I try to read between 30 and 50 books a year, but I’m not super religious about it. Reading is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, and I think it’s pretty dumb to set pleasure goals. If you like to read and are feeling it, great. And if you’d rather watch TV or something instead then what the hell do I care? You do you, Sparky.
I also strictly read non-fiction, because one of the main reasons why I read is to learn stuff. There are nuggets of information in fiction books, but nobody reading Love on the High Seas is doing so to learn about 18th century pirate culture. They’re flipping those pages to get to the BONIN’, BABY.
(Things are getting hot and heavy in the captain’s quarters)
“Oh, Blackbeard! The rumors were right. You really are a savage!”
(There’s a knock on the door)
“Captain! We’ve spotted a merchant ship! Should we attack?”
“Aaaarrrrrrrr, baby. I gotta go get some booty.”
“Don’t you have all the booty you could ever want right here?”
Well, that’s it, kids. That’s the greatest joke in Financial Uproar history. It’s all downhill from here.
My book problem
One of the added benefits to following so many finance folks on Twitter is there’s a constant stream of book recommendations crossing my path. Many of these books sound interesting, so I make a note to check them out later.
Once I crack into these books, I find the same thing over and over again. An interesting sounding book quickly becomes bogged down with too many examples, pointless stories only vaguely related to the overall point, and other strategies designed to stretch an good topic into a whole book.
Basically what happens is a book with 100 pages of good, interesting material gets stretched out to 250 pages. I’m told this is because book stores insist upon it. They want to charge $20 for a paperback, and you ain’t getting that much for something that looks like a second-grader’s first chapter book.
(There’s probably a business idea here. Take the average 300 page book and condense it down to 80-100 pages. Call it Books for Busy People. People would love it because it wouldn’t be hard for the average person to finish 50 of these a year and then they could say they’ve read 50 books this year.)
I understand why an author wants a longer book. There’s no reward for them to present the information in a neat condensed form. A thicker book means a higher price tag, which means the author gets paid more. Nobody is going to conclude the author of some little pocket book is the master of a certain subject. And writing a book is often a vanity project. Nobody’s going to be impressed by the guy who boils down complex concepts to a manageable word count.
More books should be articles
Every now and again you stumble upon an interesting topic somebody wrote 4,000 words about and every minute of it is fascinating. You read it with gusto and maybe keep the tab open for a few weeks so you can refer to it again.
And that’s enough. That’s all you need to know about a topic because it was just the right amount. The author has done a good job hitting all the key points with just enough examples to prove their point.
It’s exactly how a book should be.
I find I’m abandoning more books than ever these days because they’re clearly stretched out to meet some arbitrary word or page count.
For example, I recently read The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova, a book all about scams and how these folks think. I thought it was a fascinating concept that was bound to be an interesting book. And it was. There are some stories that were equally hilarious and infuriating as oblivious victims kept finding ways to separate themselves from their money. But it was also 75-100 pages too long, weighed down by sometimes 3-4 stories to illustrate one point.
It has gotten to the point where I get halfway through a book, and I fully understand what the author’s getting at. It’s time to stop because the book isn’t going anywhere. It’s just repeating itself. But I’m loathe to give up on a book halfway through, so I press on and don’t really enjoy the second half. This is why I don’t like to give myself reading challenges or pick a specific number of books to read. It creates an incentive for me to not abandon a book when I should be.
Let’s wrap this up
You should talk. This 800-word article could easily be summed up in 300 words.
Thanks, Italics Man. You’re a great guy.
Anyway, that concludes my old man yells at cloud rant for the week. Am I just losing my attention span when I get older? Probably!