I love to read, but unfortunately I find that I retain way less than I wish. This is an attempt to remember better by summarizing what’s stuck out to me through a series of notecards. If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to compare notes and hear what you think!

Know My Name

By Chanel Miller | January 2020

Know My Name hits home particularly hard since the assault occurred while I was attending Stanford; I distinctly remember when the story broke via the FoHo and feeling shocked by how quickly and how much detail of the assault was revealed through public records.

At the time, the assault seemed to be the worst of it. Yet what surprised me was how traumatizing the actual process of the trial is on top of the assault – Miller takes us through how her life was completely disrupted through arbitrarily delays and character attacks. For me, Know My Name crystallized the urgency for not only preventing sexual assault but also to reform the system that deters so many victims from pursuing justice.

The Lean Startup

By Eric Ries | February 2020

The Lean Startup almost feels like required reading in Silicon Valley, and I’m glad to finally have belatedly read it after hearing about it for ages. I appreciate how Ries calls out his specific definition of “startups” as not limited to the prototypical college-kids-in-a-garage, but broadened to include any endeavor which seeks to operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty. It helped me reflect on recent work experiences, particularly around how to achieve the golden standard of the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.

Certain methods Ries suggests trying that stuck out to me include: reducing batch size and selecting “people-centric” metrics. The goal? Reducing batch sizes can help shrink the time to get and bake in feedback, while aiming for “people-centric” metrics help communicate better true impact of changes and avoid hiding behind vanity metrics.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

By Ocean Vuong | February 2020

I’d read Vuong’s poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds last year on my friend Shannon’s recommendation. I appreciated how he could so vividly paint intimate vignettes of life and love. With his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, I was eager to see if I’d like it more.

He does not disappoint: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is elegant and incisive, lyrical and raw. While it didn’t quite suit my taste (sometimes the language is too beautiful), I learned so much just by watching Vuong as a master of his craft – plating each word with delicacy and surgical precision to evoke exactly what he wants you to feel.

The Customer-Driven Playbook

By Travis Lowdermilk and Jessica Rich | February 2020

I loved this playbook because it is full of actionable suggestions for teams; it distills many of the same practices and principles (i.e. “how might we”s) that I found to be highly successful when I worked as a user researcher/design intern. In particular, I really liked how Lowdermilk and Rich formalize their approach on helping teams get crisp on what the parameters would be for their products:

“We believe that [type of customers] will be successful solving [problem] using [feature] while doing [job-to-be-done]. We will know they were successful when we see [criteria].”

Other delightful tools and tips include: defining sufficient hypothesis validation as “when you cease to be surprised by people’s feedback”; Concept Value Testing; Impact/Effort Matrix; asking the “magic wand question”; how to collect and schematize customer evidence in order for it to be useful; and using GoPros on customer visits to document because they are inobtrusive and the wide-angle helps capture sense of space.