Thursday, March 08, 2012

In the Forests of the Night

This book by Kersten Hamilton was fantastic. I thought Tyger, Tyger (the first book in the series) was good, but this one exceeded it by far. Maybe that's partly due to the groundwork laid in Tyger, Tyger, though; this definitely doesn't stand alone.

I love the humor and the strong, distinct characters and the way Teagan is part of a family with friends and parents who aren't pushovers and aren't stupid, and are willing to take the things she says are happening on faith. I like that Christian faith is part of their lives and the way the worldbuilding reflects that, but leaves room for mystery and laughter. I love how the duct tape comes in handy in the first book. I love the last line of this second book.

So what are these books about? They start with Teagan, studying to become a veterinarian, being warned by her friend that the goblins in Teagan's mother's paintings (she is a book illustrator) are going to come alive and hurt her family. It doesn't quite happen that way, but shortly after her parents agree to foster her cousin Finn, bad things start happening, and Finn's explanation about goblins seems to be the truth. And that's only the beginning...

Definitely, highly recommended. Be warned that this story isn't over yet; the book doesn't exactly end on a cliffhanger, but it's not resolved either. There is supposed to be at least one more book, though I have a hard time believing that will be enough to tie everything up.

Three books about negotiation

I thought I'd mention three books I've read about negotiation, each of which takes a different approach:

Herb Cohen's You Can Negotiate Anything discusses what I'd call the theory of negotiation, the important principles involved: time, power, information. He mixes humorous examples (an insurance adjustor who gave him hundreds of dollars just because he didn't say anything in response to the first X offers, for example) with ideas. He talks about the worst person to negotiate for (yourself) and about being willing to coming to an agreement by discussing considerations other than money. Some of the examples are a little dated, but overall I'd say this is a timeless overview anyone involved in business should read at least once. (And if you ever buy or sell anything, including your labor, you are involved in business!)

Leigh Steinberg's book Winning with Integrity (written with or perhaps by Michael D'Orso) contains more and less practical advice. If Cohen covers the principles, Steinberg covers numerous specific rules of thumb -- applications. Steinberg is a sports attorney who, if the stories in this book are the whole picture, always manages to negotiate higher contracts for the players he represents than any that have gone before. I don't agree with everything he says; for example, for him, the goal of negotiation is to get the best deal possible, but I'm satisfied with a good enough deal. (Note that "good enough" may be quite a high bar, as discussed in The Paradox of Choice, another good read.) Still, if you're selling anything, it's worth considering his ideas to see if there are any that might help you come to an agreement (read: sale) more easily.

Robert Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion discusses the touchy-feely factors that can lead to agreements. It's both entertaining and horrifying when you realize how irrational the decisions we make are. The edition I read included ideas about how to avoid these techniques being used on you by salesmen, so it has a slight pro-customer bias, but mostly I found it to be a make-you-think read about why and how we make decisions about who to trust and what to do. Even tactics that are obviously fake (sitcom laugh tracks are cited as an example) can have a substantial influence on what you're willing to do or agree to. Definitely worth reading for anyone who makes decisions (and that's everyone).