Clay Johnson – The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

(6 March 2012)

I won this book on the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme, but in ebook form. Unfortunately, I missed the 2 week window that was available for downloading the book. But very kindly, chazzard took pity on me and sent me their copy so I could still fulfil my reviewing requirements.

I obviously thought this was going to be interesting, as I selected it to request. And the idea that we’re suffering from information obesity, consuming information and data passively like we gulp down calories thoughtlessly was interesting. But I am not sure who the audience is. Yes, there are some good basic tips on consuming information in a more conscious way: being active in your choices of what to consume; seeking a balance; looking at other viewpoints. The information on personalisation is, again, interesting, although I think we have self-selected this in the past, much like we select books and friends that match our interests, and I am certainly aware that it’s happening, just as I’m aware that content farms exist and how they work. The tips on becoming more information literate and on time management to avoid time wasting, again, are useful. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who are attracted to this book – like me – are also likely to be fairly information literate in the first place, possibly working in an information related field. Erm, like a trained librarian working as a writer and editor, working a great deal with web content and marketing materials and using social media to drive her business forward …

So, I think that the potential audience will maybe not pick up this book, and the people who will may well know about a lot of the topics and ideas already. I think this slight book might have been better off as a long article in a serious but popular magazine.

But I’m grateful to the publisher for trying to send it to me, and chazzard for doing so!

Elizabeth Taylor – A View of the Harbour

Third in our Elizabeth Taylor readalong in the LibraryThing Virago group and an enjoyable read again. We’re in a faded seaside town (my favourite kind) where so little happens that the inhabitants have to make up things that happen. I was reminded of a Francis Brett Young (someone will be along to remind me which one – the one in the street that’s based on Chaddesley Corbett) and also is it a Storm Jameson I’ve read recently with two rivalrous female authors? Also a touch of Under Milk Wood in the lyrical descriptions, views through lit windows in the evening and the skipping between different characters and their experiences.

It’s a bit disturbing as well, what with the creepy waxworks, Bertram “insinuating” himself and Prudence lugging her cats around, cooking truly awful things for them, but being unable to cope with the everyday world around her – a bit of the gothics here, I feel.

I liked Beth’s readings of the male-female dynamic, especially in terms of writers and careers, both in her beady thoughts about the man on the train and her sudden cutting through Robert’s personality and actions. And I loved the touches of irony: Beth writes many funerals into her books but has never actually attended one.

As usual, I’m not sure that Taylor really likes any of her characters, and nor are they very likeable (apart, perhaps, from the excellent children, Stevie and Edward) but that doesn’t matter to me, as I enjoy her cool appraisal of them and their lives – Tory’s disappointment when Beth’s publisher turns out to be a woman; a series of insane hats; the minutiae of small town life that can destroy a reputation in a matter of hours. A good read.