New Releases

Books to Watch | May 4, 2021

Dylan Schleicher, Gabbi Cisneros

May 04, 2021

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Each and every week, our marketing team—Editorial and Marketing Director Dylan Schleicher (DJJS) & Creative and 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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Create Amazing: Turning Your Employees Into Owners for Explosive Growth by Greg Graves, Matt Holt Books 

When Greg Graves was considering writing a book, he settled on six themes. The first theme is the title of the book, but the most important is one of four questions he poses to get there: Why?  

Because the right answer to why should be the cornerstone piece to one of America’s greatest challenges: economic injustice.  

Because the gap between the haves and the have-nots is not only widening unconscionably, it’s also in direct opposition to the aspiration of our country.  

Because we can do better than this. 

There has been a lot written about how to foster an owner’s mindset—in ourselves, in employees, across an organization. There has not been nearly as much written about the most direct way to do that, by simply making employees the owners of the business through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). There have been academic books on the topic, and some books specifically about cooperative businesses and business models, but not one (that I can think of) dedicated to ESOPs, what they are, how to institute them and make them work, all written by a former CEO who has made it work—or maybe I should say written by a former CEO whose employee owners have made it work, as I think Graves would probably want it said. For businesses themselves, ESOPs are, as Graves explains, “a proven approach that can lead to better profitability and greater purpose—if done right.” His aim is to show you how to do it right.  

And, at a time when we are increasingly divided along ideological lines, employee ownership has overwhelming support from conservatives (69%) and liberals (72%) alike, only outweighed by moderates (73%). That support even translates into the Halls of Congress, where the Main Street Employee Ownership Act passed with bipartisan support in 2018, providing loan programs and other mechanisms to ease the transition to employee ownership. But the numbers of people actually employed in companies they own a part of is still very small, and we still don’t hear much about them. ESOPs may be about to explode, though, providing a way for a large generation of business owners who are ready to retire but aren’t ready to close up the shops they or their families started. And to hear Graves explain it, an explosion in employee ownership could be an opportunity for explosive results—for former owners, for workers and managers and business in general, and for the future of America. (DJJS) 

 

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard, Knopf 

A book from the world’s leading forest ecologist might seem like a strange pick here at first. But I think we can all agree—especially in light of the dual crises of COVID-19 and climate change—that it is important to get more information and a greater understanding, not just about, but from the world around us. You also never know where in the world, or out of what books, your next idea will be sparked from, so picking up books from the brightest minds in the world is never a bad place to start. 

Suzanne Simard pioneered the field of plant communication and intelligence, uncovering a hidden social life we are mostly unaware of before her discoveries. If you’ve read The Hidden Life of Trees, or a novel like The Overstory, you know something of all this, and it probably changed how you see the world. But like the Mother Tree itself, it is best to know where it started and emanated from, what connects and sustains those disparate pieces. And that is the work of Simard, which is rooted in a longer family history 

For generations, my family has made its living cutting down forests. Our survival has depended on this humble trade. 

It is my legacy.  

As one of the first generation of women to enter the logging industry, she went into the forest and encountered destruction the industry had wrought, but also healing and intelligence in the trees themselves. I remember reading Flynn Coleman’s book, A Human Algorithm, where she wrote “If we see intelligence as the ability to solve new problems, this opens the door to honoring the vast variety of intelligence in the world, not just human.” That book was about AI, but those words have stuck with me, and I think it is something Simard did upon entering the woods. And as I continue reading Simard’s book, I think I’ll find many more words that stick with me, containing bits of wisdom like this:  

This is not a book about how we can save the trees. 

This is a book about how the trees might save us. 

(DJJS)  

 

Let’s Talk About Hard Things by Anna Sale, Simon & Schuster 

They made me see how normal it is to find yourself grappling with uncertainty and despair. 

