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What Are You Reading? :

whatareyoureading.jpgNot a week goes by without someone asking me “What are you reading?” “Do you think that book is any good?” “What books would you recommend to solve my financial / relationship / career / management / technical problem?”Just because I review books on a weekly basis why does everyone suddenly think I’m an expert?

Why?

WHY?!?

March 3rd Update: I dropped Fast Company from my reading list of blogs today. If you read Wired during the Internet boom years of the 90’s and bought in to the whole “We don’t report the news, we make it!” pathos then Fast Company is exactly for you. Go! Do! Be distracted!

Perhaps I just hang out with strange people. In conversations in Hollywood people ask “What are you driving?” In conversations in Venice Beach they ask “What are you reading?”

Actually in Hollywood people you meet at parties & bars ask three questions. “What is your name?” “What is it you do?” & “What are you driving?” Hollywood has replaced the “Bridge of Despair” in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail with the office cocktail party of despair. The party of despair will often have wretched little creatures asking the questions. Just like in the film!

My answer to “What am I reading?” is often “Nothing.” That’s me being facetious as I realise we are headed into the very calm waters of a dull conversation. I hate it when someone feigns interest.

Occasionally I’ll be caught off guard and give a straight answer about what I am actually reading. Which is often a new, unpublished book. As I get paid to write a weekly book review column (Trust me. It isn’t that exciting) I get access to books earlier than a lot of people (Trust me. This is even less exciting). Other times it will be an older book in what ever subject I happen to be interested in at that time.

Often… this first question is followed by another (much like the male orgasm. No. Wait. That’s wrong!) where I’m told about a problem or a subject the questioner is interested in and requesting I recommend one book, out of a panoply of books, to enlighten them. Solutions to the problem and book recommendations can usually be found within two minutes of searching the Internet. But… people are inherently lazy. Or mistake me for some authority figure. It’s probably the abundance of knowledge contained in the books of my apt that brings about this mistaken belief.

Hello!? Have you no idea who I am?

I am the dumbest guy on the planet and you’re asking me for advice? Do you really think this is the wisest decision you can make?

Usually I just flat out state I cannot help. I know what a Doctor feels like at a cocktail party and why they say they’re in some obscure branch of finance or market research.

I find it difficult to pick one particular book that will solve all your problems just like you can’t go to a single therapy session and have all your life’s baggage and hang-ups taken care of. Okay. Okay. There are a couple of very dubious places populated with quacks and scammers that would like you to believe you can.

I don’t think my recommendations would mean much anyway. I don’t consider myself an authority on any particular subject. And what works for me may not work for you.

I get through a lot of books each year. Just because I’m reading a title doesn’t mean I think it is good. It’s just something to read.

This year, 2005, I’m concentrating on “sales” books. I read a number of sales books every year, but this year I’m intending to do a “sales” book blitzkrieg. For 2004 it was finance. Go figure.

Even when I do give an honest and thoughtful answer to the questioner, the advice is rarely heeded. The other person treats any advice or recommendations with precisely the same amount of value they paid for it.

I know that shouldn’t, but it irks me no end.

So I’d rather not offer advice or recommendations that people will just plain ignore.

I’m not one of those “voracious” readers I keep hearing about. My younger years are behind me. I no longer have the luxury of spending a lot of time reading. I guess visitors are just easily fooled by the quantity of books in the apartment.

Occasionally the conversation will get around to online reading.

Blogs & news web sites.

Let’s face it, most of what’s on-line ain’t worth the time of day — except this website of course. The banal can be engrossing because it is banal. But only for so long.

It wears thin.

Quickly.

I don’t read many blogs. I follow a couple of ones that are worth investigating. When I find a new one that looks interesting, I follow it for a few days, some times up to a week, to see if the person really does have anything useful to say. Usually it turns out to be just another LiveJournal-esque blog.

WEB LOGS

So who do I read? Here’s my personal daily intake, and you can extract the same value from this list as what you paid for it.

