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

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

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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