The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 15, 2008

Book review: 'Starbucks,' other biographies on the nightstand

I go through phases on what genres or topics in which I read. Here are a few biographies that have been on my nightstand of late.

‘How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else’

By Michael Gates Gill

Michael Gates Gill grew up knowing he would go to Yale, get married, have a family and be successful. This is what his father did. This is what was expected of him. And this is exactly what he did until one day he was fired from his six-figure job at a large ad agency for which he’s worked all of his adult life. Along with his job, he lost his wife at about the same time because of an affair that produced Gill’s fifth child.

Gill tried to start a consulting business, but after a while, business started falling off and he was having trouble getting clients and prospective clients to call him back. It was at this time he learned that he had a tumor in his brain and would eventually need surgery. This meant he really needed to find a job that provided health insurance.

One morning, he slips into Starbucks, his office of sorts, not knowing that the company was holding a hiring fair. Periodically when stores are hiring, one store will host a fair for several area managers to come in and talk to potential “partners.”

While sitting at a table, a young woman, Crystal, flippantly asks Gill if he’d like a job. Without hesitation and to both their surprise, he says “Yes!” Crystal has Gill fill out an application form and proceeds to interview him.

Several weeks later, Gill gets a call from Crystal asking if he still wants a job and if so to be at the store the next afternoon. Gill shows up, and this book chronicles the next year of his life as he learns how Starbucks works as a company, how those who aren’t born into money work and live, and more importantly, he learns what he really values in life.

This is an excellent, heart-warming and inspiring biography about someone who learns to truly love his job, who reconnects with his now-grown children, how a successful business works and how that business treats its employees and its “guests.”

It’s highly recommended as a biography and as a business book.

‘A Skating Life: My Story’

By Dorothy Hamill

America’s Sweetheart tells of her life in skating in this well-written, nicely paced autobiography.

Dorothy Hamill grew up skating on the ice. She went from rink to rink and often state to state to find ice time and coaches. She had several coaches on her way to the Olympics, each bringing their own skills at just the right time in Dorothy’s skating career.

Not only does the reader relive the 1976 Olympic win, we learn about Dorothy’s turbulent relationship with her parents, particularly her mother, her two marriages, her desire for a family of her own, her realization that she suffers from depression and life after skating, although skating remains one of the few constants in her life, even today.

This is a story of a young girl with an extraordinary drive and a desire to please.

‘Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far’

By Amy Grant

Christian music artist Amy Grant tells of her family life, her religion and her music in this wonderfully written autobiography. She tells her story through a number of short, concise chapters with song lyrics and poems interspersed.

The last chapter, entitled “The Time of My Life,” is a timeline of her 47 years highlighting significant events of the years.

Also included are a number of pictures, a discography and a list of awards and achievements.

‘How I Write: Secrets of a Best Selling Author’

By Janet Evanovich

Set up in a question-and-answer format, Janet Evanovich talks about how she writes. The questions and answers come from a section of her Web site ( entitled “Writing Q & A.”

She’s very clear that the answers she gives are her method for writing and may or may not work for others. A number of quotes and sections from the first 12 Plum books are included.

All the questions and answers are arranged in chapters by topic. Evanovich talks about characters and character development, plots, how she gets her ideas, revisions and getting published. A list at the end of the book contains resources ranging from grammar to getting published to conferences and contests.

The book is a good insight into the writing of the Stephanie Plum series and writing in general.

Susan Wray is the director of Joplin Public Library.