Start with Why by Simon Sinek: I started 2020 with a book that’s been highly recommended by many in my office. I’d be lying if I said I’d read any of Sinek’s books before, so I was easily surprised at how easy this one was to breeze through. Books on business, corporate development, and finding your own way seem to travel- generally speaking- in a halted, hard-to-relate-to, “listen to be because I’m your Leadership in Business 350 Professor” sort of way. Mr. Sinek has a way of speaking as if he’s carrying on a conversation with minded individuals around a table at a workshop. Relatable, not over-analyzed, and personable. My only complaint with this one was the type-set. In a book speaking on separating the why of our business from the what or the how, all of those “W” words were cast in all-caps… Every time I came across WHY, WHAT, WHO, etc., my eyes slowed a bit. That’s my only complaint, though, and I’ve drunk the Sinek Kool-aid. I’ll start another of his next quarter.
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner: One of my book buddies at my office handed this one to me and told me to ignore the cover and the title, as neither fit the story. I agree. Secrets… is a two-part tale of two sisters trying to grow up during the Blitz on London at the start of WWII. The two become separated, but not before finding a different way of life outside of the city with their new foster family. One with a happy ending, but incredible description of life in a war zone, I finished in less than two days.
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Irin Carmon: I happily attended a screening of the RBG documentary with a girlfriend of mine at the Speed Theater when it strolled through town, and loved learning more about this pistol of a woman. At the movie, as well as during this book, I’ve been completely in awe of someone who really can do it all- balance child-rearing, fighting gender stereotypes throughout her undergrad and beyond, fighting cancer, winning, voicing her opinion, and remaining a driving force behind many Supreme Court rulings. RBG may or may not be on your side politically-speaking, but she’d be someone I would want to push me through life. This particular look at her life also offers copies of her cases and opinions, with non-legalese notations for those of us who know we aren’t as intelligent as she is. I love seeing that glimpse of her work.
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller: Recommended by one of our leaders at the office, Building a StoryBrand offers a quick-thought solution to how you “offer” your product to an audience. Whether you’re selling socks or offering a professional accounting service, every website, conversation, elevator pitch, or advertisement should follow the same story. The story? It’s a layout that caused me to completely redesign the Man’s website, and start to work on my own, as well. A quick read, a neat idea, especially if you struggle to articulate what it is you or your company “does.”
JVG: A Life in 12 Recipes by Jean-Georges Vongerichten: Oh, man… Where to start? I love Jean-Georges. I had the pleasure of eating at The Pump Room in Chicago several times while it was a JGV restaurant, and every time, fell more in love with the deboned fried chicken, bacon and asparagus pizza, sweet pea guacamole… I’ve had his namesake restaurant in NYC on my to-eat list for years now. Attractive, funny, and talented, I loved reading of Jean-Georges upbringing in the French countryside, and his way of eating from the time he was young. Introduced to foie gras early in life, sent round the world during his time in the military, and falling in love with the flavors of Thailand, JGV takes us on a journey of how places and flavors have influenced his menus and his way of life. His portfolio of restaurants is impressive, and his funny, sweet writing style is down-to-earth.
The Porpoise by Mark Haddon: This was the hardest of Mark Haddon’s books for me to read… The subject matter- a father’s grotesque love for his daughter, born just after his wife is killed in a plane crash- is a little difficult to swallow, but it’s the transition of the original story into something of myth past. We see the same tale throughout centuries, first as the fictional characters in the first several pages, morphing into Greek mythology and times of Shakespeare. It took a while for me to make it through the only 300 pages, and the ending didn’t give me as much as I’d been hoping for. Interesting and heart-breaking, yes, but not one I’d read again.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty: I had no idea what to expect with this one, I only went in knowing that the idea of working in a crematory- to me- is a little gross, but has to be somewhat interesting. Caitlin Doughty, now a leader in the death acceptance field, leads us on a funny journey of her time as a young, twenty-something crematory worker, finding her purpose in life as a “funeral industry rabble-rouser.” Her views on death and the treatment of the body afterwards are thought-provoking, and based on centuries of tradition in burials and mourning throughout the world. Super interesting read!
Burn it Down: Women Writing about Anger edited by Lilly Dancyger: Women aren’t meant to be angry. We- women- know this. We’re to be agreeable, sweet, calm… The women in this book, however, aren’t. They’re upset, they’re speaking up for themselves, saying no, and fighting for a better situation or a better life. Slightly triggering, but more open and relieving, I suggest this one to any woman who has had to “hold it in,” no matter what “it” is.