Months ago, Rich Rogers asked on Twitter for volunteers to review the book that he’s writing, and I put my hand up. This week a draft arrived, and I put my hands up.

After the shock of having to follow through on my offer had worn off, I pondered how to go about the task. I’ve reviewed loads of books, but always with the luxury of pulling out just the things that interest me. I can’t recall giving detailed feedback on something book-length before and I wanted to do a thorough job.

I liked the idea of an approach that combined reaction and reflection. Reaction is an “inline” activity. I can read the book and provide my System 1 responses as I go. Because they are instinctive I don’t need to interrupt my flow significantly to capture them. My reactions can then be data for my reflection, where my System 2 processes try to make sense of the whole.

That seemed reasonable. But I’m a tester so I framed it as a mission:

Explore the manuscript using both reaction and reflection to provide Rich with a review that’s more than skin deep.

The reactions were easy to deliver as comments in the online editor that Rich is using. I applied a few ground rules: no reading ahead, no reading of any passage more than three times, no reflection. I broke only the last rule, and only once: there’s a pivotal chapter in the book that didn’t hang together well for me, even after repeated reading, and I took a few moments to give an overview when I’d finished it.

Once I’d got to the end of the final section, I put the book away and did nothing on it for day or so. Reflections that had been forming while I read began to solidify and I started looking for a way to organise them. As usual, I wrote, and in writing I saw a pattern. I had three classes of notes:

  • feelings: I did not attempt to justify
  • observations: I had tried to justify
  • suggestions: I could both justify and explain

This wasn’t a breakdown that I could say I’d seen elsewhere but it felt like a natural one. (Writing this later, I wonder whether it’s influenced by PROOF – Past, Results, Obstacles, Outlook, Feelings. I’m a FOP, perhaps?)

In any case, I delivered my reflections to Rich. He didn’t agree with everything, but seemed happy enough on the whole:

And now I get something for myself: reflecting on what I did.