July 2015 Reading

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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I got this book because the movie looked interesting and I generally like to read the book before I see a movie.

That said, I hope the movie is better than the book. Now the book wasn’t terrible; it’s just that the main character (Greg Gaines) is pretty whiny and self-deprecating, which I find annoying.

The book is about a boy who really doesn’t have any friends and really doesn’t have any purpose. His mom makes him hang out with a girl who has cancer, and through that he eventually finds a purpose.

After she dies.

All through the middle we sit through Greg’s whiny musings on how life works. He goes on about everything from girls to school to…friends. Not that he has any friends — even Earl isn’t really a friend since Greg never actually shares anything real with Earl. They just make films together.

My hope for the movie is that Greg doesn’t spend 60% of his time talking, telling us how much he sucks. If he does (like he does in the book) then it’s going to be a boring movie.

I’m not sure if you should read this or not and I really haven’t been able to think of a way to help you decide. You’re just on your own.

Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World

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What does it take to get a product right? Not only when you’re the sole developer/designer/mind behind it, but when you’ve been hired to manage it, or you need to hire someone to manage the product because it’s too great a task for one person alone.

What if you have many products and need to have them all run well?

That’s where a product manager comes into play, and this book is all about what it takes to be a good product manager.

It starts by walking us through the personality traits and demeanour that a good product manager should possess. Of course not everyone is well suited to the position (just as not anyone can be everything) so this start is a great way to help you establish what it’s going to take to find a good product manager.

The second section is all about what it takes to build a good product plan, from wireframes to when you get developers involved (hint: the same time as the designers and UX people), to how you build a roadmap and balance all the competing voices as you decide on feature priority.

The third section walks you through how to execute that roadmap by being productive. One of my favourite parts here is the stance on meetings which, according to the author, should not just be to update someone down the chain. Updates are what Wiki’s, blogs, or project management systems are for.

The book finishes off with a roadmap of what you should be doing for the first 90 days as you start a product management position. It breaks this up in to 3 blocks of 30 days each, and gives you the tools to hit the ground running as you start that new position.

In short, this is a great book for anyone working on a product even if you’re not the product manager. At least after reading it, you’ll know how things should be running.

Paper Towns

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I grabbed this one on my way down to Mexico. It’s in the same genre (Teen/YA) as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl but this one I really enjoyed. Here’s a quick synopsis from Publisher’s Weekly:

Weeks before graduating from their Orlando-area high school, Quentin Jacobsen’s childhood best friend, Margo, reappears in his life, specifically at his window, commanding him to take her on an all-night, score-settling spree.

I found Margo’s clues in the story to be intriguing and fun. It would have been very interesting to have a person like that around during my high school years instead of the normal crop of generic stereotypes that most of us actually experience.

But at that, the book really came down to (at least for me) learning to see people for who they really are. Margo wasn’t quite the outlandish person that everyone thought. At her core she was much less sure of herself, much as we all are.

Overall the characters had enough depth to be believable and it didn’t feel like a chore to watch them fumble with the clues Margo left. The end was both climactic and not, which was just right. I’ll leave you to read and figure out how it was both.

Song of Susannah

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Song of Susannah is Book 6 of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Out of the whole series, this is my least favourite book. It feels like little really gets resolved. We start with Susannah being apart from everyone and that’s about where we end, though we lose a character that has just made an appliance.

It also feels self indulgent as we see the author become a major part of what holds the world together. He’s a beam, it would seem, and now needs to be protected.

The story has its interesting parts as well, as we see some shootouts and get to find out what ‘low men’ actually are. We learn more about the difference between some doors between worlds and get a glimpse at how the rose is saved.

If this was the introduction to the series I don’t think I would end up reading the series. Sitting here a few books from the end it’s decent enough to keep me reading the rest, and I know the end books are great reads.

The Dark Tower

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This is the final book in the series (though there are a few short stories that explore more of Roland’s past). It’s a bit bitter as we see Roland get to the tower. He ends up without any of his long-term traveling companions, and while death travels with Roland almost everywhere, it may not find everyone that’s around him.

After such a long series this last installment feels ‘short’. It’s not really any shorter than previous books but the fondness you develop for the characters makes it hard to say goodbye, leaving you wanting to hear more and more about them.

It’s this personal wishing that makes me desire the quest for the Dark Tower to never end so I can keep reading about the issues that befall Roland.

As I’ve said after every review, it’s a great series I think you should read. This is at least my third time going through the whole thing.

That’s it for my July reading list. Let me know if you’ve read anything good this summer, and stay tuned for my August list in a few weeks.

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