Atomic Habits by James Clear

This was a new book, a book-buying ban exception since it’s nonfiction. I had fully intended for Atomic Habits to be my first read for 2020, and I am proud to say that I have no regrets: this was a great book to have started my year with.

Before I started reading, I had mixed feelings about the book. I usually find it very hard to appreciate self-help books—personal preference—but James Clear had me at chapter one and all the way through the end of the book. I enjoyed his examples (compounding interest, my friends; invest in yourself!) and appreciated his writing style (straightforward and approachable). I didn’t find Clear tiresome to read; his points were actionable and just made sense.

Granted, I’d read a some of his references already (Duhigg, Eyal, Csikszentmihalyi, and part of Kahneman), so the ideas in the book were quite familiar to me. In that sense, Atomic Habits wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it was a worthwhile read. (Despite the familiar concepts, I still marked up many pages with highlights and sticky notes. I wanted to be able to easily come back to them anyway.) I appreciated how James Clear put all of these ideas together into one cohesive and relatable book.

This is the book I would tell my friends to read if they’re interested in habit formation.

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.