Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

There’s nothing like a nonfiction book to bring you back to reality after having read fantasy. I’ve just finished Smarter Faster Better, and I found it just alright. A little background here: Duhigg’s previous book, The Power of Habit, was the book that got me interested in nonfiction, so I was a little disappointed in how Smarter Faster Better turned out.

Since I’ve been reading psychology books here and there, I found the first two chapters a little lackluster. I thought to myself: I’ve read this somewhere before… I hope the rest of the book isn’t like this. Well, I’m glad that it takes a lot for me to decide not to finish a book because the middle chapters of Smarter Faster Better had some interesting concepts on using mental images and stretch and SMART goals. I even enjoyed reading some of the stories that gave context to Duhigg’s overarching ideas. (I particularly enjoyed the backstory to Frozen and the corporate culture of General Motors.)

Overall, there were maybe only two or three chapters that I liked. Most of the book fell flat to me. I found that the ideas did not flow well from chapter to chapter—each chapter could stand independently; I didn’t see the point of the book since none of the chapters built upon each other. I really wanted to like the book because I still think The Power of Habit is a good book to learn about habits, but Smarter Better Faster simply isn’t for me.

Agile Innovation by Morris, Ma, and Wu

Agile Innovation is essentially a textbook for large corporations who are looking to increase growth. It largely focuses on changing perceptions and attitudes toward innovative projects—including the acceptance that most projects typically fail.

There are a lot of familiar concepts in Agile Innovation. For context, I purchased this book to prepare for a project manager position, but I had ended up prioritizing other books (The Lean Startup, INSPIRED, and Hooked) instead. To be frank, Agile Innovation looked far too much like a textbook that I didn’t want to pick it up from my bookshelf. I finally read it during the lockdown since I wanted to feel productive by reading something that would help my work, and I was running out of nonfiction options at home.

While Agile Innovation is very informative, I do not feel like I belong to the target audience of the book. The book covers interesting projects one could undertake provided an abundance of resources, which is not necessarily the case for small businesses. In my case, I’m more interested in problems faced by startups and small businesses. If you are of the same mindset, I’d skip this in favor of The Lean Startup instead.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a three-part letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes of his experience as a black man who grew up in America. He recognizes that although the times have changed (the election of the Barrack Obama), some things, most things, remain the same.

And he tells it like it is. There’s certainly a double standard in society, and, unfortunately, people still judge you by the color of your skin. While this certainly needs to change, this is a fact that people live with.

Between the World and Me was written beautifully. I could visualize the scenes Coates described, and I empathized with him. Minorities have to keep their guard up all the time, even when they are doing nothing wrong, and it is difficult to tell someone who believes that because there have been some progressive movements in history, things are truly different now.

But I didn’t need to read a 150-page book to get the point. I found myself glossing over some pages—what a waste because the writing was beautiful. I felt like an article would have had a similar if not stronger effect on audiences.

Verdict: It’s something I’d recommend people to read, but it’s also not something I need on my shelf. I’m happy to lend my copy out.