Friday, January 29, 2010
Wow. This is such a weird year of reading for me so far. I barely got to 50 books by the end of last year. Already this year, I have finished 7. I only read 3 non-fiction books in total last year. So far, I've read that already this month. And I never, EVER read Self-Help books. But when Lisa contacted me about doing a book tour for How to Save Your Own Life: 15 Lessons of Finding Hope in Unexpected Places by Michael Gates Gill (208 pgs, Gotham, 2009), I just couldn't help myself but say yes. For some reason, I really wanted to read this book.
Michael Gates Gill was the privileged son of Brendan Gill, who wrote for The New Yorker. Gill grew up in a 25 room mansion, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, such as Rex Harrison, Ernest Hemingway and even Jackie Onassis. He went to Yale, since his father was a Yale graduate. He became a member of Skull & Bones because his father was a member. Upon graduating, he even got a job because of his father's influence and his Yale connections. This is how Gill started his career at J. Walter Thompson, ad agency.
Gill worked at JWT for 26 years, until he became redundant. In the world of advertising, apparently to be successful you must be young and new. So Gill lost his job. This started a horrible downward spiral for him: He also lost his home, his wife, much of his dignity, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. But with one step into the door at the local Starbucks, Gill found a place to hang his hat and a calling to serve coffee to the masses. Now...this doesn't seem like much. But to Gill, it was a chance to redeem himself. Not only that, but he realized how much he actually disliked working in the ad agency....and how much he actually enjoyed this slower, simpler life. His first book, How Starbucks Saved My Life, shares more of his personal story.
This book is broken into 15 chapters or "Lessons". With titles such as "Listen...To Your Own Heart to Find True Happiness" and "Live....Each Day With Gratitude Like it Might be Your Last", Gill could come across as preachy and condescending. But he really doesn't. There are a fair amount of references to God and the Bible. These are important to Gill, and therefore a big part of his writing. While at times a bit cliche, Gill's message is a good one: Be Happy with Who You Are. And if you aren't happy with your job or your life, then you need to make the steps to change that. Before it's too late. He was forced out of his job, only to find it was the best possible thing to happen to him. In this book, he is trying to get the reader to self-examine and make life changes if not happy.
Filled with lots of personal examples, this book is a quick read. It has a lot of heart, and you can really tell that Gill is happy with his life today. Maybe those of us that aren't quite so happy, should stand back and take a little stock in our own lives. With today's economy, some of us are being faced with a lot of the same situations Gill was faced with. It's nice to see that there really is light at the end of a dark tunnel. And while I'm not sure it was enough of a push for me to actually change things in my own life, 15 Lessons will definitely be something that will stick in my mind for quite a while to come. 3.75/5