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

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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