Massively parallel reading

Have you, by any chance, started reading more books in parallel than you used to? I have, and I’m trying to figure out whether it’s an age thing, or whether the Web has an unusual effect on reading habits. I’ve noticed that my tendency to read more than one book at the same time has, if anything, increased since the Web. Just curious.

While on the subject of books…..Some of you wanted me to bring back LibraryThing, which I will do. Soon. I’m working on a makeover for the site, and it should go live shortly. In the meantime, here’s what I’m reading while in my current incarcerated state:


I guess I realise just how odd I am when I see the books I’ve chosen as my companions for the next few days.

Some of them, I’m reading for the nth time, n being a number greater than 5. Here’s a quick summary:

The Social Life of Information by Seely Brown and Duguid : I probably read this at least once a year. I think it should be required reading for anyone working with information.

Son of Rhubarb by H Allen Smith: Maybe for the 6th time, I’m going through the whole H Allen Smith oeuvre this year. Anyone who thinks it is normal to bequeath a baseball team to an alley cat is normal enough for me.

How To Be Decadent by George Mikes: Maybe for the 10th time, I’ve been regaling myself on this wonderful humorist. Ever since How To Be An Alien I have loved reading and re-reading this guy.
White Flame by James Grady: Never read this, but ever since Six Days Of The Condor I’ve enjoyed Grady. Any book recommended by Gerald Petievich and Robert Crais must be worth a look.

Agile Project Management by Jim Highsmith: Probably reading this for the 4th time. If you’re interested in Agile you should read the whole series.

Housekeeping vs the Dirt by Nick Hornby: Never read it, I think I received it as part of my subscription to the Believer. I must have read quite a bit of it in his original columns, but what the hell. Always enjoyable.

Beyond A Boundary by CLR James: Dom, Sam and Gilbert sent this to me while I was in hospital. (Thanks!). Excellent cricket book. One that I haven’t actually read before. Already love it.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: I think it was Bill Barnett, who used to work with me and now works at Wachovia, who recommended I read this. I took his advice. And love the book. Thanks, Bill.

Moral Minds by Marc Hauser: One of these books that appears to belong to the Edward Wilson Consilience class, probably similar to Wilson’s next book, The Creation. I am fascinated by the way the science-religion battle is taking shape. I’ve never had a problem with believing I was created. Hard reading, slow reading, but worth it.

In Darkest England and the Way Out by General Booth: Until you read books like this one, you don’t quite realise how you can learn from history. Written by the founder of the Salvation Army, it could have been written last year. Except for the stiltedness of the language, of course. The commentary on social conditions and the breakdown of the family unit is so similar it’s uncanny.

Free Markets and Social Justice by Cass Sunstein: I’m probably reading this only for the second time, and this time pretty slowly. I think Sunstein is an important read for bloggers. Don’t quite know why, can’t put my finger on it. But I read quite a bit of Sunstein, and it probably shows.

Comeback by Richard Stark: I devour anything by Donald E Westlake, in whatever guise. Two of his series stand out. The Dortmunder “caper” novels, which he writes as Westlake, and the Parker “hardboiled” thrillers, written under the name of Richard Stark. More about Dortmunder later. Soon.

Well, at the very least there may be one or two people out there who now have a holiday read recommendation they didn’t have ten minutes earlier. That’s all for now.

11 thoughts on “Massively parallel reading”

  1. JP, great to see that you’re well. Everyone’s missing you around the office. Keep up the reading and we’ll catch-up in the new year. Take care.

  2. I’m definitely reading more books in parallel than I used to. And I feel like I need to be – my interests are broadening as a result of my reading on the web, but in cocmplementary ways. I want to be reading history, economics, fiction, sociology and even some basic mathematics (theis is a recent thing, I’m an arts man by trade) because (a) I need to expore those lines of thought and (b) serendipity, synchrony and synthesis seem to come up that much thicker and faster when I’m reading lots in parallel.

  3. Nothing to do with the post itself, but the title reminded me of this story.

    During the run-up to their launch, the schedule slipped significantly, and the CEO (overall a great guy) made the classic engineering management mistake of adding many more developers to the late project in hopes of speeding its completion.

    After failing to win several arguments on this point, the engineers … each bought a copy of [The Mythical Man-Month], brought the CEO into a conference room, and stacked up the copies of the book, telling him, It is extremely urgent that you read this book. We’ve bought you many copies so that you might read it faster. They made their point.

    Have a happy Christmas and a continued speedy recovery.

  4. Massively parallel reading may work for entertainment, but I find I need to focus when I get to the heavy stuff. Otherwise, I just come away with a superficial feel; and, if THAT is what I want, then I can get a bit more depth from THE NEW YORK REVIEW. Actually, I think that good review writing is probably one of the most valuable talents in the age of information overload; but, since so few people agree with me, I doubt that I shall be able to start my own service business around it!

  5. I am trying to find your post where you describe how you approach reading books (in the hope I might get a clue how to address my growing reading list).

    Can you point me in the right direction, or perhaps return to the subject soon?

  6. Dom, all you are doing is putting me to shame for not tagging my posts sensibly. Will rectify. One day. In the meantime I will dig up the post and revert to the subject tonight.

  7. I can remember reading many books simultaneously all the way back to about the 7th grade. I am now 48 and still read many things at the same time… Mostly for work, but I usually do keep a couple of books going at home. Of course, I was/am an introvert and so perhaps that has something to do with my closeting myself with a book more often than some…

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