The “they” to which Anna Sale refers is her family members, friends, coworkers, and older mentors that told her about the hard choices they’d had to make in the past. And it makes me wonder: who is my “they”? Who is anyone else’s “they” amidst a pandemic that has quelled our opportunities to socialize, or shortened those opportunities to an hour in a public park, or diminished those opportunities from in-person hugs to pixelated images and staticky sound through a screen? It’s really hard to have deep conversations with anyone else when you’re taking precautions against a virus that feeds on proximal conversation. And in normal times, for many of us, having those hard conversations is…well…hard. Especially without a big inciting event that pushes us to do so, as Sale had when her husband and her decided to divorce. And while everyone’s situation is unique: 

Talking more openly about what we’re facing helps us understand what is specific about each of our circumstances, and how our experiences fit into broader patterns that we can learn from and take solace in.

Sharing those open conversations, from a variety of perspectives, on the topics of death, sex, money, family, and identity is the purpose of Sale’s new book Let’s Talk About Hard Things as well as her podcast Death, Sex & MoneyWhat makes reading or listening to these stories possibly more useful than having the actual conversations ourselves is being forced to not interject. Because as Sale points out: 

[W]hen we give more space, we open the door for something new and intimate to unfold. The person you’re talking to will notice when you really hang on to what they say, or repeat their words back to them for clarity. To feel someone listening to us is to feel deeply respected.

Let’s Talk About Hard Things offers tips on consoling loved ones and yourself, it assures us that “I don’t know yet,” is a perfectly reasonable response to a question about our relationships, saying “I understand” to someone you love can help validate their feelings (even if you don’t actually understand), one’s sense of identity is highly influenced by one’s privilege (and these two things can conflict), making a spreadsheet can help figure out your finances even if you don’t really use that spreadsheet after all, and more. Even when you’re not ready to talk about hard things, reading about them is the perfect substitute to get you up to the challenge of coming to terms with the processes of life and relishing in the relief of understanding that it’s not about understanding everything completely, it’s about feeling completely okay with moving on. (GMC) 

 

An Ordinary Age: Finding Your Way in a World That Expects Exceptional by Rainesford Stauffer, Harper Perennial 

I can best describe being 25 as liminal and full of oxymorons. It's an age I feel youthfully mature: I feel expected to be just as professional, grounded, and poised as fun, foolhardy, and ambitious. Trying to juggle all these expectations leads to me comparing myself to my peers: so many seem to be getting engaged or married, some already have kids, some have high-paying jobs in the fields they went to school for, and the others don't update social media, so I don't know what they've accomplished. But in all these cases, it seems that the real struggle of being 25 in 2021 is the lack of nuance in conversations about, not just success, but also politics, identity, religion, and more. As Rainesford Stauffer writes in the introduction to An Ordinary Age 

When all the pressure is on to have the time of your life during one time of life, it could make the bad things feel worse, and the good feel fleeting.

Pausing to reflect on our next steps or being content with a certain job doesn't feel right when everyone around you and on social media is preaching about continuously pushing forward to reach that next so-called milestone of young adulthood. However: 

as research on becoming an adult and markers to adulthood points out, young people have dramatically different opportunities or experience depending on their family, socioeconomic factors, and background.

An Ordinary Age uses interviews with "emerging adults" (age 18-30) to unpack the unfair expectations set by everyone except the emerging adults themselves.  Stauffer's driving idea that "some of the most extraordinary things about our lives are, in fact, the ordinary ones" is a universal call to step back and stop being so controlling. When we stop comparing ourselves and start acknowledging the many shades of growth and success in the world, we'll treat ourselves and those we encounter better. 

While I encounter plenty of posts about self-care and progress on Instagram, there aren't very many that include annotations acknowledging that many of us actually cannot achieve that very succinct and quotable idea about developmental success. In An Ordinary Age, it's healing to see my own insecurities reflected in others of varying ages, races, and beliefs. And it especially sets me at ease to see scientific research confirm the overall unattainability of the marks of success in our schooling, careers, housing, hobbies, relationships, and even social media profiles. This book is a grounding reminder that sometimes it takes years to figure out the answers to the big questions about our lives, and in the meantime, even without those answers, we are valid in all of our uniquely ordinary ways. (GMC) 

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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