Judge books by their covers

The book cover of Makers by Cory Doctorow, featuring piles and piles of old computer paraphernalia.I recently started reading Makers by Cory Doctorow. It’s a freaking amazing book. It contains such awesome bits of technology, culture, and psychology. Like, this book seriously satisfies on all levels. Going to have to say it’s one of my favourite books so far. I’m definitely planning to check out more of Cory Doctorow’s stuff… once I get through a bunch of the other books I have to read.

A realization of…

  1. how valuable my time is
  2. how many amazing books there are out there
  3. that books are extremely cheap compared with the time spent reading them

…has prompted me to seriously reconsider how many books I have on my to-read list. That list grows at a rate of 3-4 per week, which is vastly unsustainable. I need to use more discretion in choosing books. I think I’m going to do a bit of triaging with the ones I currently possess:

  1. Must read!
  2. …?
  3. This does not enrich my life (discard).

I really don’t know what to put in slot #2. It’s like I tell people about humor: there are enough videos on youtube to keep you laughing out loud for the rest of your life, but those videos represent only a tiny fraction of the 15000 hours of video that are uploaded every minute (or whatever the astonishing rate is). Thus, there are videos that are worth watching, and videos that are not… and then, of course, some that you need to watch some of in order to find out. It’s a challenge, in this day and age, not to let quality get diluted by unquality. I personally believe YT should display the ratings bar under the thumbnail of each video, whereever it’s linked. Anything with green less than 2/3 is probably not worth watching (unless it’s controversial or whatnot).

So maybe there is no #2. I guess it can be:

  1. keep around to find out if it’s a gem

…but do I really have time to do that for all of the “maybes”?

Am I judging books by their covers? Yes and no. I’m not judging them purely on the visuals and the title. I am, however, suggesting that if you wait until you turn the last page of a book before judging if it was worth reading, you’re not going to be able to do that with as many books.

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About Malcolm

Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Complice, a system for achieving your important goals.

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4 Comments

Bruce » 18 Oct 2011 » Reply

Here is a thought for you. Almost all books can be summarized.

Think Reader’s Digest. Think Coles Notes

I have a Magazine article that summarizes the book “7 Habits of Highly
Effective People” very nicely. And the magazine article was written by the
author of the book, Steven Covey. It can be done. But it requires careful
pruning. Obviously that only works if someone has already taken on that task
– and doesn’t help you.

The potential solution, is disciplined skimming through a book.

Just a thought.

Joseph Jujnovich » 14 Nov 2011 » Reply

Hey Malcolm, spotted you on the polyphasic sleep group n checked out your blog. Cool entries. I’ll keep an eye on what you’re up to. I did uberman for 5 months back in 2006, planning to get back into it. Anyway, thanks for the book – it’s free on creative commons which makes me happy http://craphound.com/makers/download/

Cheers,
Joseph

PS: btw, my blog (above) is new, so not much on there yet. 😛

Patrick Connolly » 14 Dec 2011 » Reply

Hey dude,

Looks like I’m going to be your mentor for your stint with Myplanet’s Fellowship Program! Ramy sent me your resume, so I creeped on your blog. Hopefully that’s not weird :/

But not gonna lie — kiiiinda pumped to work with you 🙂

As for your thoughts on books, I’m totally on the same page! My policy used to be waaay too simple, in that it was (for many of the reasons you give) a strictly non-fiction policy. I’m starting to realize that there’s just way too much to learn from fiction to count it out with such a sweeping personal policy, but it totally took me too long to break from my stubborn mantra

Anyhow, it’s not much use for really dense technical reading, but this iReadFast app is AMAZING:
http://gengis.110mb.com/en/index.php

Basically turns anyone into a 1200 wpm speed-reader, since you don’t have to worry about too many visual fixations nor back-reading (both of which I suck at). It even adds a little bit of flicker in between each word it flashes, which mades a HUGE difference.

I’ve also heard folks advocating against reading full books, so I’m trying to learn to make use of the index and tables of contents more. Starting to think I need to be ruthlessly Darwinian in terms of what gets into my head… if that makes sense! But there’s just *something* about finishing a book in the old fashioned way — kinda like checking the last item off a to-do list — so it’s gonna take a bit to break that habit 🙂

Oh hey, and saw that you worked at a solar heating company at one point. I’ve got a friend who’s designed and open-sourced a few solar concentrators that he’s toured around developing nations with.
http://symingtonsolarfire.wordpress.com/

Iunno… maybe we could go out for beers sometime if that’s something you’re still into? WHOOP WHOOP! So psyched. Catch later man

Malcolm » 31 Dec 2011 » Reply

Hey Patrick,

I wouldn’t post to my blog and link to it if I didn’t want people to read it, so no worries. Just don’t look for my diary, and you’ll be fine 😛

That app looks sweet, but I’d have to find (or build :P) an Android equivalent.

I think the key to the Table-of-Contents technique is that you stop thinking of a finished book as being “one I’ve read” but rather “one I no longer have to read”. For certain books, the Table of Contents either tells you most of what you would have learned from the book anyway, or tells you that you don’t really have much to learn (relatively speaking) from reading the book at all. Agreed though, turning the last page feels great. I once encountered “About the Author” and on the next page “About the Typeface” and I was delighted. That book was Embassytown by China Mieville. One of my new favourites, actually.

I’m super busy (as evidenced by my 2+ week reply time here) but I’d be game to go out for beers or something. I’m in Waterloo, but let me know when you’re around… or we could aim for the weekend of the Myplanet welcome thing on the 14th.

Cheers,
Malcolm

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