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Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  1,294 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
From the bestselling, National Book Award-nominated author of Genius and Chaos, a bracing new work about the accelerating pace of change in today's world.

Most of us suffer some degree of "hurry sickness," a malady that has launched us into the "epoch of the nanosecond," a need-everything-yesterday sphere dominated by cell phones, computers, faxes, and remote controls. Yet
Paperback, 330 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1999)
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Mar 18, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This book is great. The acceleration of society/culture by way of technology is a subject that interests me greatly, maybe more than any other, so this book was right up my alley. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Faster is, despite its being almost a decade old, it's still entirely relevant. Aside from the lack of talk about iPods an iPhones, it doesn't seem dated at all. This is especially noteworthy considering the book's premise, which claims that a decade, these days, is an eternity.

If t
David Cerruti
Aug 16, 2011 David Cerruti rated it liked it
Shelves: science
After reading Gleick’s Chaos in 1989 and The Information this year, I was anticipating Faster. What a letdown. Chaos and The Information rocked. Faster just plodded along.

In his profile, David Giltinan cites 10 common sources of disappointment in a book. The first is “Failed to match brilliance of author's previous work.” That was certainly the case here. Another distraction is this edition is an audio book, read by Gleick. His reading wasn’t engaging.

The other GR reviews cover the content, ho
Thomson Kneeland
This was a great, quick read, and though written in 1999, the ideas and issues presented are as pertinent as ever. An easy essay read on various facets of how technology is shaping society with mutitasking, emails, information overload and a sheer feeling of lack of time as our everyday pace quickens. Ten years later, the world has accelerated far more than even this book portends with flash trading, texting, twitter, digital downloads, and the enormous capacity of the web. But in essence, it is ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Cara rated it really liked it
I started out not quite impressed with this book. It looked like it was going to be vacant navel-gazing - reminiscing about a time in the past when things were "slower" and therefore better. But I'm glad I stuck with it, because it turned into a very thought-provoking story of what time means to us now. Lots has been written on the increasing speed of technological innovation and how this changes society, but much less has been written about what the effect is of moving fast. The author doesn't ...more
Oct 11, 2009 ActionScientist rated it really liked it
I read this book during a week holiday in the Okavango Swamps (Botswana) at the turn of the Millennium ... after a decade of burning the candle at both ends and living Internet years.

Gleick is one of the small handful of popular science writers able to spin a delightful series of yarns to make his point.

