How Starbucks Saved My Life
How Starbucks Saved My Life

 
List Price: $13.00

Our Price: $9.99

You Save: $3.01 (23%)

 


Product Description

"In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a big house in the suburbs, a loving family, and a top job at an ad agency with a six-figure salary. By the time he turned sixty, he had lost everything except his Ivy League education and his sense of entitlement. First, he was downsized at work. Next, an affair ended his twenty-year marriage. Then, he was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain tumor, prognosis undetermined. Around the same time, his girlfriend gave birth to a son. Gill had no money, no health insurance, and no prospects. One day as Gill sat in a Manhattan Starbucks with his last affordable luxury "a latte" brooding about his misfortune and quickly dwindling list of options, a 28-year-old Starbucks manager named Crystal Thompson approached him, half joking, to offer him a job. With nothing to lose, he took it, and went from drinking coffee in a Brooks Brothers suit to serving it in a green uniform. For the first time in his life, Gill was a minority--the only older white guy working with a team of young African-Americans. He was forced to acknowledge his ingrained prejudices and admit to himself that, far from being beneath him, his new job was hard. And his younger coworkers, despite having half the education and twice the personal difficulties he'd ever faced, were running circles around him. The other baristas treated Gill with respect and kindness despite his differences, and he began to feel a new emotion: gratitude. Crossing over the Starbucks bar was the beginning of a dramatic transformation that cracked his world wide open. When all of his defenses and the armor of entitlement had been stripped away, a humbler, happier and gentler man remained. One that everyone, especially Michael's kids, liked a lot better. The backdrop to Gill's story is a nearly universal cultural phenomenon: the Starbucks experience. In How Starbucks Saved My Life, we step behind the counter of one of the world's best-known companies and discover how it all really works, who the baristas are and what they love (and hate) about their jobs. Inside Starbucks, as Crystal and Mike's friendship grows, we see what wonders can happen when we reach out across race, class, and age divisions to help a fellow human being"

Customer Reviews:

  • Journey to Self Awareness
    Mr. Gill's story is one of a man who lived the "good life" for many years. He was a member of the "Upper Class" all of his life until he was fired from his prestigious job with an advertising firm when he was in his 50's. It was fascinating to follow Mr. Gill's decline into the ranks of the poor, being hired by Starbucks and learning to see himself and others in a new light. Mr. Gill worked with people who came from very different backgrounds than his and at first he kept his distance but soon learned to appreciate his coworkers as unique individuals. He realized in his "old life" he would have looked down on these people but now he valued them as friends, teachers and coworkers. His journey of self awareness is a good reminder to us that we are all human beings and each person has something to teach us if we are open to learning. ...more info
  • Cute Story
    I liked this story, a story about an old man who has everything and then loses it, only to find happiness late in life. I do have some reservations about the book, though. While the anecdotes are entertaining and his experiences worthy of a book, I feel that the highs and lows are somewhat muted. I suppose he is not guilty of any ethical or moral crimes, but he did convey the fact that he was a real jerk of a father, husband, and manager and a racist as well. I expected a fate, at least a little bit, worse than a job at Starbucks--though I knew by the title, this would be a major part of the story. Needless to say I did not shed any tears over his "hardship." I did however enjoy his youthful, do whatever it takes, advertising agency stories in the first half of the book....more info
  • Heartbreaking and heartwarming
    Thanks to a recommendation on "The Think Club" Web site, I got a copy of this midlife memoir and read it on the beach in two days. I was completely charmed.

    The privileged son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, Michael Gates Gill was educated at Yale and enjoyed a long-running, stellar career at J. Walter Thompson until he was fired for being...middle-aged. At first, this might sound like your average midlife crisis, but Gill is a good storyteller, with an eye for sparkling anecdotes to illustrate his privileged background and the (often insane) world of high-end advertising. His memoir chronicles his personal and professional crisis -- and, amazingly, what led him to take a full-time job behind the counter at Starbucks.

    While one reviewer criticizes the writer's style, I recently taught a memoir class using William Zinsser's "On Writing Well," and found that Gill relies on the same principles of good nonfiction writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity. His prose is crisp and highly relatable. He admits and laments his mistakes, including how he failed his family. In fact, I found this book far less self-indulgent than most of the "spiritual memoirs" on the best-seller list lately.

    This book should be a hit with Baby Boomers, as many are finding themselves forced into early retirement, like Gill, or at least questioning their vocation or life work. Best of all, Gill reminds us that menial tasks and "ordinary" work can be paths to spiritual awakening, and that celebrity and privilege are rarely more than glimmers on a slippery surface. This memoir broke my heart with its candor -- and I can see why The Think Club chose it as their Book of the Year for 2007. ...more info
  • How this Book Wasted an Hour of my Life
    I bought this book to read at the beach -- not expecting too much -- but interested by the concept. The biggest problem is that the author seems to be writing at an elementary level. He clearly has an interesting story, but nothing that couldn't be written in a two-page essay. He used to be successful, failed, and realized that people find contentment in low-paying jobs too. The end. I can't understand how a book this poorly written was ever published....more info
  • Overrated
    Michael Gates Gill's "How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else" is a story of how the author who had to work in Starbucks as a barista after being laid off from a major corporation. He subsequently lost his family when he cheated on his wife. Overnight, it seemed as though Gill lost everything that matters to him. With no prospect and lots of bill, Gill took a job as a barista in Starbucks. The book chronicled how the job changed his outlook in life, and helped to make him a better person.

