Note: I received the following books from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Although nonfiction almost always takes a back seat to the fiction I like to read, I’ve read several nonfiction ARCs in the last few weeks. Two of them were pretty terrible; one I didn’t even finish, despite the fact that it was about a topic close to my heart. The third, however, was awesome, and I’ll definitely be looking at it again in the future.
Schools on Trial
I really, really wanted to love this book. Goyal discusses the state of American schools today (a topic you know I care about), and he offers innovative solutions to the problems that they face. However, I really took issue with the way the author presented his arguments and opinions. I hate to say this, but the author is only 20 years old, and you can tell from his writing. He has that untempered anger that I and many of my friends had in our college years, and while I don’t doubt that he and many others have been harmed by our poor school system, I would have taken him a lot more seriously had he taken others’ viewpoints more seriously.
I did finish this book, but not really because I enjoyed it. I skimmed it through to the end to see if there was anything new or interesting (spoiler alert: there wasn’t much).
Basically, this book is a self-love style book (you might remember a similar book I picked up and also didn’t enjoy recently). I always pick up these books looking for something new and interesting, but despite a mix of scientific ideas and “woo woo” stuff, there were very few mind-blowing moments. It’s all the same old “be more mindful” and “accept yourself” and “don’t let others tell you how to live your life.” The author himself has had some interesting experiences (druggie friends, friends who were shot and killed, his own heart problems at a young age), but I would have been much more interested in reading his inspirational memoir than his totally unoriginal self-help book.
Rating: Skip This One
Smarter Faster Better
This book, on the other hand, was incredibly useful and interesting. Just like Duhigg’s last book, Smarter Faster Better is filled with a nice mix of scientific studies and real-life stories. This book is focused on productivity, and while this one doesn’t have as tight a storyline as his book on habits, I still found plenty of things to chew on.
Duhigg fills his book with stories of groups that have gotten it right, from Toyota factories to the Frozen filmmakers to the Marines. Each chapter (and each group) illustrates a different concept, including goal setting, focus, and decision making. It’s a fascinating pop psychology book that will have real-life applications, whether in your business or in your personal life.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good