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Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds Paperback – October 26, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"You are smart enough to buy books for better reasons than a famous person you don't know saying you should. And if you're not, you will be after you read this" - Scott Berkun

About the Author

Scott Berkun is the bestselling author of Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation and Confessions of a Public Speaker. His work has appeared on CNBC, MSNBC, NPR and in The New York Times, Forbes, The Economist, The Washington Post, Wired, and other media. His famous lectures and popular blog can be found for free online at scottberkun.com. 
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Berkun Media (October 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983873100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983873105
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #976,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Scott Berkun self-published this work rather than going through a publisher, claiming in his forward that he did this not out of dislike of his regular publishers, but rather because he planned to publish later works that "no sane publisher would touch." Unfortunately, Berkun failed to note that Mind Fire was in fact one of those books that no sane publisher would support.

I'll be upfront and state that I am a part-time fan of some of Scott's other works. I took a few gems from his disjoint and highly unorganized first edition of his project management book and I generally liked his second offering, his probably best recognized book on the Myths of Innovation. That said, not everything he writes is good, and some of it genuinely has the feel that it was written for the sake of writing something about a subject, rather to express truly new ideas or inspiring thought. You can find many of examples of this in Mind Fire, even though it is purportedly plucked from some of his best blog postings of recent years.

If you read his blog and check his site, you will see that he offers himself up with a paragraph stating, essentially, "You pick the topic and I give a high energy talk about it..." or some such. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm calling him out for in his writing, because I believe that's exactly what's going on, writing for the sake of it, not because of a passionate interest in the topic or having a genuinely new contribution to existing knowledge or understanding of it. This kind of writing looks and feels like what you expect when you assign an essay topic to students, rather than letting them write about what they wish, namely that you get people running up the page and word count, but not really saying anything new or meaningful.
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Mindfire makes a big title promise - big ideas for curious minds. In my opinion, Scott Berkun falls far short of that promise. A better title would have been: Very Well-Written Essays by Someone Who is Smart and Pretentious.

In all fairness, Scott Berkun has talent. He writes very well and has a very good explanatory style. With a different subject, I imagine that he would be absolutely brilliant.

However, the only thing he explains in this volume is how he is smarter than everyone else. The first few essays are cute; the style is a little refreshing. The second few essays start to be irritating; this guy really thinks he is brilliant. By the 10th essay, I was bored - with only 20 more to read.

My biggest disappointment with this book was that it wasn't at all useful. The idea behind reading BIG IDEAS is that they will be useful. These ideas were not exactly big and were not at all useful. Well, not unless you wanted to worship at the altar of Berkun's intellect.

I'd recommend watching this author (he's a good writer), but I don't recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
This is the most provocative book I've read in months. The ideas contained in the essays are persuasive and it's a fun, well focused read. Ideally, I'd like the book to be longer than 30 relatively short essays (hence 4 stars, not 5) but the quality bar is super-high and everything is well written in Scott's energetic and personal style, and a does a great job of making you take a step back and think/reflect. The essays are short enough that even if one of them isn't your thing, you're pretty quickly on to the next one.

To give examples of essays they include topics like "How to give and receive criticism", which describes how criticism isn't just about your own views and a perspective and a single correct answer, but also about thinking how different people will interpret the thing that's being criticized. Many of the essays tend to be motivational such as "The surprise inspiration of death" or "How to be passionate".

As the author discloses, the essays in this book can also be found on his blog, but either because of the editorial work that's gone into the book or because of simply reading it on my Kindle rather than a webpage I found it a much more engaging experience than hunting around on the web.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. If you're into the writing style of Malcom Gladwell or Michael Lewis then it's a reasonable bet that you'll enjoy this, and it's sufficiently short and focused that it's a very easy book to get through.
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I was drawn to this book after reading Scott Berkun's terrific book titled Confessions of a Public Speaker which may be the best book that I have read on public speaking...so, Scott had set a high bar for me. This book title (Mindfire) was inspired by the writings of Emerson who "often referred to the creative mind as a fire and wrote about ways to ignite the mind." First Wow: Scott has written over 1,500 essays and articles over a 10 year period (wow) and had handpicked 30 for this collection. (See full list of topics below). Second Wow: While he used O'Reilly Media to publish his earlier books, he published this book himself. He explained that he "wanted to publish books in the future that no publisher in its right mind would release. Therefore, I must learn to do it myself." For his first attempt at self-publishing, this is remarkable work.

If you have followed Scott's blog, you won't find a lot of new ground covered here, but it has been nicely re-packaged - it is tighter, it has been "pruned and polished." Scott is smart, self-effacing, honest and authentic in his writing style which invites deeper thinking and discussion of topical issues. His essays are persuasive and fun to read. This book is hard to put down. It does take you on a quest for personal discovery, inspiring you to think and at times act differently.

I was torn between rating the book a 3 (wanting deeper exploration of fewer topics; no new ground covered for a follower of his blog) to a 5 (a number of "aha" moments; 5* thinking, writing and energy) so I landed on a 4.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite essays: Can You Be Great With Grace? (Essay #20).."I've read many biographies about people who qualify, and it turns out being driven often makes people hard to like...
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