  1. Seth Godin (In his early days he didn’t actually say very much and just went with links to other people who actually have original thoughts and if it wasn’t for his books I’d think he was a waste of space. Now he has lots of original posts that are well worth reading. P.S. I wish he’d take a leaf out of his own Little Red Fez book and fix the website navigation)
  2. MicroISV
  3. Eric Sink
  4. Joel on Software (Yes. I agree. He is opinionated. Aren’t we all? He lives in New York. ’nuff said. At least he thinks about his opinions instead of linking to somebody else. Another guy who needs to read his own books. re: CityDesk navigation and usability.)
  5. Scoble
  6. Robert Cringley (Distiller of other people’s wisdom)
  7. Change This (Not exactly a blog but the manifesto’s are worth reading)
  8. Hello World

Currently being monitored for worthwhile content:

  1. The Chronicles of Stuffed Guys
  2. Jason Kottke (eye wateringly small fonts)
  3. Tom Ballachino’s Entrepreneurship in the Information Age (A bit wordy. A bit?! That’s like saying Yoda has a slight speech impediment.)
  4. Joi Ito (Borderline boring. Sub-clinical narcissism. I’ll give this blog another week or two before dropping it)
  5. A Shareware Life by the author of Pretty Good Solitaire (I’m probably going to drop this one. It sails too close to the LiveJournal style with a zillion cat pictures.)
  6. Fast Company (Mind numbingly boring prose. Written by mind numbingly boring people. Those that can do, those that cannot write for “new age” business magazines.)
  7. The Gary Halbert Letter (Not a blog — a newsletter. He’s a bit crass. Questionable wisdom directly aimed at shlemiels. Always has something worth taking away.)
  8. John Carlton’s Big Damn Blog (Occasional wisdom. Carlton is definitely a Halbert clone. Another (ab)user of shnooks & shlemiels. Again, something worth taking away every time you read it.)

