Saturday, August 31, 2013

Green book review: The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman (audiobook)

We're back with our weekly green book review after a short summer vacation and we're happy to do so with a great book in by one of our favorite journalists and authors that has been reintroduced last month in one of our favorite formats - audiobook. Could it get any better?

Our (audio) book for today is:

The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio) 

What this book is about?
As the Foreign Affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman has traveled to the four corners of the globe, interviewing people from all walks of contemporary life -- peasants in the Amazon rain forest, new entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Islamic students in Teheran, and the financial wizards on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley.

Now Friedman has drawn on his years on the road to produce an engrossing and original look at the new international system that, more than anything else, is shaping world affairs today: globalization. His argument can be summarized quite simply. Globalization is not just a phenomenon and not just a passing trend. It is the international system that replaced the Cold War system. Globalization is the integration of capital, technology and information across national borders, in a way that is creating a single global market and to some degree, a global village.

You cannot understand the morning news or know where to invest you money or think about where the world is going unless you understand this new system, which is influencing the domestic policies and international relations of virtually every country in the world today. And once you do understand the world as Friedman explains it, you'll never look at it quite the same way again. 

Using original terms and concepts -- from "The Electronic Herd" to "DOScapital 6.0" -- Friedman shows us how to see this new system. With vivid stories, he dramatizes the conflict of "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" -- the tension between the globalization system and ancient forms of culture, geography, tradition and community -- and spells out what we all need to do to keep this system in balance.

Finding the proper balance between the Lexus and the olive tree is the great drama of the globalization era, and the ultimate theme of Friedman's challenging, provocative book -- essential listening for all who care about how the world really works. 

About the author (source: New York Times):
Thomas L. Friedman won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, his third Pulitzer for The New York Times. He became the paper’s foreign-affairs Op-Ed columnist in 1995. Previously, he served as chief economic correspondent in the Washington bureau and before that he was the chief White House correspondent. In 2005, Mr. Friedman was elected as a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Mr. Friedman joined The Times in 1981 and was appointed Beirut bureau chief in 1982. In 1984 Mr. Friedman was transferred from Beirut to Jerusalem, where he served as Israel bureau chief until 1988. Mr. Friedman was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Lebanon) and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Israel).

Mr. Friedman is the author of “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won both the National Book Award and the Overseas Press Club Award in 1989.  “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” was the winner of the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for best non-fiction book on foreign policy. His 2002 book “Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11” consists of columns he published about the attacks.  “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century,” issued in April 2005 and updated in 2006 and 2007, received the inaugural Goldman Sachs/Financial Times Business Book of the Year Award. 

“Hot, Flat, and Crowded” was published in 2008, and a paperback edition was issued a year later.  His sixth and most recent book, “That Used to Be Us: How American Fell Behind in the World We Invented and How We Can Come Back,” co-written with Michael Mandelbaum, was released in September 2011.

Born in Minneapolis on July 20, 1953, Mr. Friedman received a B.A. degree in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University in 1975. In 1978 he received a Master of Philosophy degree in Modern Middle East studies from Oxford. Mr. Friedman is married and has two daughters.

Our review:
The Lexus and The Olive Tree I would say is an interesting book. We have all heard the term, globalization, but how many of us really understand what it means and what all it encompasses?  Even after reading this book, I am not sure I fully understand all that comes with such a simple term.  

Mr. Friedman's style of writing was mostly conversational and easy to understand. However, he tends to name drop, talk about his own friends, and his adventures a bit too much for me. It got a bit boring now and then. I found myself thinking again and again, “Just get to the point!” I admit not knowing some of the people he had lunch with or met in India or Tehran. When I don’t know something, I have to look it up. I spent more time with Google looking up people, places, and things, while reading this book, than I would like to admit. It took away from the book and the information within. Also, I should warn you that Mr. Friedman is a metaphor junkie. Pulitzer Prize winner or not, I found his use of metaphor overwhelming. Also, I should mention that portions of this book are getting outdated, and could use a revision. 

Don’t get me wrong I got a lot of good information and knowledge from this book, and I will take a lot away from my time within its pages. It’s a full and thorough book that includes anything and everything you could think of on globalization, from WWII all the way to the creation of email and the internet. Even though I was basically aware of the internet’s creation, I found this section very interesting.  

The audiobook version of The Lexus and the Olive Tree is available on as well as other retailers.


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