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Book Review of: The Age of Speed

Learning to thrive in a more-faster-now world

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Review ofThe Age of Speed, by Vince Poscente (Paperback, 2008)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

Years ago, I traveled and spoke on time management. I stopped doing that after I realized that there was something inconsistent about wasting several hours in airport lines while presenting myself as an expert on time management. Vince Poscente had all kinds of options for what kind of book he'd write on the subject of speed. He chose to write a book that's a quick read. That seems fitting.

The book has 36 short chapters, with four pages probably the average length. Nearly every chapter serves to make only one point. The book is in eight sections, each of which is about the length of a normal book chapter. To me, those are the actual chapters.

But it's more useful to see this book as consisting of four parts:

In part one, Poscente describes our age of speed and gives his take on how we got to where we are. Then, he shows that speed isn't good or bad in itself. It's what you do with it that counts.

In part two, he looks at how people cope (or not) with speed. He presents four profiles:

  1. Zeppelins are slow-moving folks who have a tough time maneuvering or changing course quickly. They are dangerous and potentially explosive.
  2. Balloons just happily float along. They don't seek speed and don't need to. They interact with our fast culture only from a distance.
  3. Bottle rockets embrace speed, but do so without a real purpose. They can blow up in your face.
  4. Jets move very fast, but have outstanding records for reaching their destinations safe and intact.

In part three, he presents three "A" characteristics that really matter in our age of speed: agility, aerodynamics (reducing drag), and alignment. This is modern time management material, and his spin on it is personalized but accurate.

Part four consists of a final titled section and one untitled section. The final titled section is titled, "Harnessing the Power of Speed" and it consists of three chapters. Unfortunately, Poscente seems winded by the time he gets here and this part is a little too lean. It should provide answers to the challenges described earlier in the book but it doesn't quite fill the bill.

This section is followed by three chapters "Conclusion," "Applications" and "Tips and Tricks from the Age of Speed." While useful, these are also overly lean.

Does it deliver?

Being a book on speed, it doesn't have cumbersome analysis. But there is some light analysis and there is some insight. Given the smallish size and the subject matter, this seems about right to me.

However, I suspect Poscente went a little too fast in writing this book. Remember the old saw, "I wrote real slow, 'cause I know you can't read fast?" Kind of the opposite applies here. As a reader, I felt the author wrote too fast--as if he made a connection between how fast he wrote and how fast the reader would read.

The execution could have been thought out a little better to make the book come across as a unique work rather than a compilation of existing material. What do I mean by that? Maybe it isn't the case, but it seems to me that Poscente wrote much of this book by using PowerPoint slides for the core material and just expanding a little on each one. Especially in certain places (such as "Tips and Tricks" and "Four Profiles"), I got this impression. For people who want a quick read about speed and some ideas to think about, the results are probably fine.

Some readers will be disappointed because the book doesn't get very deep, and it doesn't provide a structured game plan for the reader to consider implementing. But then, the book doesn't claim to provide any such thing. It's not a "how to" manual. The subtitle is "Learning to thrive...." and that means an attitude adjustment, not a procedural adjustment. On this score, the book delivers.

I think it makes a good addition to a library on related topics such as productivity, time management, and work/life balance. On that last topic, Poscente provides a viewpoint that would be of immense benefit to probably 80% of readers. I'm keeping a copy in my own library.

There's also a layout aspect of the book that might set some people off. I can't recall seeing any other book that wastes so much paper. It's a small book, but probably 20% of the pages are either blank or nearly blank. You don't get "thud factor" with a small paperback to begin with, so I'm not sure of the purpose in doing that. Perhaps it is to help give the reader a feeling of fast progress through the book.

The drawbacks (perceived or real) of this book don't cancel out its benefits. I think anyone who hasn't absolutely mastered time management will find some benefit in this book and anybody who feels exhausted or overwhelmed by the demands of today will benefit immensely.

 

 

 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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