Posted in All Book Reviews, Non-fiction (Business and Other Stuff)

Book Review: The Data Detective (By Tim Harford)

The Data Detective is the first thing I’ve ever read from Tim Harford. And it was definitely unlike many non-fictions that I’ve read in the (recent) past. Read on to know what works and doesn’t work in this book on statistics by the famous economist.

Genre: 

Non-fiction

Length: 

336 pages

Blurb:

Statistics are all around us. With more and more studies becoming the basis upon which sociological discussions and debates take place, it’s becoming even more important for people to really understand statistics, and how they’re applied. Tim Harford delves into how statistics can offer great insight into human behavior, but only if they’re understood correctly.

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 stars (for the flow of the book and the subject matter)

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

One of the most fun non-fictions I’ve ever read, that explains serious topics through beautifully presented and easy-to-consume stories.

What I Liked:

A few things really stood out for me in Tim Harford’s writing style and the presentation of the subject matter:

  • Tim Harford comes across as humble and conversational – both qualities that I’ve often found lacking in other non-fictions (for example, Zero to One by Peter Thiel) that tend to be too preachy. It made it really easy to follow what he was trying to explain.
  • The use of case studies and real-world examples adds immense value, making the concepts simpler and their impact that much more real.
  • The ideas in The Data Detective are refreshing and can guide anyone on how to maintain an objective and information-centric outlook, especially in this often-polarized world that keeps throwing information and misinformation at you.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing to specifically dislike in the book. Smooth reading through and through.

Who Should Read It:

I have been recommending The Data Detective to everyone, regardless of whether they usually read non-fiction or anything economics and statistics-related. For those new to non-fiction, Tim Harford’s book is easy to read, making it a good starting point. For those who regularly read non-fiction, it’s a refreshing change of voice. And for those who normally don’t find statistics interesting, I share that I don’t love statistics either – and this book is way more than that. It is a whole new outlook.

Who Should Avoid:

People who spend a lot of time working with numbers and the prevalent themes may find that this doesn’t add great value (as per some Goodreads reviews). I still think it’s a book everyone should read at least once.

Read It For:

The Data Detective is a lot more than being just about statistics. It incorporates sociology, psychology, and a lot of themes that are underlying in our day to day activities and thinking. It is for that very reason that it offers usable tips to help navigate today’s world a little better. If there’s one thing to read it for, it’s the simple yet highly useful eye-openers.

After The Data Detective, I’m definitely looking forward to following more of Tim Harford’s work. Although I borrowed this one from the library, it definitely should be on an ‘owned’ list for easy reference. Share your thoughts on the book or Harford’s other work in the comments below. And as always, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Non-fiction (Business and Other Stuff)

Book Review: Hooked (By Nir Eyal)

It’s the age of technology addiction. Some apps have you logging in three-four times a day even months and years after you’ve been using them, and some fail in their attempts to keep users coming back, even if they seemed really fun at first. In Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal – consultant, author, investor, and expert in user experience and behavioral economics (among a few other things) – explains why there may be such a difference in why some products get their users addicted and others don’t.

A really interesting topic with great potential. But does Hooked keep you hooked page after page? (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself on that pun!) Read on to know.

Genre: 

Non-fiction, Business, Psychology,

Length: 

256 pages

Blurb:

Nir Eyal delves into why some products become more addictive for their users versus others, and how this can be explained by the Hook Model – a four-step process that market leading products use to influence user behavior. It also goes on to show how you can replicate the steps in this model, and what psychological influences you need to consider when thinking about building a product that gets users “hooked”. Hooked also touches upon the ethics that should be a part of creating addictive technology, and what responsibility lies on the creators attempting to influence the behavior of millions of app users.

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10 for its teachings

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No. 

Highlighted Takeaway:

Impactful and applicable points, but presented in dry, jargon-filled prose.

What I Liked:

The chapter that touched upon the ethics involved in the creation of addictive technology was really interesting. The Hook Model itself is useful and thought-provoking.

What I Didn’t Like:

The main case study fell really flat for me – it seemed forced, like the app in question wasn’t making the points another one could have probably made, and like it was trying really hard to talk the app up. Also, the book does seem a bit dry and relies on too much jargon, instead of getting its point across in a simple, clear manner.

