Book Review: The Productivity Project

The staff at my municipality have started a leadership book club that meets monthly over lunch. It is a really neat idea, and this month I decided to participate.

The book of choice for this month was Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project.

image of the cover of Chris Bailey's book the producitivity projectFor the most part, I am a productive person, and don’t read books like this myself since I don’t have a lot of productivity concerns. That aside, this was a nice, quick read full of useful advice. I was able to read it in about two and a half hours, but that was without completing any of the activities in each chapter.

The author took a life-long fascination with productivity to an interesting extreme when he took a year to research productivity and run productivity experiments on himself. This book was written as part of that project (hence the title) and the author’s accessible writing style, and great set-up for the book made for interesting reading.

Many of the tips and advice in the book won’t be new to people who have been in the workforce for any length of time, or done any reading on organization, time management, or similar topics. It split most advice into 3 areas of concentration to be more productive: time, energy, and attention. All of the author’s tips worked on how to manage balance and focus in those areas to maximize productivity in both your work and personal life. I especially enjoyed his writing on procrastination.

I find, for myself, that the more time pressed I am at work, the better my productivity habits. When I don’t have hard deadlines this start to slide. To that end some of the habits that I hope to reinstate for myself are:

  • Drink more water
  • Take some time to meditate daily
  • Phone goes into a drawer at work
  • Take breaks
  • Update my lists: projects, projects, planning

And generally be more mindful when completing tasks and moving about my day.

I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in productivity since it is such an easy, quick read, as well as for the addition of activities.

 

 

#libfaves15 and the “Best Books” phenomenon

At the end of the year there are a lot of “best Books of” lists (and others of course), a chance for people to catch up on titles that they might have missed during the year. This seems to be a time when people want to show how smart they are, how many critically acclaimed books that they can mention in a post. But, no one should feel bad about not reading enough, or not enjoying the books that others are reading.

Or, like with movie lists, try and make sure that the list writer’s tastes match the reader’s tastes. Because I’ve known for years that what I like in a movie has very little to do with what a newspaper film critic enjoys in a movie.

There was an excellent tweet that I came across when working on gathering a list of all the books published in 2015 that I’ve read and enjoyed this year (spoiler, I only managed 5).

tweetonbooks

This reminder should bring you back to Raganathan’s 5 Laws of library science or more specifically the 2nd and 3rd laws.

“Every reader his/her book” and “Every book its reader”

Don’t judge a person by their request, don’t tell them that it is a “bad” book, and it isn’t your job to educate someone on better reading.

People read for different reasons. From entertainment, escapism, to learn, to be able to participate in conversations with their peers. People also read for different reasons at different times. I don’t work with Readers Advisory all that much and even I have had countless interactions with people sheepishly confessing, “well I’m going to be travelling so I want something a bit lighter to read”, like I might judge them on their favourite author or genre. (On the flip side there are also the super explicit requests for “cozy mysteries about female detectives by british authors, no violence, no bad language, no sex”).

Sometimes you start books, but can’t finish them until you are in the right headspace. Sometimes you just start and never finish a book.

And this is why I try and participate in projects like #libfaves15 , in my own small way, I can inject some non-typical titles into the “Best Books” arena, so that those who don’t see their reading tastes reflected, can see a bit of diversity. Scrolling through the list now I see graphic novels, romances, and lots of fantasy in additional to the expected favourites. Efforts like this help illustrate how diverse our reading habits and tastes are.

Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown

Do you ever read a book that you really, really want to love, but can’t? Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is that book for me.

 

There was a lot that I loved about it: the characters – fully formed, complex, flawed, and clever, the world (most important to me)- alt-England where magic is real, if fading, and fully part of society, and the plot – see fading magic.  With more to love, like the discussions of gender and race politics, and class.

I knew from reading the blurb before it was published that this should be a book that I should love, and was eager to read it. But, I didn’t.

Over the last two months I’ve struggled to put into words why I didn’t like it. Why it was a book that I might recommend to some, but would never re-read, and there are a lot of people that I wouldn’t recommend it to. And since no one I know has read it, it has been a solo struggle.

But, I’ve figured it out. There are 2 reasons that the Sorcerer to the Crown wasn’t for me, and might not be for you.

  1. “Alt-Regency” this book, in additional to the other aspects, is an imagined alternative to the Regency genre. I have never read any regency fiction as the prose is written very densely, and is distracting from the story. Also, boring.
  2. This book is literature, and reads like an intellectual exercise. A little bit like why I really, really disliked Grossman’s the Magicians, it doesn’t feel like a story, more like a bunch of component parts (I want my book to have ingredients A, B, and C, but not D – make D the opposite!) and less about building a compelling story. And, because of that it feels elitist which turns me off immediately.

tl;dr despite looking on paper like a great addition to the fantasy genre Sorcerer to the Crown is actually literature, which isn’t my cup of tea.

Recommendation: The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

cover of the artocity arhives

It’s been awhile since my last post, and it is mostly because I feel overwhelmed by the thought of posting something interesting, or “good”. So, instead of worrying about that, I’m going to post things that work for me.

A book series recommendation is on the docket today.cover of the artocity arhives

Do you like science fiction? Fantasy? Do you like the idea of reading about an IT nerd mired in bureaucracy and Lovecraftian horrors?

If so, the Laundry Files by Charles Stross are here for you.

Starting with the Atrocity Archives, you are introduced to Bob Howard, part of IT support for the Laundry – a British organization here to save us from unknown horrors. He is looking to become a field agent, but then things get complicated. The plot is complex, but not overly complicated, and any clichés are included with tongue firmly in cheek.

These books are scary, funny, and riveting. All told from Bob’s perspective, you get to enjoy terrifying events

And if you are interested, I’d highly recommend trying the audiobooks, they are what I’ve been “reading” and the reader, Emery Gideon, is great.

“Have you read this book?”

This month marks five years since I started working at my library. Before that I worked for a couple of years at a large city library system, and spent some time years before then completing a work placement in a public library as well. Considering it all, I’ve now spent over 7 years in libraries.

And in all of these years (a small portion of my total years in public libraries hopefully), there is one question that I dread. “Have you read — ?” The blanks always refer to a bestseller, literary fiction, and/or bookclub choice.

The problem is – my current favourite author writes a series set during the Napoleonic war featuring an intelligent aerial corps made of of dragons.

No one has ever asked me what I think about those books.

To be fair, I have had one person ask me about what I thought about an author who writes gentle romances.

So, I rarely read bestsellers (only if they are non-literary fantasy), and I’ve never read a title that was in a bookclub kit at either of the library systems I’ve worked at.

As a result, I’ve had to come up with various responses to the dreaded question.

“Not yet, but I know that it is quite popular.”

“I haven’t had a chance to, but I know a lot of people who have enjoyed it.”

“No, but it is very well reviewed.”

I can then pull up some reviews as fast as possible , and give the patron some information about the title.

People love to discuss the books they love, and there is something very pleasing about finding a stranger who loves the same books that you do. While I may not read the same books that many library patrons who want to engage about books they are interested in, I do know how to utilize tools that can help them decide what they want to read next.

But I do hope for the day someone wants to ask me about Jim Butcher, Naomi Novik, or Seannan McGuire.