Faster : the acceleration of just about everything

by James Gleick

Paper Book, 2000




New York : Vintage, 2000.


Presents a study of the human fascination with time from a psychological, biological, and cultural perspective, tracing the development of measuring time and exploring ways in which we try to stretch our allotted time.

Media reviews

Christian Century
[W]hile the book excels descriptively, it falls short analytically and prescriptively.
9 more
Virginia Quarterly Review
[W]hile it is fascinating to crawl through the fine points of MTV video cutting, even the most sympathetic reader will begin to wonder whether he has anything else to tell us.
Technology Review
Gleick doesn't alight long enough on any subject to give it depth.
In this intelligent and thought-provoking book he addresses the ways in which the modern world saves time, spends it and keeps track of it down to tiny fractions of a second.
New York Times Book Review
James Gleick's ''Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything'' is nimble, smart, often funny, and -- best of all -- fast.
New York Times
In rat-a-tat yet elegant prose, Mr. Gleick hammers out precisely how time-driven we are.
Wilson Quarterly
[An] infectious, tongue-in-cheek romp.
Christian Science Monitor
While Gleick makes sure to give each technology its due, you sense he finds these examples of "progress" more disturbing than empowering, but in a way that is more nostalgic than insightful.
Publishers Weekly
Funny and irreverent, Gleick pinpoints the dilemma underlying many of today's technological improvements: that time-saving now comes more from "the tautening net of efficiency" than from raw speed, meaning that any snag in the system . . . can spread delay and confusion throughout the network.
Fascinating stuff for thoughtful science- and technology-minded readers.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whaddney
A book that feels as rushed as its subject matter. An interesting topic, but a more structured and analytical approach would have shed more insight. Too often (particularly in the second half) the book degenerated into simply describing some aspect or another of modern, fast-paced living.
LibraryThing member mbowen
perhaps succumbing to his own brand of hurry sickness, james gleik's 'faster' is a quick read to delight and entertain. although it is well written and credible in all ways, in the end i found that i had no time to spend on his conclusions. so i dropped the book.

after several good introductory chapters, gleick falls into a rut describing how fast some other element of american society has become. this quickly (how quickly? very quickly) put the kibosh on my interest. although the content seems destined for bobo conversation, i found it little more than extended vignettes filling sound-bites into full length chapters and then chapters into a book. it made the whole enterprise seem reverse engineered around a series of simple "aha's" that would be better served by a juicy piece of fiction by michael crichton.… (more)
LibraryThing member bragan
James Gleick considers our modern obsession with time, with subdividing the hours and minutes into smaller and smaller pieces, with cramming as much as possible into every moment, with saving time and spending time. Which is a potentially very interesting subject, but I found this book kind of disappointing. It's jumpy and unfocused, flitting around from topic to topic in a rather superficial way. Possibly this is Gleick attempting to capture the nature of his subject material by echoing it in his writing style, but whatever the motivation, I found the result unsatisfying and often rather tiring. He also, frankly, leaves me with the impression that he cares more about sounding clever and zippy than he does about conveying information or making any kind of coherent point.

