Review: Five Books

Over drinks the other night, my friend looked over both of her shoulders, giggled nervously, and then very quietly confessed to me that she doesn’t read fiction. I patted my friend on the shoulder, told her it would be okay, and then shared with her one of my favorite new sites for discovering non-fiction works.

Five Books is the site, and its premise is:

Every day an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic chooses five books on their specialist subject. From Einstein to Keynes, Iraq to the Andes, Communism to Empire.

If you’re interested in learning all about Norwegian crime writing or the Euro or Confucius or gender politics or bats, experts on these topics provide lists of the quintessential books you should read to learn a good amount on the topic. It’s convenient to have a reading list built for you by someone who is intimately familiar with the topic. Whenever I’m interested in learning something new, I pull up the site’s archives, find a topic, and start reading. I’m currently working my way through Paul Barrett’s list of dinosaur books because of my son’s infatuation with these creatures.

I haven’t been asked by Five Books to create a list of organizing or uncluttering titles, but I have thought about it a little. Obviously, I’d put my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week on the list. Also on the list would have to be David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook and Randy Frost and Gail Steketee’s Stuff would likely make the list, too. I’m torn about what my fifth book would be, though. Would I choose a corporate management book like The Toyota Way or a classic home-organizing book like Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much or would I go on more of a philosophical bent with a book like The Plain Reader?

Thankfully, I don’t have to make a decision about what books I would put on my list, but I’m glad the experts on Five Books are able to narrow down theirs. The site is an incredibly convenient way to become knowledgeable on a subject without cluttering up your time.

15 Comments for “Review: Five Books”

  1. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    Ahhh, The Plain Reader–porn for simple living types! Love it.

    May I suggest the Joy of Less, by Francine Jay (Miss Minimalist)?

  2. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    Making It All Work, David Allen’s sort of expansion on GTD. It’s easier to read, (for me, anyway, the concepts seem clearer sooner) and takes the mind set further.

    Great site on the non fiction, thanks!

  3. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kathryn — I liked the Joy of Less, too. A good suggestion.

    @Ruth — I liked Making It All Work, as well. For me, though, GTD is referenced so often that it’s more expected for people to have read it.

  4. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    Great resource — thanks for the lead. I’m reading equal parts fiction and nonfiction these days, and always looking for good recommendations.

  5. posted by JC on

    I look at the NYTIMES annual lists of best fiction and non-fiction to find new books to read. I read mostly nonfiction as well but more of the narrative non-fiction genre (a’la Simon Winchester) which probably wouldn’t make an academic’s book list.

  6. posted by Daniel on

    I find that most organizing books are some variation of my favorite, “Clutter’s Last Stand” by Don Aslett. Considering it was published in 1984, almost all of its contents still holds true today.

  7. posted by Lose That Girl on

    Thanks for the heads up. Just in time for Christmas shopping too.

  8. posted by Judi on

    Erin — Five Books is a terrific site. Thanks!

    Some idiosyncracies (Inner Game of Music on opera? Hmmm! No North American bird books? Well, OK, it’s a British site), but that’s part of the site’s charm.

    Thanks much for an interesting link I’m sure I’ll be looking at again!

  9. posted by Gretchen @ Girls Can't WHAT? on

    That’s funny – A few months ago I posted a list of my top 5 books for achieving success and “Unclutter Your Life” was one of them. 😀

  10. posted by ElFish1 on

    I really like these gift suggestion posts. I’m getting the Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook for our family gift exchange and if I’m lucky, I’ll end up with it!

  11. posted by Patch on

    With the exception of children’s books (when I was one), I’ve always read almost exclusively non-fiction and never thought much about it ’til now

  12. posted by The Plaid Cow on

    @Daniel: Thanks for mentioning Don Aslett. I find it odd that for as long he has been preaching the clutter cure (though 3 books directly and countless others in passing) that none of the current websites seem to mention him or any of the ideas he championed a few years ago. It almost seems like a conspiracy to keep his name out of print.

  13. posted by Jimena on

    of course, I just got sucked in, and bought way too many books. what a great site!! I found my partner’s favorite topic, bought the 5 books, and now I have a great christmas present! thanks! oh, and is great for figuring out who’s selling the book for less.

  14. posted by Zen friend on

    What a fantastic resource! Thanks so much for the tip, Erin!

  15. posted by Stocking Fillers on

    i really like the post very much and even the idea for the Christmas gifts and new year. i am shifting my home very soon.

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