Book Review October-November 2010

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wild west Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Online Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier
Authors: Michael Fertik and David Thompson
Publisher: Amacom, 2010
Pages: 272
ISBN: 978-0-814415-09-2

You’re feeling rattlesnake-mean and madder than a wild bull. Somebody’s been messing with your reputation online, posting all sorts of untruths. You saw them, your clients saw them — for all you know, the whole world saw them — and you’re not taking it lightly. There’ll be a showdown at the www-dot-corral one day. The problem is, you don’t know whom you’re dueling with. How can you fix this mess? Can you make sure it doesn’t happen again?

You can, according to Michael Fertik and David Thompson. In their book Wild West 2.0, your business can survive the technology frontier. Without a doubt, many nefarious things are done on the Internet that you simply cannot ignore. Even if you’re not a big fan of the Web, your family, friends and clients are. For the most part, the online community is a good thing and its citizens behave in a civilized manner. But it takes just seconds for a juicy rumor or nasty comment to “go viral.” If you’re the target, you rarely have legal recourse. Trying to remove or squash a reputation-ruining Web page only makes matters worse. Search engines like Google have algorithms that put the most-viewed Web sites at the top of a search. Checking and re-checking a worrisome site just raises its position. Don’t do it. So what can you do?

“Understanding the technical nature of the Internet is the first step toward monitoring and managing your online reputation,” the authors say. Once something is online, it can move into obscurity but it will never disappear completely. Search engine companies almost never remove postings. To be proactive and protect your reputation, know your audience. Who will view those offensive Web sites and who will care? Let the furor die down on its own, if possible, and ask friends to post neutral or positive comments on their own sites to counteract the bad. Sign up for as many e-mail addresses and domain names you can find, using your name and its varieties. Monitor your name on a regular basis.

Starting with history and a list of the good and bad that the Internet has to offer, authors Fertik and Thompson make it perfectly clear that there are steps you can take to minimize damage. Although I’m as tech-savvy as the next person, I was stunned at the authors’ stern reminders of the power of the Internet. Who knew that a business book could be scarier than any horror novel? If you use the Internet for business but are concerned about its downside, this book is a must-read. Having Wild West 2.0 around is like calling in the posse.   

the warmth of other suns The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
By Isabel Wilkerson, Random House
September 2010, 758 pp., $30

As stated in Isabel Wilkerson’s deeply researched narrative on the Great  Migration, covering the years from 1915 to 1970: “Over the course of six decades, some six million black southerners left the land of their forefathers and fanned out across the country for an uncertain existence in nearly every other corner of America.” So begins The Warmth of Other Suns. Although the book centers on the lives of three unrelated people who decided to leave the racist and unsettling places of their birth and restart their lives in places that promised them — and their kin — a more hospitable future, their stories embody the spirit of the millions of Blacks who “desired something better.” Built upon more than a decade of research, Wilkerson, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, approached the subject from an intimate viewpoint. She structures this rich and important chronicle based upon more than 1,200 interviews and archival material to concentrate on what has been described as “among the most dramatic and compelling in all chapters of American history.”

Jesus Boy Jesus Boy
By Preston L. Allen, Akashic Books
April 2010, 380 pp., $15.95

For his third book, author Preston L. Allen infuses his novel Jesus Boy with recognizable elements and idiosyncrasies of a strict Black church community.  Sixteen-year-old Elwyn James Parker, a devout member of the Church of Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters, is a piano prodigy on a mission: He’s “on the battlefield for my Lord” determined to save souls.  But the soul Elwyn may have to save most will be his own. After being forsaken by the pretty young Peachie Gregory, Elwyn’s desires turn to Sister Morrisohn, the 42-year-old widow of the beloved church benefactor. An awkward first encounter evolves into an unlikely romance between the two. As secrets unfold, the author layers the story with arguable and licentious themes that trouble both saints and sinners alike. The boldness and sadness of the characters are believable and makes for an enthralling book. If there is one thing that Allen does for sure with this tale, he reminds readers to bear in mind that: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”