New Releases

Books to Watch | May 18, 2021

Dylan Schleicher, Gabbi Cisneros

May 18, 2021

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Each and every week, our marketing team—Editorial & Marketing Director Dylan Schleicher (DJJS) and Creative & Social Media Manager Gabbi Cisneros (GMC)—highlights a few new books we are most excited about.

This week, our choices are:

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The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green, Dutton Books

John Green is best known for his Young Adult novels about teen romance complicated by (or perhaps strengthened by) cancer, mysterious disappearance, panic attacks while kissing, and existential questions about the labyrinth of life. His latest book is a break from fiction but it is still very much a continuation of Green's exploration of the human experience in all its beautiful flaws, perspectives, and stories. He grounds his writing in humanity as he clearly exercises vulnerability throughout the essays: 

It can sometimes feel like loving the beauty that surrounds us is somehow disrespectful to the many horrors that also surround us. But mostly, I think I'm just scared that if I show the world my belly, it will devour me.

Green keeps the essays mostly light-hearted: balancing analytical looks at his past with humorous topics. As the title suggests, he concludes the examination of each subject with a rating of one to four stars. Overall, The Anthropocene Reviewed is a wonderous reminder of the world humans have inhabited and created for ourselves. 

You’ll want to buy this one for yourself soon, too, because John Green signed the entire first printing of 250,000 books! Also: on the days your eyes need a break, some of the essays in The Anthropocene Reviewed were adapted from Green's podcast of the same name, which you can listen to here. (GMC) 

Stay tuned for my full review coming later this week. 

 

Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice by Yusef Salaam, Grand Central Publishing 
 
An inspiring social justice and spiritually-forward memoir, Better, Not Bitter provides a well-rounded perspective on the toll taken on the minds, bodies, and spirits of those involved in the American prison system. The book is an insightful unpacking of the wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five in 1989, recollected by Yusef Salaam who was only sixteen when he was handcuffed and sent to the extremely violent Rikers Island prison with the four other boys. But a story is more than a sequence of events: 

Often, we tend to lean on binaries that help move our agendas along, both in general and in the realm of social justice. We hear about either the looters or the peaceful protesters. Never about the oppressive forces that led to such an outpouring of rage and grief being expressed in the streets.

Better, Not Bitter humanizes headlines, and will hopefully inspire others to learn more about or at least care more about the individual lives who have and continue to be affected by the United States justice system's persistent inequality and lack of accountability. And for those affected, Salaam sets a healthy example for focusing more on finding strength within oneself to improve the world in the future rather than expending energy on the injustices one has faced in the past. (GMC) 

Stay tuned for my full review coming later this week. 

 

Choosing Courage: The Everyday Guide to Being Brave at Work by Jim Detert, Harvard Business Review Press 

“Aspire as we might, there are as of yet very few (if any) truly ‘fearless organizations.’” That, from Jim Detert’s new book Choosing Courage, is a nod to Amy Edmonson’s great book, The Fearless Organization, and an acknowledgment that despite their efforts in teaching leaders to build trust and reduce fear in workplaces, fear still persists. It is why we see titles like Crucial ConversationsDifficult Conversations, and so many others in workplace literature, because we all know that work is hard, but making work better is even harder—crucial, yes, but difficult. And to do that difficult work we need courage. As Detert describes it: 

[W]orkplace courage is taking action at work because it feels right and important to stand for a principle, a cause, or a group of others, despite the potential for serious career, social, psychological, or even physical repercussions for doing so.  

While courage is a prerequisite to great leadership, getting ahead usually requires getting along, and challenging convention is not usually a great recipe for getting along with others, or simply “getting on with it” as so much of our work requires us to do. But getting on with it rarely gets to the heart of problems all workplaces face. And problems have a habit of sprouting even from the greatest successes and accomplishments, so the job is never done. But a hesitancy to stand up and speak out on issues in the workplace, for fear of reprisal or simply not wanting to make a stink, is also endemic. And that is why a book like Choosing Courage—a book about protecting others, solving problems, and pursuing opportunities at work—is important.  

I am dubious about business being the greatest force for solving our biggest problems, but I know we can’t do it without them. And choosing courage, in every area of our lives including work, is of paramount importance. We might never be able to build truly fearless organizations, but we can learn to be courageous as individuals within them(DJJS) 

 

Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power by Zachary Karabell, Penguin Press 

One of the great innovations of Americaone that has made most of the others possible, is how money is moved and used. As Zachary Karabell writes in his new book, Inside Money 

One of the prerequisites for rapid economic growth is capital. Land, property and labor are all vital, but none are liquid. For much of human history, wealth locked up in land and property was rarely turned into productive capital to fund businesses or ideas. That began to change in the nineteenth century, and the United States was ground zero for the shift. 

And Brown Brothers was ground zero of US finance. It helped build the literal infrastructure of our country and economy. It merged with W.A. Harriman & Co. at the beginning of the Great Depression to become Brown Brothers Harriman, and ‘became the backbone of “the Establishment”’ in postwar America, launching its partners and their progeny into government and the halls of power. There is a decidedly darker side to the company history—anchored as it is in our collective American history and a system of international trade that relied on enslaved people. Originally a linen import business based in Baltimore, the Browns built their business, in part, by helping build that system, financing and funneling the cotton trade from the South to England. But the reason most see it as a sad story today, that it isn’t as big and lucrative as it could be, or as other financial firms areis arguably its strength, and holds lessons for us. After over 200 years in business, it still believes its role is to help manage risk rather than increase it: 

Its culture revolves around service. In cleaving to the idea of partnership, the company didn’t join the drunken capital party of the 1990s and 2000s and never rose so high that it could jeopardize the entire financial system. In that crucial sense, it stands as a reminder of what once was, and perhaps what all the banks should have remained. 

What once was wasn’t always great, but the story of the Brown Brothers Harriman deepens our understanding of the country it rose to serve, for all its flaws and fortune(DJJS)  

About The Author

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of Porchlight since 2003. After beginning in shipping and receiving, he moved through customer service (with some accounting on the side) before entering into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the editorial and creative aspects of the company. Outside of work, you’ll find him volunteering or hanging out at his kids’ school, catching the weekly summer concert at the Washington Park Bandshell, or strolling through one of the many other parks or greenspaces around his home in Milwaukee (most likely in his garden). He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.

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About The Author

Gabriella Cisneros is usually ‘Gabbi.’ She is a recent graduate of UW-Milwaukee, with degrees in Film and Spanish, and she’s a new addition to Porchlight Books. It’s kind of a dream job for someone who has a 55 page, indexed document of interesting words she’s found in books. Gabbi regularly makes time for taking photos, traveling, attending concerts, trying new restaurants, listening to the podcast "Ologies," blogging, filmmaking, fitness, and—of course—reading.

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