His first book, Ignore Everybody: and 39 other keys to creativity, is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a long time.
Why? For me, MacLeod is a master of voice. In Ignore Everybody, he has been able to take the voice of his blog and move it into the book format without sacrificing the essentials of that voice.
And it doesn’t hurt when your own work — his “cartoons drawn on the back of business cards – can make for amusing punctuation and commentary on his prose.
This short book is made up of 40 essays that are sort of about creativity; sort of personal growth and development; and sort of about the stuff that MacLeod does — social media, marketing, etc.
The essays are uniformly well-written and challenging in a sort of Zen koan way. The’re forcefully argued, but don’t fall over into the didactic; they’re less profane than the cartoons but colorful; they’re personal, but not self-referential — or even worse, self-REVerential.
MacLeod hasn’t written a research-based book here. It’s not a Tom Peters opus. It’s more of a memoir of creativity and some thought experiments on what you might be able to do if you’ve got the creativity bug.
THE GOOD: MacLeod writes very well. Fluid, relaxed sounding, and authoritiative. And the cartoons (which you’ve likely seen) are wonderful pieces of work. They cut through BS, lampoon some of the social media world’s more unfortunate pretenses, and can make you laugh out loud.
MacLeod uses that well crafted writing voice to make great little essays about the nature of creativity, how he found a combination of careers that seem to make for a good life, and about the future of individuals, business, and individuals in business.
They’re not written funny in the way that many of MacLeod’s cartoons are tremendously funny; they’re a bit more serious. But their lack of punch lines in no way lessens their impact.
THE BAD: Some of the essays seem to contradict each other. For example, MacLeod writes a cautionary tale about turning hobbies into jobs in chapter 35. But chapter 39 is all about turniing your dreams into reality. While not directly contradictory, the two don’t necessarily go together. There are other examples in the book of what I call “bloggy thinking” — where the essentially episodic nature of writing a blog post, then writing another blog post the next day, and so on, leads to ideas not really working together in a longer form like a book.
THE UGLY: I’m kinda stretching for an UGLY here. The closest I can find is that $30 CAD seems a bit much for a slim book (especially when it’s only $23.95 US — a 25 per cent premium when a direct exchange would mply a Canadan price of about $25.50. When will we Canadians stop getting gouged on books?) I was patient enough to borrow this copy from the library. But I have to say that I like this book so much I may just have to cough up the dough for it.
The info (and remember, if you buy using the link below, I get a piece of the action — help me out, OK?)
- Ignore everybody: and 39 other keys to creativity, by Hugh MacLeod.
- Penguin Books, 2009
- ISBN: 978-1-59184-259-0