Category Archives: reading

Reading Isn’t Dead Yet!


As an internet-addicted millennial, I’m well aware that the printed word is dying. Our generation is going to be the death of printed magazines and newspapers. I haven’t read a newspaper in years, but thanks to Google News, Digg, Reddit, NowPublic and others; I’m still as informed as I was when I used to keep scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings.

But what I didn’t know is that books are already toast. Steve Jobs recently told the New York Times his opinion on Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader.

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”


Will Pate, If People Don’t Read, Why Keep Writing?

As an Internet-addicted millenial, I’m also deeply addicted to the reading. I read. A lot. I read because I love learning about things and books give me the most bang for the buck when it comes to established topics, thanks to the research and thought people have put into their books, and I read because I love having fantastic conversations with fellow bookworms. Granted, I read more than almost everyone I know, but most of my friends read a lot too. And if we’re this weird geeky island in a sea of people who’d rather watch television or video and be constrained to the speed and order at which someone communicates, then that’s the way it is.

I don’t think the picture is as bleak as Steve Jobs paints it, though. People read and write, but they read and write mostly light material: e-mail, blog posts, things like that. A Vision of Students Today (video below) makes that point very well. Jump to 1:58 if you want to see just that bit.

So people read a lot, but it’s like what people would get if they read only magazine or newspaper articles. It’s like snacking instead of eating your vegetables. Vegetables, properly done, can be quite yummy. Books, too. But the good thing about it is that many books are going online, whether it’s because publishers and authors are trying new ways to reach more people, or even people like me are writing online because of the quick feedback of the Internet.

The printed word isn’t dying. It’s going online. It’s moving onward and upward. And if that forces writers and publishers and readers (who might also be writers and publishers in this new world) to figure out new models for the way we do things, great!

Book notes

Writing To Learn
by William K. Zinsser
I can’t do justice to this book. It’s full of beautiful writing. After I return this to the library, I’m getting my own copy to keep around for inspiration.
Read more about this book…
  • How to Write Fast (While Writing Well)
    by David Fryxell

    Great read. Recommend. Key points: discipline and organization.

  • There’s plenty of time for writing books (examples of people who write books five minutes at a time).
  • Use outlines and other tools to help you organize your material.

    Read more about this book…

Money Can Buy Happiness: How to Spend to Get the Life You Want
by MP Dunleavey

Interesting read, nothing particularly new to me, but good advice.

Asset 1: your valuable time
Asset 2: your personal resources
Asset 3: your health
Asset 4: financial control
Asset 5: mutual fund
Asset 6: get into bonds
Asset 7: giving to feel good

Page 32. Like many economists, he found that some arenas have a greater impact on people’s contentment with life. For example, a rewarding family life was a key ingredient in overall life satisfaction, whereas work tended to not have as big an impact.

Read more about this book…

Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling
by Michael Port

I’d recommend this for independent consultants. Good, practical advice. E-mail me if you want my book notes. =)

Read more about this book…

Open an Online Business in 10 Days
by Melissa Campanelli

Nothing particularly interesting.

Read more about this book…

Business Leaders and Success: 55 Top Business Leaders and How They Achieved Greatness
by Investor’s Business Daily, William O’Neil

Nothing spectacular here either.

Read more about this book…

More books

"I enjoyed lunch too :) Please email the titles of all of those books! They all sounded wonderful," tweeted Heidi Hansen. E-mail, Heidi? ;) E-mail is so old-school. Here are the books we talked about:

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative
by Stephen Denning

Read the first few chapters to learn about telling springboard stories. This book is more about influencing large groups of people, but you might find the tips on storytelling useful even if you’re working one-on-one. Tell people stories about the ways social software saves you time and helps you do more, and tell those stories in a way that helps people imagine the time they could save and the things they could do. =) (Also, it’s a good read.)

Read more about this book…

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

This one talks about the personal, social, and structural motivations and abilities that you need to think about if you’re influencing adoption. Again written for the large-scale, but worth keeping in mind when you’re trying to influence behavior one-on-one. Also good because it’ll help you understand why you can’t win everyone… =)
Read more about this book…

I also often recommend this:

Crossing the Chasm
by Geoffrey A. Moore

also has some good stuff about technology adoption. Here you’ll see the technology adoption curve, with innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. (Or something like that…)

Read more about this book…


Alex might find these books about writing useful, as they talk about scientific writing as well:

Writing To Learn
by William K. Zinsser

Start with this one; it’s about bridging the gap between science and writing. =)
Read more about this book…

The Periodic Table
by Primo Levi
One of William Zinsser’s favorite examples of chemical writing. A friend lent this to me, and it’s a great read.  
Read more about this book…


Jennifer Dodd, I think I mentioned the first three books to you as well, and these ones for independent consultants:

Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice
by Alan Weiss
A friend strongly recommended this. I haven’t read it yet, but I trust his taste in books.
Read more about this book…
Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used
by Peter Block

Read more about this book…

Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling
by Michael Port

Just finished this one. Practical advice. Haven’t read enough in this area to tell you if it’s one of the better books, but it seems okay. =)
Read more about this book…


WLW really should have a frequently-recommended-books plugin.

