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: The Saturday Night Ghost Club

I found The Saturday Night Ghost Club when I was browsing in bookstores in Toronto. At first, I was hesitant to buy this book. Ghost Club? No, thanks. I already know I don’t like horror, but I was intrigued: The Saturday Night Ghost Club was set in Niagara Falls—how quintessential Canada can you get? (See: A Taste of CanLit)

And what a great decision it was. This book was a short yet powerful read, and, frankly, I would have finished the book within a day if it were not for a cute dog trying to get my attention. (Yes, there are things other than mobile phones that distract your typical millennial population, too.)

Well, fine. I also voluntarily paused halfway through because I kept feeling like something really bad was going to happen, and I wanted to delay the impending doom as much as possible. Funnily enough, although I was suspicious that something was wrong, I didn’t get that something right! Nice try, brain; the story’s twists and turns weren’t that obvious.

I’d say Craig Davidson kept me on my toes for all ~250 pages of the book. He also managed to break my heart and then mend it in the same number of pages. What a ride.

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: Children of the Moon

A short but compelling read, Anthony De Sa’s Children of the Moon follows the story of Po and Ezequiel, both outsiders in their society. The story is told through Po’s and Ezequiel’s flashbacks, with Po recalling her side to a reporter, Serafim.

It was hard to put down this book (I read it in a day), and even when I was finished reading it, I was thinking of what could have happened if so-and-so had happened instead. So it’s not the kind of read that you finish and (sort of) immediately forget about or move on from. No, I thought about Children of the Moon the next day still; I needed some time to decompress.

Pick up this book if you can.

PS, YES I do have a signed copy! (!!!) This was in Indigo Books’ “We the North” recommendations shelf. (“We the North” is the Toronto Raptors’ battle cry, and Anthony De Sa is a Canadian writer.) At first I was a bit hesitant to pick it up (I wasn’t in the mood for sad books), but now that I’ve finished the story I’m glad that I changed my mind and bought a copy.

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.