Weird in a World That's Not
June 12, 2017
Jennifer Romolini has written my favorite book at the moment—my favorite book of the year so far.
"Here are my worst fears."
That is the opening line of Jennifer Romolini's Weird in a World That's Not. It's not the usual hook for a business book, which is, perhaps, why I was immediately smitten with it. This is generally what I want to know about everyone, and here is an author offering it on page one. The thing that makes this a business book is Romolini's greatest fear: that she wouldn't make it in the world, wouldn't find success. This book tells you how she did, in the process showing what it might look like for you if you are weird or slightly awkward, feel out of place in business, or just in general.
I'm pretty sure I've never laughed out loud while reading a business book before. That was remedied with the third paragraph of Romolini's book:
I have a garden-variety fear of dying before age ninety-seven, which I suspect is less about actual death than about how much, despite my incessant bitching, I am obsessed with being alive (there are never enough years in a world that has both alcohol and kittens. I imagine you understand). I crave the opportunity to grow old, to exclusively wear caftans, to play an accordion on a front porch while drinking whiskey, to freak out the neighborhood kids just because I'm still here. I fear I will not get this.
I have no idea what a caftan is, but the rest of that is something I understand intimately. To be old, to have a front porch to sit on, to be weird and finally not have to worry about it—these are things I crave. But, until then, I have to get up everyday, get my kids to school and myself to work, and pass for a somewhat competent, confident, upstanding citizen while doing it. And the kind of advice Romolini offers helps do that. It includes, according to the back cover copy, things like:
- Feeling like a freak at work
- Writing a non-neurotic email
- Money money money money
- The truth about résumés
- Networking for haters
- Facing down dark office bullshit
- What you can never control in an interview
- What to do with your hands
- How to deal when you "get in trouble"
- Why you don't have to look like a Career Barbie
- Managing when managing is the worst
- Small talk when you like big talk
- When meetings give you hives
I do have to take issue with one thing on that list: I don't recall any passage in the book actually telling you what you should do with your hands, other than, when interviewing, perhaps pretending you know what to do with your hands. It is one of the only things you should pretend to know in an interview, she contends, counseling honesty about your experience and exactly what you're capable of otherwise. As someone who went on twenty-three interviews before landing her first job in publishing, and having interviewed probably hundreds of people herself over the years, she can be considered something of an expert on the topic.
Romolini's career trajectory wasn't linear, and the book is first a memoir of an often awkward childhood, a tough time in school, and her early twenties in waitressing—all of which inform the story of her eventual success. Beside being ceaselessly entertaining, it gives some of the most practical and actionable advice I've ever read—about how to write a résumé and an email, how to be a good coworker and a good boss. That combination makes for honest, real, often intense and hilarious reading. As I wrote in my full review of the book, Weird in a World That's Not is my favorite book at the moment, and my favorite book of the year so far.
We have 20 copies available.