One of the nice things about this bit of dead time post Christmas is that its given me my best chance in ages to just read and read. To read books that I want to read and not just the ones I think will be useful. I like the conversations contained in books.
I love the chance to see the world the way someone else sees it. To connect with another person’s passion and experience. I’ve enjoyed the feeling when a good non fiction book uplift the soul and stretches the mind in a new direction. The neatness of a cleverly set up crime novel, or of an alternative universe that hangs together.
Books rich enough to entertain yet with enough of a familiar voice to feel comfortable. A cosy conversation with old friends and new acquaintances.
Reading different books has made me wonder just how useful the useful books really are. I accept the need for coding cookbooks and training manuals to keep my professional skills up to date. There is however a thin line between books that offer genuinely helpful advice on specific problems and the “snake oil” of books that promise that by following an easy system you can change your life.
There is part of me that is susceptible to that promise of ‘Joe 90’ style magic. That I’ll read a book and instantly be a better coder. A more organised more professional person and a wonderful father. Delia Smith is great when you need to bake a cake for the first time – but reading it doesn’t turn you into a chef.
There is no such thing as a recipe for living that suits everyone. Such friends soon seem overbearing. The short term high soon wears off. Working with other people’s systems just makes me miserable when I can’t make them work for me. These books can disconnect you from your own ideas thoughts and passions. The type of people who say “nonsense – this is the only sensible way to do this”. The ones who poo-poo any suggestions you make and disparage anything you’ve managed to achieve by yourself.
If I have a second resolution for the year its that I want to idle more. I want to read books that matter to other people. To read books by people who enjoyed writing them and want to share. And if I read cookbooks I want ones with ideas and passion. Good friends who listen appreciate and say “why don’t you try” or “this works for me”. Books that treat me as a colleague on the same journey, not as a student.
It seems to me that that is far more what being a good father is all about.