Month: March 2016

Welcome to Zombieland

So, audiobooks. For those book purists who look down upon eReaders because “I love the FEEL of paper pages!”, this might cause spontaneous combustion. But for people who spend a not-insignificant part of their day in crowded buses, hanging on for dear life, it might not be such a bad idea!

…Unless, like me, you have terrible listening comprehension. Like zero.

I still tried, because I hadn’t read anything in ages. So here is my very vague review of Alexandra Kleeman’s You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine.

This book was published in 2015 and got overall good reviews, with someone (I forget who) dubbing it the modern day American Psycho. I loved the satire on modern society in AP, but found it somewhat dated, since it was published in the 90s. I was hoping that YTCHABLM would have more relatable humour.

It did, sorta. There’s some bashing of consumerism, with a mega-supermarket chain called Wally’s (sound familiar?) that uses some strange marketing tactics to suck people in. Also an all-natural junk food called Kandy Kakes with aggressive advertising and an infinite shelf life.

But apart from that, it’s the strange, uber introspective narrative of a girl called A who finds herself being replaced by her roommate B and abandoned by her boyfriend C (such naming. much wow). She has a mindless job and all the charisma and personality of an overripe banana. Her roommate on the other hand is dependent and helpless, and eats only popsicles, because oranges are too hard to peel.

The entire novel is an overly dramatic monologue, with some entertaining observations. The drama is intentional, but tends to get on one’s nerves, because the plot as a whole is not terribly eventful. It’s more about the wit and funny-strange observations on culture than any beginning-to-end storyline. The audiobook version that’s available on Amazon Audible has a narrator that fits the character very well.

I wouldn’t recommend this novel unless you’re a big fan of satire, but I DO recommend using your one month free trial of Audible if you have an Amazon account. It’s a new medium of storytelling that’s worth a try.

3/5

Self-help = Help yourself

I didn’t intend to review this, but it’s been ages since the last post and well, this is what I read. So, without any embarrassment, here is my review of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.

Ironically, I kept putting this off, and ended up abandoning it eventually (hey, it kept telling me to Get Things Done, and wading through this book wasn’t helping me Get Things Done). I was pretty skeptical about the idea of self-help books, but wanted to give it a shot. Also, engineering education left me with zero work ethic, and study habits that look like this:

  1. Wait for the night before the final exam/ submission.
  2. Ingest copious amounts of caffeine.
  3. Memorize textbook solution manual/ plagiarize code from the Internet.
  4. Hello, sunrise!

This didn’t seem like a very good idea in the long run…

First, let me summarize what I gleaned from the first 50% of this book.

  • The main aim is to get into the Zone, where you are fully focused on your work.
  • Having worries or ‘Oh, I have to do that, too!’ bouncing around your head takes away your focus.
  • Maintain detailed documentation of your to-do list, and an inbox of things that you need to get done.
  • Break tasks down into bite-sized sub tasks (and sub-sub tasks if needed) to avoid unstructured work. All work needs to be geared towards completion of a task- you shouldn’t waste time thinking about what needs to be done next.
  • If any task takes less than 2 minutes, just do it now.

That stuff seems pretty obvious, right? Unfortunately the author goes the business management route of laboriously developing terminology for everything and explaining it before getting to the gist of things. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Mockery aside, there are a couple of tips that could be useful in practice. Pre-planning and breaking down assignments and projects make it a lot easier to start work in advance. Having a giant 12-hour task looming makes it tempting to procrastinate, having a one-hour-long reading to do is less intimidating. However, the planning and inbox system he describes seems super laborious and could increase ‘planning overhead’ time by quite a bit, something he seems to realize considering that 2-minutes rule.

This book could be useful to someone who has a lot of responsibilities (managers, people with households to run, etc), but not so much for students or people with more intellectual jobs (say, code monkeys). Also his writing style is super annoying, and you need to be dedicated enough to plough through the annoying jargon to get to the actual content.

2/5 from me.