Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Booknote: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying

 Leifer, Carol, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying: Lessons from a Life in Comedy. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781594746772.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Humor, biography, career advice

Carol Leifer has been in the comedy and show business for a long time, working her way up, and paying her dues along the way. Now she takes time to reflect on her life and career, distilling the key lessons from her journey in her new book. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying is an easy to read and fun book that many readers will enjoy.

A strength of Leifer's book is in the lessons for work and life that she presents. She may be writing from her perspective as a comedian, but her advice applies to any career path. There is a lot here for young people who need advice and lessons as they enter the workforce. To bring this advice to life, the author uses a lot of stories from her experience with a generous helping of good humor. I found myself often nodding and smiling as I read this book. Now the book is not all upbeat and feel good vibe. Leifer also made a lot of mistakes along her journey. For example, read her story about the soda can in Aaron Spellings' office.Yet, she went on to learn from her mistakes, and she shares the lessons with us. Hopefully readers can avoid the mistakes and learn not to take anything for granted.

In addition, I found there are things in the book that librarians can relate to. For example, we are in very competitive times when it comes to career; Leifer's career path in comedy is also very competitive and very cutthroat. It does not matter if you are a comedian or a librarian;  you need to put your best foot forward. Odds are good you will interview for jobs, and when you get there, you may want to read the part of the book she calls "crimes against hirability." Again, do not take anything for granted.

Overall, I really liked this book of essays. True, some of the lessons are common sense, but they are delivered with humor and grace, and let's be honest, some people do need to hear it. The book combines memoir and guide to career and life in a smooth, accessible way. Leifer has a warm style that you don't see in other celebrity memoirs, She is entertaining and amusing. So, here is a takeaway from the book: persevere, find your path even if it takes a bit of work, and keep your humor. It can also help if you read this book to keep on smiling.

This book makes a good, solid choice for public libraries. Folks who enjoy shows like Seinfeld and Modern Family may enjoy reading this book by Leifer who wrote for those shows and more. This is certainly a good appeal point. It is an easy, light, and entertaining read. 

This was a book I really liked, so I am giving it 4.5. out of 5 stars.

The disclosure note is where, to keep The Man happy, I tell you that I received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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Additional reading notes: this segment of the post is for quotes from the book I wanted to remember with some observations. I found myself marking some passages that I wanted to remember. For me, that is always a good sign of an engaging book.

Ms. Leifer writes:

"So heed this advice: Find your true passion, even if it takes a little digging. Find the thing that's inside you, burning to get out" (25). 

However, she does temper that with some basic realism:

"So I would caution you about pursuing a dream if you find that, along the way, you're the only one clapping. Anything is worth a shot, but comes a time when you need to realistically evaluate your abilities" (25). 

A lot of feel-good self-help books will emphasize the part about passion and (conveniently) forget to remind you to be realistic in assessing your abilities when the time comes. And that time will come. 

On not taking things for granted and avoiding problems, Leifer writes,

"Something I often tell myself-- and anyone else who needs to hear it-- is 'control what you can and forget about the rest.' Avoid a potential problem that is in your power to avoid, no matter how insignificant it may seem. You never know which iceberg-- or ice-cold soda-- will be the one that capsizes you" (48). 

There are many other pieces of wisdom and humor throughout the book. Like a good teacher or advisor, she does summarize at the end. One piece of advice in the last chapter resonated with me: diversify. I think this is applicable in librarianship, and it has served me well in my career so far, even now. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't turn down opportunities to broaden your mind and skills. On this, Leifer writes,

"So keep an eye out for chances to learn the ropes and gain new skills, even in matters that aren't your primary area of interest (yet)" (221). 

1 comment:

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said...

Hopping over from the Nonfiction Reading Challenge....

I like reading about careers, so this sounds like something I'd really enjoy. Mostly, those books are so serious. How cool that there's one by a comedian!