Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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The Worst Book I Never Read

I was at the library the other day and I grabbed a bunch of books that I thought looked interesting. This was one of them:

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I generally like giving books a chance and even if a book isn’t very good, I have this irrational need need to finish it. But not this time. I actually quit reading this book on page 5, when it told me that I should take up smoking if my boss smokes.  Seriously.  How does s&#$ like this get published??

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What the Dog Meh

I was quite excited when I first heard that Malcolm Gladwell had a new book out.  I received Outliers from Sarah & Dave for Christmas last year, which I devoured while I was in Mexico and soon after I discovered the free e-audiobooks at the library, I quickly devoured Blink and The Tipping Point too.  Love, love, loved all three of those books.  So when I saw that Gladwell’s new book, What the Dog Saw, was at the library as an e-audiobook, I signed right up to get a copy.

After having read it through, all I can give it is  resounding “meh.”  When I first got the book, I didn’t realize that it was just a collection of his old essays. His other books each had an overarching theory for which the book built a case.  And while this book wasn’t intended to be that way1,  I found it much less compelling than his other books.   The stuff if in the essays was interesting, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere.  You can definitely see glimpses of his other works  – like the essay on how interviewers make snap judgments on people, which is clearly related to Blink – but I already read that stuff in his other books.  Overall, I just felt like this book was put out with the thought “Hey, Malcolm Gladwell books sell like hotcakes – throw one together as fast as you can!” I guess I should have realized when What The Dog Saw was released this year, only a year after Outliers, that he couldn’t have written a whole book of new material and had it published that quickly!

Here’s hoping the next Gladwell book doesn’t come out for a few years!

  1. although it’s roughly structured into three separate “sections” of somewhat related essays, there isn’t really a coherent story in there, at least not as far as I could see []

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#9 – Book Review: Eat That Frog

Hot off the heels of listening to my first audiobook in the car on the way to and from work, I decided to see if the library had the next book on my list to read: Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.  This is the one I found on in e-format!

It's a frog eat frog world by Mark SurmanEat That Frog is a book about not procrastinating.  Basically, it tells you to stop procrastinating already.  I mean, it did have some tips in it – the main one, which he states over and over again – is to figure out which task is your main priority (i.e., which task if going to get you the biggest and best results) and then do it.  Make it the first thing you do in the morning – don’t dilly dally checking your email, chatting to co-workers, or doing other low (or no) value tasks.  Just do it. I was hoping there would be some sure fire way to kick my butt out of procrastination mode, but this book just told me to set my mind to it and then do it.  But I wanted a magic bullet!!

Also, he does say a few things that are just a bit ridculous:

  • he claimes you should get 8 hours of sleep a night, at least 30 minutes of exercise per day1, read a full hour every day on your field to become more expert, take a full day per week off from any work, go into work a little bit early and stay a little bit late everyday, eat healthy (no junk food – meaning you’ll spend a fair amount of time grocery shopping, cooking & cleaning up after)…. it just doesn’t seem there’s enough hours in the day to do all he says
  • he also contradicts himself – at one point, he talks about spending time with family & friends as being the most important thing – it’s why you want to work more efficiently, so you’ll have time to socialize and be part of the community. Then he admonishes you not to “waste time” talking with your co-workers.
  • It seems like he makes us numbers. I mean, this might just be the academic in me coming out (why aren’t you citing your sources?? Oh right, it’s a book for the general public, not the New England Journal of Medicine!), but he throws around things like “doing X will make you 2, 3 or even 4 x more effective!” and “50% of a worker’s time is spent doing Y!” without every referencing where this comes from2.
  • He takes a page out of the Stuart Smalley handbook, pretty much telling you that you should be saying “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gosh darnit, people like me!  Except that I don’t talk with any of them at work because they are not a value use of my time.”

Also, one of his suggestions was to listen to education audio programs, such as this one, while in your car.  The average worker “wastes” 20 billion hours a year driving, so why not make it productive by learning stuff?  And I was all “I *am* listening to this in my car!”  And then I felt superior.

In fairness, since reading3 this book, I have decided to make more of a conscious effort to do my most important task first thing in the morning (instead of my usual email checking) and to even have my e-newsletters not show up in my inbox, so I don’t get distracted by them and can scan through them all at once, in a more efficient way, rather than being constantly jolted out of my important work when I see “ooh, there’s something in my inbox! Must check now!!”  It’s not like I didn’t know that I should do this, but I decided to actually challenge myself – since apparently no one is about to give me a magic anti-procrastination bullet!

1Citing the old recommendations. Current recommendations are to exercise an hour a day, so he’ll need to update that.
2Note to self: get hands on a hardcopy of this book and check for references!
3er, listening to

Image credit: Mark Surman on Flickr. And yes, that is a frog eating a frog. Which I found by doing a Flickr search for Creative Commons-licensed photos using the search term “eat that frog.” I love the Internet.

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