I've been on a good streak with good books lately. There's always this trepidation that comes with investing time in a new book. How far will I get into it before realizing I've been taken by a clever title or good cover-art. This Explains Everything, was an example of that for me. A smart idea in concept, but it was clearly rushed in realization and resulted in a collection of truisms rather than anything truly illuminating. I should have known. Never trust a cover that promises you everything. Here's the collection of books that did have an impact on me this spring.
Pedestrian Bridge, 3D Printed by Robots
(Created by Joris Laarman, discovered in the folds of on the internet in June)
Data Smart - John Forman
John Forman is cooler than me. To be honest he's probably cooler than you too, no offense. He is the sort of cool that I can only assume was cultivated from years of wallflowering and quite possibly a large amount of time playing atari. He is funny, and smart, and almost taught me to love spreadsheets.
"Spreadsheets are not the sexiest tools around. In fact, they're the Wilford-Brimley-selling-Colonial-Penn of the analytics tool world. Completely unsexy. Sorry, Wilford. Bu that's the point. Spreadsheets stay out of the way. They allow you to see the data and to touch (or at least click on) the data. There's freedom there."
"In this book, we're going to use mostly column chars, line graphs, and scatter plots. Never be caught using a pie chart. And especially never use the 3D pie chars excel offers, or my ghost will personally haunt you when I die."
And quite possibly the best line of all:
"So without further ado, let's go organize some ignorance."
Seriously, buy this one. It's worth the cost.
The Empathy Exams - Leslie Jamison
I think most people who set out to write a collection of essays end up unwittingly making themselves the hero. Their essays end up a celebration of how perceptive or bright the writer is. Jamison's essays are nothing of the sort. Her writing is objective, multifaceted and even sometimes a bit bullying toward the essayist herself. Throughout the book, Jamison seems to be on an extended pursuit of the most honest version of the story - a non-emotional examination of emotion. As a result, each page is addictive and the whole book is something that I think will stay with me for awhile.
"But there was truth behind it. He understood my pain as something actual and constructed at once. He got that it was necessarily both-- that my feelings were also made up of the way I spoke them. When he told me I was making things up, he didn't mean I wasn't feeling anything. He meant that feeling something was never simply the state of submission but always, also, a process of construction. I see all of this, looking back."
"This is how writers fall in love: They feel complicated together and then they talk about it."
Becoming a Technical Marketer - Justin Mares & Nathaniel Eliason
I'm pretty impressed with Justin Mares and Nathaniel Eliason. In a time when pretty much every marketing and growth book is full of fluff, preaching, and anecdotes, this book provides an actual, practical service. It was a relief and a real help. I signed up for their programming for marketers email series and couldn't find the time in my inbox to sit down and focus on it. Having the Kindle Book was worthwhile and enabled me to focus on the lessons more seriously. It's a quick read and you'll leave with a score of different resources, tools and sites you can start using immediately.
No specific lines, but the examples are widely-applicable and easy to adapt to your own company.
Other Things Read, Loved and Pocketed
The Return of the Phantom Google Update (in which popups finally take a well deserved fall)