The Revolutionaries Try Again by Mauro Javier Cárdenas

Set in Ecuador, The Revolutionaries Try Again is a story about idealists who hatch up a plan to run for office—against the current regime and against the previous dictator. Although the premise is intriguing, I knew early on that this was not my cup of tea. I was a little disappointed in myself. I wanted to love the book. …But I could not stand the long sentences and the internal monologues and the jibber jabber of intellectuals. It was too confusing to read, and I was not in the right headspace (and I don’t think I ever will be) to read blocks of text—of a single sentence that went past ten pages. All of the flashbacks in the same sentence as current day were too much. I did not care for any of them, and this made me sad.

But what made me happy was the coexistence of English and Español in the writing. This was not an English book with Spanish dialogue. The words flowed smoothly from English to Español to English again with no italics—because bilingual people do not think nor speak in italics!!! There is no extra accent when bilingual people switch between languages. In fact, I found the blend realistic because, based on personal experience, a bilingual person’s train of thought flows smoothly using either language. And bilingual people can also think and speak uninterrupted in a single language—I’m talking about you, those two chapters written entirely in Español!!!

Unfortunately, Español is not one of the languages I know. I glossed past many words, sentences, and pages, but I did enjoy hearing the words in my head—even if I could not comprehend them. I really wish I could love this book, but it was simply not written for me. I hope to find a similar book (with less internal monologues and shifting thoughts and dialogues) that I can fully appreciate. For now, kudos to Mauro Javier Cárdenas for writing a book that so accurately depicted (or seemed to—because I don’t live in Ecuador, so I can’t be so sure) growing up an idealist in a place where people have been set with their ways.

Scrum by Jeff Sutherland

At first glance, Scrum looks like a productivity or self-help book for individuals. It is not. (Just wanted to get this out of the way, as imo the title/subtitle of the book could have been clearer.) Scrum is about team productivity. The book provides a framework for working in transparent, robust teams.

The book is a nice refresher (or introduction) on why Scrum is an ideal framework to use in development. The book takes Scrum to another level and shows that it can be implemented outside of the tech industry. While the entire framework is encapsulated in the five-page appendix, the actual book focuses on the context in which Scrum works—the why.

Surprisingly, this was an engaging read. The book was thoughtfully (and beautifully!) written, with a non-technical audience in mind. Jeff Sutherland has a background in military, so some anecdotes revolved around that industry knowledge. Nevertheless. he explained the concepts well. and we come out learning a little more about the military. (Speaking of, early internet jargon was adapted from military lingo. If you are interested in the evolution of language as it was influenced by the internet, read Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch.)

The last chapter, however, I found unnecessary …or too much. Throughout the book, Jeff Sutherland already shared insights on how other companies used Scrum, so I felt that the content of the last chapter could have been integrated with with previous chapters instead. I glossed over the majority of this last chapter—at that point, he seemed to be taking credit for things that he didn’t implement himself. Maybe those examples could have been in an appendix instead? If Sutherland was simply looking for a way to end his book, perhaps he could have combined the last two sections of the previous chapter with the last section of the last chapter. Just to give closure.

Overall, Scrum was a productive read. It was surprisingly quotable for a project management book; there was a thoughtfulness in the writing that made me think of the book as more than a project management guide. While I do not believe that Scrum works in all contexts, the book was a good reminder of why Scrum set the bar in tech.

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

This book was okay. Perhaps if I had taken up The Aeneid in school, I would have appreciated Lavinia more, as the idea of giving Lavinia her own voice was interesting.

In any case, the book stood on its own; prior knowledge of Aeneas or The Aeneid was not required to follow the story. The book was Lavinia’s account of the past, so there was an air of fatalism (because we are told from the start that Aeneas will not live long) throughout the book. The main character Lavinia was likeable, but the tone of voice was… not my jam.

This is not the kind of book I generally read, but I gave it a shot since I wanted to broaden my reading horizons. Anyway, the book was short (less than 300 pages), and the plot was interesting, so I didn’t feel like I wasted time on this. I could see why people would love this book (it was well-written and, based on the afterword—yes, I read that, too—well-researched), but it wasn’t for me.