It’s hard to say whether the book is better than the movie(s), but whether readers are gamers or just enjoyed The Social...

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CONSOLE WARS

SEGA, NINTENDO, AND THE BATTLE THAT DEFINED A GENERATION

Long before Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were scrapping it out on retail shelves, a small but nimble competitor very nearly unseated Nintendo. Welcome to the Console Wars.

This history of the battle for video game market supremacy between Sega’s Genesis gaming system and Nintendo’s SNES console is the source material for not only an upcoming documentary co-directed by the author, but also a Scott Rudin–produced Hollywood film being written and produced by geek icons Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (This Is the End), who contribute a funny introduction here. The good news is that despite being a bit lopsided in its portrayal of the players involved, the book is a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes thriller in which price fixing, psychotically aggressive marketing schemes and, occasionally, genuine innovation all come into play. Harris posits the fight between the two companies as a David-vs.-Goliath battle between Nintendo, which dominated the video game industry in the post-Atari era, and Sega, which valued audacious ideas, aggressive branding and more mature games. The nominal hero of the book is Tom Kalinske, a former Matchbox marketing executive sought out by Hayao Nakayama to run Sega’s American division, which had just 50 employees. Kalinske fought a competitive campaign starting with the “Sixteen Weeks of Summer” in 1991, during which Sega carried out an inspired insurgency to diminish the launch of the SNES. The edginess of the company’s advertising and products—think of the speed and scale of Sonic the Hedgehog versus the trusty familiarity of Mario and Link—shook the market like no upstart had before. Meanwhile, Harris also tracks a quirky Icelandic physics student named Olaf Olafsson, who was quietly helping Sony build a giant-killer of their own.

It’s hard to say whether the book is better than the movie(s), but whether readers are gamers or just enjoyed The Social Network, they’ll be spoiled for choice here.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-227669-8

Page Count: 576

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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