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On Reviewing Books

Adam Jacobson December 27,2012

I read a lot. As in, I have about 1500 to 2000 books at home, with another 150 or so in my office. I often write blog posts reviewing books and how they relate to data. But I often find myself stuck. I struggle with the idea of spending only an hour or two reviewing something the author spent months, if not years, writing. Who am I to judge? It seems a little crazy. (And it perhaps invokes unhappy flashbacks of my short time in history graduate school. But that’s another story.)

I still think book reviews can be a valuable part of this blog. But rather than sit in judgment, I’m going to do two things:

1. I’m not going to review books I don’t like (taking a cue from Nassim Taleb via the Farnam Street blog).

2. I’m going to ask myself a few set questions:

  • Did the author relate something new?
  • Did the author relate something I already knew, but in a new way?
  • Who would most benefit from this book?
    • Tech people
    • Business users
    • General data interest
    • All of the above
  • Who would I recommend this book to?
    • Beginners with data
    • Experts with data
    • Technical experts
    • Other
  • What are the key points most worth emphasizing/discussing (especially for those who haven’t read it)?

Can you think of any other points essential to a book review?


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