His final big bit of advice: our species needs to learn how to squander copious amounts of time, again. A profound bit of advice, if one can find the time to think about it, let alone implement
Jan 07, 2008 Tessa rated it it was ok
An OK book. It's written for a somewhat pop audience and contains few revelations. However there is an interesting section towards the end where he discusses the limits of speed and uses the example of the disabled "close door" buttons on newer skyscraper elevators which exist only so that people can press them and believe that they are causing the doors to close faster when they stay open for the same time regardless.
Oct 08, 2016 Knibbs rated it liked it
Shelves: science
At the end I'm not really sure that it said much... But it was a reasonably interesting and engaging read. Inevitable dated parts. Could really have just stuck to the Brainpickings summary but it was a pleasant enough read.
Mar 24, 2014 Jeroen rated it really liked it
There is a certain irony to the short chapters sporting catchy headings in FSTR – as the book cover popularly (or smugly?) has the title. “Prest-o! change-o!” and “On Your Mark, Get Set, Think” are as punny as they come; I'd almost argue they are Buzzfeed titles avant la lettre. In the afterword Gleick assures us that this is a book and, as such, a “slow device”, but you can't help but feel that he has been influenced in its design and structure by the subject matter. I guess there's no helping ...more
Jan 23, 2017 Sam rated it did not like it
Pseudointellectual trash. Gleick can and has written much better. Huge disappointment, ranges from preachy to just plain factually wrong at a few points (even after considering the technological developments since it was first published). Would have expected much better from the author of Chaos.
Jan 29, 2016 Anne-Marie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People currently alive. And Benjamin Franklin, just because.
Recommended to Anne-Marie by: Found it on a shelf.
Science writing at its finest. This book explains our perception of time, and the ways in which time - or at least our perception of it - has accelerated in the modern age. By the end of the book I was consciously trying to slow things down in my day: simply eat a meal without simultaneously reading or looking at my phone, sit there and do nothing but listen to music, knit quietly, even (gasp!) do nothing for a little bit. It really does make you feel more grounded. Whipping out your phone when ...more
Cynthia K
Feb 17, 2017 Cynthia K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I had finished one audio book but was still waiting for another that I had placed on hold. I spotted this at my local library and thought I could use it as part of the 2017 Read Harder Challenge. It met the requirements for task #13 - Read a nonfiction book about technology.
The chapter on the history of watches was quite interesting. Of course, as Gleick moved toward the then-current descriptions of watches circa 1999, I was amused that he accurately predicted the future of timepieces, speculati
Sep 27, 2012 Jay rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, 2013
I read this book while eating various meals, while sitting in the car waiting for a school bus to arrive, while brushing my teeth (even while flossing), while also being a spectator at various events, and to fill in many many different odd moments that came along (for I am never without a book). I layered the reading of this book with many different experiences, making more of my minutes and seconds since I can't erase any more of my free time... there just isn't any left. While reading this boo ...more
Feb 10, 2010 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I made my piece about the Heart, I read a lot of books about it and enjoyed little bits of all of them. Then, I read one that summed it all up and seemed to get at exactly many of the things I wanted to explore. (Louisa Young's Book of the Heart, just in case you're curious) Faster is THAT book but for Time.
In pretty much every chapter I found myself thinking, "Yes! That's - yes! I hadn't thought of things quite like that. Damn!" All this time I was thinking I wanted to make a piece about
Jun 14, 2009 Chelsea rated it liked it
I just finished reading Faster: The Acceleration of Just About
Everything by James Gleick. (Ironically enough, not a quick read.) The basic thesis of the book is that our modern culture is obsessed with the notion of speed and the acceleration of everyday actions is a driving force in our technological and even political developments. Each chapter takes an aspect, object or idea and examines its development in context. Elevators, watches, cars, commercials, almost everything is touched on. He dis
David Everling
Feb 15, 2011 David Everling rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tom Everling
On time, our experience and measure of it, and particularly our accelerating life perspective, propelled by equally exponential technological advance. Written in 1999, the book loses little strength of argument since the reader can easily mentally update the most recent exemplar technologies and statistics (e.g. # of websites on topic x). Indeed, the intervening decade actually bolsters Gleick's point on progress, as the trends described herein have proven relatively robust and astute, becoming ...more
Chris Overstreet
Mar 16, 2015 Chris Overstreet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starts off very interesting, but then sort of drags and gets a bit repetitive (began with a 5 star rating; then fell to a 3 due to my waning interest; hence 4 stars). It did make me stop and think about time, though. Like, really philosophically think about it. How do I (or we as society) allocate it? How does our culture view time compared to others around the world? Is leisure time a passive or active thing? Should we really brag about working long hours?

The main take-away I took from the auth
Oct 18, 2008 Joe rated it liked it
Shelves: physics
I was tricked! I thought this was a book about physics (with the alluring word "acceleration" in the title), but it turned out to be more social and behavioral science than anything else. I still really enjoyed it though, as James Gleick once again proved his versatility as a writer.

All the little nuances, the winks and nods to the quirkiest of human predilections and paranoias, were what made this book such a joy to read. And that seems to be Gleick's style, which works in any genre.

My inner j
Jan 26, 2010 Summer rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
Although some sections of the book were dated to the point of irrelevance, the majority of the book was thought-provoking and still applicable. There is even an author's note at the end stating that a book about our ever increasing dependence on technology and increasing the speed of our lives became outdated in the months between the time it was written and the time it was published. Still, I found the ideas the author discussed- about our culture's need for speed and how it has spawned our col ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite this book showing its age in a manner I did not strictly anticipate (though obviously should have), I really enjoyed Gleick's examination of the role of time in our lives. And, I admit, there was something strangely fun about imagining the world before the turn of the millenium and 9/11 and the rebirth of Apple and the smartphone get the idea. It made extrapolating his points all the more exciting, because you could see how his thoughts relate to the future as it is now.
Also, G
Gleick catalogs numerous ways in which western culture is driven by go, go, Go! Some meme are quite funny, and insightful. Others, upon self reflection, are sad. "So what," you might say after reading this book, just as I did. His conclusion, maybe lacking but I took away a few things. Every generation sees the symptoms of mania (rapid speech, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, hypersexuality, euphoria, impulsiveness, grandiosity, and increased interest in goal-directed activities) in th ...more
Jeff Gabriel
Aug 28, 2015 Jeff Gabriel rated it liked it
Still interesting if a little dated. An afterword in the book indicates that the book was dated before it hit shelves, so putting another 15 years on it doesn't help. In any event if you can skip references the wonders of blazing fast 500Kb internet and heavy increase in the use of fax machines and newsgroups - then there is something here for you. I enjoyed the philosophical discussion over the increase of information in our society and how that leads to an increase in a sense of time c ...more
Dave Gaston
Sep 04, 2010 Dave Gaston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: invention, science
I loved it. A straight forward, brief and insightful history of time. A refreshing view — to look at a measure that man invented and then obsessed upon. Prior to this read, it was too easy to think of time as a thing of nature. Gleick’s topic, is really his canvas. On it, he paints the history of progress aided by man’s inventions. For example, time from town to town was never in sync down to the minute until railroad schedules and the telegraph made it an obvious necessity. One of the optimisti ...more
Derrick Trimble
May 07, 2014 Derrick Trimble rated it liked it
Shelves: thinking, science
James Gleick is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. His skill in presenting a thematic read is enjoyable through and through. Turns on phrases, quips and quotes, matched by insightful expertise augment a rich educational journey. As evident by the subtitle, 'The Acceleration of Just About Everything,' the world has raced on since the book was first released in 1999.

