Falling While Sitting Down – Joshua Fields Millburn

In 1958 Orson Welles used a (very) long take at the opening of “Touch of Evil” to pull viewers into his story. Joshua Millburn creates a moment of absolute delight with a similar technique at the start of his second story “A Radically Attenuated History of Generation X”. He writes the longest sentences I’ve ever read and pulls me right into the scene. I was so surprised by the narrative when I first read it that I laughed out loud…and read it again. Did I miss a period? I must have, that could never be one sentence.

And yet it was.

Far too long to send as a text message, yet one coherent thought from start to finish.

The moment was unexpected and satisfying, like that time you found a crumpled and forgotten $20 in your coat pocket.

In some ways the whole book is like that. I never knew what was coming but by the end of each story I wanted to know the next step in the plot and I wanted to meet the next character.

How fun is that?

The additional material by contributing authors Colin Wright, Chase Night, and Mark Robertson is different in style but very good nonetheless. Colin Wright’s “The Beam” stands out in particular, like a crisp one act play.

I rarely buy books (I’m a library guy), but here I make an exception. You can’t borrow it, so buy this book.

Seriously, where else can you spend this little and feel like you found a twenty?


The No Complaining Rule – Jon Gordon

I’ve never been a fan of what I call the “read it during your flight” genre. “The One Minute Manager” and it’s ilk have always left me unsatisfied. Had I realized that “The No Complaining Rule” was one of these I would have passed on it.

I tend to have two arguments with the style. The first is that the allegory is usually patronizingly shallow; the second, that if the subject is worthwhile it merits being addressed in greater depth than the format allows. The fact is that I didn’t know, and I found myself complaining a lot, so I picked it up.

Unfortunately, for me, this book fails on both counts. There is good information on the business costs of negativity and some tactics for implementing the no complaining rule in a workplace. However, I felt the presentation made the data appear trite and left me most aware of the impracticality of broaching the subject at my office.

I was able to read the book across two lunchtime walks. Ultimately I would have preferred a more thorough treatment in a longer book or a brief presentation of the facts in a blog post.

If you’re a fan of the genre there are certainly redeeming qualities that would make it a good read for you. I’ve already mentioned the quality information on the costs of negativity and I think that really has value. There is also an assessment at the end of the book that could easily be made into an online survey for your user group. The steps for implementation provide a map for trying the program at your workplace and perhaps someone in a position of more power (or less cynicism) than me could try it out.

All in all it seemed far-fetched and I never bought into it. This doesn’t make it a bad book, but certainly not for me.


Please note that the purchase image above is an affiliate link. I’m not recommending the book, but this link is the easiest way to let people see what I’m talking about (I also need to learn what I’m doing with these links).

Compulsive Reading

I love reading. I think it is empowering to know that there are instructions for anything you’d like to do if you just open a book. I’ve worked to pass this sense of possibility to my children.

It is possible to read instead of living. It is possible to bury yourself so deeply under the crush of incoming information that you never enact any of it in your life.

Mark Twain said “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them“. What about the man who reads so many that he never pauses to accept their influence?

With my stash at home, the friendly pusher that is The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and my “wanna read” list at weRead.com I fear I’ve fallen into that group.

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom remove things every day.

I stumbled across the quote above in Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh and I am applying it to my reading habit. I’ve been adding books every day: books read, books to read, books to re-read. I have had enough of that path.

To stop adding things every day:
Until January 1st 2012 I will not procure any new books.
I will <gasp> subsist on books I already own or have already downloaded.
I will allow a minimum of 24 hours to pass between the completion of one book and the start of another.

To remove things every day:
I will not add any books to my list of things to read without first completing and/or deleting 2 other books.