A skillfully written and emotionally engaging account of buying and selling houses.



A veteran real estate agent shares stories and lessons from her career.

In this professional memoir, Sheehan, the author of Wang Kuo-Wei: An Intellectual Biography(1986), recounts tales from her years in residential real estate—her second profession, following an academic career focused on Chinese history. The stories in this book range from the mundane to the absurd to the heartwarming, and Sheehan uses them to explain her overall philosophy of real estate success and also to counsel readers who may be considering the purchase or sale of a house themselves. The book explores the challenge of being both a salesperson and a therapist for some clients, the difficulties involved in bringing all parties together for an agreement, and the satisfaction of developing one’s knowledge and skills over the course of many years. The clients in these stories, who are fully anonymized, represent a wide variety of personalities, motivations, and financial situations. Her fellow realtors are variously portrayed as allies, opponents, or merely marking time until retirement, and Sheehan makes it clear that she has little patience for those who don’t share her sense of ethics and professional responsibility. But although some of the tales here focus on bad behavior, the book never takes a salacious or gossipy tone, and Sheehan's evident sympathy for her clients—even when their indecisiveness and capriciousness cost her time and money—turns even the most outrageous accounts into object lessons.

Sheehan is a proficient storyteller, and she turns her tales of last-minute negotiations, questionable septic systems, and stubbornly overpriced fixer-uppers into high drama: “I had never seen fungus on an interior wall before,” she notes at one point, “much less redfungus.” The book is informative as well as entertaining, and readers will come away with solid knowledge about home inspections and contingencies, purchase and sale agreements, and the intricacies of setting a correct price when a property enters the market. Buying or selling a home is as much an emotional transaction as a financial one, and Sheehan gives full weight to the significance of the process for all parties involved. She also displays a soft spot for the houses themselves, arguing that a buyer or seller may be wrong about a place’s worth, but the house itself is never at fault. The author’s repeated references to the prestigiousness of various properties can be grating; one, for instance, is described as being “on Crestview Lane, one of my sales region’s most desirable addresses,” and several others are noted as being “upscale” or “luxury” homes. However, these descriptors can also be taken as evidence of Sheehan’s clear pride in her work. The book’s tone also tends toward the extravagant (“Aside from a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, is there anything more beautiful than this?”), but it generally avoids melodrama and makes for a fast-paced and enjoyable read. Overall, she manages to turn even the most difficult parts of the real estate process into good stories.

A skillfully written and emotionally engaging account of buying and selling houses.

Pub Date: May 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64704-329-2

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Canterbury Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2021

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A satisfyingly heartfelt tribute to a thoroughly remarkable man.


Investigative reporter Franklin recounts the life of the free-spirited millionaire entrepreneur who used his fabulous wealth in the fight to save nature.

One constant in the epic life of North Face founder Doug Tompkins (1943-2015) was his enduring love of the outdoors. The son of a successful antiques dealer, he grew up in the countryside of Millbrook, New York (Timothy Leary was a neighbor), where he cultivated his love of the natural world. His contrarian ways eventually led to his expulsion from high school just weeks before graduation. Tompkins headed West, where he baled hay in Montana, raced Olympic skiers in the Rockies, and took up rock climbing in California. He also “hitchhiked by airplane throughout South America.” Tompkins ended up in San Francisco, where, by the mid-1960s, the skiing and climbing supplies business he started with the help of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard suddenly began to boom. He was a charismatic businessman, and every one of his ventures after that—from his wife’s Plain Jane dress company to his own Esprit clothing brand—was successful. But his Midas touch never changed his passion for travel and adventure—e.g., flying his Cessna, sometimes with his family, but often, to the detriment of his marriage, solo. In the early 1990s, Tompkins bought property in southern Chile and fell in love with its pristine beauty. His outrage over the resource extraction–based nature of the Chilean government’s policies fueled his desire to protect the land. In the years that followed, he became an outspoken, sometimes reviled conservationist dedicated to using his fortune to transform thousands of acres of Patagonia into national parks. The great strengths of this timely, well-researched book lie not just in the author’s detailed characterization of Tompkins’ complex personality, but also in the celebration of his singularly dynamic crusade to save the environment.

A satisfyingly heartfelt tribute to a thoroughly remarkable man.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-296412-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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