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 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.

A Taste of CanLit

During my grand detour, I picked up a few CanLit reads from my two favorite bookstores, Bakka-Phoenix Books and Indigo. I couldn’t purchase too many because (1) I had (and still have) a large pile of books to be read; and (2) I couldn’t fit too many books in my luggage. I ended up a total of four books, and I loved them all. Slightly wish I could have picked up more, but luggage restrictions did not permit…

A lot of the CanLit books on Indigo’s We the North shelf touched on immigration. This wasn’t too surprising, and it reminded me of the new immigrant welcome-ish posters I used to see around Toronto. Anyway, a disclaimer: the We the North shelf was not big enough to accommodate all CanLit works. I also looked for (what I thought were) less mainstream books since I wanted to broaden my scope. The ones I picked up only cover a small portion of CanLit.

Here’s my list of CanLit reads in order of date read.

Cocktails at Seven, Apocalypse at Eight

Thank you, Don Bassingthwaite, for bringing us Derby Cavendish. Cocktails at Seven, Apocalypse at Eight (see: Short Bites: Special) is a short story collection that features Toronto’s LGBT community, with Derby Cavendish and friends saving Church Street’s butt every holiday.

Radicalized

Another story collection, Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized (see: Novel Reactions: Radicalized) touched on a lot of what if scenarios. This one didn’t seem to be set in Canada (or exclusively in any state), but it was a great read nonetheless.

Children of the Moon

Children of the Moon (see Novel Reactions: Children of the Moon) is an immigrant story of sorts. It focuses on the hardships faced by two characters, both of whom have reached old age by the time they were recounting their stories. It was quite the emotional read, so be ready to decompress after finishing this book.

The Saturday Night Ghost Club

The Saturday Night Ghost Club surprised me. I’m still not over it. Based on the title, I was expecting the story to be more along the lines of Goosebumps (remember that?), but it was totally different. I loved it so much that if I could only recommend one among the four books, I would pick this in a heartbeat.

Novel Reactions: Radicalized

Wow, never has science fiction felt so real to me. Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized is a collection of four stories—all “what if?” scenarios people have probably thought to themselves at some point:

  • What if we take the internet of things too far?
  • What if our favorite superhero clashes with our justice system?
  • What if regular people finally crack?
  • What if the world goes into turmoil?

Of course, all of the stories stretch things (a little) too far, but, to be fair, they’re not too far from what we can imagine. All of the themes are current and familiar, and the social commentary is spot on: if these situations actually happened today, the stories in Radicalize portray potential reactions pretty well. How unfortunate.

The stories are longer than the typical short story, but each one can still be read in one sitting. I limited myself to one story each time I picked up this book because …well, it is a little chilling. Also, Cory Doctorow wrote the characters so well that, even if I didn’t love them, I understood them. Society can be crazy sometimes.

Radicalized is a very timely and worthwhile read, and I have super glad I picked it up at the bookstore. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, even to my friends who don’t really venture into sci-fi.