Skip to main content

Pop sci vs Pop business - no contest

Most of the time my non-fiction reading is largely around science, but in the last few months I've gone back to reading business books, and I've had a shock.

When I worked in a corporate I was a big fan of business books, but coming back to them with the fresh eyes of a popular science reader and author, most of them are terrible!

The writing can be deadly dull, but this is the least of their problems. Most business books - not all, by any means, but most - seem to have a pageful of useful material scattered through a couple of hundred pages of padding. In some ways this shouldn't come as a surprise to me. A few years ago I was asked to contribute to a series of A4 laminated cards on business topics. The idea was to condense everything you needed to know into a two-sided sheet. I did this one, on time management. These cards really did deliver very well, but the trouble is few people wanted to pay the price of a book to get a sheet of A4 (even if it was laminated). We like to get our money's worth - and bulk says this, even if we discover that it is all padding.

Contrast this with most popular science books, which are absolutely packed with information. One chapter of a typical popular science book would more than cover all the content requirements of a typical business book.

The other problem I had was the business books' use of diagrams. In a popular science book we use a diagram if it's necessary to explain an arcane point that doesn't come across as well in words. In a business book they use diagrams because it's traditional to use diagrams, particularly to illustrate processes, so you get absolutely useless ones like this. But I suppose it does fill up a bit more space.

Overall I was so disappointed. Of course there are noble exceptions of business books that really read well and are a joy to consume, with real detailed help to get something done. But there is so much woffle. So many ways to take 'Seven habits' or 'Ten tips' or whatever and stretch them to fill an entire volume. Back to science, quick!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope