I looked for a nice book to read on the plane. I couldn't find one. What's up with that? There are nine trillion books in the world and I couldn't find a single one that I imagined would interest me for more than a paragraph. I blame the Internet.

I consume content on the Internet like an anteater with a vacuum attachment. I like my information in small bites, no fat. And skip the fiction, please. Reality is far more interesting than wading through six hundred pages of some ghost writer's imagined universe to figure out which imaginary character killed which other imaginary character. I want to read about Lady Gaga wearing a dress made out of a homeless guy's gutted carcass because she cares deeply about the economy. Can your crime novel give me that? I didn't think so.

My already-short attention span has been further shortened by the bite sized portions of the Internet, to the point where I can't imagine reading more than one page on any particular topic unless I'm literally doing research.

To be fair, the only books I ever enjoyed were humor and biographies. But humor has mostly died as a book category. The exception is humor books written by women and apparently aimed at women. Men are getting their humor from Youtube.

The biography category is mostly tapped out too. I don't need to read another book about yet another dead president. There simply aren't that many fascinating historical characters. It was only a matter of time before biographers ran out of interesting dead people to write about.

Did a fascinating diet book just hit the digital shelves? Great. I'll read the one-paragraph summary on the Internet. If I'm feeling ambitious I'll Google the counter-arguments that say diets never work. But I'll probably skip it altogether because the curse of being several decades into this earthly existence is that it's easy to tell from the title when a book is complete bullshit.

Can you recommend a good book about how the (fill in the blank) are ruining the country? I hear enough of that in real life. Did someone do painstaking research and come up with a fascinating thesis about the future of the planet? Great. I'll read the two-paragraph summary on Newser.com. If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll read a full page about it on Huffingtonpost.com.

Business management books were hot for years. I probably helped kill that category by reminding the public that the primary skill of management involves claiming credit for the work of subordinates.

Thanks to technology, I predict that the book market will evolve from a one-author-per-book model into something that is more of a crowd effort. I don't want to read one person's thoughts for hundreds of pages. I want to see a model more like this blog, in which one person primes the pump with an idea and the public takes it in whatever direction makes sense, including changing the topic entirely. I'd like to see a book that changes every day, with the most interesting comments leading the change.

Something of that nature could work with fiction as well. I can imagine a book in which the "author" creates a starting point, or a framework, and wannabe writers take it from there, creating thousands of versions of that book, each with characters based on their own lives and personalities. The best efforts will get voted to the top.

Anyway, my main point is that the Internet will transform books into something we haven't yet imagined.

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Aug 3, 2011
I'm an avid reader and almost entirely read fantasy and sci fi - that is, those things that are as far away from real life as possible. Mostly because reading is my escape from reality. I do disagree with your theory that fiction will be a collaborative effort by many authors. I've read some books that are collaborative efforts. An example is the Thieves World series. It started out as a neat concept - someone created a world and people wrote short stories or novellas using their own characters and events to fit the climate. It worked for a while. However, as time passed, authors started writing conflicting things about the characters in passing in another story. And the mix of writing styles was a bit schisofrenic. Not my thing. Not to say that it wouldn't suit someone else.
Aug 3, 2011
Try: "Why Most Things Fail" by Paul Ormerod, its fun and explains better than most about how Smith's invisible hand works.

Once you've read it, then you start to understand why capitalism does not work well in business areas where even one failure is a failure to many (such a nuclear power), particularly when the capitalist can use legal shelters to protect much of their other capital from most of the financial downside. This may also hold true for genetics, nano particles, etc.

Against the Gods, the remarkable story of risk" by Bernstein is also a good read if you want to get a better understanding of why Wall Street people seem stupider than most of us, but they wind up taking our money away.

The Immobile Empire by Alain Peyrefette is nearly 30 years old, but does a better job than most books of explaining how China's trade works, and why war with China is almost inevitable (and that the west may well lose this time around).

Now, as a favor, Scott, can you revoke the accounts of those who posts advertisements? I assume they are not paying you any commission, but do increase the costs of running your blog (increase electricity consumption at least).

Aug 3, 2011
Shameless plug.. I wrote the first and only bio of a very interesting man, Gen. Courtney Hodges, WWII ETO First Army.. It got published and might have sold 1,000 copies. Problem? It wasn't about Patton.

Hodges flunked out of West Point and still made it to Four Star General a few months before his classmate Patton. Hodges was a sane modest human being, who did his job and went home. Patton was not. But Patton's real career was self promotion so he won the historical sweepstakes..

I'm done now
Aug 1, 2011
Jul 31, 2011
Scott, you say you like humor but not fiction, what about humorous fiction? Read "To Say Nothing of the Dog", which is hands down the funniest thing I've ever read, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn't matter. Also the book that semi-inspired it, "Three Men in a Boat", written in 1888 and still funny.

By the way, I would agree with you about fiction if the point of fiction was the story being told. But it isn't, not for GOOD fiction, anyway (which leaves out about 98% of it, but that's about par for the course with everything). The point of good fiction is commentary on the human condition, and if that doesn't resonate with you, perhaps the "moist robot" meme is accurate after all.

Reading the Ender series by Orson Scott Card really highlights this. The first two are phenomenal, both in terms of the story and the points Card is making. The next two are interesting to read, but nothing memorable in terms of the underlying theme. Since then he has turned out 5-7 more depending on how you count them, and if they were movies, they would be straight-to-video releases. Not badly written because he's too good a writer for that, but next to the first two? Completely forgettable.
Jul 29, 2011
Excellent! The filter cut out the singer's name (Jarvis C o c k e r)but let through the title of his song ("C.nts are still ruling the World").


