Who was Victor Hugo?

Part Jean Valjean, part Thénardier. “I want to destroy human inevitability; I condemn slavery, I chase out poverty, I instruct ignorance, I treat illness, I light up the night, I hate hatred. That is what I am and that is why I have written The Wretched. As I see it, The Wretched is nothing other than a book having fraternity…

Castles on Clouds

I’m a couple of chapters away from finishing Les Miserables,* thanks to the enthusiasm of a friend** and to Nick Senger’s excellent chapter-a-day read-along schedule.*** It’s a fantastic read – hard going at times, but deserving of its reputation. Beside the story itself (forgiving its long string of ridiculous coincidences), I most enjoy the little**** insights into life in another…

Seth Godin on books, culture and influence

For five-hundred years, books have mattered. Books have never reached the preponderance of people because there are just so many different titles. It’s possible for a movie to be seen by twenty or thirty million people. It’s likely that a national TV show could be seen by almost as many on a regular basis. But a book? If a book…

Extending books: Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen on Timeful Texts

Picking up Tuesday’s post about transactional reading and contemplation, here’s something interesting that goes a little further in thinking about how we might immerse ourselves in books or other texts. Today’s gem comes from Andy Matuschak (former leader of the R&D group at Khan Academy and all-round interesting fellow), who’s working on developing more effective tools for thought and learning.…

One million copies sold

One million copies is a lot of anything, but should it influence your decision to buy a book? First thought: No it shouldn’t. Judging from the things that other people wear and watch and the ways they spend their time, a million people doing something should have no influence on whether I do it too. At best, they have totally…

Broker books

There are network effects between books / knowledge gained from books; Not all network connections are created equal; New books within your areas of experience and specialism will strengthen that part of your network but are subject to the law of diminishing returns: once you’ve read the classics, the remaining books are likely to be less good; The best books…

Recommendation: Dreyer’s English

I could spend a long time typing out great lines from this book: it’s helpful, funny, and contains just the right amount of snark.* If you like books on writing and style or – especially – if you’ve never read one, you should read this. *As you’ll see tomorrow.

Bo Burlingham on Small Giants (3): special places to work

Fifth, the companies also had what struck me as unusually intimate workplaces. They were, in effect, functional little societies that strove to address a broad range of their employees’ needs as human beings – creative, emotional, spiritual and social needs as well as economic ones. … They were places where employees felt cared for in the totality of their lives,…

Bo Burlingham on Small Giants (2): key relationships

Third, each company had an extraordinarily intimate relationship with the local city, town or county in which it did business – a relationship that went well beyond the usual concept of “giving back”. That was part of it, to be sure, and all of these companies were model corporate citizens, but the relationship was very much a two-way street. The…

Bo Burlingham on Small Giants (1): defining success, choosing a path

First, I could see that, unlike most entrepreneurs, their founders and leaders had recognized the full range of choices they had about the type of company they could create. They hadn’t accepted the standard menu of options as a given. They had allowed themselves to question the usual definitions of success in business and to imagine possibilities other than the…