Archives for posts with tag: Books

A former boss and mentor of mine recently referred me to an article on self-publishing. It was written by someone who had been published before, using the traditional publishing routes and methods, and now was publishing his own books. The full post is here. It’s a fascinating read, especially so if you are thinking off putting stuff out there.

This post, however, is not so much an advert for self-publishing as it is a comment or two on how technology has changed how we write, and how we consume what’s been written.

Books are changing. They’re not books any more, much of the time at least. Sometimes they’re ebooks, existing on screen but not existing physically. Sometimes they’re printed on demand, one at a time, Sometimes they’re very short, like a pamphlet. Sometimes they’re simply a blog post, like this one.

Publishing something used to be this mammoth, self-contained, one-off project that ending up with something spitting out off the presses. Now we can publish something very short, very quickly, even charge for it too, and get almost instant feedback on what readers thought of it. Web 2.0 baby, what a wonderful thing.

This same technology has also changed the way we read, our reading behaviours. We have an unending wealth of information and diversion at our fingertips. We now skim read, and have a shorter attention span, so unless what we’re reading is a compelling page turner – digitally or physically – shorter is better.

So maybe this is a misleading post title. Maybe books have already changed.


Think of the last book you read that was a real page-turner. Got it? Right, was it fiction or non-fiction? I’m betting it was a work of fiction.

A work of fiction is a story. It tells you a story. It brings you along, imbuing you with a gradually deepening sense of the main characters and how they interact, propelling you to the end. A work of non-fiction tends not to do that. Of course it should tell you a story, but often it’s not that easy to do, especially if it’s not a historical account but a business book or something like that.

That’s the difference between fiction and non-fiction: a story to engage you and for you to invest in.

I’ve written a book, as yet unpublished. It’s non-fiction, so it lacks the pulling power and retentive power of a created story. Conscious of my own very short attention span, I’ve written it as a book that’s light on text, heavy on pictures, and, controversially, I’ve made it a page-stopper rather than a page-turner. There is a story in there which has an autobiographical theme, but I’ve designed the book to be ‘coffee-table-putdownable’. It’s easier to finish because it’s easier to pause. It doesn’t overstay its welcome before it offers you a rest.

I think non-fiction books have to work harder to get you to complete them, because there’s no story. Regular signposting and benches help.

Most people will give you a recommended reading list, books they’ve read and think are worth you reading as well.

Here’s a list of 13 important books I wish could finish, not because they’re hard work but because I don’t have the time to get through them. I have at some point either started these books, or read a recommendation to read them. They all currently reside on my bedside table.

You’ll notice I describe them as important. I think I could make the time to read them, but they’re either very long, or they’re a complex, detailed read, or they present within them a challenge to me that I’m not ready to address yet. Here we go:

– The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham. One of the original – and still one of the best – books on how to invest wisely.

– The Golf of Your Dreams, by Bob Rotella. How to plan to improve your golf game by one of the sport’s great thinkers.

– Teach Your Child How to Think, by Edward de Bono. The creator of Lateral Thinking helps you get out of the ‘my child’s at school and that’s all the thinking s/he needs’ mindset

– D-Day – The Battle for Normandy, by Anthony Beevor. A super detailed and researched account of one of the key events shaping the second half of the twentieth century.

– Visions of England, by Roy Strong. How people historically viewed England through other people’s view of it, like in paintings.

– Seven Deadly Sins – My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, by David Walsh. One of the ‘told you so’ books mopping up the aftermath of one of the largest bubbles to burst.

– Pick Four, by Seth Godin. Zig Ziglar’s legendary goals program, updated and simplified by his Lordship.

– 101 Irish Records You Must Hear Before You Die, by Tony Clayton-Lea. More of a ‘dip in and buy the album’ read.

– Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama. Yep, you’ve probably already read it.

– Hurling – The Warrior Game, by Diarmuid O’Flynn. The definitive guide to one of Ireland’s two national games.

– Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. Yep, you’ve probably already read it.

– The Calendar, by David Ewing Duncan. The authoritative account of how people have fought – and how we have taken for granted – to measure the passage of time, which I also touch on here.

– How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. The word ‘seminal’ is overused, but certainly justified here.

Yes, I know, it is a pretty robust bedside table.