Review: "How Starbucks Saved my Life"


Finished reading this book Saturday night

It was an interesting tale of an entitled, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) whose life completely unravelled in his late 50's. This true story follows Michael Gates Gill, son of Brendan Gill of The New Yorker magazine fame, graduate of Yale, member of Skull & Bones. Gill's never worked a real job in his life--he moved from Yale to a prestigious Madison Avenue ad agency, living a jet-set life and leaving his kids behind. As he entered his 50's, he got downsized and went home (for the first time, really) to a wife he didn't know and children who grew up without him. He descended further, carrying-on an affair with a younger woman and fathering a child at 60 years old. Then his wife left him. Then his ad clients stopped calling him back.

Then he had a young African American woman ask him at Starbucks: "Do you want a job today?" Yes. Yes, he did, and so begins our story.

The book is a very quick read, with the central narrative--"Mike" learning to work at a Starbucks in Manhattan--interspersed with anecdotes from Gill's past. This is where the book gets annoying--Gill's reign on his material evaporates, as we see flashback after flashback. The book's more memoir than narrative.

Within that irritation lurks a gem--an honest tale of a man learning honest work, and an honest approach to work. Throughout his years in advertising, Mike never learned to respect anyone. He learned corporate BS--how to intimidate, project power, and self-aggrandize. He took himself WAY too seriously.

Having struggled with the above myself, his exploration of how he felt during that process was interesting.


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