How Big Does a Book Have to Be…

To be or not to be is the question today as is the length of the pop culture business book.  As this blog feed goes out via LinkedIn, many are aware of the lengthy list of books I’ve read and reviewed knocking one out about every week or so.  However what I’ve found in my humble opinion is the need to get to the point as some [business books] seem to cross the line into fiction.  What are you saying, fiction in a business book? For clarity the reference to “fiction” comes from implied “entertainment” as while there may be a factorial base (like many Dan Brown books) to the work. The boundary still has been crossed from simply being “interesting” to that of simple “entertainment“.

Now don’t get me wrong if you wish to read for entertainment great as so do I, however the goal for business books has changed.  One book in point was the “Checklist Manifesto“, as I heard the interview on the Invisible Hand podcast (great podcast by the way) so went out got the book and read it in like under two hours as it was loosely written and only around 209 pages.

Also yes I do speed read, took one of the original Evelyn Wood classes some 20 years ago and no you don’t skip words.  In short you read without verbalizing (as your most likely doing right now) instead you read via visualizing the words in your mind and the finger action you see is more for the rote beginner to prevent backwards eye motion.  A working example is think of an audio book Like Freefall and the running time is about 8 hours where as via visualizing it (via speed reading), one can easily do it in 2 to 4 hours with no issue.

However back to the case of the Checklist Manifesto, as it took 209 pages to only make two points being, (1) Checklists are good, (2) there are two types of checklist so choose correctly for your application.  There, now you have read the book, as the remaining 208.9 pages or so are filled with second hand stories. Ok to a certain extent the “story” is used to make the case, however how many cases do we need to be sold?  This is where my contention is the book (and not only this one but many) moves from that of “instruction” to “entertainment“.

First, don’t get me wrong as what the “Checklist Manifesto” is selling from a concept point of view is spot on, it’s the medium which I struggle with as the cost including  my time to read 209 pages, and all the associated logistic costs to create and deliver the unneeded pages dilutes the ROI of the message.  Now, having this discussion with my more cultured friends they point to the fact that the author is in reality an “artist” and much like the way musicians laid down tracks on an Album/CD (yet another bygone concept and media) we the reader are expected to enjoy the information as presented because it’s the authors intent.  Here my retort is once again to throw a flag on the field and call a fowl as this is now “entertainment“.

What is the answer then, simple it’s to borrow from our “entertainment” friend with the name of Novella, as opposed a lengthy Novel.  Here the story is conveyed in strict and compact pose, without the additional filler if you will or the hashing over and over of like reasons.  As Dylan sang many moons ago, the times they are a changing and my hope is the pop culture business book will too…