The National Learning Institute

Fiction Category

The man who risked it all

The Man Who Risked It All. Laurent Gounelle. Hay House, London 2014

June 28, 2014 No Comments
The man who risked it all

The man who risked it all

I didn’t know whether to review “The Man Who Risked It All” as either a novel or a self-help book, for it is both.  For although the cover labels the book “a novel” in fact it does both brilliantly and seamlessly.

The story tells of a young man, Alan Greenmor, born of an American mother and French father who grew up in the US (speaking fluent French with his mother) and now living in Paris.  The story begins with Alan about to take the first step towards his suicide from the Eiffel Tower, only to be persuaded to stop by a stranger who does a deal with him.  The deal is that the man will look after Alan, put him back on the road to health, wealth and happiness; in exchange, Alan must do everything the man asks.

The early chapters are full of self-reflection as the stranger takes Alan through a process of self-development that is both stimulating and sometimes torturous.  Mystery arrives when Alan finds himself being followed by strange men and women.  Then of course, there is romance in the form of Audrey who appears in his life tumultuously, only to disappear mysteriously just as the romance is reaching its peak.  That’s the novel component.

The dialogue between the stranger (now known as Dubrieul) and Alan takes Alan through an intense piece of psychotherapy that is easily followed and has many great messages for the reader – that’s the self-help bit.

Alan’s adventures in his work place add a further dimension to this novel – corporate politics and shareholder greed that Alan has to confront and overcome on his way to becoming a better person.  In doing so, there’s a very clear message about the avarice of those who play the share market for their gain at the expense of the company’s long term future.  Brilliant!

All in all an impressive novel and also very useful should you need some reminders about positive  self-management.


May 17, 2012 No Comments

This is one of my toughest reviews – ever! “Contaging” by Anthony Crawford is brilliant, creative and yet confusing. Sometimes very creative things can be too so, and “Contaging” may be one of them. It’s a tall order to write an obviously autobiographical story, in a compelling way that chronicles a personal crusade of right versus wrong without incurring any (further) legal ramifications.

Read More

Defying Gravity

February 11, 2011 No Comments

I found this a difficult book to review. Not because it’s not good, it is. But, it’s different and that’s what I liked about Defying Gravity.

Defying Gravity is a novel. It’s the story of Tony, the “corporate entrepreneur” as he parents a new venture from inception (or conception) to birth. It’s also a guide on how to develop the skills and strategies needed to become a successful corporate entrepreneur.

Read More

Ten Thousand Things

June 19, 2010 No Comments

As the author, Glenn Martin says in the introduction, “. . . it is a book about the lessons we find in living”. Martin’s story is based on his experiences during a particularly emotional part of his life. It follows three themes; the fictional story, the “I Ching” revelations and as a result, Martin’s thoughts on ethics and human values.

The story describes how the author moved from the city to the country, lost a partner and found a new occupation as the General Manager of a local charitable organisation. Martin’s ability to paint a vivid picture of his new rural life – people, places and relationships – enables the reader to immerse oneself in his unusual odyssey.

I very much liked the story Martin told. It seemed to express so well the musings we all have when faced with both extraordinary and day-to-day events and decision points. His use of the I Ching, was for me a novel way of seeking wisdom and guidance. I must confess to not fully understanding how the I Ching is used and interpreted (I’m sure that takes some time). The I Ching, an ancient Chinese process for seeking inner wisdom, is briefly explained in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. I would have liked to have seen some reference to this explanation in the introduction. If you are a visual person, I’d suggest reading this section before commencing the novel.

That said, the method of posing and articulating a question, then searching the I Ching revelations, must bring a new dimension and a diverse way of tackling an issue. This certainly seemed to be the case for Martin.

I liked this book. Martin’s story is impelling and his search for inner guidance and wisdom through the I Ching, illuminating. Highly recommended as a good read for anyone interested in a fascinating story of self-discovery. For managers, and those who have a need to influence others, there are many good tips that show how both easy and tough decisions can be made whilst remaining true to one’s self.


The Boss

August 13, 2009 No Comments

The Boss is a novel – and is also a novel way of learning about management and leadership. Author Andrew O’Keeffe has used his years of experience working with bosses and the stories he has been told about bosses, to pen this enlightening read. O’Keeffe has also used his vast knowledge of what makes people tick to ensure that there is a message in every chapter for anybody who wants to be a better boss or for someone who might need to manage their current boss better.

Told through the eyes of Lauren Johnson, the talented but perennial adherent to her bosses whims, it will keep you interested and involved to the final chapter. Early in the book we find Lauren finally deciding to move from her current job to get away from “Deadly Di”, the boss from hell, only to end up in a worse situation. In her new organisation, not only is her new boss somewhat inept, but many of the other senior managers have failings, quirks and even personality disorders which I am sure readers will recognise in bosses they have known.

When will Lauren wake up and do something about her situation? This is a clever concept O’Keeffe has used. By keeping us in tune with Lauren, but also keeping us frustrated that she is not taking it upon herself to get out from under, it enables O’Keeffe to achieve two aims. Firstly it is an excellent way of getting the reader to think of ways that he or she might act in Lauren’s situation, thus ensuring we learn about ourselves. Secondly, it enables the author to introduce all the various difficult boss types that need to be managed.

It might sound as if this book has quite a negative flavour. This is not so. There are enough examples of good bosses sprinkled throughout to provide the example of “what to do” in addition to “what to avoid doing”. Coupled with this is O’Keeffe’s quiet sense of humour and the quirky situations in which Lauren finds herself.

You could read this book as a novel and I’m sure get great satisfaction. However for me, The Boss is an excellent learning tool for managers. There’s a “Workplace Guide” at the end of the book with discussion questions for developing leadership. You’ll also see here chapter headings with the key management process covered, such as interviewing, appraisals, first impressions, salary reviews etc. However, my advice is to keep a pen and paper close by as you read in case you miss some of the gems such as “How to set a shared objective for an interview or discussion”.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants to be a better boss, or who wants to manage their current boss better, or just as a good read. Because of the way it is written, it would also make an excellent gift for someone who may be a manager, but does not like to read heavy technical or theoretical type books.