Oddly enough, I think the most interesting thing about this volume is in the way that it's dated -- it was originally published in 1999. Some of the social and technological topics it touches on just seem rather quaint now, but it's surprising how often I had the feeling that I was getting a glimpse back at the early days of many trends that have become fundamental parts of our current Internet Age, with all that that's meant for the acceleration of our society and our lives.
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LibraryThing member msburton
Pure pontification. Gleick admitted as much when I saw him speak on his tour for this book: "I guess there isn't really a central idea that I'm arguing for. My hope is that you'll read it and at the end think, 'Oh, I get it.'"
LibraryThing member lamona
I first encountered this as an audio book. When I saw that a book subtitled "the acceleration of just about everything" was being offered in an abridged version that you could listen to while doing something else... and read by the author, no less, I just had to have it. After listening to it I bought a copy and re-read it (or read it for the first time). Yes, like other books by Gleick it is a popular account. But it's very well told, and I've given copies to friends who would not usually read non-fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member dazzyj
A collection of fascinating anecdotes that tries to mirror its subject matter by delivering itself in short bursts. It is not clear what it all adds up to, but as you read it the time will fly.
LibraryThing member lorin
I dislike preachy books that tell us how some aspect of our culture is making our lives worse. Luckily, this isn't one of those books. It is about how we seem to keep moving faster and faster, and get more efficient, yet seem to always not have enough time. I like it becaues Gleick doesn't make value judgements about this phenomenon, and he doesn't try to offer "solutions" to the "problem". Rather, it's a collection of observations on our rushed world. It discusses things like the "close door" button on the elevator, and how people push "88" instead of "90" on their microwave to save time. Highly entertaining.… (more)
LibraryThing member conceptDawg
Faster is a wonderful romp through the ever more complicated and accelerated lives of “modern” man. The book is packed full of interesting tidbits of information, statistics, and stories about how technology is helping to speed up the lives of everyone today—for better or for worse.

I really enjoyed this book. The pace is quick which means that you don’t really ever want to stop reading it. I’m a sucker for trivia and statistics about everyday life and technology and this one is full of it.… (more)
LibraryThing member lauren.castan
Food for thought. i've really enjoyed all of his books that I've read.
LibraryThing member chaosmogony
A decent read. A few conspicuous anachronisms really dated the writing. As far as I'm concerned James Gleick could write about the mating habits of obscure Amazonian birds and it'd still be worth the effort. The man can write.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Funny. Funny. Funny. From the moment Gleick started talking about fast-working medication for a yeast infection (because only slackers have time for one of those) I knew I would be in for a fun ride. He may go on and on about a topic (the impatience one feels one when the elevator doors do not close fast enough, for example) but his points are valid. It's as if he is holding up a huge mirror and asking us to really look at how we behave when impatience or boredom sets in. Exactly how long does it take before YOU push the "door close" button in an elevator? It's an interesting test.

And when Gleick says "the acceleration of just about everything" he means everything.
A cool element to Faster! is that each chapter is independent of each other and therefore do not need to be read in order. But, something to be aware of - the subject material is a little dated. If he thinks the conveniences of microwaves, television remote controls and synchronized watches are indications of our need-it-now society,what does he now think of what the 21st century has been up to with our texting, smart phones, Twitter accounts and 65 mph toll booths (because who needs to stop driving incessantly on those long road trips?). He mentions computer watches (a la Dick Tracy). Funny how Apple just released their version this past year. Gleick moves on to talk about computer chips embedded in the human body, and why not? We are already comfortable with metal piercing our bodies in the oh so most interesting of places. Why not a computer chip? Gleick brings up photography and the need to see our pictures within the hour. How about the ability to take a picture and share it with the world within seconds ala Instagram and FB? There are so many examples of our world getting faster. What about the need for speed for athletic competition? Doping. Amphetamines. And speaking of drugs, what's that saying about liquor being quicker? It was interesting to think of hard liquor coming about because wine was too slow for the desired reaction to consumption. The list goes on. This was a great eye-opening read & I would love to know what Gleick would say about our need for speed these days.
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LibraryThing member ohernaes
About how everything goes faster and faster. I found the book disappointing. Some people's obsession with having accurate watches is different from being in a hurry. Gleick criticizes value of time calculations, but what is the alternative when evaluating the costs of seatbelts, road safety, etc? He validly criticzes a confusion between saving time and doing more on the part of other authors. Even though the benefits of the accelaration is mentioned at times, they should have figured more prominently. E.g. many of us wants to to more.… (more)
LibraryThing member Raftus
As befits a book about peoples' increasingly shortening attention span, 'Faster's chapters are short and zippy. This makes it an easy book to read, in contrast, say, to the author's latest work, 'The Information', which is much denser. And many of the chapters deal with relatively lightweight subjects such as MTV and time management self-help books.

But there are plenty of interesting and valuable insights
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