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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them. The blog, however, will continue, and if you've got a good first line to share for TwitterLit please do so here.



  
From a random review:

  

« O'Malley, Christine; Creadon, Patrick: Wordplay | Main | Levine, Paul: Kill All the Lawyers »

Abrahamson, Eric; Freedman, David H.: A Perfect Mess

  

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Little, Brown and Company © 2006, 327 pages [amazon]
4 stars

In their book A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder authors Eric Abrahamson (a professor of management at Columbia Business School) and David H. Freedman (a contributing editor at Inc. magazine) question the widespread assumption that organization and neatness are inherently better than disorder and clutter. They argue that in fact some degree of messiness is very often to be preferred to strict order--because the cost of maintaining order can be higher than the benefits accrued from it, for example, because disorder can be the mother of invention, because messy systems can be more efficient and robust than perfectly neat ones. In making their case Abrahamson and Freedman do not confine themselves to domestic mess--the topic that leapt to my mind when I first saw the book's title. Clutter is just one of twelves types into which they categorize messiness. Others include "time sprawl," as when tasks are left unprioritized, and "convolution," which occurs when organizational schemes are illogical. Accordingly, the authors discuss not only messy homes and offices but messy leadership and messy organizations, pathological messiness and artistic messiness.

They argue that in fact some degree of messiness is very often to be preferred to strict order--because the cost of maintaining order can be higher than the benefits accrued from it, for example, because disorder can be the mother of invention, because messy systems can be more efficient and robust than perfectly neat ones.The topics covered in A Perfect Mess are far reaching--from the suspect claims of professional organizers (for example, that the average person wastes an hour a day looking for things) to Arnold Schwarzenegger's "improvisational lifestyle" (incredibly enough, he doesn't keep a schedule, or didn't, at least, when he was first running for governor), from the Noguchi filing system to natural landscaping to cell phone noise and compulsive hoarding. Throughout, the authors profile people and businesses and systems that have profited from the introduction of some degree of some type of messiness.

"...we argue that there is an optimal level of mess for every aspect of every system. That is in, in any situation there is a type and level of mess at which effectiveness is maximized, and our assertion is that people and organizations frequently err on the side of overorganization. In many cases, they can improve by increasing mess, if it's done in the right way. At a minimum, recognizing the benefits of mess can be a major stress reducer--many of us are already operating at a more-or-less appropriate level of mess but labor under the mistaken belief that we're failing in some way because of it."

A Perfect Mess is an interesting book, written for the general reader in perfectly comprehensible prose. The authors' thesis won't necessarily surprise readers. If you think about it, it's obvious enough that there must be some optimal level of order for every situation. But it's not so much the conclusion that matters here as the guided tour through the messy worlds of city planning and hardware stores and trombone tuning and so on: you'll almost certainly learn something along the way, and in the end you may feel a little better about letting the dishes pile up.

Review summary: In A Perfect Mess authors Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman question the widespread assumption that organization and neatness are inherently better than disorder and clutter. They argue that some degree of messiness is often to be preferred to strict order--because, for example, the cost of maintaining order can be higher than the benefits accrued from it. The authors identify twelves types of messiness and discuss messy leadership and messy organizations as well as messy homes and offices. Throughout, they profile people and businesses and systems that have profited from the introduction of some degree of messiness. The authors' thesis won't necessarily surprise readers. But it's not so much the conclusion that matters here as enjoying a tour through the messy worlds of city planning and hardware stores and trombone tuning: you'll almost certainly learn something along the way.

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Comments

1.

I heard a review of this one on NPR and loved the idea that being rigidly neat was not always beneficial. Your review only increases my interest in this book. The harder I try to organize in what most consider a logical manner, the harder it is to find what I want when I want it! I think the NPR program mentioned the difference in creative productivity found in businesses that didn't focus on clean desks.

2.

Yes, there's lots of focus on businesses in the book. I would have loved to read more on domestic mess myself--not that I fault the book at all for its focus, it's just my preference. Nor am I aware of what more could be said about domestic mess. So it was an interesting book, and one I fell upon almost by accident: someone had xeroxed copies and left them in all the kids' mailboxes at my daughter's preschool.

3.

By the way, I liked that the authors discussed the Noguchi filing system, if only briefly. I've posted about that myself over at the deblog: http://dhamel.typepad.com/deblog/2006/12/the_noguchi_fil.html

4.

I'm definitely going to buy this book! "Mess" is my middle name. I'll also answer to "Perfect".

5.

I don't know, Susan. My impression of you is that you're a very neat woman. Except for the spiders.

6.

This book was a true eye-opener. It is on my top ten list of epiphany-producing books. Thank you :-)

7.

Glad to hear it!




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.