Each and every week, our marketing team—Marketing & Editorial 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:
The Devil's Playbook: Big Tobacco, Juul, and the Addiction of a New Generation by Lauren Etter, Crown
Lauren Etter’s new book is a masterpiece of research and reporting into an industry that is notoriously unwelcoming to outsiders—especially the media—doing either on their products.
It is, in part, the story of two Stanford students’ pursuit of a legitimate public health benefit. In pursuing it through the blunt, profit-obsessed instrument of Silicon Valley venture capitalism, their intentions were corrupted, and their product produced the opposite effect—a public health crisis. In that intersection of public health and Silicon Valley, The Devil’s Playbook is reminiscent of Bad Blood, John Carreyrou’s account of the fraudulent blood testing company Theranos. The difference is that James Monsees’ and Adam Bowen’s product, Juul, actually worked—perhaps too well. But rather than creating a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes for existing smokers, who largely eschewed the device, it ended up following an age-old tobacco industry playbook by appealing to young people and addicting an entirely new generation to nicotine. Getting into that playbook and industry history, the book is more reminiscent of business classics like Barbarians at the Gate, a book that is referenced by Etter to tell of an earlier attempt (in 1987, by R.J. Reynolds) at a smokeless cigarette that apparently “tasted like shit.”
But it goes even deeper than that, because the story of tobacco in America is as old as America itself, and “all those centuries of amassed power and deeply rooted tradition [are] woven into every last fiber of American society.” In that way, in addition to being a great book about a modern business, the muck rake Etter deploys churns up some of the mud we’ve been turning over since we began as a country. (DJJS)
My Remarkable Journey: A Memoir by Katherine Johnson, Amistad Press
Katherine Johnson is another one of the many incredible women that I'm learning about too late in life. (Earlier in the summer, I had heard Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day" for the first time and almost cried, brain buzzing with all the questions I had about her and her work. And then only afterwards did I learn she had passed away two years ago.) Reading about Johnson's many accomplishments from youth to adulthood—paired with her own, plucky advice towards readers—made it especially saddening to learn that exactly one year and one day ago today, Johnson passed away at 101 years old. However, it's also heartening to know she got to tell her own life’s story in this new memoir, My Remarkable Journey.
Parts of her life experience as a mathematician at NASA were previously covered in the book-turned-to-film Hidden Figures, but Johnson estimates that the movie is only about 75% accurate. And, anyway, she infuses her memoir with such lovely personal touches that it's a must-read if you are at all interested in science, mathematics, and feminist history! For example, her life philosophies function as chapter titles—“Nobody Else is Better than You,” “Education Matters,” “The Blessing of Help,” “Be Ready,” and more—and we learn how her family keeps her grounded through the pain of her husband's death while also seeing the effects of the Civil Rights Movement on her work and experiences in the late '60s. And her tenacity can be traced back to her childhood where education was a priority, as was self respect, both things that America tried to keep away from African-American women like Johnson, especially in the era of Jim Crow:
Even as I grew up and was told by law that I had to sit in the back of buses, climb to isolated theater balconies, and use colored water fountains and bathrooms because of my race, I chose to believe Daddy. I was just as good as anyone else, but no better.
Thanks to this new memoir, I'm so excited for other young people to get to learn about Katherine Johnson's inquisitiveness, honesty, adversity, and perseverance. Reading her words will make you feel less like you are admiring her from afar, and more like she is a mentor, ready to give you a boost of confidence whenever you decide to pick up the book. (GMC)
The Secret World of Weather: How to Read Signs in Every Cloud, Breeze, Hill, Street, Plant, Animal, and Dewdrop by Tristan Gooley, The Experiment
With summer (and the COVID-19 vaccine) bringing many of us out of hibernation, I’ve been spending a lot more time outside. Yet, the anxieties of quarantine have carried over, making me hyper-aware of my surroundings and making it even clearer to me how much I don’t know about the different species of plants and animals in this state I've lived in for my whole life. And while I wait to secure some field guides to the birds, grasses, and trees of Wisconsin, I'm delighted to learn about another element of the outdoors: the weather.
Author and famed natural navigator Tristan Gooley passes down the wisdom of the weather, decodes the clouds, defines the many shades and densities of fog, and more in his new book The Secret World of Weather. Focusing on the north temperate zone (most of Europe and North America), Gooley vividly and accessibly explains microclimates, "the weather we actually experience." Weather has been simplified to radar maps, making many of us wholly reliant on meteorologists when planning out picnics, foraging expeditions, and beach days. When in reality, there are plenty of ways to predict the weather for ourselves. For example:
Woodlands lead to more rain, which helps many tree species to live in that space, and the cycle is strengthened. Woods are a basic sign that rain is more likely there than in the nearby area without trees. And the rain we feel changes as we walk from one tree species to the next.
Gooley’s excitement for the natural world is infectious, and now I, too, am excited to continue learning to see the jigsaw pieces that make up the larger puzzle of the natural world. I’m already confident that next time I venture outside, I’ll be able to decipher or at least be more appreciative of nature's many codes. (GMC)
Workparent: The Complete Guide to Succeeding on the Job, Staying True to Yourself, and Raising Happy Kids by Daisy Dowling, Harvard Business Review Press
Before she had her first child, Daisy Dowling had an organizational psychology practice that focused on leadership development. In that work, she had witnessed the challenges others faced navigating working parenthood, but it was only when beginning the journey for herself that she realized just how profound they could be and turned her fuller attention to the issue. To find answers, she did what she had always done.
She started asking questions, asking others how they managed. She got advice and input wherever she could and from seemingly every walk of life, while at work or at the playground, in the line at the store and in her travels around the world. Talking with a diverse set of parents with a diverse set of kids and needs made both what she learned and what she has written in Workparent as inclusive and open to all as possible.
And I can relate, right now more than ever. My wife and I had struck a pretty good balance pre-pandemic and had even (eventually) settled into a passable one during it, figuring out who was doing what and when to get our six- and year-year-old through a hard year, away from friends, in virtual school—all while not falling too far off course ourselves. Then, recently, my wife was booked on a photo shoot that will keep her on site and away from home during the day for seven straight weeks, and our routine has been busted. I know I am still very much one of the lucky ones in this scenario, especially because the kids are back in the school building twice a week, but it has been a struggle, and Dowling’s book has arrived at the perfect time to help me figure some things out. It is hard to find the time to read it all (and it’s a hefty book, to boot), but I agree when Dowling writes:
Whatever profession you’re in or type of family you have, Workparent will help you move from enduring working parenthood to taking charge of it, and in your own, authentic way.
I am not sure I am truly taking charge again yet, but the book is helping, and by the time all this is over, I think we have a good shot at figuring it all out again—as much as we can—and then figuring it out again as circumstances inevitably change, which is a part of the process and the blessing. (DJJS)