Library Elf is awesome


When I blogged about my totally small-school library reminder script, Claudine recommended Library Elf, which helps people manage their library loans. I hopped over and set weekly reminders to go out on Sunday, just before my Monday book runs. I just got my first reminder e-mail from them, and I am impressed. C’mon. Look at that screenshot. It tells me when books are due and when my holds expire. If I hover over the links, I can see which books they are. The lists of holds ready for pickup and books that are checked out are sorted by date, which makes perfect sense. I can add W-‘s library card and track his books as well. =)

Awesome awesome awesome.

Writing and "Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance"

I don’t remember where I got the book recommendation to read this book, but it’s a fascinating read, and I aspire to this kind of life. (Although not in medicine – I couldn’t bear the responsibility!).

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance
by Atul Gawande

Read more about this book…


Here’s a quote for all you writers, bloggers, and other aspiring communicators, from the afterword on how to become a positive deviant [p.249]

My fourth suggestion was: write something. I don’t mean this to be an intimidating suggestion. It makes no difference whether you write five paragraphs or a blog, a paper for a professional journal, or a poem for reading group. Just write. What you write need not achieve perfection. It need only add some small observation about your world.

You should also not underestimate the power of the act of writing itself. I did not write until I became a doctor. But once I became a doctor, I found I needed to write. For all its complexity, medicine is more physically than intellectually taxing. Because medicine is a retail enterprise, because doctors provide their services to one person after another, it can be a grind. You can lose your larger sense of purpose. But writing lets you step back and think through a problem. Even the angriest rant forces the writer to achieve a degree of thoughtfulness.

… Most of all, by offering your reflections to an audience, even a small one, you make yourself part of a larger world. Put a few thoughts on a topic in just a newsletter, and you find yourself wondering nervously: Will people notice it? What will they think? Did I say something dumb? An audience is a community. The published word is a declaration of membership in that community and also the willingness to contribute something meaningful to it.

So choose your audience. Write something.

Atul Gawande, Better

My blog anchors my participation in the larger world, resulting in not only online interaction but real-world as was well. It makes me part of the conversation.

When I talk to people who don’t blog. I feel a strange disconnect as if the conversation we have stops there: stops at the e-mail exchange with each other, stops at the meeting, is confined within the boundaries of our encounters. When I talk to people who blog, the conversation is wide open and embraces the world.

It’s hard to explain that to the people who are afraid that they might have nothing to say. The truth is that you won’t discover what you have to say until you say it. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everyone has discovered the use of writing in reflecting and connecting with others. People have other priorities. They have no time. And perhaps at the core of it, they are shy as I was shy, as I still am shy. But I can overcome my shyness because I want to be part of that larger conversation with them. With you.

Write, and join the conversation.

Taking quick notes for books

I love my book notes system. I almost always ask fellow bookworms how they keep track of what they’ve learned from the books they’ve read, and their suggestions have helped me put together a pretty darn good system. Here’s how I work:

Capture: I usually read books in front of my computer so that I can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to take notes while I read. I speak the page number and the quote I want to remember. Using speech recognition to write book notes means that I don’t have to take my hands off the book, and I don’t have to perch it precariously on my lap as I try to type in quotes. Speech recognition is reasonably accurate, and I love breezing through a passage at some 300 words a minute. This is awesome. This is so much better than my old way of doing things. I suspect this also does good things for my ability to recall important points. When I finish a page, I correct the text that’s already there.

If I’m not at my computer, I record notes into a portable voice recorder. If I’m feeling lucky, I get DNS to auto-transcribe the recordings. This doesn’t usually work. Background noise messes up the recognition. But it’s usually good enough to let me find the pages again. Or–shhh–sometimes I dogear pages. ;)

Organize: I copy the book notes into a plain text file that uses the Org outline mode. I organize my booknotes with the titles as second-level headings, and I sometimes tag the books with keywords.

Store: I copy my book notes onto my Nintendo DS, where I can use
the ReadMore homebrew application to quickly review my book notes on
the subway.

Review: Every so often, I whiz through the books in my book notes system so that I can keep the key points fresh in my mind. This review is also a good opportunity to pass a book’s idea on to someone else.

What would make this even better? A Nintendo or Palm text editor that understood Org files would be just amazing.  Integration with LibraryThing would be nice, too, so that people could easily find out which books to discuss with me. Even without those pieces, though, my system works really really well for me.

What’s your system?

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