BOOKS

1. 422taxdeductions.jpg 422 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals by Bernard Kamoroff Worth owning if you have a small business, or happen to be an independent contractor or consultant.
2. luckyorsmart.jpg Lucky or Smart? : Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life by Bo Peabody Lucky. Definitely lucky. I only managed to finish this book because I was on a long drive to San Jose and I had no other audio books with me.
3. zigziglarssecretsofclosingthesale.jpg Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar I love this guy. He really knows how to walk the walk. Also available as an audio book.
4. theautomaticmillionaire.jpg The Automatic Millionaire : A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich by David Bach Common wisdom, distilled down so even someone like me can understand it. You must read this book.
5. offthecuff.jpg Off the Cuff: The Essential Style Guide for Men–And the Women Who Love Them by Carson Cressley I would say “I love this guy” too, but some of you twisted little weirdos might construe that the wrong way. One snappy dresser. Maybe snazzy too. Hrm, is calling him a snazzy dresser too gay? Snappy. Definitely snappy.
6. giantsteps.jpg Giant Steps by Anthony Robbins Robbins is always a bit hit & miss with his “self-help”/”feel good” books. This is one of his better ones. Small changes make for big advances. (Someone needs to tell my editor about “big advances.”)
7. thegoldenruleofschmoozing.jpg The Golden Rule of Schmoozing: The Authentic Practice of Treating Others Well by Aye Jaye This book was great. The audio book version is read by Penn Jillette (the fat, loud one) of Penn & Teller and is also worth listening to as well. In fact, just buy the audio book version even if it is abridged. I wonder if there will ever be a follow up book read by Teller (the skinny, silent one). Might make for a really short book.
8. 101secretsofhighlyeffectivespeakers.jpg 101 Secrets of Highly Effective Speakers: Controlling Fear, Commanding Attention by Caryl Rae Krannich A good grounding in public speaking. Not the end all and be all of the subject but worth reading if it’s the only book you’ll ever pick up on the topic.
9. gettingthingsdone.jpg Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen The principles in this book won’t work for everyone but most of them worked for me when I tried them out. Maybe I’m just a good study. It’s a little light on some of the more effective time management techniques. This is really just an average, time management, self-help book with a small twist. Combine it with one of the Julie Morgenstern books.
10. startlatefinishrich.jpg Start Late, Finish Rich : A No-Fail Plan for Achieving Financial Freedom at Any Age by David Bach David Bach: prolific writer of simple, down-to-Earth investment advice. He keeps repeating the same idea throughout all of his books. Read any one of his other titles, and this one, and you’ve got everything he has to say on the subject. You definitely should read and apply his knowledge.
11. brandwarfare.jpg Brand Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Killer Brand by David D’Allesandro Now out of print, but you can find a cheap 2nd hand copy. A classic. Get this one! Also available as an audiobook and an e-book.
12. Get Anyone to Do Anything : Never Feel Powerless Again–With Psychological Secrets to Control and Influence Every Situation by David Lieberman Not as sinister as the title suggests. Still pretty evocative information though. Worth reading again.
13. howtochangeanybody.jpg How to Change Anybody : Proven Techniques to Reshape Anyone’s Attitude, Behavior, Feelings, or Beliefs by David Lieberman Pure evil in the wrong hands. Very effective techniques. I just don’t agree with the author’s “bible belt, middle of America” outlook that comes through in several of the techniques when he could have just flat out stated it without bringing in his personal beliefs. “Oh no! A female friend is sleeping around! I must change her habits immediately for her own good!”
14. whatclientslove.jpg What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith If you’re a consultant or a small service-oriented business you really should be reading this book.
15. howtobeamarketingsuperstar.jpg How to Become a Marketing Superstar : Unexpected Rules That Ring the Cash Register by Jeffrey Fox I wasn’t paying attention and wound up with three separate copies of this book on my shelf somehow. I’m not implying it’s forgettable. I’m just stating that I have a lousy memory and a lot of book shelves. Worth reading, along with his other marketing and business books too. And they are a nice quick read. I like that.
16. yourmarketingsucks.jpg Your Marketing Sucks. by Mark Stevens Great book. Title says it all. Sleep with it under your pillow.
17. howtobeapeoplemagnet.jpg How to Be a People Magnet : Finding Friends–and Lovers–and Keeping Them for Life by Leil Lowndes Good book on how to meet people. Unfortunately I’ve heard this woman speak and she has the most annoying and grating speech patterns I have ever had the displeasure of encountering. I refuse to link to the audio book version on principle. Just stick with the dead tree version, it’s great.
18. protectingyour1asset.jpg Protecting Your #1 Asset : Creating Fortunes from Your Ideas : An Intellectual Property Handbook (Rich Dad’s Advisors) by Michael Lechter Kiyosaki’s own books are often full of glaring errors that will put you in the poor house but I do like some of the books put out by people who write for the Rich Dad/Poor Dad series. If you need a quick grounding in IP protection grab this book or one of the Complete Idiot’s Guides. Or you could just hire a good IP lawyer.
19. theonlynegotiatingguideyoulleverneed.jpg The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need : 101 Ways to Win Every Time in Any Situation by Peter Stark & Jane Flaherty Powerful stuff. Covers most of the basics. I disagree with the book’s title. Also available as an e-book
20. theoneminutemillionaire.jpg The One Minute Millionaire: The Enlightened Way to Wealth by Mark Hansen & Robert Allen Good book. If all you want to be is a millionaire (by retirement age). Also available as an audio book
