On reading ‘How-To’ books

I’ve never been one to read a lot of non-fiction and I don’t spend a lot of time sifting through the ‘self-help’ aisle at my local bookstore. I have been seen enjoying a biography or an essay on occasion but they were usually assigned to me for class. In July, I discovered something new: ‘How-To’ books (is that the correct term? I don’t know. Anyway, you know what I mean).

Last month, I received my first email from my future university. The program director gave us a few reading ‘suggestions’ in order to be fully prepared for September. Being the keener that I am, I almost immediately ran to Waterstones to see if they had any of the books on the list and I found Get up to speed with online marketing by Jon Reed. For those of you who don’t know, Jon Reed is the creator of the website PublishingTalk, a great source of information for any aspiring or current publishers or writers.


In this post, I wanted to share with you my feelings on this book as well as my first impressions on reading ‘How-To’ books’.

On the front cover of this book, you will find in black letters and all caps a pretty straightforward description of what to expect: ‘How to use websites, blogs, social networking and more to promote your business’. And it does exactly just that.

I did find that  it took me a long time to get through this book despite it being only 266 pages (to be precise). At the start, I was also reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in parallel and I was more inclined to pick up the novel, but even once I was done with HP, it was hard to read more than one chapter at a time. If I read more than that, the information tended to get mixed up in that poor brain of mine.

Even though this book is aimed at businesses, I did get a lot of valuable information from it. For instance, Jon Reed writes quite a bit about WordPress and I realised how many things I was doing wrong on here. There were a lot of points in this book that seemed obvious to me but I understand that they could be of value to someone who has no prior knowledge of social media.

One thing that bothered me at first while reading this book was that there were a lot of repetitions in this book. However, I soon realised that it was actually really useful because not everything was always clear to me the first time. I did end up taking a few notes (by ‘a few’ I mean ‘a lot’) along the way to refer to later (for class especially) if I’m ever looking for specific information.

It did take me time to get used the tone of this book. It felt weird having the author address me so directly. I think part of the reason for that is that I am not the targeted audience for this book. I am interested in online marketing and it will be useful for my future career but I’m not trying to promote my business. The rest of the issue is just me not being used to reading this kind of books.

I’ve only ever read one ‘How-To’ books that I can remember and it’s this one so my overall thoughts on the topic might be a bit skewed but I did find the experience interesting and wanted to share my thoughts with you.

My conclusions are:

  • Don’t try to read it in one go like you would do for a novel. Just read a chapter here and there.
  • You don’t have to read it front to back.
  • Not everything might be relevant to you but you will learn something new for sure.
  • Take notes for future reference.
  • Don’t be too bothered by the tone; it’s part of the experience.
  • These are books to go back to when in need. Treat them as a more colloquial form of textbooks.

And that’s it on this subject. Do let me know what YOU think and if you have any good recommendations. Right now, I’ve just started Nicholas Nickleby by my old pal Charles Dickens and I’m pretty excited to get back into fiction.




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