Author of the important book An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments and the transformative and validating (to me) book Bad Choices: How Algorithms Can Help You Think Smarter and Live Happier, Ali Almossawi has written another book that will make you think, but in a different way. This one is a departure from the other two, but can also help you gain a new perspective in your everyday life.
The Point of Pointless Work, interestingly released under the Creative Commons BY-NC license, demonstrates to us the transformative power of hobbies. Writing books isn’t Ali’s day job. He barely mentions what his day jobs have been in this book. Instead, he focuses on his passionate hobbies, his drive to bring good ideas to the world.
The Point of Pointless Work is about his journey to publish and distribute his first book, and then his second. Along the way, he shares in great detail the financial risks he took, the effort he put in, the decisions he made, and the reasons for it all. He shares details such as the results of Facebook advertising, overseas printing woes, phone interviews, and book reviews. There’s also plenty of advice in the book for authors who are doing their own self-promotion, whether self-published or published by a traditional publisher.
And in between all of that, he makes references to literary figures and works, philosophical principles, and Malcolm X. He even includes a reference to one of my favorite Kafka stories, “In the Penal Colony.” This is a book whose point is an overarching one, and the specific journey Ali takes us on merely serves as an example of his larger point.
Ali has always been an inspiration to me. I’ve been his cheerleader, from afar, since I first read An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, which he had put up on his website for free (and it’s still there!). I’ve championed his efforts in the past, and this, his latest book, inspires me in completely new ways. Though his journey is not my journey, I have learned from his experiences, mistakes, and successes.
His previous two books were both fantastic and should be required reading for all students. But this one is more about Ali himself, bleeding on the page, as it were (apologies to Hemingway). Ali is a fantastic writer, and this book will alternately provide profound meaning and make you smile (or laugh!).
Our hobbies, our leisure activities, and our passions are things that we do even if they only benefit us, not serving an external purpose. Ali gives us more motivation to stick with it, whatever “it” is. If you love it, enjoy it, and are passionate about it, stick with it. Even if it leads nowhere, because it would have meant something to you along the way. And it just might lead somewhere. It might become a paying job. Or it might open other doors for you, bringing new opportunities. You never know. Plus, sticking with something increases the odds of it doing well.
Ali’s book has inspired me to refocus my own life, to distill one larger set of efforts down to the most important ones, and to reintroduce other things into my life that I’ve been missing. The quote “we make time for the things we value” has been going through my head for a while now. Ali’s book has helped me decide that it’s now time to change how I spend my time.
The Point of Pointless Work is filled with wisdom that can easily be applied even out of context. Even if you have no desire to change your path in life, or re-examine your choices, or feel better about the things you do in your spare time, this book has plenty of wisdom for you too. Plus, the quality of the book printing is very high. It’s got a lovely feel, and the thick, smooth pages are heavenly to turn. It’s perfect for people who love the idea of books as much as the books themselves.
As I read the book, I got to know Ali better. I’ve always known him to be an incredibly gracious author. But, after reading this book, I learned just how much integrity he has, and how much I respect him. He’s someone I’d really love to meet one day. I hope our paths cross in person. He and I share the same “perpetual fear of pretense and insincerity.” And we both hate flying.
Though the entire book is building up to the point, it isn’t until the last chapter when we truly learn Ali’s feelings on the point of pointless work. Before picking up the book, I had expected that sort of content to fill most of its pages. And I do wish that that final chapter was longer; it’s full of great wisdom and its contents could be broadened to be a book in and of itself. But the journey that Ali took us on to get to that final chapter is important, and the weight of that journey puts us in a certain frame of mind when we reach the end of the book. We’re open to its message.
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of Ali’s work, and The Point of Pointless Work is no exception. If you are considering or reconsidering your own journey, or you have a need to justify your hobbies, brain wanderings, dabblings, or the things that just make you happy with no explanation, then this is a fantastic book for you. There is a point to pointless work.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.