An important difference between different genres of books

Last year, I read more books cover-to-cover than I ever did before. This year, my goal is to read even more than before, and I’ve signed up for a reading challenge pledging 80 books in 2015. I’m making good progress so far. I’m at a phase where I want to consume as much information as possible, and synthesize valuable content out of it. In my pursuit of bettering myself professionally and intellectually, I’ve therefore really been doubling down on reading books, and I’ve been utilizing DRM-free PDF books (technical books, in particular related to programming/ computers, purchased from sites such as OReilly, Manning, and the Pragmatic Bookshelf), books purchased through Apple (iBooks on the iPad), and Kindle books, apart from old fashioned printed books. Most of the books I’ve been trying to read are technical books related to my profession, but many are also the latest bestsellers in non-fiction, biographies and memoirs, and occasionally novels – anything that happens to catch my attention when I’m on a book-buying spree (or whatever the ‘algorithm’ recommends).

Out of all this, I’ve noticed a trend. It seems to me that while there is a lot of technical detail in books on programming, and while there are a lot of plot twists in most novels, and while there’s a lot to the story of an individual in a biography/ autobiography/ memoir, when it comes to nonfiction books, for instance those on psychology or business, it seems to me that it’s possible to summarize the entire content from those books in ten minutes or so. Not that these books in the latter category are less voluminous than their technical/ fictional/ biographical counterparts. On the contrary, these books tend to be filled with studies, research, anecdotes, and such. Yet somehow it seems that the anecdotes don’t really add to the meat of the topic, and are dispensable in a way. Only the principal claims need to be remembered/ noted for posterity. Given this observation, and given that my objective is to maximize learning new things and not necessarily reading as many pages as possible, is it really worth investing time in the nonfiction/ business/ psychology genre at all?

For me, I think at least for the time being, going forward my focus is going to be almost exclusively on technical/ professional books. My bias might be influenced by the fact that gaining as much expertise as possible in the profession of software development/ production of technical artifacts is the most beneficial to my career in the future, as opposed to learning all the nuances of every research ever conducted to corroborate a claim in the realm of human psychology or the world of business. Yet I can’t shake off the feeling that it’s difficult to summarize content from a certain kind of books versus content from another kind of books, because in certain areas, the details are important, and in other areas, while the details might be used to support claims, they are not as important as the principal claims and might easily be forgotten with impunity.

Happy reading!

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