21. survivalisnotenough.jpg Survival Is Not Enough: Zooming, Evolution, and the Future of Your Company by Seth Godin Very sad attempt to start a cultural shift. Not one of Mr Godin’s better books. Still, worth reading through in an afternoon.
22. creatingcustomerevangelists.jpg Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force by McConnel, Huba, Kawasaki Worthy reading. Can’t wait to see what these guys do next. Though I don’t agree with everything Kawasaki has to say. Try running a large engineering project on the “just do it!” princple and see how far it gets you.Oh wait, that’s how most of the engineering projects my company has to rescue after they have been run that way.
23. howtoworkaroom.jpg How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Savvy Socializing in Person and Online by Susan RoAne Good for parties. Useful on interviews too. Never be afraid of crowded rooms again.
24. advancedsalessurvivaltraining.jpg Advanced Sales Survival Training by Tom Hopkins I am in two minds as to whether this guy is as good as Ziglar is or if he’s just cribbing over Ziglar’s shoulder. Re-inforces what I’ve been reading in Ziglar’s books all these years.
25. theacademyofmasterclosing.jpg The Academy of Master Closing by Tom Hopkins Closing the sale is the most important thing you can do. This book is a field manual on how to do it.
26. freeprizeinside.jpg Free Prize Inside!: The Next Big Marketing Idea by Seth Godin I liked this enough to buy three copies (I’m a sucker for good marketing). I have the regular 2nd Ed. and two copies of the 1st Ed. in the box. One opened, one in pristine condition for eBaying when I’m old and grey. I’m banking on Mr. Godin’s popularity to finance my retirement. ;)
27. thebigredfez.jpg The Big Red Fez: How To Make Any Web Site Better by Seth Godin A fast read. Just like all of Godin’s books. Thankfully. *cough* broken *cough* record *cough* Get this. Treat it like your web design bible. Buy two copies and send one to this guy here so he can fix the navigation on his website.
28. purplecow.jpg Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin He’s right, the same old shit does get boring after awhile *cough* broken *cough* record *cough*. Worth owning & reading anyway.
29. wisdominc.jpg Wisdom, Inc. : 26 Business Virtues That Turn Ordinary People into Extraordinary Leaders by Seth Godin Another quick read. Surprisingly very little repetition. Get this one, you won’t regret it.
30. permissionmarketing.jpg Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers by Seth Godin If you don’t already know how to do this then get this book. It’s more of a “why you should” than a “how to” guide. Lots of good ideas and covers a lot of the basics. There are better books but if all you have to kill is a few hours on a flight then this book is worth the time investment.
31. unleashingtheideavirus.jpg Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin Memes!
Marketing Consultant: “Address the chair!”
Ford Prefect: “There isn’t chair, there’s only a rock.”
Marketing Consultant: “Well, call it a chair.”
Ford Prefect: “Why not call it a rock?”
Marketing Consultant: “You obviously have no conception of modern business methods.”
32. gameprogrammingwithpython.jpg Game Programming With Python by Sean Riley Really worth owning if you want to ship casual/indie games. My company is two months in to development of our next game using Python and Pygame and this is our Python bible.
33. gameleveldesign.jpg Game Level Design by Ed Byrne Most of what’s in here is covered in other books but this one gathers all that knowledge in to one place. It won’t be the only level design book you own but it should have a place on your shelf.
34. patternsingamedesign.jpg Patterns in Game Design by Staffan Bjork & Jussi Holopainen I hate the Gang of Four Patterns book so my judgement is a little coloured on this title so I’ll reserve comment.
Design Pattern Consultant: “Address the gatekeeper.”
Engineer: “There isn’t a gatekeeper, there’s only a project manager.”
Design Pattern Consultant: “Well, call him a gatekeeper.”
Engineer: “Why not call him a project manager?”
Design Pattern Consultant: “You obviously have no conception of modern development methods.”
35. theoneminutemanager.jpg The One Minute Manager Anniversary Ed : The World’s Most Popular Management Method by Blanchard & Johnson Ick! Formula management. If you like this book I can let you have a barrow load of “Six Sigma” books that I am about ready to burn.
36. puttingtheoneminutemanagertowork.jpg Putting the One Minute Manager to Work by Blanchard & Lober Must read this book during March
37. liesandthelyingliarsthattellthem.jpg Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken A “comedian” that’s only occasionally funny. Who would have thought you could sustain a career doing that? Which is worse? A blatant liar you know is lying or someone who appears genuine but distorts and omits facts to suit his own ends?
38. theoneminutemanagermeetsthemonkey.jpg The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Blanchard, Oncken, Burrows Gandalf: “I have no recollection of this book.” My copy has a little red tag inside the front flap to indicate I’ve read it. I recognise certain passages when I glance over them. Instantly forgettable.
39. builttolast.jpg Built to Last : Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Collins & Porras The common myths of what makes an exceptional company, explored. Presented in easily digestible sound bites so you can remember them.
40. goodtogreat.jpg Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by JIm Collins More common sense business sense. If you’re a business klutz like me trying to build the next Apple, read this book.
41. the8thhabit.jpg The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen Covey Tedious and over-detailed. Get the abridged audio version and play it on fast forward. Otherwise, the principle is sound.
42. thetippingpoint.jpg The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell A master at stating the bloody obvious. Chaos theory distilled to a palatable meme. No, wait, ideavirus! No, Meme! Yes! Meme! Interesting reading but I couldn’t help get the feeling I’d been here before.
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