This week, our choices are:
Fair Pay: How to Get a Raise, Close the Wage Gap, and Build Stronger Businesses by David Buckmaster, Harper Business
I am going to assume that you don’t think you are paid enough. I am also going to assume that you are right about that, because most people aren’t—a reality David Buckmaster brings home in his new book, Fair Pay.
Buckmaster takes on issues as personal as how to advocate for better pay for yourself, and as broad as how to change the system to rid it of its persistent racial and gender disparities and finally provide equal pay for equal work. But it is all centered upon one fact that is undeniable once Buckmaster cracks open the black box of how people in his profession have traditionally gone about the job of setting pay for very large swaths of the American workforce, what that means for all of us, and why it must change. In his own estimation:
The current system of pay we accept to be a normal and natural result of the free market is, for most workers, neither normal nor natural, and this market failure is putting the entire economic system at risk.
We used to have a standard nomenclature around here for different kinds of books—“nuts and bolts” for traditional business management, best practices, change management, and the like, and “big picture” for books on the overall environment business exists within, big ideas, and societal change. We’ve evolved away from those easy descriptions as the genre has evolved and expanded over the past 20 years, but I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a book that checks off both categories so thoroughly. There is nothing more nuts-and-bolts about business than decisions on how to compensate employees, and there is nothing that could change the country quite so quickly or directly as tackling income inequality by paying most of them more. As Buckmaster writes, “Now is the time to redeem the idea of fairness,” and his book is a perfect nuts-and-bolts, big picture place to start. (DJJS)
Objects of Desire by Clare Sestanovich, Knopf Publishing Group
Sometimes I find myself looking out of my back window, across the lawn, across the dog park and onto the building with the open portholes into strangers' lives. People who I will never meet, or perhaps sit in the same café with, unknowing that we are living out our lives on the same street. I see them eating dinner alone, their dog looking desperately out the window yearning to jump among the other dogs in the park, and the vases, flowers and other knickknacks that decorate the small view of their lives.
Have you ever seen a person and envisioned their life or their story? This book is a portal into eleven women's lives, through moments of heartache, desire, random thoughts, experiences, hopes and dreams, and sometimes the sadness and raw beauty of modern life. A recent graduate navigating the world and who she is makes an empty bond with a couple on a plane. A woman, grief stricken, finds a new life to live. Another, searching for her identity through a divorce while arranging her son's wedding. Every one of these stories shows the vastness of these journeys we call life. Beautiful stories that trickle random thought that is utterly compelling.
When I thought of all the ways faces rearranged themselves from different angles and distances—a nose in profile, a nose up close, a nose illuminated by a camera’s flash—it seemed miraculous that we recognized each other at all.
Clare Sestanovich gives us a peek into the desires of modern life, lives that are figuring out the everyday—figuring out love, identity, loss and all the other things in between that make us human—and writes lovely short stories that give us snippets of all these lives that tie together. A window into the lives of strangers, we get to know these souls for a moment, feel their emotions, their desires, a small portion of their lives. It is lovely, sad, and incredibly raw.
You can almost envision your own story among these pages, or that of someone you used to know. You see yourself in these women, you see your neighbor, a college acquaintance or the person in the building across the street. Objects of Desire is an engaging read about the human experience in our times. (EPP)
The Sea We Swim In: How Stories Work in a Data-Driven World by Frank Rose, W.W. Norton & Company
We are a species made of stories. We like to believe that we find the truth in reason, but we are convinced by, and shape our own realities around, stories. As we’ve witnessed in the rise of conspiracy theories around the coronavirus and presidential election over the past year, science and rationality can be trumped by powerfully told, emotionally appealing, and endlessly repeated narratives that are contrary to verifiable facts. We can say that such narratives are divorced from reality, but as Frank Rose writes in The Sea We Swim In, “reality is a construct, and narrative is the chief means of construction.” So, even if we want to suggest that such narratives deny reality, we can’t deny the fact that they define reality for many.
If we live in a sea of stories, then narrative thinking means being aware of the sea we swim in. It means realizing that stories constitute a distinct mode of thought, one that plays such a central role in human experience that anyone who wants to sell something, communicate ideas, motivate people, or change their minds should understand how they work.
This is especially important in our current media and information environment, where we all interact with and contribute to the stories being told, where the biggest media companies in the world are social, industrial in scale, addictive in nature, and it is as easy to construct a shared reality that is completely fake as it is to find the truth. We must be even more deliberate about choosing what stories we tell, and what stories we believe, because they are the waters we swim in, and they can easily drown us in disinformation, demagoguery, and deceit. On the flip side, it gives us agency, and an ability to flip the script and build better stories, better businesses, and a better society. It’s our choice. Hopefully we are thoughtful in our choosing. (DJJS)
Thanks for Waiting: The Joy (& Weirdness) of Being a Late Bloomer by Doree Shafrir, Ballantine Books
Thanks for Waiting traces Doree Shafrir’s life and career from bookish child ahead of her class to a relationship-reluctant (rejection-fearing) twenty something to an intern at Slate at nearly thirty years old, focusing on how she always tended to feel singled out and sometimes lonely in her experiences as a “late bloomer.” It’s got a happy ending, though, as she is now 43 and co-hosts the Forever35 podcast, which was the winner of the 2020 iHeart Radio Award for Best Fashion & Beauty Podcast.
Shafrir’s compassion for herself will inspire readers to treat themselves with as much self-respect and patience, too, hopefully while they’re still in the midst of late blooming rather than having to forgive themselves for it later. Does the on-time bloomer even exist? If so, I’m not sure I want to be one, because Shafrir really makes taking our time with life sound much less stressful and, in the end, pretty advantageous as well. But I’ll be happy with whatever pace my life takes. Thanks for Waiting is a fantastic contribution to the tapestry of women’s insight that I love so much about the memoir genre. (GMC)