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JUMP

MY SECRET JOURNEY FROM THE STREETS TO THE BOARDROOM

A newsmaking book that deserves a hearing, though Miller could have done more to make amends.

A searching memoir of business, professional sports, and murder.

Miller, the chairman of Nike’s Jordan Brand, confesses to a crime that has haunted him for nearly 60 years: As a teenage gang member on the west side of Philadelphia, he killed a member of a rival gang in an act of retaliation. That he does not name his victim has provoked controversy, and readers may wonder, if this book is an act of contrition at least in part, why he didn’t do so. However, the author writes that his book has a different purpose. “The only reason for me to narrate my life is that hopefully my story can inspire…young people who are in a rough environment and all they can see is what’s going on around them.” There’s inspiration aplenty, and if Miller made numerous missteps as a youth, which earned him prison time not just for the killing, but also for drug dealing and other crimes, he also took opportunity and ran with it. As he writes, he had the opportunity behind bars to earn college credit, and since he was good with numbers, he turned to accounting. Exuding confidence without swagger, he confessed his crimes to an early interviewer, who revoked the firm’s offer letter, saying, “I can’t take a chance on one of our clients coming back to me with this if something were to happen down the line.” Resolved to keep his past secret thereafter, Miller rose from accountant at a Campbell Soup factory to president of the Jordan Brand, with time out to head the Portland Trail Blazers—known then as the “Jail Blazers” since many of its players had also done time. Perhaps the greatest motivational moment in the book is when Miller, jailed yet again as a youth, resolves, “I am gonna learn my way out,” which he’s since paid forward through educational philanthropy.

A newsmaking book that deserves a hearing, though Miller could have done more to make amends.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-299981-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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