Sometimes there are benefits to being a voracious reader. In my case over the last few years I have been honored by some authors to be gifted with ARC’s, or beta/alpha readership of their books. Recently I joined “First to Read” a program run by Penguin Group USA that promotes new books in their library. Occasionally I will post a review of these books on the blog. Though these books are promotional copies, I will try and give my honest opinion of them. But note, it is my opinion. I read a variety of fiction and non-fiction styles and I have found that some very well written stories/novels just simply don’t appeal to my taste. So with this an all reviews “YMMV” (your mileage may vary) is always a great caveat. There simply are some authors I adore the writing style of (Bujold, Andrews, Robinette-Kowal, Novik, Heyer) and others whose personal choices make their work unreadable for myself (GRRM, Yes I know but I can’t read it. I get frustrated). That does not mean that the favorites will remain as favorites (tastes do change) or that those who I don’t enjoy (GRRM) will remain on that list.
So, with that long explanation done, here is a quick review of a latest offering from First to Read: Mistakes I Made At Work by Jessica Bacal.
In her book, Mistakes I Made at Work, Bacal focuses on twenty-five women who are successful at their chosen profession. But instead of focusing only on the things they did right, she focuses on what they regard as their mistakes along the way and what these mistakes taught them. After a short introductory segment, each chapter presents a narrative told by the featured woman, emphasizing the journey her personal story took. These “mistakes” or “lessons” vary as the women themselves vary. There is no attempt to paint the entrepreneur as identical to the musician or the academic or the lawyer. What is similiar is that these women learned from their personal mistakes. Mistakes that could cross over from one profession to another. These fears, the miscommunications, the doubts are all presented for the reader in a well written narrative. As alluded to by the title the book focuses on the lessons that these women learned from their mistakes. That I think is the balance that this book presents to the reader. What you do in the moment should not define your life, but should be regarded as a learning experience. Recognition of wrong decisions not as “failures” but as understanding your own needs and driving forces becomes emphasized with some chapters. For myself, the narrative appears written for the feminine ear, as it does not present these stories as separate from the experience of being female. However it does not at any point present these lessons as only ones that women can learn from. Divided into four parts (learning to take charge of your own narrative, learning to ask, learning to say no, learning resilience) the book also addresses deeper issues than personal achievement or finding ones own path delving into the ethics of decisions in the workplace.
As someone who has been in the professional sphere and has made mistakes of my own I found this book enlightening. I don’t know if there are similar books out there that male readers embrace, and I don’t know that the lessons here would not apply to the male model of success. What I do know is that this book seems to address issues I have heard expressed by other women in their professional lives. I have heard women successful in their own careers talk of how they wish they had understood how the company model had changed, or how to adapt to a professional workplace while maintaining self. I would recommend this book to any woman who is entering the work place, and to those already there who may find encouragement from these stories of growth.
If you wish to join First to Read, you can join up at FirsttoRead.com.