An enlightening career account, personally candid and politically astute.

UP AND DOING

TWO PRESIDENTS, THREE MISTAKES, AND ONE GREAT WEEKEND―TOUCHPOINTS TO A BETTER WORLD

A memoir recounts a man’s long and eventful professional journey—first as an investment banker and then as a public servant.

Harmon displayed a rebellious streak as a young man—as the result of persistent mischief, he was “asked not to return” for his senior year at Hotchkiss, a venerable academy. But that spirit of independence became one of the linchpins of an impressively successful career as an investment banker: “When an industry or domain becomes unpopular, opportunities abound. When everyone begins fleeing, I’ve always sought to enter, and when something seems extremely popular, I seek opportunity elsewhere.” The author was a broker of major deals in music publishing, movies, and real estate and was a principal player in the management of Starbuck’s IPO. Eventually, he made a transition to the public sector, joining the reelection campaigns of New York City Mayor David Dinkins and President Bill Clinton. Harmon was appointed the president and chair of the Export-Import Bank by Clinton. The author lucidly discusses his experiences navigating turbulent times, especially the Asian financial crisis of 1997. In addition, Harmon served as the chair of the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund. He tried to infuse an ailing Egypt with investment dollars as well as some measure of economic stability, which he considers “the most daunting and important task of my career.” The author’s career, both public and private, was a remarkably eventful one that allowed him to consort with heads of state as well as captains of industry, giving readers access to an intriguing perch. He can be peculiarly idealistic—his contention that “smaller and lesser-known governmental agencies and departments are ideal places to forge change in the world” is breathtakingly quixotic. Furthermore, he can be touchily defensive about his record—his response to those more pessimistic about the present and future of Egypt is more emotionally acute than analytically thorough. Nevertheless, this is a frank and edifying peek into the intersection of commerce and foreign policy.

An enlightening career account, personally candid and politically astute.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63331-054-4

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Disruption Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2021

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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