Robert Noyce and Bringing Down the House

Usually I’m in the middle of reading two books at once — typically a novel and a non-fiction work. But for some reason I’m currently reading a biography that’s definitely non-fiction and a former best-seller that purports to be non-fiction. I have my doubts about the latter.

By a curious coincidence, each book includes a character who lives in Weston.

The biography is The man behind the microchip: Robert Noyce and the invention of Silicon Valley, by Leslie Berlin. Noyce was co-founder of Intel and co-inventor of the integrated circuit; he was also the grandfather of one former and two current Weston High School students. The book combines vivid character descriptions with just enough technical details. It won’t tell you how to get rich — sorry about that — but it does contain one of my favorite quotations about management:

The job of the manager is an enabling, not a directive job… coaching, and not direction, is the first quality of leadership now. Get the barriers out of the way to let people do the things they do well.

The other book is Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich. This claims to be Mezrich’s first non-fiction book (he has written and published half a dozen novels), but many reviews voice disbelief and assert that it’s just another work of fiction. One of the lead characters lives in Weston, which is described as follows:

Twenty minutes from Boston by Mercedes-Benz, Weston was an upper-middle-class enclave separated from the real world by a tree-lined stretch of the Mass Pike. The sleepy New England town was suburbia incarnate: white picket fences, yellow school buses with blinking red lights, colonial homes, lush green lawns, lemonade stands, tennis courts, basketball hoops, tree houses, porch swings, dogs on leashes, kickball and flashlight tag, public schools that looked like prep schools and prep schools that looked like Ivy League universities.

Unfortunately that’s one of the better-written passages in the book. The rest of the book alternates between melodrama and tedium. I don’t know whether it’s fictional or not, but Mezrich too often writes like an advocate of the Dan Brown school of writing.

Categories: Books, Math, Technology, Weston