Book Review (Book 12) - 20 Master Plots

This is a continuation of the books I challenged myself to read to help my career - one a month, for a year. You can read my first book review here, and the entire list is here. The book I chose for May 2012 was:20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias. This is my final book review - at least for this year. I'll explain what I've learned in this book in particular, and in the last twelve months in general.

Why I chose this book:

Stories and themes are part of software, presenting, and working in teams. This book claims there are only 20 plots, ever. I wanted to find out.

What I learned:

Probably my most favorite read of the year. Deceptively small, amazingly insightful. The premise is that there are only a few "base" themes, and that once you learn them you can put together an interesting set of stories on most any topic. Yes, the author admits that this number has been different throughout history - some have said 50, others 14, and still others claim only one or two basic plots. This doesn't change the fact that you can build very complex stories from a simple set of circumstances and characters.

Be warned - if you read this book it takes away much of the wonder from almost every movie or book you'll read from here on! I loved it. My favorite part is that the author gives you exercises to build stories, right from the start. I've actually used these as the start of a meeting to foster creativity. Amazing stuff.

One of my favorite sections of the book deals with plot and story. Plot: The king died, and the queen died. Story: The king died, and the queen died of heartbreak. Add one or two words, and you have the essence of storytelling. A highly recommended read, for all folks of all ages. You'll like it, your spouse will like it, and your kids will like it. I learned to be a better storyteller, and it helped me understand that plots and stories are not just things in books - they are a direct reflection of human nature. That makes me a better manager of myself and others.


And this is the last of the reviews - at least for this year. I probably won't post many more book reviews here, but I will keep up the practice. As a reminder, the goal was to select 12 books that will help you reach your career goals. They don't have to be technical, or even apply directly to your job - but they do need to be books that you mindfully select as getting you closer to what you want to be. Each month, jot down what you learned from the work. And see if it doesn't in fact get you closer to your goals.

These readings helped me - I got a promotion this year, and I attribute at least some of that to the things I learned.