Life’s too short to read bad books

If there is one thing that we Schipulites all have in common, it’s a love of reading. (I would also add cupcakes, LOL cats, and “that’s what she said” jokes, but some people hate joy.) We all have books around our desks, track our reading across multiple platforms, and have standing permission to grab a hot new business title from the local book store. In addition, we’re all pretty tenacious folks who hate to give up on something we start.   Some might even call it “stubborn”.

It’s those traits that can sometimes lead a person to be curled up on the couch, book in hand, slogging through a downright boring book. Oh sure, it’s not interesting and you’re not going to get much from it, but hey – you gotta finish, right? No one likes a quitter! And maybe it’ll turn around in the next chapter or so. If not, well, lesson learned. At least you get to move another one to the read pile.

That was me. Dragging my way though books that just weren’t doing it for me. That feeling of immense satisfaction gained from moving a book to the read stack was so motivating that even the worst books could hold down a spot on my nightstand. I couldn’t quit them. And often I was miserable for it. What was supposed to be a great way to relax and expand my thinking turned into a chore, a bother, and an obligation.

Fortunately I read a lot of blogs too, and one day stumbled upon a feature article over Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust. In it, she shared her “50 page rule” – if the book doesn’t grab you in the first 50 pages, give it up and move on to the next one. It’s not defeat. It’s knowing what you like and not trying to force it.   I loved it. In just a few words I got the confirmation that it wasn’t just me; and permission to put down the bad books. At the time I had just come from struggling with Infinite Jest, the highly-confusing massive tome of a novel by David Foster Wallace. I was just starting with a new novel and already at page 20 I was finding it over-written and lacking in story. I thought of Nancy’s rule and vowed to give it the 30 pages more – and was rewarded with an unexpected page-turner.

Most recently, I picked up a historical look at the game of poker – a subject I am deeply interested in – and began reading on a plane. Even with my handy Nook nearby, full of a dozen or so others, I found myself again trying to force my way through some very dense material. It’s history, and it’s poker – I have to love it right? It’s going to get more interesting, I just know it. Upon my return home, I left the book on my nightstand, ready to be picked up the next evening. When the time came though, I found myself going for the remote instead. Didn’t want to read it, yet didn’t want to give up. And then I remembered Nancy, and her sage advice. Life’s too short. Maybe the book and I weren’t getting along right now, but it didn’t mean we were doomed forever. I could set it aside, grab another, and try again some other day.

So thanks Nancy Pearl, for your wise “50 page rule”. It’s saved me yet again from literary heartache.

Audiobooks – a geek vacation must!

I can’t travel without a good book. And as a Dallas native who is often making the 10 hour round trip drive to see my family, I can’t imagine vacation without audiobooks!

Whether you use (a paid subscription service), iTunes, or your local Half Price Books… audio books can help a long trip go by faster – and (if you’re feeling extra geeky) you might just learn something along the way.

A few tips for finding good books:

  • Use the library – Most libraries, including The Houston Public Library, allow you to reserve books and audio books online (even from other branches in the system). You’ll get an email when it’s ready, just come pick it up at your neighborhood branch. A great way to get your audiobook fix and be frugal.
  • Ask your network – There is one thing I think LinkedIn does better than any other social network, and it’s probably not what you’re thinking. I LOVE the Reading List by Amazon App! Create a reading list and mark books as Read, Reading, or Want to Read – and then write a review or recommend to friends. The app then shows recommended books from people in your network, in your industry, and throughout all of LinkedIn.

Audiobooks I’m obsessed with right now

Below is a list of the last few audiobooks I’ve listened to. They were all fascinating and (in my opinion) more interesting because they were read by the author.

  1. It’s Called Work for a Reason – read by the author Larry Winget
    This book is made up of Larry Winget’s thoughts on business, getting and keeping a job, and dealing with people you work with. The book is great on its own, but there’s just something about hearing Larry Winget say “be known as the guy who gets sh*t done” in his own voice that makes it that much more powerful (and the stories funnier).
    For more on this book, read Courtney’s recap “Do Work” from the Schipul blog.
  2. Outliers read by the author Malcolm Gladwell –
    Like many of us at Schipul, I have a bit of a Malcolm Gladwell obsession. Gladwell has a way of explaining the world around us that is so logical but also completely different than anything I’ve ever heard. Outliers explains that no one really picks themselves up by the bootstraps and finds success all by themselves. There are no born geniuses, success depends on context and opportunities and practice (practice, practice).

    There’s a reason this man hold 3 of the 5 spots on the top nonfiction audiobooks on iTunes right now. Next up on my to-read list is his latest book “What the Dog Saw.”

  3. Official Bookclub Selection – read by the author Kathy Griffin –
    I couldn’t leave this one out! You might think she’s mean for making fun of those poor defenseless celebrities or you might not get why the details of Brook Shield’s wedding are so fascinating… But if you are a Kathy Griffin fan, you will enjoy this book. It’s essentially 6 hours of stories in the style of her stand up, always hilarious and at times very touching. If that sounds like your cup of tea – Don’t walk, RUN to get your hands on the audiobook. Seriously. Go!

What do you think? What books are better when read by the author? What are you listening to right now? Let us know!