An intriguing business/sociological chronicle with wider implications for modern corporate practices.

THE KINGDOM OF HAPPINESS

INSIDE TONY HSIEH'S ZAPPONIAN UTOPIA

An investigation into the social experiments at the corporate headquarters of Zappos that raises some important questions about entrepreneurship, business management methods, and human values.

In 2013, journalist Groth, a freelancer who writes often for global business news publication Quartz, triggered a firestorm of publicity when she reported that the company’s CEO, Tony Hsieh, had decided to completely reorganize the company as a holocracy, which “eliminates job titles and abandons traditional hierarchy. The ultimate goal is self-organization.” Working as a senior editor at Business Insider, the author was on the scene as the adoption and implementation of the holocracy occurred, resulting in a management shakedown, employee discontent, and numerous layoffs. Groth traces the prehistory of a company that, from the beginning, prided itself on a quirky insistence that culture and fun ruled over mere profit. Hsieh adopted holocracy expecting to develop a common language that would unite the different components of his empire. However, it was much rockier than he expected, and Groth explores the shortcomings of the attempt. The culture of Zappos was organized around the slogan, “Delivering Happiness.” Similar concepts have been adopted by countless digital-age tech companies and have resulted in corporations beginning “to take on the task of managing the emotional well-being of [their] employees.” In the case of Zappos, the author identifies a group therapy–like tendency to psychologize, even at the company’s mass meetings. She writes that the practice sharply contrasts with that of some of Silicon Valley’s best investors, who are “investing in someone’s career…over the span of decades.” Consequently, there is “a subtle backlash emerging around the cult of the entrepreneur.” Groth’s investigation led to the conclusion that the Zappos organization has become quite cultlike; whether that was caused by holacracy or Hsieh’s personal foibles remains undetermined.

An intriguing business/sociological chronicle with wider implications for modern corporate practices.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2990-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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