Who Should Read It:

App developers and product managers would find this most useful, but it would also provide good insight to people working with customer experience, retention and engagement, and product analytics.

Who Should Avoid:

Hooked is hyper targeted to the B2C tech product industry. While people working with B2B tech products can also glean some interesting stuff from the book, it doesn’t have anything for readers uninterested or uninvolved with these two segments.

Read It For:

A few interesting takeaways that offer a refreshed outlook on user engagement for products you work with (or are creating / want to create), and you own behavior with apps.

It’s hard for me to say if I’ll read more of Nir Eyal’s work, even though he is one of the leading writers on user experience and behavioral psychology in tech. On the one hand, I found some of the information to be quite useful, but on the other I did find his style cumbersome to read. I guess it would really depend on how much of the information ends up being applicable in the next few weeks and months. So… I guess we’ll have to wait and watch.

Coming up next – a review of Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay.

Share your thoughts (on anything and everything) in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by to read my review!

– Rishika

Posted in Being a writer

Insightful, but not Groundbreaking: A Review of Obviously Awesome by April Dunford

As a marketing professional (yep, that’s right; I don’t spend every day only reading and/or writing), I’ve had multiple opportunities to work on product positioning. It is, in fact, one of the things I like most about (and in) marketing. But, there is always something new to learn in any profession. Which is why I picked up April Dunford’s Obviously Awesome. It had some really good stuff and some that was not-so-good. Read on to know what to expect from this book.

Genre: 

Business, Marketing (Non-fiction)

Length: 

202 pages

Blurb:

April Dunford is a positioning expert who has successfully led the activity for numerous B2C and B2B companies. In Obviously Awesome, she talks about the need, details, and challenges of positioning. She also delves into a step-by-step process that she’s put together on how one can go about this activity.

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Writing Style:

8 out of 10, for its clarity of thought, and easy-to-follow flow and explanations.

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

There are a lot of tips, suggestions, and recommendations in Obviously Awesome. At the same time, you don’t necessarily have to use its teachings in a “take it all or take nothing” style. While a lot of the information was not new for me, I still found a few interesting points to be new (or differently approached). And the fact that it allows for anyone to do that, I felt, was the highlight of this book.

What I Liked:

April Dunford offers a structured, well-rounded approach not only to the activity of positioning, but also to the importance and need of it. This wasn’t the first time I’ve read about positioning, but I found it highly relatable to tech B2B products, which is something I’ve found missing in other content on the topic.

What I Didn’t Like:

A significant portion of the book (especially the first few chapters) is focused entirely on April Dunford talking about how awesome she is. I get it – no one will read your book on a specific topic unless you establish that your experience has equipped you to be a thought leader on it. But sharing this experience, at some point, turned into April Dunford just boasting about herself. It was quite a turn-off and takes some effort to push beyond it, until you get to the stuff that you can actually learn and apply.

Who Should Read It:

Any (tech) startup CEO working with a small team (whether pitching to investors or launching in the market, Obviously Awesome has some great tips and ideas on how to ensure that your product is best-placed), marketing professionals (digital, strategy, and content-focused; the book has tips that can help the entire function), and anyone who holds an integral position at a startup (positioning is, after all, a team effort).

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone looking for information on marketing for B2C products. It’s not that April Dunford’s tips won’t work, but it will take a lot of adapting. It would be better for someone interested in B2C positioning to turn to the works of another marketing expert, because April Dunford focuses almost exclusively on B2B.

Read It For:

A fresh understanding of positioning and how you can go about it (and why you should) if it’s a new concept to you, and a refresher (with some interesting tips) if you’re already in the marketing function.

This is one of the few business books I’ve started and actually finished. Possibly because it was lighter, less jargon-y, and shorter than those I’ve picked up before. (And because it focuses directly on one of the topics I like.) But if you’re hesitant to pick up Obviously Awesome because you’ve struggled to get through other business books, I will highlight that you probably won’t run into that problem. And if you’re attempting to broaden your interests and are looking at business books, this is an interesting one to start with.

Coming up next – a review of Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review! 🙂

– Rishika