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How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else Paperback – September 2, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Gill tells his story well and doesn't hold back on the self-deprecation, not at all. His divorce came about for the understandable reason that he met a single, 40ish woman into the arts who lived alone. Mysterious enough for you? So, intrigued and feeling emotionally unmoored with no job, he has an affair and fathers a child. His family is understandably devastated, and the scenes in this memoir of them are wrenching.
Thrown out of the house, with no job, his money runs out and he must learn to be middle class from nearly scratch. He decides Starbucks would work when he reflects how he spends times there and when the local manager and him have one of those conversations blacks and whites have that sound mistrustful but are actually seeking closeness and racial harmony.
From there, Gill confronts all the things that he'd never learned to do; like the simple self-satisfaction of work, independent living, how to handle solitude, and getting to know people unlike himself. Time and again, Gill points out how his pre-fall opinion of someone and how wrong he was, and his post-fall new, more mature appreciation of them.Read more ›
I got the feeling Gill wrote his memoir and then plugged Starbucks in as it fit. About 20% of the book happens at Starbucks. The rest is devoted to lambasting the advertising industry (they fired Gill), to family and personal tales (often about how clever Gill was as an advertising account manager), and to dozens of dropped names (e.g., tea with Queen Elizabeth, coffee klatch with Robert Frost, assisting Jackie Kennedy in a charitable endeavor, etc.)
The book is about life changes for Gill, but often his epiphanies are over the top. For instance, only after he loses his job, is divorced twice, goes broke and starts work as a Barista does he discover that subways are crowded, that a black woman can run a successful business, that advertising is different from retail, and that a workaholic doesn't spend enough time with his children.
His Starbucks experiences are also over the top. He cherry picks the good stuff, and leaves the impression he is designing an advertising campaign for Starbucks. Gill proclaims that Starbucks "taught" him the value of teamwork, respect for others, the value of hard labor, and how rewarding the simple life can be. Conveniently, the book is a perfect personal size that will fit cozily in a Starbucks product display.
Having worked at Starbucks for several years, I know that the good things Gill experienced resulted less because of Starbucks and more because of the special people he chanced to work with. When I worked with great people, the experience was good; when my partners were un-great the experience could be awful.Read more ›
I was fortunate to meet the author during his current book tour. Like his writing, he is engaging, candid and fun. His message is refreshing in that he feels happier now with far less.
As you'll read in more detail in other reviews here, Gill claims to have stepped "down" from his Yale and top-ad-exec background, to don a Starbucks apron, serving coffee and cleaning sinks and toilets. Could this have really happened? Could a sane man really be happy with such a swaperoo of lifestyles? I think so.
With my experience as an academic researcher, I've taken the time to check out Gill's background and general credibility. Why would I do that? Because this book's less-is-more message, and manual-work-is honorable message, are so important for our times. Many of the negative Amazon reviews here are cynical about Gill's alleged motives, snide about his professed new attitude toward African Americans with menial jobs, and dubious about his claimed contentment with manual labor following his ivy-league career.
But my somewhat similar experiences tell me that Gill's claims ring true. I've lived and taught in New York and know the neighborhoods he describes. I've researched his executive background, read Joyce Wadler's NY Times article with photos of the Bronxville mansion, etc. Is his professed happiness with far less money and prestige credible? I think so. First, everything about him consistently checks out. And then there's my own analogous experience. After my Ph.D. done at Stanford, Yale and Georgetown, my teaching at the US Naval Academy, etc.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wish I had counted the times "mike" name dropped.. Oh please, Starbucks partners deserved better!Published 10 days ago by Adrian
I've never come across a book whose writer is talking about his down turn while still in it. Usually, people write about their victory and mention of bad experiences in the past. Read morePublished 1 month ago by F. Bani
Absolutely amazing book. Am on my third reading. His humility and strength to learn and grow are inspirational. Sweet and thoughtful. Absolutely wonderful.Published 1 month ago by Lucian Hughes
This is a good story of finding your way late in life. A good read even if a little protracted at times.Published 1 month ago by John
This book was mostly whining and whimpering of a guy who is a failure. It has an overall good theme of redemption. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mitchell
Bought the book for its title alone out of curiosity, but truly enjoyed this book. It's about real friendships versus good times only friendships. It's also about race relations. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Joan Tanguay
I have bought this book repeatedly to give copies to friends. It's beautifully written, and a compelling story. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Sue
Great book for those who think that they cannot change their career, lifestyle, romantic prospects, etc when they are nearing retirement age.Published 4 months ago by Kurt Heiss