Reflections on finishing books and books-teachers

“Here’s publishing’s dirty little secret: most books are not worth finishing. Most books could be cut in half and you wouldn’t miss a thing. The key is to read as long as you are interested and then stop. There are too many great books to read without getting bogged down in the merely good ones.”



I would say that whether we are more prone to finish a book or not, depends on our character. Personally, I always thought that I like to read many books at a time, to increment my reading, so to speak. Finishing each and every one of them wasn’t my goal. Plunging into a new area — on the contrary. This applied to non-fiction in particular (e.g. business, psychology, self development). When I decided to examine the issue, it occurred to me that my patterns had changed over time.

“We are wired to tell and receive stories. We are all born storytellers (and ‘storylisteners’).”

Source: Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

For every non-fiction book, I would eagerly start off, learn the concepts, mapped usually in the beginning sections of the title, and let go when the author started to get into the intricacies of the subject. Soon, I became a fan of the “short form.” I often said “books are slow” or “a typical set of ideas found in any book could be easily summarized in one blog entry.”

Here comes the story

Some books stood out from the rest. Titles like Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard or Tom DeMarco’s Deadline are built around a tale. Here, the message is wrapped up in a story. And stories help ideas spread, they make them “sticky.” Stories draw the reader’s attention towards the idea and allow him/her to associate pictures painted by the storyteller with the idea. When there’s a story in place, you remember more.

It became clearer to me that many books from the “fiction” genre were better teachers than typical research / analysis / presentation / elaboration titles. Take Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Memory of Running by Ron McLarty, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay or Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — these are incredible teachers indeed.

What are your personal thoughts on the subject? Do you have any favorite books that challenged you and provided insight you’d like to share? Please let me know.