The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas L. Friedman
i’ve had this important book on my “to read” pile for four years, i think. i kept meaning to get to it, but didn’t. but when dave gibbons, who i’ve been talking with about doing some writing together, said i needed to read it, i put it at the top of my list, and read it in one long day on a recent silent retreat (it’s really long, so reading it in one day was a big deal!).
i’m sure many of you have read it, so i’ll get right to the point: first half of the book is brilliant, and the second half of the book lost my attention. in the first half, friedman traces the global changes that are changing how we work (and play). he includes tons of great illustrations and interviews with business leaders in the u.s., india, china, and elsewhere. and he breaks it down into ten forces that precipitated this global shift. it was fascinating and inspiring (in a “you better change or you’re going to die” kind of way). in fact, at one point, i put the book down, pulled out my laptop, and whipped up a white paper for an idea for ys, using language from the book.
the second half of the book moves more into implications for business and government. the author gets a little preachy, and i think much of this ground could have been (and likely has been) covered in other books that are move focused on those topics.
and, i had a strange experience reading the book. my copy of the book is the original, published in 2005. i didn’t realize until later that there have been a couple revisions. but when i finally picked up the book to read it, i instantly thought: “shoot, this is going to be totally out of date.” funny, that i thought a book published four years ago would already be totally out of date. but i was right (and this stuff might be corrected/addressed in the later editions). there are all kinds of tweaky little things that are already dated, like lots of references to AOL (who uses them anymore?) and Palm Pilots (really? were they only that short ago?). there’s barely a mention of wikipedia (in the part where you’d expect it you’d expect it to be discussed), and facebook doesn’t show up once. this wasn’t a slam on the book. hardly. in fact, if intensifies the point of the book: that things are changing so fast this book is already more helpful as a historical document than as a suggestion of where things are headed.
all that aside: if you haven’t read this book yet, you should. i wish i’d moved it up my reading stack a few years earlier than i did.