs and box-outs and they are deftly utilised, not least being on the same page as allusions to them.

So many business books are irritating in that area. On one page is the description, then readers have to go overleaf to find the object of the description.

It’s really easy to read and refreshingly free of anecdotes and clever stories. It gets straight to the point and it’s not surprising that Swann is also a consultant, strategist and public speaker at conferences. It gets to the point.

Being over-critical, it looks as if this book has taken time to be written. Some of the industry examples seem from a lot time ago (18 months/two years!), but that is like any book that is published nowadays; they’re out of date before they’re published.

However, and this is important, The Human Workplace is not time-critical, its messages are current and even visionary, so that slight weakness can be overlooked.

You can buy the book here.

It’s expensive for somebody like me who prefers LITERATURE, but if this is your line of work, The Human Workplace will prove valuable in the way we work and how we do so. It’w worth the £20 or so for a hardback, but Kindle at £12 might be more appropriate.

I would imagine that The AI Workplace will be the sequel, but Swann’s book has at least a decade before it, like all humans, becomes obsolete.

BOOK REVIEW: Ends by Joe Macleod

Ends – From advertising to products and even to death, we tend to put too much emphasis on beginnings, not endings.

ends

Ends is a book that focuses on how humans are very happy being taken on a journey from the beginning, but we find it difficult to face the end of such journeys. Naturally, the notion of death is the ultimate example.

I met the book’s author, Joe Macleod, in Sofia recently after he spoke at a conference. He has the look and mien of somebody obsessed with design and his book reflects that passion.

It’s a fascinating concept and one that held my interest, not only when I met him, but also while reading his book, a quick read that shouldn’t take a devoted reader any longer than two days.

Macleod has had an interesting career working for companies such as Nokia and talks about how advertising sets people up for a beginning with a product, but doesn’t prepare them for the inevitable ending.

Nokia is a case in point. When it once ruled the mobile world, mobile devices were replaced even faster than they are today, but Nokia wanted people to buy more, more, more and that led to a world of used devices that nobody knew how to recycle.

Moreover, in the space of 12 months Nokia went from being one of the world’s most popular brands to one that finished faster than anybody expected. Nobody was ready for that ending.

Macleod is a clear writer, but the concept can feel a little elusive at times. It’s an easy read, but there’s a huge idea in there that wriggles away from the reader as he/she grapples with answers… perhaps Macleod needed a better editor.

As an ex-Fleet Street sub-editor, I find any book with typos a crime against humanity and there are several in this book. However, I still enjoyed reading it and understand where the writer was coming from.

Typos and editing aside, this is a decent read for anybody trying to make sense of how it’s all going to end.

Available now on Amazon for £16.99 or £5.99 on Kindle (the latter being maybe the better option).