Books to Watch | March 3, 2020
March 03, 2020
Each and every week, our marketing team—Marketing Director Blyth Meier (BRM), Digital Marketing Specialist Gabbi Cisneros (GMC), and Editorial Director Dylan Schleicher (DJJS)—highlights the five books being released that we are most excited about.
This week, our choices are:
Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West by Justin Farrell, Princeton University Press
The study of economic inequality is generally focused on those being crushed by it. Books like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, which offer a deep dive into both sides of the divide, are rare. Examinations of the ultra-wealthy, though becoming more common, are still scarce in comparison. Books that take up the topic in rural areas are, in my experience, almost nonexistent. Justin Farrell helps correct that with his book about Teton County, Wyoming, the wealthiest county in America:
What most people don’t know is that the grandeur of its wilderness is matched by the awe-inspiring concentration of wealth and the canyon-size gap between the rich and poor there: It is both the richest county in the United States and the county with the nation’s highest level of income inequality.
A native of Wyoming who is now a Yale professor, Farrell was uniquely positioned to gain unprecedented access to the inner circles of the ultra-wealthy in Teton County—both because of the gravitas his existence in such an elite institution gives him among the elite, and as an authentic rural Westerner many of them idealize and emulate. That access is uncommon and important, because information on the ultra-wealthy remains “empirically shallow” due to their small numbers and the exclusivity of their social and cultural institutions (indeed, much of their existence). But the book is even more remarkable for the way it is balanced by the voices of those in the community who are employed by them—often in their homes and other very close quarters—and interact with them often. These “paired experiences” paint a fuller picture than focusing on one or the other alone would, and a picture of our society that is broader than the Teton community itself. It is a story of wealthy migrants relocating (at least part time) to more idyllic and mostly untouched natural areas on the one hand, and the (mostly Spanish-speaking Mexican) immigrants living at poverty-level around them—or, as they are increasingly priced out of the communities they’ve become a part of and contributed to for so long, at a distance from them. The benefits to the wealthy migrants extend beyond the peace of mind and opportunities for recreation that come with being close to nature. As Farrell shows:
Ironically, the state’s lack of an income tax—which plays a large part in attracting the ultra-wealthy—is “made possible by the state’s lucrative oil, gas, and coal industries” which actively undermine the kind of conservation goals that drive much of their philanthropy. Without falling into stereotypes of either the ultra-rich of the working-poor, Farrell’s call for authentic community rather than the veneer of it, and extending justice rather than philanthropy to individuals and the environment, is deeply rooted in and exemplary of the depth of empathy needed to truly support both the community and environmental conservation. (DJJS)
The Fix : Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work by Michelle P. King, Atria
March is Women's History Month, and besides learning about all the fantastic accomplishments of women throughout history, this can also be a chance to read about how to accomplish amazing things ourselves! "The truth is that the world of work wasn't designed for women" reads Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel's Forward. This could be the “bombshell” of the book were there not an abundance of other eye-opening examples and solutions thanks to author Michelle P. King’s 16 years of research on women's empowerment at work. King offers women much-needed alternatives to changing themselves to fit into the pre-existing models of promotionable candidates, proving that perfecting a masculine handshake is NOT the only way to ace a job interview!
Women account for only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 16.9 percent of all professional-level jobs [...] The situation is far worse for women of color who continue to remain underrepresented in every level of leadership in corporate America.
