I just finished reading "A Perfect Mess," which I picked up at BookExpo (it's not slated for release until January). The book argues that the time it takes to keep things neat -- a desk, a house, a schedule -- aren't necessarily worth the benefits. And, at a more macro level, things like long-term business planning, rigid organizational structures, and perfect information usually aren't terribly useful and you need a little bit of "mess" in order to optimize results. Truth is, the book's a little bit of a mess. There's a difference between talking about a messy front lawn being better for the environment and having a discussion of management consulting as a useless, money-wasting endeavor -- enough of a difference that I'm not sure they really belong in the same book, and I'm not sure the arguments you can make to support one of those things have any relationship to the arguments for the other. But it's okay that the book's a mess, and doesn't really have a logical thesis running through it, because it's interesting and thought-provoking and well-written. I enjoyed it. It's a little surface-level, like any of these kinds of books are -- it wants to be Blink or The Tipping Point or Freakonomics, and sort of succeeds -- but it still kept me interested from first page to last. It's not revolutionary, but it's not bad. I do like having a neat desk though.
I read the first hundred pages of a novel coming out in March called "Then We Came To The End," by a first-time novelist named Joshua Ferris. The reason I picked it up at BookExpo is because it's a work-based novel, like mine, and because the promo copy on the book calls it "wickedly funny," which are the same words my publisher used to describe my book. So I guess "wickedly funny" is in this year. Luckily, my book beats his to market by about 8 months, so there'll be room for another wickedly funny book by then. I'm going to keep reading, but it hasn't grabbed me yet. It's about a set of people who work at an advertising agency, and I'm probably in the minority here, but I really like books about advertising -- "Where the Suckers Moon," a non-fiction about the Subaru campaign of the early '90s, is an amazing book, absolutely worth reading -- and hoped there'd be more actual satire of advertising going on in here. There isn't. It's a book about people in an office, and their personal issues, and how they deal with a slow series of layoffs, in their boring office world. It's really written like a novel. I say this as something that makes me not like it as much as I want to like it, but it's probably a good thing for people who read novels. Like, there's lots of character stuff going on and not that much information being given out. I looked online at some of the advance comments, and I was surprised to discover that the big deal with this book is that it's written in first-person plural. Which it is. But I didn't notice. It's written from the perspective of "we in the office," but he does it seamlessly enough, I guess, that it didn't cross my mind at all while I was reading that there was anything unusual or different about the perspective. That either means I'm a bad reader, or that first-person plural isn't that unique, OR that Ferris pulls it off really, amazingly well. I'm trusting it's the third of those choices, and that's why I'm still reading. I'm hoping I can get into more in the next hundred pages, because something about it is keeping me going.
And I read "Pedro, Carlos, and Omar," a book about the 2005 Mets season by Adam Rubin, the Mets beat writer for the Daily News. It's quite good, but I know no one cares except me, so I'll stop.