A passionate, statistics-based argument for women’s equality in the workplace.

AWAKENING

LADIES, LEADERSHIP, AND THE LIES WE'VE BEEN TOLD

Advice for thriving as a woman in the workplace.

In this self-help book, Martin, whose last book was Make It Rain (2018), encourages women to learn about systemic sexism and to push back against gendered challenges in the workplace and in general. Martin, a lawyer, journalist, and entrepreneur, shares her own and friends’ and colleagues’ professional experiences to illustrate the problems women face in professional settings. The book’s first section addresses misconceptions about women’s potential for success, which Martin presents as the lies women have been told (“You Can’t Be a Working Woman and Raise a Family”). The middle chapters explore some of the underlying reasons women contend with setbacks in their careers, from assumptions about how parenthood will influence professionalism to unequal opportunities for mentorship and support, and the final section provides solutions and strategies for getting past obstacles, although it does not get into specifics about how to bring about major systemic changes. Each chapter ends with an “awakening action item,” which gives readers journaling prompts, potential discussion topics, and recommended activities. The system as a whole, Martin argues, is at fault when it comes to institutionalized prejudice and discrimination, and while minor fixes do have limited impacts, a wholesale rethinking of relationships, work, and professionalism is needed.

Martin’s personal narrative, which is about her struggles and successes (“A Black woman with Harvard credentials is still a Black woman,” she notes), is at the book’s core. The author is a strong writer and storyteller, and she does an excellent job of capturing the essences of the women she features here. She also provides a wealth of pithy pull quotes (“You can’t open a door simply by ‘leaning in’ to it”) that will prompt highlighting and underlining. At times, however, the book seems unwilling to trust its readers’ knowledge base (for instance, by suggesting that TV shows like Veep and Madam Secretary are the first places many saw women represented in positions of political power, as though their fictional protagonists are the only women visible in positions of power) and misses opportunities for more substantial analysis. Recommendations for achieving structural change range from individual action items, like developing a personal mission statement and setting achievable goals, to more conceptual activities, like identifying and challenging internalized stereotypes. Although the book calls for large-scale systemic changes, it includes little in the way of specific advice for how to “dismantle and rebuild the system,” making it more a tool for consciousness raising and relationship building than wholesale revolution. Readers will find motivation and validation via both anecdotes and statistics. But those who have already read The Memo (2019), Lead From Outside (2018), or Did That Just Happen?! (2021) may find that the book covers familiar territory. Martin’s greatest strength, however, is in her presentation, and even jaded readers are likely to put the book down feeling that their perceptions of sexism are accurate, the problem is indeed a fixable one, and Martin is in their corner, cheering them on as they try to transform the world.

A passionate, statistics-based argument for women’s equality in the workplace.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63735-013-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Leaders Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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