Reviews of the Books I Read in February

Reviews of the Books I Read in February

5 minutes

In this post I recently wrote about the importance of reading widely. (Also see my notes at the bottom of that post for alternatives to traditional ‘reading’). I believe this applies to everybody, but this blog is for relatively new Scrum Masters, with 1 or 2 year’s experience.  Each month I’ll post a brief run down of what books I read during the month, and give my opinions on each one

In February I read  2 and a half books (yes, half a book again, but for an entirely different reason this time).

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

 (I read this on Audible)

I am a huge fan of Amy Cuddy’s work, and if you haven’t heard of her or seen her famous TED talk, do have a look here.  I was expecting great things out of this book.  I had pre-ordered it, so when the release date was then delayed it only added to my keenness.  Unfortunately it began disappointingly.  Lesson:  pedestals can be unhelpful!

The initial quarter of the book was a bit fluffier than I would have liked.  Ms Cuddy opened by including many anecdotes and comments from people she has interacted with in the past.   I can see this style may suit some people as it covers some cool social and behavioural science that can often be a bit dry.  For me, this made it just a little harder to read – I had to fight my way through the fluff to the meat and bones of the book.

I should also should mention that it wasn’t just the content.  I had the audio version of the book, read by the author.  Again, the initial quarter of the book was just a little too bright and breezy in tone for me.  Despite the slight Uni-Kitty feeling I had for that first quarter of the book (I nearly abandoned it to be honest), it was still well worth persevering.  I genuinely think it is well worth the price and the time to read it (and re-read it in my case).

As I mentioned, it got off to a poor start for my tastes, but by the middle of the book it was definitely redeemed.  I particularly enjoyed the section covering using body movement in the treatment of PTS (Post traumatic Stress).  Another noteworthy section details taking the ideas into a women’s correctional facility.

The middle of the book has considerably more science and statistics yet it remained easy to read.  The last quarter, like the first was largely given over to anecdotes. Curiously I had no problem with the anecdotes at the end of the book in the way I had at the beginning.  I guess by then I’d drunk the cool-aid and was fully invested in the book.

All in all, I would recommend this book, but suggest you aim to read it in small, bite-sized chunks.  Particularly when combined with the other book I was reading (below), I found it really hard going which is unusual for me.

 

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It

(I read this in Print format)

This is possibly the longest title of a book I have ever read!  I would also recommend not reading it in parallel with Amy Cuddy’s Presence.  Doing so made both books seem much harder going than was probably fair.  They also didn’t agree with each other in a substantial number of places, which was distracting.  If I was to recommend picking one over the other, my instincts would say go with Presence because it seems more balanced.

This book very much lent on the ‘women versus men’ aspect of imposter syndrome, which I found initially irritating.  By half way through it was strong enough to make me quit reading altogether.

For the record: it isn’t quite evenly split male:female, but its not far off.  It certainly isn’t ‘mostly a women thing’ which is what seemed to be shouted at me from the pages of this book.

The other thing of note about this book is the constant subtext of ‘its not your fault you feel this way, just look how the world is treating you’.  This  felt like a wasted opportunity.  People who experience imposter syndrome and people who don’t both inhabit the same environment.  To my mind, the fact that they then react differently, would seem to largely discount the environment being a cause for these feelings.  At best I might concede that when people suffer from the imposter effect, they may unconsciously seek out and find confirmation in their surroundings.

Additionally, I felt that we were being forced to pick sides from the start: “people with imposter syndrome” and “everyone else”.  This is not how it works.  Imposter syndrome (or Imposter Effect) is a transient thing that some people suffer with during their lives.  Some people feel it throughout their lives, and some never feel it at all, with all shades in between.

Perhaps, if I had kept reading, this would have been cleared up, but life’s too short to finish reading a book you’re not enjoying.

Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

(I read this on Audible)

Ryan Holiday is the guy who wroteThe Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage, which I enjoyed reading last year.  I hadn’t realise that the author’s ‘day job’ was PR & Marketing, so I didn’t connect the 2 books in anyway at first.  With hindsight I am glad about that as those books are most definitely not similar in subject matter, although they are both excellent reads.

This book is thrilling, deliciously dark, and quite frankly, terrifying.

The book is full of real-life stories, how they started, how they grew and were fanned into roaring, ravenous beasts.  Mr Holiday gives lots of examples where slanderous accusations can (and have) made with or without a grain of fact, shredding reputations and lives along the way.

It is a gloves-off, full and honest representation of working in PR & Marketing in today’s media-centric world.  It’s pretty much a confessional of what the author does/did as his day job, and how he does it.  He explains in detail why media manipulation works so easily & why it can’t be controlled.  He also shows, with examples, how these tactics are used by unscrupulous people for immoral and unethical means.  Given the author’s candour about his own behaviour, believe me, that particular well is far deeper than I am comfortable with!

A word of warning: you can’t un-learn what you find this book, and you will get cynicism in spades.   This book might be the author trying to salve his conscience, but as he himself will tell you, he can spin a good tale…  So perhaps this is just another manipulation, this time to sell his book.  Or perhaps, that’s just me being cynical.  Either way you see my point: this book changes the way you see things.

This is a deep and detailed dive in to the manipulation of the media at all levels, and the manipulation that all levels of the media exert in their turn.  I was left with the strong urge to shower hourly after reading this book, and with a low-grade but tangible anger level for a few days afterwards too.

Perhaps my life, working in the agile world, protects me a little from this darker side of some people and their motivations, I don’t know.  If so, I am grateful.  Just be sure you want to let this particular genie out of the bottle before you open this book.

 

For March, thanks to a most awesome blog post by Eric Barker oh his blog http://www.bakadesuyo.com/  I have pre-ordered the audio version of this:   Level Up Your Life by Steve Kamb.

I am planning to also read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change  by Charles Duhigg
and Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness  by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler

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