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Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,523 ratings  ·  133 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 1999)
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 ·  1,523 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Given that this was published in 1999, the book is still relevant today (more than ever) with its message about the speed with which we run our lives. The days of sitting on a back porch waiting for the evening newspaper are long gone, as the pace of technology makes us more and more impatient.

We may need to set aside formal time for deliberation, where once we used accidental time.

The 19th Century really started the spurt with the Industrial Revolution, which changed people's lives so rapidly,
Mar 18, 2009 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 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
Jan 07, 2008 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. ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
"I put instant coffee in my microwave oven and almost went back in time."
(From a Steven Wright's stand-up routine)

It is quite depressing to read a nineteen-year-old book that focuses on one of the things that are obviously wrong with our civilization and realize that the problem has gotten much worse since the publication. James Gleick's Faster was published in 1999 and its subtitle - The Acceleration of Just About Everything - aptly describes the topic. Mr. Gleick is the author of the wonderful
Andrew Carr
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
It's pretty common to hear people say 2020 is such a fast year and compare it to turn of the century when Y2k and hanging chads in Florida seemed the world's biggest problems. 'Faster: The Acceleration of just about Everything' by James Gleick, published in the year 2000, is thus a useful time capsule in showing that back then everyone thought that life was far too fast as well.

The theory that life is speeding up is widely held, even if the evidence for it is patchy and somewhat of a social cons
This book is a bit of a transitional fossil - ironic, given that it's about how "everything's getting faster." But that sentiment is, in my estimation, itself an artifact of the late 1980s through the 1990s. The analogous $CURRENT_YEAR narrative is about *scale* and *volume*, if anything - we don't notice the increases in Internet bandwidth because we're already downloading 4K-HD cat videos. But now we're worried about how many data points it takes for a machine learning algorithm to predict you ...more
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
Nick Davies
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Disappointing. I enjoyed 'The Information' by the same author, which I found well-rounded and offering depth and variety. This earlier offering by the American author failed to hold my interest and failed to really deliver on the theme set up quite adequately in the opening fifty or so pages. Gleick speaks at length about the increasing pace of modern life, but doesn't really make a coherent or particularly interesting point about it - it just comes over as a list of examples and facts about how ...more
Sep 03, 2013 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
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
A series of think-pieces that don’t add up

The author is trying to capture different versions of the same theme: how our modern lives are shaped by busyness and commotion. He has lots of short chapters that expound in this idea. Each feels like its meant to be a think-piece published in The New Yorker. Overall, it seems the author keeps trying to convince the reader how smart he is, how much of an observer of social trends he is, how he can wrap up our lives into a broad theme. In the end, he tri
Oct 11, 2009 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
Oct 08, 2016 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. ...more
Cezary Baraniecki
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
By: James Gleick

The keeping of time was a right reserved to Emperor in ancient China. They set the calendar and marked the passing of time with complex water clocks, while the population carried on in blithe ignorance of the mechanical passing of time, well after clocks spread throughout the rest of the world. Gleick compares this state of being with our segmented, minute-by-minute life today and remarks: “if our watches are slave-chains, we don them eagerly”

Faster is a book that explores
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, sociology
Anyone familiar with other books by James Gleick (Chaos: Making and New Science and The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood) will quickly recognize the formula for Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything. Written at (approximately) the turn of the millennium, some of the material is dated, but as with most books by this author, the anecdotes, quotations, and insights are well worth considering it anew. For example, Gleick begins his discussion of time with interesting factoids ab ...more
Paul Weiss
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Twenty-first century life in the fast lane!

James Gleick, author of the bestseller Chaos has created another compelling and often disturbing tale of the nature of our society. Faster characterizes our modern day thinking as overwhelmingly occupied with notions of time - time management, saving time, using time, keeping time, multi-tasking, channel surfing, high speed internet, moving sidewalks, high speed elevators, telephone speed dial functions, and, of course, the plethora of self-help books t
Mar 24, 2014 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
Dec 13, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Horribly outdated by this point, Gleick's accounting of acceleration reads as a collection of new phrases/inventions/gadgets/foods/behaviors he's either annoyed with or bemused by. There were still some nuggets of interesting-ness that touched off different semi-enjoyable musings (how quickly humans adapt to new things - how doing something faster makes us inevitably imagine the old way of doing it felt horribly slow at the time - how human speech and then idea patterns are influenced by the wor ...more
Cassie Sands
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Faster is a great compilation and discussion of the ways in which our world is changing, and our perception of our own personal time is changing along with it. Though I read this almost 20 years after it was written, the themes are very much still applicable and this would have been state of the art in 1999.

Sprinkled throughout the text you can see portions that are interrelated, though not necessarily redundant to some of his other works. Some passages are inspired by Chaos, and others I can s
Cara W
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting treatise on time, from how societies starting using time, telling time - then how time became standardized.

Then how societies worked and how everyone is TOO busy - that time is precious and no one gets more of it. How time "saving" and management really came about in 1980's as an overall societal self help phenomena.

All trends still consistent - research mid to late 1990's, published in 1999 - seems a little dated compared to how much "worse" it is with all the digital and electr
Michael Caveney
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had two problems with this book:

1) It's very badly dated. The entire thrust is technology, and it's 20 years old. I mention this with the caveat of I read the first edition and there have maybe been some major changes, but still.....

2) I don't understand why it was written. Gleick basically goes through time from about the Indistrial Revolution onwards and literally lists ways that technological advances sped up life. Ok? There'slittle to nothing in the way of commentary or insight and that m
Jan 23, 2017 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.
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even though it was written before smartphones, tablets, facebook, twitter, snapchat and netflix, it is still a very actual description of how we all have gotten so busy. How everything is being time-economized.
Dean Wilcox
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Not my favorite Gleick book. Focused on time its a bit all over the place. Somewhat like his book in Time Travel. But I was surprised to see how relevant a book published in 1999 is today. Things have not changed too much, merely gotten faster.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book breaks down every second of every bit of time you thought you could save or will ever save. It is insane to think about things like this on such a microscopic scale and this book will make you re-evaluate every second of time you’ve ever wasted.
Kalle Wescott
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a 5-star book but in the Gleick scale a 4-star.

The same way Michael Lewis' the The Fifth Risk is a 5-star but only a 2-star or maybe 3 in the Lewis scale.
Sander van Luit
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Although quite ourdated, this book had some nice ways to put you thinking about our drive for more speed and less rest in our lives.
Martijn Bentum
Dec 02, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 29, 2016 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
Joe Allison
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything" is what happens when an insightful writer elucidates a fascinatingly universal concept! You will yourself nodding in assent to the many illustrative examples and underlying motivations Gleick investigates. I found this to be a rather engaging read that vacillated from intense revelation to somewhat dry explication of underlying forces and conditions. It is a delicious irony that the text is more timeous now than it was at its origin. For devote ...more
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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

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