Book overload rant

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I’m putting this in the Dr Rant category because I don’t want you to take it too literally. I am being rhetorical; please comment back rhetorically if it pleases you.

I’m also going to generalise sweepingly. Forgive me in advance or give this post a miss. I may just be having an off day.

But for today, I’m sick of business books.

There are too many of them and I can’t possibly keep up.

And now some of the authors are kind enough to send me free review copies. And I’ve been saying yes, like an idiot. So now I feel obliged to read them.

But I don’t want to.

I’m still trying to write a book chapter for the More Space project. It’s a great project. But I’m hating writing my chapter.

So for now, I’ve had it with books. With reading them and writing them.

Why? Perhaps I’m just eating the wrong stuff these days, or my boiler is putting out too much carbon monoxide (not much chance in this drafty old Victorian house).

On the shaky assumption that there’s some good reasoning behind my response, here’s the problem. Business books are a piece of artifice. They have an order and structure that bears no relationship to real life.

They are written, and read, almost entirely as solitary acts. But life is a collaborative act, it’s a series of engagments and encounters with other living creatures. It’s not like a book. It’s nothing like a book.

When you look at the average business bookshelf in a store, what do you feel? Do you really feel excited by the possibilities or do you – like me – more often just feel anxious? Anxious at all these things you don’t know yet, and these wild fantasies about your miserable untransformed business/career/whatever?

There are so many things in my life that fascinate me, make me curious and keen to learn. But not business books.

Oh but everyone says to me, oh Johnnie, you must write a book. You obviously have a book in you. What a ghastly thought. If there is a book in me, give me whatever it is I need to eat to flush the thing right out!

For some reason, we reverence books. We think that if someone has written a book, it means they are in some way smarter or more qualified. As if the weird ability to churn out a book correlates in any way with being an interesting speaker… or a capable manager or whatever.

One of my friends writes great books. But when he describes the torture he goes through, drafting and redrafting, I really wonder why he bothers. Because I could say that his books are a kind of lie. They are beautiful, but they completely misrepresent the process he’s gone through to produce them. And they thus support the fiction of the highly rational world that so many business books imply.

There are a very small number of non-fiction books that I read to the end. Very few indeed. In nearly all cases, they might have something interesting to say in the first third. And the rest just labours the point.

With apologies if you’ve sent me a book recently. This is not a comment on your own lifework. And I will still try to catch up on my reviews!

And no I’m not a philistine. Well maybe I am in denial but I don’t think I am.

And there’s nothing like a good novel.

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