Tag Archives: Harper Business

Sonata Days and Nights

Seoul Man amazon

Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis & Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan by Frank Ahrens (Harper Business, $27.99, 336 pages)

“I could live here for forty years, learn the language inside out, and still not understand Korea.”

Seoul Man is basically two books in one. The first is a “fish out of water” story of a middle-aged, married later in life, American who finds himself living and working in South Korea. It’s a completely different world than the one he knew as a reporter in Washington, D.C.

Seoul Man city

Much of Korean culture – one focused on society first and individuals second, makes little sense to Western eyes. Plus, the basic conservatism of the culture appears to now be overrun by a tsunami wave of dangerous binge drinking (Koreans now consume the most alcohol, by far, of any people on the planet). Still, this part of the true account is fun, engaging and entertaining.

Not so entertaining is the part of the book where Ahrens writes about the corporate culture at Hyundai Motor; about his Christian beliefs (which apparently did not negate his participation in drinking fests); and time spent away from his wife and baby daughter. In fact, a long chapter about time spent in Indonesia adds nothing, while detracting from the natural narrative style. It should have been dumped.

Seoul Man back cover

There’s not enough within the pages of Seoul Man to classify it as a true business book. (Automobile lovers will find it lacking in the inside details they may expect to find.) It’s definitely a memoir, one that starts with an exciting bang before it ends on a dull whimper. Wait for the paperback version, or not.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

This book will be released on August 16, 2016.

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Better Days

Haunted Empire (close up)

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by Yukari Iwatani Kane (Harper Business, $27.99, 371 pages)

“Tim Cook was a master of spreadsheets not innovation. Since Cook had taken charge, legions of young MBAs had been hired to help feed the new CEO’s love of data crunching… Managers like Cook tended to overly focus on profits, the one thing that (Steve) Jobs downplayed.”

Since the death of its iconic leader, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer has been floundering; suffering from a dearth of innovations and dogged by competition from Samsung. This is the premise behind Haunted Empire by Yukari Iwatani Kane, a former technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Kane, who lives in San Francisco, presents Jobs as a legendary visionary (“…brilliant and unforgettable”) and Apple’s current leader, Tim Cook, as a bland manager who specialized in inventory control.

Steve Jobs

It will be up to each reader to determine the accuracy of Kane’s story. I found it to be highly credible. Mr. Cook is well aware of the book and has angrily labeled it as “nonsense.” However, Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson raves that, “Kane brings us inside Apple at this critical moment with great insight and unparalleled reporting.”

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What Kane does extremely well is present a highly disturbing picture of the Asian workforce that builds Apple’s products. The young workers in China who assemble an average of 180,000 iPhones each day cannot buy them with the slave wages they earn. It’s tragic and the company’s insensitive practices may have unleashed a type of negative karma that has come home to roost.

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This is a fascinating, troubling account of an American business.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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