I’m reading a book right now which I’ll name in a later post which contains, roughly according to my estimate, about 80% wisdom to 20% bullshit and it strikes me that this is the absolutely worst ratio possible. In fact, making a mental list of wisdom:bullshit ratios made me think how highly non-linear my personal scale is. So here it is from best to worst:
- 90:10 – These are the books I most enjoy reading as the amount of bullshit is just enough for you to calibrate your filter and be able to extract out the deep wisdom hidden within. I would say Freakanomics would fit squarely into this category.
- 100:0 – Although, intuitively, you would think a book with no bullshit is better than a book with some bullshit, it’s actually not because you now no longer have a scale of comparison. Did you not detect bullshit because it wasn’t there or because it was too advanced for you to understand? I don’t think I’ve read any books that fall squarely in this category, at least not for a long time.
- 0:100 – Simple, skim a couple of pages and throw it away, your life remains unaffected. The Secret would be a good book of this category.
- 50:50 – These books are challenging and require you to have your bullshit filter on full force. You’re forced to comb through every sentence and carefully consider each statement. Such books can often cause you to radically shift your thinking or at least inject doubt into your process. The 48 laws of power was a book like that for me.
- 30:70 / 40:60 / 60:40 /70:30 – For the most part, this will be largely everything you read. Most mass media falls into this comfortable middle range and, although it’s challenging to parse properly, you become so used to doing it that it’s routine.
- 10:90 / 20:80 – These books are frustrating because there’s a hidden core of wisdom surrounded by so much utter crap that they’re emotionally draining to read and yet the small insights urge you to keep going. Atlas Shrugged was definitely in that category for me. I hated it so much, I inexplicably read it again a few years later, gritting my way through the entire book.
- 80:20 – The 80:20 book is the book that derails people’s lives. Mixed in among all that wisdom is just a few key mistakes that can lead you far, far astray. This is how cults recruit their members and smart financial wizards managed to argue their way into this financial crisis. The wisdom is compelling enough that you let down your guard and don’t realize how much bullshit you let in until it’s too late. I’ll be providing a review of the current book I’m reading in a few days with the case of why I believe it to be an 80:20 book.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear your examples of books you think fit into any of the above categories…