If Books Could Kill - The Podcast Review #01

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and have for, I don’t know, over 20 years. I’ve made and make a lot of podcasts. You might call me both a podcast listening and podcast creating expert. In the classic sense: a critic. I should review podcasts more frequently!

If Books Could Kill - Worth the Resulting Shitting-On Vibes

A few times I year I try to eliminate all the bad vibes media from my life. You know what I’m talking about: there’s all sorts of things out there whose whole deal is to have a negative take. CringePub.

That’s what happened to If Books Could Kill after I listened to the initial episodes. The whole point of the podcast is to take down airport books. Their analysis of books like Freakonomics and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus were pretty perfect. With a lot of these airport books (you know, super popular advice books and what can only be described as the “turn out,” Malcom Gladwell genre), you’re often left thinking two things (1) but now what I am I supposed to do differently, (2) I don't know, that all sounds a little too clever and kind of fishy?

Each episode delivers on that intuition perfectly. And the two hosts are meticulous in their research and structuring the take down. If you’re familiar Michael Hobbes’ years on You’re Wrong About, you’ll know exactly what to expect.

They actually read the book Well, often just one of them does. But this creates a good narrative tools:

  1. The co-host who read the book has to give a good overview of it. The other one who didn’t read it acts as a sort of narrative straight man.

  2. The co-host who did not read the book is a proxy for us, the audience who may not have read the book.

  3. Hearing the real-time reaction and thinking that the co-host who did not read the book adds another dimension of analysis (and content).

Also, they do extra research to look up claims. For example, in the Atomic Habits one, they do a lot of double turns out’ing on the cutesy anecdotes and “studies” that are used to prove out the habits theories.

Finally, they’re good at spotting simple writing and structural nonsense. And, as they read more and more of these books, they’ve started to find the common tropes, structures, and, therefore, warning signs. In the Atomic Habits one, they come up with a grand theory of the structure for these turns out, airport books.

What makes them credible (in addition to reading the book and being able to summarize it, and the research) is that they point out the parts they agree with. And, in one of their first episodes, talking about Bobos in Paradise, they get really close to concluding something in the spirit of you’re not (completely) wrong, David Brooks, you’re just an asshole.

There’s also some great moments when they’re discussing the absurdly taken for granted things in some the premise of some books. For example, one one episode they shit-on The Game, a book about pick-up artist techniques. The whole premise of this book is that it’s hard for men to have casual sex with women. At one point in the discussion, Hobbes, who’s a gay man, says something like: wow, I never realized sex was such a fraught, stressful thing in the straight world. The implication being: this book only exists because those weird morals in the straight world.

But, like I said, it got to be too much negative vibes pouring into my overfilling, cracked bucket of a mind. At a certain point, especially when Hobbes is the straight-man (hah! pun!), they go overboard with just adding more and more shit-layering on the book. The shitting-on can make your brain-teeth start like too much frosting on a cake. And I was doing the spreading! So I stopped.

This week, Brandon reminded me of it, so I went back to it, listening to them do their shit-on show with Atomic Habits (hence all my references to it above). It suffered from the too much shit-frosting problem, but overall it was great.

If you read this newsletter, you’d probably like it!

(Sidenote: what is wrong with Wikipedia that the page for the podcast doesn’t seem to contain a link to the actual podcast? At least one that’s easy to find.)

Socialmedia, circa CY2023H2

Social Media, circa CY2023H2

My Content

Speaking of podcasts, this week Software Defined Talk is back to our usual format of the three of us going over tech stuff: This week we discuss RHEL licensing changes, check the vibe of DevOps and some thoughts on programing language. Plus, has ChatGPT already become boring? Listen in!


Talks I’ll be giving, places I’ll be, things I’ll be doing, etc.

July 11th How Cloud Native Improves & Ensures Security, Governance, and Trust in Finance, online talk. August 21st to 24th SpringOne & VMware Explore US, in Las Vegas. Sep 6th to 7th  DevOpsDays Des Moines, speaking. Sep 13th, stackconf, Berlin. Sep 14th to 15th SREday, London, speaking Sep 18th to 19th SHIFT in Zadar, speaking. Oct 3rd Enterprise DevOps Techron, Utrecht, speaking


It’s the weekend, so here is your suggested outro song to listen to as a cold beverage melts in your hand and you watch the golden hour horizon:,, @cote,,