Many of the references are now defunct, obsolete,...invalid. The world has not slowed down over the past fifteen years markin
Apr 14, 2012 Barry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-misc
Mr. Gleick throws out a topic of interest to his readers: people are trying to cram more things into their day, and he looks at some of the reasons for this as well as the consequences of it. Faster is a really neat idea, but it has a tendency to read like an essay (or investigative newspaper article) that has been filled out to book length. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing that, but the chapters tend to start fast and then plod along, straying from the theme of the chapter and book. ...more
Oct 04, 2009 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The dichotomy - more time saving devices and technologies vs not enough time in a day... - ... save time for more leisure vs how to 'fill' up that leisure with acceptable, profitable activities...

our obsession with seconds... milliseconds...

the book is full of information and surveys about how people use time, and how that has changed in the last hundred... fifty... ten... one year as radio/TV/internet/cell phones/etc. have interacted with people to be what they are...

and that in many ways, pe
Jan 21, 2010 Yofish rated it liked it
Shelves: read-on-tape
Essays on how people and machines and life in general is just going faster and faster. The funny thing is he talks about the internet and mobile phones and things like that, and it was written in 1998! So it's weirdly dated. Some interesting factoids--many elevators have their 'door closed' button disabled. The button is just there to make people feel like they have something to do. People are terrible at estimating how much time they spent doing one thing or another. But the datedness was too d ...more
Ketan Shah
James Gleick looks at time,and our perception of it. He does a good job at describing how the faster pace of life affects everything we do,and how we perceive our world. I especially enjoyed the section on the measurement of time ,and also the chapter on the acceleration of media with "MTV" style editing becoming the norm.Some of the later chapters seem a bit hurried (of course) ,but it's still very worth reading. If you enjoyed this ,you'd probably enjoy the work of Malcolm Gladwell and also Da ...more
Sep 07, 2008 Gregory rated it really liked it
An exploration of how technology has accelerated our perception of time, mostly, it seems, for the worse. What's frightening is how much we have sped up in the ten years since the book was first published. The chapter "On Internet Time" is all email and faxes. Now of course email is too slow, we need instant messaging and texting. My favorite chapter was about music. Who has the time to listen to a symphony anymore? An opera? Who even listens to music anymore, in the foreground, attention undivi ...more
Jul 30, 2013 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ironically, I "read" this book as Audio CD's on my iPod while working out at the gym. This is a good book discussing how everyone's world is speeding up, getting faster and faster every year. There are many excellent examples presented.

Unfortunately, I think that we are worse for this effect. We should take the time to enjoy music, theater, literature not try to rush through everything so that we can relax later later (which we never actually do).

Unfortunately, I thought it dragged a bit near t
Feb 18, 2013 Aaron rated it really liked it
This book, even a tad dated to pre-Y2K, did one whale of a job of listing the ways our lives are fast and becoming faster. He really went all out to find and describe ways our lives seem to be going faster and faster.
At about 75% of the book, I was hoping for some strategies to cope. But nope. No strategies to cope, only more ways to count how fast we are seemingly becoming.
In the last chapter he did approach some interesting thoughts and themes, but then the book was over.
Adding it to the 'read
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James Gleick (born August 1, 1954) is an American author, journalist, and biographer, whose books explore the cultural ramifications of science and technology. Three of these books have been Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists, and they have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Born in New York City, USA, Gleick attended Harvard College, graduating in 1976 with a degree in
More about James Gleick...

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“When the Lilliputians first saw Gulliver's watch, that "wonderful kind of engine...a globe, half silver and half of some transparent metal," they identified it immediately as the god he worshiped. After all, "he seldom did anything without consulting it: he called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action in his life." To Jonathan Swift in 1726 that was worth a bit of satire. Modernity was under way. We're all Gullivers now. Or are we Yahoos?” 10 likes
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