Book Review: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In

My 2017 Reading Challenge is making me move away from my usual style of books and dip into other genres. I needed to read ‘a book with career advice’ and ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ has been on my radar since it was written.  I read something Sheryl Sandberg wrote more recently about grief – after losing her husband suddenly last year – and I thought it very well written, the crux of it being that option A for her life plan was no longer there, so she had to kick the ass out of option B. Anyway – I digress – but her style of writing made me want to read her first book ‘Lean In’  (her second book, ‘Option B’ – the title from the above anecdote – is also out now, so that is on my TBR pile).

I had read in the press that ‘Lean In’ has been criticised for being too white and too privileged – but given I fall in to both of those categories, I didn’t let that put me off.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a massive cultural phenomenon and its title has become an instant catchphrase for empowering women. The book soared to the top of bestseller lists internationally, igniting global conversations about women and ambition. Sandberg packed theatres, dominated opinion pages, appeared on every major television show and on the cover of Time magazine, and sparked ferocious debate about women and leadership.

Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they’d feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion, or equal pay, and some reticence creeps in.

The statistics, although an improvement on previous decades, are certainly not in women’s favour – of 197 heads of state, only twenty-two are women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally, and in the world of big business, a meagre eighteen of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook COO and one of Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Business – draws on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses and looks at what women can do to help themselves, and make the small changes in their life that can effect change on a more universal scale.”

Overall I really enjoyed it. The geek in my liked the fact that every quote of facts and figures was cross referenced to its source – with a large chunk of the back of the book housing these references.

I found, for a lot of it, running our own small business meant it wasn’t applicable – and would have been much more applicable when I worked for one of the Big 4 (although back then it was Big 6 #showingmyage) accountancy firms.  Specifically things like mentoring.  I think this should be required reading for everyone, male and female,  in their early 20s before they make big life decisions and particularly those entering the corporate world.

Some of it I have witnessed in action – women making career decisions based on the fact they would probably get married and have kids in the future – rather than seizing the career progression at the time and worrying about the ‘what ifs’ later.  There were also simple suggestions about asking for what you want!  If you want part time work but the dream role you’re being offered is only full time then can you ask for a part time option to be considered?  Or change your support network outside of work?  I’m really lucky that my husband is massively hands on with the kids and around the house (in fact his cleaning OCD is legendary!) – but I have friends who have jobs as full on and high pressured as their husband’s, but still it’s them who have to sort the ill child / weekend playdates / shopping / cooking / buying gifts for parties – often with a side order of sleep deprivation thrown in.  Having a partnership at home is a key factor to a woman – and I guess mother in particular – having the ability and will to lead outside the home.

There were some interesting discussions about mothers who go out to work, or chose to work in the home.  Before I had kids I though stay at home Mums had an easy life – then I realised I was going to work for a rest!  The over riding issue is that women should support each other and not judge other people’s life choices.  Sheryl quoted a woman in the US Navy who’d initially been concerned about being the only woman on a submarine – but the blokes on board were all great and respectful of her authority – it was the men’s wives who were horrible – and judgmental – to her.

The partnership Sheryl had with her husband Dave also shines out right through the book – which was made all the more poignant knowing that between this being written and me reading it, he’d passed away.

I think the ending of the book sums it up perfectly:

“I look toward the world I want for all children – and my own.  My greatest hope is that my son and my daughter will be able to choose what to do with their lives without external or internal obstacles slowing them down or making them question their choices.  If my son wants to do the important work if raising children full-time, I hope he is respected and supported. And if my daughter wants to work full-time outside her home, I hope she is not just respected and supported, but also liked for her achievements.
I hope they both end up exactly where they want to be.  And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in – all the way.”

 

 

 

 

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Bear-y excited!!

A couple of years ago the wonderful Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) created The Big Hoot – where lots of colourful owls descended on the West Midlands for the summer.  After the trail was finished they were auctioned off to raise much needed funds for BCH.

We had great fun doing the trail as a family.

And then I took it all far too seriously in an attempt to view all of them, and turned it into a military operation and the kids didn’t enjoy it quite so much…….

Well – the children are *delighted* to hear that in a similar vein BCH are having The Big Sleuth in and around Birmingham this summer!!

The big sleuth

Here’s what the website says about it:

“The departure of The Big Hoot owls left many of you in a feathery flap! Well, the good news is Birmingham’s second adventure is mysteriously taking shape!

Repeating The Big Hoot’s multi-award-winning formula, Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity and Wild in Art are teaming up to present The Big Sleuth.

To most people, the word ‘sleuth’ means a private detective, but it’s also the collective noun for a group of bears! Bizarre but true.

Birmingham will bring both definitions together in the summer of the 2017 and the Sun Bear, the world’s smallest species of bear (now threatened with extinction) is the inspiration for a brand-new sculpture for this event.

These incredible creatures are sure to inspire creativity and generate plenty of fun for all you sleuth spotters on the trail!  After which, the bears will be auctioned to raise valuable funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.”

