So Many Books

As an independent consultant, I spend a lot of time working in coffee shops and other venues near my house. One of these is my local public library. The library is a great place to work: it’s quiet, has comfortable furniture, good light, and (relatively) fast internet access. It’s my favorite place to work from—when I don’t have to be in meetings, of course. But there’s a downside to working in the library: it’s full of books.

I have a book problem. I love reading and find it difficult to visit the library without being drawn to the shelves. Last time I was there I checked out Ken Kocienda’s Creative Selection, an insider’s story about what it was like to be behind the scene’s at Apple during the heyday of the Steve Jobs era. In particular, it focuses on how the company makes software design decisions. Right up my alley! I’m enjoying it, but starting to read it means I’m spending less time with another book I’d started recently. (Robert Greene’s newest, The Laws of Human Nature.) Greene’s book, in turn, intruded into another book I was reading.

You can see how this would be a problem. If I keep going this way, I won’t finish any of them. So I’m starting to develop more stringent criteria about what I let through my reading queue:

  • It must be relevant to my work
  • It must be authoritative
  • It must be something I’ve not read before (i.e., a subject I’m unfamiliar with)
  • It must be engaging (I won’t waste with poor writing, no matter how fascinating the subject)
  • Bonus points: it’s over twenty years old and still considered the go-to for its subject

Many books don’t pass this test; those go into a “for later” tab in OneNote. But will later ever come? At this pace, it won’t. (Several lifetimes aren’t enough for all the interesting books out there!) But that’s OK as long as the books that I do give my attention to are highly relevant and informative, and my filter list helps with that.