The Misreading Of Books

One of the behaviors I notice in many blogg is the misreading of books.  That is, I may have read those books and come away with a different perspective.  My practice when other recommended books is to go to Amazon and read a few of the reviews.  And since many of these bloggers will link the title and or author to Amazon in the hopes that you will buy said book and earn them a few pennies in sales commissions, it is very easy to see the reviews.  And what I have found is the best reviews are the three and two star reviews.  The Amazon system works like this.  You supposedly read the book and rate it with what you think are the appropriate number of stars.  Then you write a few comments and your review is posted.  Now, according to how many books you review and the ratings you give, you may be selected as one of the Poobahs of ratings and rewarded with free books not necessarily of your choosing.  The key of course is your average “star rating”.  Obviously the more five and four stars a book has the more likely it will sell more copies.

So the system is open to abuse.  In the past if one were a critic one almost never had to buy books.  Simply call up the publisher and ask that they send you one.  Of course the chances are you received a great many unsolicited volumes in the hopes that you might say a good word or two and thus increase sales.  The practice extended to university and college professors, editors, and the like.  If one taught chemistry one was not likely to receive fiction or essays, but one could always count on receiving any number of books on chemistry.  That is, unless one wrote reviews that were less than stellar.  Now, in our age of information and internet, anyone can be a book critic.  Amazon makes it possible for you to acquire a following as a critic regardless of how well you read, analyze, and write your critique.  On the other hand, if you make a practice of reading the three and two star review you will find fairly honest critiques worth reading.  Trying to wade through all those five star reviews is a real waste of time.  So many are pure fluff and it becomes obvious that either the individual reviewer did not read the book or had a less that critical mind.

But back to blogs and their less than honest appraisals.  I say less than honest because so often what they recommend is already on the current commercial book review lists or are books that the rich and famous read.  Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are billionaires and thus by virtue of their being billionaires they must be super smart.  And so what they read must be judged as the best and reading what they read will make you rich.  They also read the Wall Street Journal like many other billionaires and millionaires and millions who are neither.  Will reading the Wall Street Journal lead you to wealth?  Not by itself.  And it helps if you are in the right place at the right time and steal someone else’s work or have inherited a little wealth, buy a company and then become a ruthless competitor.  The super rich and famous could write twelve step books on how to get super rich and super famous, think how many millions of copies they could sell.  But how many of us after buying and reading the book would become wealthy or even well off and half way known?  As has been said, a self made man is a good example of unskilled labor.  Maybe that is why the English were so concerned with being born a gentleman.

From the blog Farnam Street by Shane Parrish we get this tidbit.  The American Challenge by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber
A book that foresaw the information age. Here is a powerful quote from the book: “The signs and instruments of power are no longer armed legions or raw materials or capital… The wealth we seek does not lie in the earth or in numbers of men or in machines, but in the human spirit. And particularly in the ability of men to think and to create.”

Well, not really.  JJSS as the author is known, saw that the competition between France and the US was an economic war, so to speak, and that France, as well as most of Europe, was falling far behind.  The American Challenge JJSS spoke of as editor of his own newspaper was for France to wake up and smell the coffee.  Their industries needed infusions of capital,  Their “information superstructure”, this 1968,was long before the internet, needed great improvement, and their education system needed reform.  So many have either forgotten the university riots in Paris and other university center or are too young to have known about them.  Funny thing was that we had in this country shortly after the French our own university student riots.  What JJSS was trying to accomplish was the awakening of French nationalism.  De Gaul had pushed a limited French nationalism but for JJSS he did not go far enough.  And he saw the need for cooperation by the major nations of Europe in this economic war.  He was pushing for an EEC, European Economic Community.  New factories needed to be built and old ones upgraded.  Investment in new technologies was needed.  The old colonialism was dead and the colonies should be cut loose.  University education needed to be more dynamic and universal while primary and secondary education needed reform as the old methods were not working.  But mostly, and to a point, ironically, the French needed to become Americanized.by adopting American methods while becoming more socialized.  A sort of rugged individual socialism.

So if one claims to have an analytical mind and can read critically and engage in critical reasoning, how in the hell can one write the quoted blug as pass it off as widom?  One could do due diligence and go to Wikipedia  to look up JJSS.  But apparently Mr Parrish could not be bothered, else he would have found that the above quote very shallow in thought.  Frankly I blame the university education system for it fails to teach research and true critical thinking.  The man holds an MBA and the only thing he has learned is that rich people are extremely smart and wise.  Maybe a course in basic logic would have disabused him of such thinking.

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