In The Fix (which King first developed as a podcast), she shares the history of invisible sexism in the workplace, the phases of a woman's career and the barriers associated with each phase, and finally how we all can play a part in breaking down the hidden barriers of our own workplaces. "Equality is not about women, and it is not about men; it is about making workplaces work for everyone." (GMC)
How to Eat: All Your Food and Diet Questions Answered by Mark Bittman and David Katz, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
As someone who loves to cook but is also concerned about my health, I have more than one or two or three (hundred?) articles bookmarked trying to sort out the good from the bad. It’s so easy for me to go down a dietary rabbit hole. Honey, wine, almonds, eggs: y/n? Keto or vegan or pegan? Gluten-free or sugar-free or dairy-free? Seriously, it’s all giving me a headache lately. So I was overjoyed to get a copy of Mark Bittman and Dr. David Katz’s new book expanding on their wildly popular Grub Street article. In How to Eat, the authors use an “artful blend of science and sense” to focus on adjusting your “diet for life,” not just for the next 30 days. The book’s Q&A format makes it easy to flip right to your most urgent personal questions (Is there an ideal weight? Do calories matter? Fish is healthy, right?). They run down all the most popular diets, dig into specific ingredients and provide a helpful overview of overall nutrition. And if you’re still not convinced by their reasonable approach, they wrap up with a chapter on their research methods—which are basically looking for dietary habits that have worked for people for centuries, not months. I’m no scientist, so I don’t know if this truly is the ‘definitive’ food advice book I want it to be, but I think it’s good enough to sort through the static that greets me each time I open the fridge. I’m buying copies for everyone in my family. (BRM)
Upstream : The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath, Avid Reader Press
Dan Heath’s new book couldn’t be more timely. As the world scrambles to react to the spread of a new virus, we need to mobilize as many resources as possible. But, at some point, we also have to ask what could have done to prevent its rise and spread in the first place, and how we can invest in public health infrastructure and personnel in less panicked times to be prepared for outbreaks when they do occur. Yet, so much of the reporting I hear is about budget cuts, underfunded and understaffed health agencies, and continued attempts at undoing a health care law that at least extended coverage (however imperfectly) to millions of Americans.
Heath begins the book with a less pressing problem—Expedia fielding calls from around 58 percent of people who booked travel on its website. For years, the call center focused its efforts on reducing call time, with success, but eventually they had to ask why people felt they needed to call an online travel site in the first place. Addressing that (mostly simple, if somewhat multifaceted and siloed) issue reduced the number of customers who called to 15 percent, saving the company millions and saving customers their precious time. As Heath writes:
But we are often organized to ignore that fact, or even incentivized to exacerbate it. Heath uses the American healthcare system as the most evident example of this problem. The common refrain that we spend more on health care than any other developed country, he notes, isn’t exactly correct. But, alone among developed countries, America spends a far larger percentage on “formal health care” to treat sick people and broken bodies and dramatically less on “social care” that would benefit the health of people and keep them from getting sick or broken in the first place. Overall, we spend about the same percentage of GDP on health care, but a country like Norway spends a far greater percentage on social care efforts than formal health care (2.5 to 1 versus 1 to 1), with far better results.
The Velvet Rope Economy: How Inequality Became Big Business by Nelson D. Schwartz, Doubleday
Ease and access should be afforded to everyone in our economy—not just those that can afford to buy extra. That is the argument of Nelson D. Schwartz’s new book, The Velvet Rope Economy. You know you have to walk by first class passengers who board early and get extra perks on an airplane (unless you fly Southwest), but you may not know that you have to wait behind those same people in a call queue when on hold with banks and cable companies. As Nelson writes:
This pattern—a Versailles-like world of pampering for a privileged few on one side of the velvet rope, a mad scramble for basic services for everyone else—is being repeated in one sphere of American society after another.
Of course, in an age of widening economic inequality like ours, “the business of building Velvet Ropes has never been better.” But as Southwest—“the most profitable airline in the history of the American aviation industry”—demonstrates, business can be very good by taking a more egalitarian approach as well. It would also be good for our sense of community, our system of self government, the quality of our education and health care, and the soundness of our public infrastructure. How can we feel a part of a shared experience (and experiment) when we are being sorted and separated as customers into different tiers of experience based on our perceived worth? While not calling for an end to any perks at all (you’ll always be able to buy more expensive tickets to a ballgame, of course), Nelson shows that it doesn’t have to be so severe, and that we’d all be better off with just a little fairer and better service. (DJJS)
What we're reading away from work:
“I’m slowly reading (savoring) The Course of Love by Alain de Botton, which is so tender and poetic but doesn’t romanticize romance, love, or relationships at all, which shouldn’t surprise you if you know of de Botton’s other work. And if you’re not convinced, it has one of the best book trailers I have seen." —Gabbi Cisneros, Digital Marketing Specialist