I’m pretty sure I haven’t ever read a Susan Wiggs novel before this one. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, this novel had me at bookshop (as they all do!) and even though I’ve had an ARC of this book for months, I finally decided to finish it today, after stopping and starting a few times a few months ago.
I’ll confess I was cruising along with my books, and suddenly this past week I hit a wall again. Just couldn’t get through anything. So I am glad I picked this back up again, because I hit that magical place in the book that had me focusing in and forgetting about anything for awhile. Even though I didn’t do anything for July 4th but stay home and cook out, I was still feeling a bit of a holiday hangover today. After watering my flowers outside and getting laundry started, I was happy to just stay inside and read.
This novel really is a nod to booklovers everywhere. Natalie Harper grew up in a bookstore; her mother Blythe operates a family bookshop in a building that has been in the Harper family for 100 years-a coveted building in fashionable San Francisco. After a horrible tragedy, Natalie returns to San Francisco and the bookshop, to take stock of its future, and to take care of Grandy, her grandfather. He’d recently fallen and broken his hip and was now showing signs of early dementia. Natalie had been successful at a wine brokerage firm and while she didn’t love her job, she was good at it. But it wasn’t hard to leave and return, if only to help her Grandy take care of next steps.
Those next steps aren’t as easy as Natalie expects, when she finds out her Grandy owns the building and the bookstore, and will not sell, even after Natalie realizes they are deep in debt and behind on taxes. What’s a bookstore manager to do, but try and build up the business with a huge author event that could help pay bills and give the store much needed advertising?
Natalie also meets Peach Gallagher, a local “hammer guy” who specializes in fixing old buildings. Her mother had arranged for Peach to fix a few things in the building, and Peach is one good looking man. He’s also a really decent man, with an adorable daughter who frequents the bookstore. His friendly and calm attitude helps Natalie as she struggles between grief, understanding her grandfather’s failing health, and the tough decisions she has to make.
So we’ve got a few things running through this story: the struggle to save the bookstore, an ailing grandfather, a potential romance, and a story that’s been handed down over the generations about a treasure that’s hidden somewhere in the building, left by Grandy’s grandmother, who died in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Is it just a fanciful story, or is there treasure lurking somewhere-treasure that could save the business?
I read this novel pretty quickly, and enjoyed it very much. No surprises, just a gentle unfolding of the story. I loved all the book references, and the peeks into what it takes to run a bookstore. Definitely a good vacation book!
This book is out in the U.S. on July 7th in hardcover, ebook, and audio.
Rating: 4/6 for an enjoyable novel about life when it makes a few sharp turns, the importance of family, and of course, the life changing magic of books. Some parts made me a little teary-eyed, so you may need a tissue!
Lessons in Leadership: Observing Bosses, Managers & Client Over A Decade
I started my career almost fifteen years ago (gasp!) and for almost a decade now I’ve been collecting lessons on leadership — from managing teams myself as well as from observing clients, bosses and managers that I worked with. Over the years, in the spirit of learning, I kept writing down down examples of good and bad leadership, looking for patterns and things that I need to watch out for when working with people. Thought it would be a fun to turn that into a blog post, since design leadership is a hot topic now and I have something to add to the discourse.
Without further ado, here are my observations, as an easily digestible list.
Things I learned about being a leader
- Explain the why, let your team figure out the how.
- Never use the job seniority argument. This undermines your credibility and makes you look like an ass.
- Your experience isn’t other people’s experience. Learn to listen.
- “Because I say so” is never a valid argument.
- “Manager” is a title. “Leader” is a mindset.
- Don’t get bogged down in details: collaborate with your direct reports and let them take care of their part.
- Trust your team. You’re working with adults.
- Failing is learning. Failure is an outcome, not an identity.
- Opinions hold no value in serious discussions, speak about the facts.
- Never assume ill intent.
- Identify questions and misunderstandings early — the further down the road it comes up, the more expensive it will be to fix.
- “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business” — Henry Ford
- Relentlessly focus on things that work.
- If your team is 100% booked, when do they learn?
- It’s easier to make things people want than to make people want things.
- When you make it easy to do the right thing, people are much more likely to do it, and then do it effortlessly and without conflict.
- No matter how beautiful your theory is, if it doesn’t work as experiment, it’s wrong.
- The hardest part of your job is to figure out what excites and motivates every single person that reports to you and adjust the leadership style accordingly.
- Turnover and burnout within the team are the mark of bad leadership.
- Ideas are worth zero. Execution matters.
- Bosses are responsible for results. They achieve these results not by doing all the work themselves but by guiding the people on their teams. Bosses guide a team to achieve results.
- Relax. Look around. Make a call.
- Own your mistakes.
- Leader who tries to take on too many problems simultaneously will likely fail at them all.
- Don’t be a bottleneck, learn to trust and delegate.
- “Winging it” is not a valid strategy. Plan ahead and learn from past mistakes.
- Leaders who lose their temper also lose respect.
- Praise in public, criticize in private.
- If people need constant oversight, it means you didn’t explain your goals and intent right.
- Putting some structure around way things work lets your team focus on things that actually matter. Boundaries are freedom.
- Processes are great, but only when they’re tailored to serve around the team, the goals, and the expected results.