Still a good song though...
Jul 29, 2011
Never leave it until you're at the airport - it's all c r a p.

Book: Read "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad just for the sheer pleasure of the English style)
Economic theory: Listen to Jarvis !$%*!$%* "C.nts are still ruling the World".

Enjoy your netxt flight!
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Jul 29, 2011
does blogger not have an askimet-like plugin?

fix the spam you fool!
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 29, 2011
Just read today's Dilbert (29/7). I had to look up what a 'telomere' is. I'm reasonably intelligent, well-educated, and well-informed, but even after I looked it up it still didn't strike me as the sort of thing that I, or 98% of the population, does, should or "ought to" know.

What are you up to, Scott? Trying to educate the masses by stealth, by making us curious enough to look stuff up? Writing posts that only benefit those who can be bothered to do the brief research? Or was this strip aimed solely at the tiny percentage of your readership who are genetic biologists, and the rest of us will have to do without for today?
Jul 29, 2011
9 trillion books and 106 billion people who ever lived on earth means that every single person who ever lived wrote 85 books. That, sir, is ridiculous! Where do you get your facts?

Jul 28, 2011
Let me channel the late Mr. Rogers: "Can you say attention deficit disorder? I knew you could."

Only you, Scott, would propose a complete change in the way books are written simply because you aren't able to find satisfaction with a single book written by a single author.

This is a "the world revolves around me" type of post. Gee, you don't like any books, so because of that, you propose that the entire book industry should change into a sort of ring-around-the-rosy joint development?

My God (in whom you do not believe). What incredible chutzpah. Let's make sure that we stop producing any books that don't have joint authorship because The Great Scott Adams, Ruler Of The World, can't follow along with one theme for more than one page.

Get over yourself.
Jul 28, 2011
I would nominate The Catcher in the Rye as a classic that destroys the point that fiction is uninteresting. The Road is another quick read (not nearly as literary of course, being basically a screen play) that has immediate value in understanding humanity. Both brought tears.

For humor, check out the Flashman novels. Tons of valuable, hard to find, accurate history populated by a completely fictional coward and cad, Harry Flashman. Written mostly for men, funny, with lots of history - the only multi-volume books I've read as an adult.


Jul 28, 2011
Scott, I'd first (gently) suggest that not having time for books is something you might want to see about "fixing". Do you not have a quiet hour every day or so when you're neither busy nor asleep?

As for what to read, maybe James Clavell's Shogun or Patrick O'Brien's Master and Commander are the kind of thing to help slide you into fiction. Both are based on the lives of real people (Tokugawa and Thomas Cochrane respectively), so while not actually biographical they are nevertheless soaked in realism and yet full of events that almost defy belief, and plenty of humour in both.

If it must be truly biographical, try "If chins could kill".
Jul 28, 2011
You claim to be interested in politics, so read books on history. It's like a biography but it covers lots of people and can help you predict the actions of current politicians. None of them have read any history, so they tend to make the same mistakes over and over.

Here's one: http://www.amazon.com/Training-Ground-Sherman-Mexican-1846-1848/dp/0316166251
Jul 28, 2011
Lucky you Scott! I can solve your book problem. Just send me an email to edsemail@shaw.ca and I'll sent you a free copy of my book ... How To Seduce Life. check it out here.. www.howtoseducelife.info P.S. I think you'll like the cartoons as well.
Jul 28, 2011
hey... it's not that there are no good books to read ... I am sure there are great books ... depending on what we want from it ... if you want just what the hell is this guy talking about, then we find it too slow to absorb a single idea in 300 pages when you can "grasp" it in a blog article ...

I partly agree with the slow-bleeding of the fiction genre ... it's not enough for an author to write a book, she better plan to land a movie deal as well ...

I do feel non-fiction books continue to be an interesting genre as it is constant reshaping of information and inferences ...

-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 28, 2011

I don’t think you are looking hard enough. There are so many amazing books that are well worth your time. Just this summer I have read The Brothers Karamazov, Siddhartha and The Master and Margarita, all of which more than exceeded my already high expectations.

Maybe check out goodreads.com. You can enter books you know you like and the site will help you find similar books you may not know about.

And if I may make a shameless plug you could also download my webcomic collection on the Kindle:


But whatever you do don’t give up on books Scott! Books are rad.
Jul 28, 2011
Sounds like you would like books that contain interesting information while not demanding any knowledge, focus or understanding and are written by people who are not subject matter experts. I think this is a genre in itself. I don't know its called, but Malcolm Gladwell is one of these professional information pimps who know how to dress facts into entertaining narratives.
Jul 28, 2011
It sounds like you like information and entertainment. Reading as a hobby no longer interests you. It sounds bad for the book industry. That being said, there are still good books with a high entertainment value if you would just give them half a chance. Try a book like "Straightman" by Richard Russo. Just read the beginning about when the protaganist names his dog as a child. If you don't like it after that then don't read it but, in my opinion, it is worth reading and just keeps getting better. It's a comedy and it works for men and women and is better than anything on youtube. I'm not trying to sell you on just "Straightman", there are many more books worth reading. As you can tell, I still like to read for a hobby.
Jul 28, 2011
The most unique non-fiction book I have read in the last couple of years was "Presimetrics" - www.presimetrics.com - It's an economists view of how the presidents stack up.

In regards to "I can imagine a book in which the "author" creates a starting point, or a framework, and wannabe writers take it from there, creating thousands of versions of that book" - "Machine of Death" is sort of like that. The general theme was created, and then they selected a bunch of short stories around the theme. You can get it for free at www.machineofdeath.net

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