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OUT OF OFFICE

THE BIG PROBLEM AND BIGGER PROMISE OF WORKING FROM HOME

A thought-provoking take on shaking up business as usual once the pandemic has passed.

The ongoing pandemic has changed the culture of the office forever—for good, perhaps, and certainly for ill.

“Remote work…is not a cure for shitty management or a bad business model or a bad product. It is merely an organizing principle.” So write business journalists Warzel and Petersen, who investigate what has been happening to many organizing principles of corporate life in the last two years. Some of the changes have been decidedly negative. One example is that the CDC has urged commuters to travel in personal vehicles rather than on mass transit even though, as one scholar observes, there is no strong link between disease transmission and public transportation. In addition, with isolation and remote working, the boundaries between work and life, already fuzzy, became a blur. Corporations expect their workers to be available at all times, and workers deploy tactics such as replying to emails in the middle of the night, showing their devotion. Much of the authors’ argument, repeated a few times too often, centers on their insistence that it’s up to the workers to establish and maintain guidelines for keeping personal time safe and otherwise driving changes in corporate culture. Extending this, they urge reshaping business so that work is not the be-all and end-all of life, arguing that a healthy corporate culture would allow and encourage workers to devote time to community endeavors, self-care, education, and other matters not easily reduced to the bottom line. A flexible work life—with some days in the office and others at home—would improve cities by giving people access to parks and other amenities outside the weekend and by encouraging the formation of communities. Of course, write the authors, “organizations are naturally resistant to change,” and our current form of capitalism puts human considerations well behind financial ones, even if the pandemic showed us a different way to conduct our work lives.

A thought-provoking take on shaking up business as usual once the pandemic has passed.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32009-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2021

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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GREENLIGHTS

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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