Books to Watch | October 6, 2020
October 06, 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 five new books we are most excited about.
This week, our choices are:
Digital Goddess: The Unfiltered Lessons of a Female Entrepreneur by Victoria R. Montgomery Brown, HarperCollins Leadership
Every entrepreneur's journey is different, and most are difficult. And, like almost everything else in the world, entrepreneurship is even more difficult for women and minorities. Victoria R. Montgomery Brown is CEO & co-founder of Big Think, a collection of experts and disruptors that provide online content (videos, podcasts, interviews, and more). In Digital Goddess, Montgomery incorporates small pieces of advice and case studies from contributors at Big Think that provide a variety of perspectives and lessons that will empower entrepreneurs at any stage. However, most of the book is about her own journey and advice, which she shares realistically and humbly.
As working from home has taught many of us, there is no such thing as a divide between personal and professional lives. Montgomery recognizes this and provides a transparent look into "the ups and downs of my romantic life while running a business; my strategies for dealing with powerful and predatory men; and the steps I've taken to better understand and manage my own mental health and well-being." An important takeaway from Digital Goddess is that our overall mind-set will always (should always) be changing. Montgomery writes this in a poignant chapter about the sudden return of her father's brain cancer:
"Here's the thing—what we learn or experience at work can inform our behavior and attitude far beyond the office. But it's the day to day, and the ups and downs of our personal life, too, and how we respond to them, reflect on them and grow from them, that inform and shape who we are."
Parwana: Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen by Durkhanai Ayubi with recipes by Farida Ayubi, Interlink Books
Dukhanai Ayubi’s family left Afghanistan during the Cold War and immigrated to Adelaide, Australia, where their restaurant Parwana has been a highlight of the local culinary scene for a decade now. For those of us living in a different hemisphere, the Parwana cookbook arrives this week to provide a peek into this magical restaurant and so much more. The Ayubi family’s generous spirit of hospitality exudes from every page.
“[Our] persistence in seeing Afghanistan predominantly through the lens of war … limits our vision to a blinkered slither of uncontextualized history.” To remedy that, Ayubi beautifully intertwines the region’s history with her family’s history to set a backdrop for her mother Farida’s recipes. Afghan cuisine reflects its geography at the crossroads between Iran and the Indian subcontinent (think: lentils, flatbreads, pomegranates, curries, chutneys, kebobs, and lots and lots of herbs). And as a country long marked by globalization due to its centrality on the ancient Silk Road trade route, you can also find influences of China, Mongolia, Turkey, and more here.
Recipes like Bolani (stuffed flatbread), Afghan Breakfast Eggs (packed with onions and garlic and tomato), and Morgh Lawang (a golden chicken braised in turmeric and yogurt) are sure to be enjoyed in my kitchen soon. But as someone who currently has no less than eight kinds of rice in my cupboard, it’s the small section on “The Art of Afghan Rice” that has my heart, detailing the division of rice dishes into three categories: palaw (seasoned long-grained rice), challow (plain long-grained rice), and sholah (medium-grain rice cooked until soft and sticky). Tell me more.
There is so much to love about this unique cookbook, not the least of which is the simply stunning art direction and photography: walls painted in jewel tones of plum and turquoise, copper bowls filled with pomegranates resting on ivory-inlaid tables, cut crystal tumblers in sapphire blue on top of hand woven tablecloths. If this book reflects even a fraction of the experience of dining at the Ayubi family’s restaurant, I’m booking a post-covid flight to Adelaide post haste. (BRM)
Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life by Ashley Whillans, Harvard Business Review Press
This book is slim, fittingly, to prove that author Ashley Whillans doesn't need to take up much of your time to teach you how to make better use of your time. And at $28.00 for a physical copy and $14.00 for a digital copy, Time Smart isn't too much of a money investment either. Is buying and reading this book one of the seemingly small decisions you will make that will "powerfully shape the happiness we derive from moments, from days, from our entire lives"? Perhaps. At the least, it will make you more aware of your own decisions as well as the difficult decisions others around the world make every day.
