Novel Reactions: INSPIRED

I learned a lot from Marty Cagan’s INSPIRED. Now that I’ve joined the Product side, I could actually relate to a lot of the things mentioned in the book. The book isn’t just for startups; INSPIRED also covers issues faced in larger companies. But if you’re not a product manager or not a product enthusiast, this book won’t work for you. This book is very specific to the job, for which reason INSPIRED has been so successful and helpful to its target audience.

Manage your expectations: although the book’s subtitle is “how to create tech products customers love,” INSPIRED focuses more on how to build a great product team and how to foster an innovative culture. Ideally, this would serve as a foundation for product managers to lead their teams to create great products, but for anyone looking for a how-to manual or direct instructions, try something else. (In Chapter 58, Marty Cagan mentions Sprint, which I’d already planned to read sometime after anyway.)

Great foundation. I would recommend to aspiring or current product managers in tech companies, startup or not.

Novel Reactions: Dreyer’s English

This one captured my heart from page one. It held no punches, and Benjamin Dreyer wasted no time in telling me that I should really stop using filler words in my writing. (I did that on purpose.)

This book is a great guide and refresher to the rules of writing, and I plan to reread it (maybe) once a year to make sure I don’t fall back into my bad writing habits. With that said, Dreyer’s English is a reference book that I will definitely keep within arm’s reach especially whenever I need to make a point about the usage of “lay” as opposed to “lie.” Add on to this the non-use of apostrophes for pluralizing words. Please, stop and think, people. Perhaps I can give this book as gifts to those people just to get my point across? I will need to stock up on the book though, and it isn’t that cheap…

The target audience of this book is the adult American. This book talks about rules of American English and not British English. (Yes, these are distinct.) I noticed while reading that Filipinos blend the two English languages, so if you don’t live in America, don’t feel too affected by some of the rules in this book—unless, of course, you are writing in American English then by all means, yes, please follow these rules.

All in all, this was a highly informative and entertaining read. Who said learning can’t be fun? (Correct answer is no one—learning is always fun.)

Novel Reactions: The Lean Startup

In preparation for reentering the workforce, I also read The Lean Startup. I liked that the book provided real life examples and was not too prescriptive, in a workbook kind of way. It was easy to read and to follow, and it helped a lot that I was annotating as I read through. The numerous flags (I know, they were a lot) actually helped me out when I was writing summary notes after finishing the book.

There were a lot of repeated concepts throughout the book, but I think that was Eric Ries’ way of putting everything together and making sure that everything sticks. The two main ideas I learned from the book were (1) avoid wasting time and effort by testing a minimum viable product and obtaining consumer insight sooner and (2) use validated learning to know when to pivot or to persevere. The book made a lot of sense, at least for someone in the startup world, and I rank it highly (probably top 5) among my nonfiction reads.

Also, kudos to Eric Ries and his editors for keeping the book’s tone condescension-free. (I know, I also noticed that this is a recurring thing I point out for nonfiction…) Even when Ries was talking about his experience at IMVU, his tone remained normal, humble even, and I think that is one of the reasons I found this book so pleasant and enjoyable to read.

So yes, I think people should pick up this book and read it! It may not resonate to everyone (the strategy is a little industry-specific), but there are good points here even for well established companies. (Ries talks about Toyota a lot.) If this isn’t the book for you, you can always pivot, too.

Novel Reactions: Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager is a very good example of a book that communicates with its target audience really well. However, it’s also the kind of book that people outside of its target audience will might not appreciate.

So, who is the target audience of this book?

Clearly laid out in its title, this book is for informal project managers and newbies to the field. The book offers a big picture view of project management, so it tends to be very basic. And this is good. If the book became too technical, readers would be intimidated by it. The idea is it’s a great starting point for anyone curious about the topic. For more detail, readers can look into more technical material.

One thing I appreciated was that the authors of the book do not come off as condescending. (Since I read with feeling, I always pay attention to the tone of the writing.) Their overall writing style (and content) is very approachable, which makes for an easy and informative read.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who belongs to the target audience.

Novel Reactions: Rebel Cities

David Harvey’s Rebel Cities challenges the capitalist norm in which owners of capital are the only ones thriving in cities and poses that we can find a socially just solution to allow the majority to reclaim the cities.

This book made me think: yes, that’s true; our cities are flawed.

Rebel Cities doesn’t dictate the one solution to solve the issue—to be frank, there isn’t any one yet—but Harvey gives us a comprehensive background on the issue and provides us with some alternatives.

For a book of ~160 pages (paperback edition), it was quite a heavy read. There were times I’ve had to look up concepts mentioned in the text to make sure I was on the same page as Harvey. I think this was largely due to the target audience being people with economics or policy backgrounds. Nevertheless, the content wasn’t that hard to follow, so and it wasn’t at all intimidating to read my way through this book.

This is one of my favorite nonfiction reads. It has made me curious enough about social and political issues that I will likely read up on related topics to this. I would recommend this to anyone interested in social justice.