 

Now I’m still a bit disappointed that we were out of the country for the owl auction 2 years ago – made worse by the fact that some people I used to work with bought one for their back garden – so this year I’m hoping we can go to the auction as well as have days of endless fun going on a bear hunt!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A blog tour!!

I am VERY excited to have been chosen to be one of the stops on Fern Britton’s blog tour to mark the release of her book ‘The Postcard’ as a paperback.

The Postcard blog tour banner

I’ve blogged before about my love of Fern (in a slightly fangirling kind of way!) so I was really chuffed about this.  For those of you who don’t know who Fern is (where have you been??) then here’s some info on her:

“Fern Britton is the highly acclaimed author of five Sunday Times bestselling novels: A Seaside Affair, The Holiday Home, Hidden Treasures, New Beginnings and A Good Catch. Her books are cherished for their warmth, wit and wisdom, and have won Fern legions of loyal readers. Fern is likely best known for her years co-presenting ITV’s flagship daytime show This Morning with Philip Schofield. An iconic presenter, she is also hugely popular for her earlier hits like Ready Steady Cook, and All Star Mr and Mrs, as well as being a much-loved contestant in 2012’s Strictly Come Dancing. She recently presented The Big Allotment Challenge for BBC2 in 2014 and again for its second series in 2015, as well as For What It’s Worth, an antiques-based quiz show on BBC1.

Fern lives with her husband, Phil Vickery, and her four children in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall.   To find out more, connect with her @Fern Britton and facebook.com/officialfernbritton.”

 

The book has been read and reviewed – but all is embargoed until my day on the tour!

But to whet your appetite – here’s the blurb about it:

The POSTCARD: Penny Leighton has never told anyone why she’s estranged from her mother and sister. For years she’s kept her family secrets locked away in her heart, but they’ve been quietly eating away at her. When an unwelcome visitor blows in, Penny is brought face to face with the past. And a postcard, tucked away in a long-hidden case, holds the truth that could change everything.

Young Ella has come back to the place where she spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Now she’s here to search for everything missing in her life. Taken under Penny’s broken wing for the summer, the safe haven of Pendruggan feels like the place for a fresh start. Soon, however, Ella starts to wonder if perhaps her real legacy doesn’t lie in the past at all.”

 

See you back here on July 6th for my review……..

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

One of the categories in my Reading Challenge 2017 is ‘A book with a title that’s a character’s name’ and a friend suggested ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ – but when I said I’d already ready it, she suggested the follow up.  It’s not really a sequel as it’s happening concurrently – but told from the point of view of Queenie not Harold.  (When I’d actually finished the book I noted that the author had described it as a ‘companion’ to her previous book.)

This is the Amazon blurb:

“When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note had explained she was dying. How can she wait?
A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘Even though you’ve done your travelling, you’re starting a new journey too.’
Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning.
Told in simple, emotionally-honest prose, with a mischievous bite, this is a novel about the journey we all must take to learn who we are; it is about loving and letting go. And most of all it is about finding joy in unexpected places and at times we least expect.”

Firstly – I should probably disclaim that this is the book I’ve been reading recently when I’ve had a lull in reading speed – it’s  taken me a month to get through it.  It’s not that I’ve not enjoyed it – it’s a really lovely book – but it hasn’t made me forego everything else to read it.  If I was to equate it with an ITV drama, it would definitely be Grantchester as opposed to Broadchurch – I love them both, but Granchester would sit on the SKY+ planner for a few days whereas Broadchurch would be watched in real time!!

But back to the book.

It is the story of Queenie – the lady who Harold Fry is walking to visit in his aforementioned pilgrimage.  She is now in a hospice and the book is a mixture of her current life in the hospice, her life when she worked with Harold and then the time in between.

It is absolutely beautifully written – and really evokes all of the various settings, from Kingsbridge in Devon (where my father in law currently lives – so I know a little) to the North East of England (which I imagine to be like ‘Vera’ – I’m totally referencing ITV dramas in this post!!)

I liked Queenie – although felt at times she was a bit of a doormat – but the explorations of her different relationships was done well.  The characters in the hospice were also excellently depicted – and a real mixed bunch.

It is funny, clever, sad, poignant, frustrating, happy and all in all a really nice book.  It just didn’t really excite me – and I feel a bit bad about that.  I also wish I’d read it sooner after I’d read the Harold version – as I couldn’t remember the whole story – and I am sure it was very clever with its interweaving – and I didn’t appreciate that as much as I probably should have!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A turn of events….

Normally my blog is filled with book reviews (even though both of my sisters say they are the posts they don’t read (how rude!) so if it’s a relevant book review to them I actually have to tag them in it!) – but I haven’t done a book review for the whole month of May.  What a turn of events and what a poor show – particularly when I’ve still got LOADS of categories to cover for my 2017 Reading Challenge…….

stack-of-books1

I find that sometimes I can read loads – but at other times real life gets in the way.

But is that because the book I’m reading doesn’t particularly grab me?

Would I make time to read if it was an amazing book?

I almost want to read ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine‘ again (which I completely adored) to see if I prove my point – but would I love it as much second time around?

Anyway – I promise to try harder – as hopefully my book review posts don’t bore everyone else as much as my sisters!!!