An uneven hodgepodge of a memoir, featuring numerous lessons on leadership.

LEADERSHIP IN OUR LIVES

THE USE AND MISUSE OF POWER

Swendsen reflects on the leadership qualities of key figures in his life in this debut memoir.

During the 1940s, the author worked for his father at the family gas station. He writes that his dad was his “first real boss,” and a man who “treated his employees fairly and thoughtfully.” Yet not all of Swendsen’s “early bosses” displayed such positive leadership traits. His high school basketball coach, for example, played favorites, and his chemistry teacher “always did things his own way,” and accidentally blew the windows out of the classroom lab. Swendsen went on to graduate from college and join the U.S. Air Force. During flight school, he stood up to his sometimes abusive superiors. After marrying his sweetheart, Jackie, he began a long career as a park warden, where he says he had supervisors of varying quality. He remembers Bill, one of his favorites: “During the many night rides when Bill rode with me he acted like my able assistant, not my boss.” From this experience, the author concluded that “[r]eal leaders are able to put themselves in the hands of a subordinate.” Swendsen includes plenty of anecdotes about other good and bad bosses, and dozens of personal photographs. At the end, he adds several chapters about “operationally effective leadership” and a list of famous quotes about the subject, which feel tacked on. He concludes with a poem dedicated to his “quiet leader”––his late wife, to whom he was married for 58 years. This sincere memoir effectively demonstrates how various leaders influenced Swendsen’s life. However, it’s likely too personal to interest general readers, and the editing sometimes falls short; for example, he writes that one boss’s “dependency on alcohol caused him uneasy problems in running his business.…Documented accounts show that George Washington drank in moderation and was outspoken against the overuse of alcohol.” Such asides feel too didactic, inviting readers to consider that “show, don’t tell” might be sound advice for good writers and good leaders.

An uneven hodgepodge of a memoir, featuring numerous lessons on leadership.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499130348

Page Count: 118

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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