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Book Review: iPod Therefore I Am

August 20th, 2005 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

Before reading this I had two conflicting prejudices. As someone who like technology and music, the idea of a book about technoogy and music had a certain appeal, but as the proud owner of an mp3 player which is not an iPod, and which I chose to buy instead of an iPod, I get a bit miffed by the attention it gets.

I figured that it would be interesting anyway, especially as it is written by someone almost exactly the same age as me – someone who would have lived through the same fads at the same age as me and grew up with 7-inch singles then lived through the CD age before getting computerised.

Unfortunately, this is really a book about Dylan Jones and all the famous people he has met, and the trendy places he has been. Hardly a page goes by without some blatant name-dropping. When he does mention iPods and other Apple products it is in terms which deserve a place in Private Eye’s ‘Pseuds Corner’.

The book is 342 pages long, but 90 pages are taken up with an index and appendices. The appendices are basically just lists of songs from the author’s playlists. This includes a whopping 27 pages to list the ‘100 best songs from the 100 best jazz albums’ and another 8 pages to list easy listening songs!

In the remaining 75% of the book can be found an entire chapter about an imaginary Beatles album, extended pieces about Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison and more about jazz and easy listening.

While there are one or two interesting anecdotes, I found the whole book to be lacking an overall structure or theme. It feels like a number of essays or articles from magazines recycled and padded out with some bits and pieces of Apple history.

Other books where an author talks about their favorite music (Lost In Music by Giles Smith or This Is Uncool by Garry Mulholland) succeed because they are primarily about the music and details of the author’s life which result from their obsession with music.

This book fails because it is about the author and how he met Paul Anka/Yoko Ono/Paul Smith or bumped into Sid Vicious or had Bryan Ferry comment on his trousers and the music concentrates too much on a couple of artists and a couple of genres. You also feel that the author is ot so much obsessed with music as with catalogging it.

The book is all the more disappointing as my expectations were so high before reading it. The book is sub-titled ‘a personal journey through music’ but that journey is far too personal to be interesting to most other people.

Where the book deals with the Apple iPod it is in terms which even fans of the machine might find a bit too worshipful. For Dylan Jones the iPod is a fetish item as much as anything else, and he appears to derive more enjoyment from compiling meticulous playlists than from actually listening to them.

Most reviews of this book I have seen in the newspapers have been totally positive, so I may be in a small minority by not enjoying this book. Or maybe, as editor of GQ magazine, Dylan Jones has lots of friends in the media who all write book reviews?

The high concept of this book is a good one, but the execution is poor. There is still room for someone else to write a better version without being accused of plagiarism because this book is so bad nobody would be expected to want to plagiarise it.

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