Whillans provides grounding advice, reminding us "no matter our age, education, or income, we share the same reality: none of us knows how much time we have left." Time Smart calls out the American culture of constant busy-ness, the time traps we find ourselves in, and the happiness we may be sacrificing for making poor decisions with our time or our money. It has the potential to be a heavy topic, but Whillans makes improvement doable with her overall positive perspective as well as providing charts to help you calculate a better balance between the time you spend and the money you save or make. An easy-to-read book with easy-to-learn techniques, Time Smart will get you on the right track time, money, and happiness-wise as quickly and painlessly as possible. (GMC)
Undercurrents: Channeling Outrage to Spark Practical Activism by Steve Davis, Wiley
Imagine entering adulthood in the late 1970s and early ‘80s as a gay man from rural Montana, and a student of Chinese history and culture. If you had to predict where the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people in America would be 40 years later, or the position of China on the world stage, how far off would you be?
There is a lot more to the story of Steve Davis, but these two aspects of his life were a part of what taught him that “Change on a grand scale is possible, and it can happen relatively fast.” And as he took on the roles of a scholar, human rights lawyer, tech executive, business consultant, and professor over the years, one thing has remained constant in his work—a dedication to “practical activism” that creatives positive momentum and change. His new book, Undercurrents, is about that work—both his own and others’—where it comes from and what it is based on:
Though I approach this work as a disciplined, often technical and nuanced, undertaking, every bit of it—from meetings with government officials, to conference calls with funders, to conversations with health providers in the field—is still rooted in sheer outrage. It’s about our collective outrage and, really, anger at the enormous inequity and unfairness in the world.
The title of the book refers to five powerful forces underneath the surface upon which the largest changes are occurring today. While these macrotrends progress in an inconsistent and uncertain way, Davis shows how practical activism can turn “outrage into action—even optimism” as we engage in the issues most important to us. We live in precarious yet pivotal times. Change is inevitable, and it is largely up to us which way it goes. Steve Davis and his approach can help guide our efforts. (DJJS)
Up from Nothing: The Untold Story of How We (All) Succeed by John Hope Bryant, Berrett-Koehler
There is, understandably, a lot of fear in the country right now. An understandable and entirely rational fear of a virus that has taken the lives of over 200,000 Americans. A fear of the economic damage it has caused. A fear that life as we know it—socially and economically—has changed forever. As John Hope Bryant has written, it is a…
Fear that the party as we knew it, really is over, and fear that we might actually have to build something that has real and sustainable value. Fear that we may have to do the real work, and offer the real sacrifice, that love requires.
Here is the thing. Bryant wrote those words over a decade ago, as we were in the grips of the Great Recession. Globalization—before and after that upheaval—has seen capitalism and finance spread around the world in search of growth, and helped over a billion people around the world pull themselves out of poverty as it did so. But there are far too many in our own country left behind, determined more by the circumstances in which they were born than the potential that they have. And, while the movement in the streets today is bringing much needed attention to the continued inequality in our country, Bryant says…
I want the next social movement to be in the suites, not the streets. I want it to be about overcoming class and poverty for all, more so than race (even though race continues to be an issue, of course). I am working on a conscious movement toward reimagining the greatness that America always intended to be: a place—the place—that everyone in the world wants to find their way to so they can secure for themselves that elusive thing we call freedom.
At Operation HOPE, founded in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots in his native Los Angeles, Bryant has long called for and led a “Silver Rights” movement to build on the civil rights movement. Instead of abandoning free enterprise, he is working to make it more truly free, to make it work for everyone. The fact that it has not, and deliberately so, for so long, is not only a moral failing, but an economic failing. We can, and must, do better, and we must do it together. (DJJS)
What we're reading away from work:
“I am reading The Appointment by Katharina Volckmer. The author is a German living in London, and her narrator is a youngish German woman living in London. Volckmer's entire narrative is delivered as extemporaneously, to her therapist. Through this mechanism, Volckmer delivers a stream-of-consciousness rant that is hilarious and often disgusting (in a hilarious kind of way), touching on topics such as sex, Hitler, self-loathing, and Japanese pleasure robots."
— Michael Jantz, Custom Project Director