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The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself

Tim Leberecht. Harper Business, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-230251-9

Leberecht, chief marketing officer for NBBJ, a global architecture firm, fervently believes that we can’t—and shouldn’t—separate our work lives from our personal lives, aiming in this idealistic but overly flighty manifesto to restore a sense of meaning and transcendence to his readers’ work. According to a 2013 Gallup poll that Leberecht cites, only 13% of employees are fully engaged with their jobs, while 63% report some disengagement and 24% feel “actively disengaged.” The conclusion that Leberecht draws from these statistics is that in a challenging, changing time, “we must keep sacred our younger, cherished notions of work and its meaning.” The book presents seven different types of “business romantics”: the lover, the business traveler, the outsider, the voice, the guardian, the “visioner,” and the believer. It also lists several “rules of enchantment,” including “give more than you take” and “keep the mystique.” Leberecht illustrates these lessons with tales of people, like Twitter editorial director Karen Wickre, who are adhering to their values in an ever-changing world. Though this is unusually well written for a business book, it’s unclear which audience it speaks to and what message, other than the comforting one that work should be inspiring and fun, it aims to convey. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The World Split Open: Great Authors on How and Why We Write

Various. Tin House (PGW, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-935639-96-1

Marking the 30th anniversary of the nonprofit Literary Arts in Oregon, this collection of 10 lectures from celebrated writers reanimates the humanistic argument that, far from being a “marginal cultural activity,” the production of serious literary fiction is an essential task. With eloquence, humility, and humor, contributors reflect both on their own creative processes and on literature as a whole. Trickery emerges as a common theme, with Margaret Atwood characterizing novel writing as a “kind of bank robbery,” and Wallace Stegner adding, “We’re all practiced shape-shifters and ventriloquists.” Even so, the subjects addressed are refreshingly diverse—Atwood writes on feminism, Russell Banks on film, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Edward P. Jones on their sources of inspiration, and Ursula K. Le Guin on the “moral seriousness” of fantasy, to name a few. As a whole, the essays illuminate the importance of books in widening our intellectual horizons and the struggle to bring novels and their characters to life. The beautiful language these accomplished authors employ exemplifies the unteachable quality of the true “tricks of craft.” Serious readers should find a welcome reminder in this collection that great literature emerges from a receptive mind engaged with the “unanswerable questions” of human character and experience. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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