Review: Do Hard Things

do-hard-thingsMost people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last. We do.

A generation stands on the brink of a “rebelution.”

Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential.

Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life. Then they map out five powerful ways teens can respond for personal and social change.

One of my 2014 reading goals is to read more nonfiction. Lo and behold, I am following through with that and thought perhaps I should review some as well. (Especially since I currently have only one other such review.) So here is my take on Do Hard Things.

Do Hard Things is not the type of book I usually pick up. It’s extremely religious and I’m not the slightest bit so – I mean, the point is to do hard things for God – but I kept seeing it in “best nonfiction YA books” lists on Goodreads and I thought I might as well read it to see if there were any good ideas. And there were. I skimmed many sections, but I also found some stuff I liked.

The book’s premise is superb: we teenagers can do all kinds of things if only we try. We can handle a lot of responsibility, but we aren’t expected to. We shouldn’t give up our big dreams even if we’re told that we’re too young to achieve them.

Sounds motivating, right? Um. Somewhat so. The brothers’ ideas were brilliant, but I disliked how they wrote the book. I wasn’t a fan of its format, I guess. I had three problems with Do Hard Things.

For example, I liked that they gave many examples to show readers how the five types of hard things can be accomplished – but after a while, those became overwhelming. They kept going on and on, anecdote after anecdote. The book should’ve been half as long; although that would make Do Hard Things only about one hundred pages, I think that would still work. If you can make your point in just a few words, keep it short and simple!

My second problem related to the writing style. Although the authors expected – even demanded – a lot from their readers, they didn’t write in a way that showed they thought teens are intelligent. The writing was simplistic and quite often I felt like I was being talked down to. It was disappointing that I couldn’t stretch my mind.

And then there were the chapter lead-ins! Don’t even get me started on those. At the end of many chapters, Alex and Brett spent three or four paragraphs describing what the next chapter was about. Stop! Just move on to the next chapter and quit describing it in great detail like you think I’m pathetic and can’t handle a chapter that deals with a different subject than the one preceding it!

I feel this could have really condensed the book. I would’ve liked a shorter book with more complicated language, rather than something that appeared to be aimed at ten-year-olds.

The third problem was the book’s inconsistency. The brothers said that Christians – anyone, really – shouldn’t be known just for what they don’t do, for what they oppose. They should be known for what good they are actually bringing to the world. This is an excellent point!

But later they used opposing abortion as an example of change you can make in the world. My personal beliefs are irrelevant here – I just didn’t understand why they forgot such a good piece of advice from earlier in the book. I felt like they were saying, “Don’t be known for opposing things – except these things.”

All in all, Do Hard Things was an OK read. As I wrote above, I am not the target audience for this book. I think it would work best for Christian kids (obviously), then kids of other religions who can adapt it to work for their beliefs, then atheist/agnostic kids like myself who will read it for the ideas.

What did you think of Do Hard Things? Are there any other nonfiction books that you would like to recommend to me?

Rating: 2.5/5

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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9 Responses to Review: Do Hard Things

  1. Sunny Smith says:

    I enjoyed this book, but I think you had a point with it needing to be condensed. Short and sweet is often better.

    I don’t mean to shamelessly self promote myself (the opposite of classy, I know), but I wrote a blog post about reading non-fiction where I made some recommendations for the newbie non-fic reader, if you’re interested: http://splash-of-ink.blogspot.ca/2014/02/why-should-writers-read-non-fiction.html

    • nevillegirl says:

      I’m glad to know I wasn’t just being picky about the length. 🙂

      No no, it’s perfectly fine. I self-promote a lot. xD On FB, mostly. Anyway. That link looks helpful. Thanks!

  2. orphu44 says:

    This is weird timing because I hardly ever get Do Hard Things out, and yet … it was literally on my lap when I saw this post. Huh.
    I wasn’t anywhere near as bothered by it as you were, I don’t think. I noticed that it made a bit of a jab at books in which you’ll never need to read anything twice at the beginning while having the sort of writing style where you never need to read anything twice, but I wasn’t too bothered, especially since I think the jab was just as much about books dealing with more “shallow” materials than about their writing styles.
    I also saw the bit about not just /not/ doing things as not as much in contradiction to the abortion bit, as I think their idea of the ‘what you don’t do’ in this option would be closer to just … not getting an abortion yourself? With campaigning against abortion being seen as an action that you /do/ do. If that makes sense.
    I don’t know if it’s just my mindset when I tend to get the book out, but I find it to be decent motivation and not too many annoyances. *shrug*

    • nevillegirl says:

      I have excellent timing. And I am discreet when I need to be.

      Yeah… that didn’t make much sense. I don’t know who they’re trying to kid with that writing style.

      Hmmm. Fair point, I hadn’t considered that before.

  3. MOHE says:

    I’ve heard of this book, but I haven’t actually read it. But as far as nonfiction recommendations go…
    Eat Drink Vote by Marion Nestle
    This is a great book about food and political cartoons. It’s interesting and informational, but there are also a lot of pictures.
    Quiet by Susan Cain
    A look at introverts, extroverts, and society. Very fascinating and potentially useful in real-life situations.
    Harry: a History by Melissa Anelli
    This is really more along the lines of literary nonfiction; it’s the story of a Harry Potter fan who works for the Leaky Cauldron and it’s all geeky and wonderful because it’s by-fans-about-fans-for-fans. And I really liked it. (I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you can, get the e-reader edition–there are enough special features that it’s worth it.)

    • nevillegirl says:

      Never heard of the first, but I’m always up for a book with pictures. xD

      I’ve seen Quiet on Goodreads before too. Sounds neat!

      I HAVE BEEN MEANING TO READ “HARRY: A HISTORY” FOR AGES NOW. 😀 I really should get it at the library.
      Thanks for the recs!

  4. Cait says:

    Well that’s sufficiently disappointing. How can you be telling teens to go be amazing while talking condescendingly to them? Doesn’t that defeat the point of the book? I would be a bit annoyed about that too. My goal is to read more adult books this year….gah. Why did I decide to do that? Adult books are scary. BUT, I think I’m going to find The Hobbit on audio and read it. 😉 Waaait…that’s technically not an Adults book though is it? Dang. Okay, maybe one of his others. The Silmarillion?

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah, I don’t know either. It was very strange. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens was a much better YA motivational/self-help book.

      Nope, The Hobbit is a children’s book. It’s pretty complex and long for a children’s book though… and there’s always LotR. If you choose LotR or A Game of Thrones (wasn’t that one of the books you said you might try this year?) I will be AN EXCITED FANGIRL and flail when I read your reviews. I promise.

      I’ve never read The Silmarillion, although that’s on my 2014 to-read list! It seems really dense…

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