    The premise of the book was interesting. However, I did not enjoy the frequent flashbacks of his WASPy lifestyle or his encounters with various celebrities or famous individuals. It seemed as though the author was too eager to show he was *somebody* who had connections with those individuals. The book started out very promising, but very quickly it lost its appeal. It was also not well written or edited. Mostly, the book was too much of a cliche for me. ...more info
  • Excellent Quick Read
    I enjoyed the writing style and it was something easy to relate to as a lot us are familiar with starbucks. The descriptions on the hard work and different backgrounds coming together were very insightful. A lot of us are familiar with the daily struggles of a job, having a living, especially when falling from a place of priviledge....more info
  • Cute Story
    I liked this story, a story about an old man who has everything and then loses it, only to find happiness late in life. I do have some reservations about the book, though. While the anecdotes are entertaining and his experiences worthy of a book, I feel that the highs and lows are somewhat muted. I suppose he is not guilty of any ethical or moral crimes, but he did convey the fact that he was a real jerk of a father, husband, and manager and a racist as well. I expected a fate, at least a little bit, worse than a job at Starbucks--though I knew by the title, this would be a major part of the story. Needless to say I did not shed any tears over his "hardship." I did however enjoy his youthful, do whatever it takes, advertising agency stories in the first half of the book....more info
  • I loved it!
    I finished it in one day! I thought he sent a very clear message; it does not matter your age, or the background you come from, you can find happiness in your work, friends, and life. It is never too late to start over, and be who you might have been...happy and fulfilled. So what if he found it at Starbucks, and promoted them. It is a story about how Starbucks saved his life!!! Hello..Starbucks is going to be showcased! He still took the time to talk about all the wonderful people he has met, and even shared the life lessons he learned along the way to where he is now, and yes that means working at Starbucks. Think how you would feel if a company helped pull your life back together. I know I would not mind building them up as much as I could, and announcing to the world all the great things they have done for me and others. I will keep a copy of this book on my shelf! Loved it!!...more info
  • Seems a little too convenient!
    I found this book to be curiously unbelievable. As other people have set forth, the former creative director of a big advertising firm ends up aged out of the business (he's in his early sixties) and sitting in a Starbucks, trying to make a go of his own consulting company. Gill is white, privileged, and apparently has met about three black people in his life. A young black woman in the store ends up offering him a job, evidently as a joke - Gill accepts and boom, his life is changed forever.
    I got the feeling as I read this (and I admit I skimmed more than read, as his attempts to describe his encounters with many famous people got on my nerves) that he wrote it to save his job and to get out of working at Starbucks any longer. It was as though Starbucks, instead of being a kind of working utopia, was simply used to get him back to where he used to be - financially comfortable and on top. Hence he wrote the book and voila, mission complete.
    Forgive me for sounding cynical, for I actually did enjoy the book despite my serious misgivings about his reasons for writing it. It just seemed a bit too brown-nosey for my taste - evidently everyone who works at Starbucks is a saint (except for one woman who ends up joining the marines, ha ha!), and the company itself is painted in glowing, fawning terms. I would have preferred a bit more critical analysis and a bit less of the sense that Gill saw in Starbucks yet another opportunity to get himself ahead. After all, the advertising industry exploits people all the time - and although he claims Starbucks made him a new, less racist, more tolerant guy, I still feel the book was written as a prime opportunity for Gill to reclaim some of his shed glory. ...more info
  • Not a great read
    I was hoping for an uplifing story but didn't find it here. I agree with other reviewers that Gill still seemed arrogant. I did not like the style of writing and forcsed myself to finish it only because it was a monthly selection for my book club. I purchased the book because all of the copies were reserved at my local libraries...how I wish I hadn't had to pay money for it....more info
  • Do not Buy this Book!
    I heard of this book on NPR, I think. Because I heard about it on NPR, I think, I figured it was a credible work of art. As luck would have it I was in the condominium's library and this book was sitting there, so I grabbed it, and over the course of a weekend read it.

    What I liked about this book was that I read it and finished it. It was an hyper-easy read. The average American doesn't read one book a year, and as this is only August I am one up on the average American. That is what I liked about the book.

    What I didn't like about it was the way it was written and the hyper-dramatics of the writing. Oh my god, the front register! Oh my god, stocking the pastries! Oh my god, opening the store! Oh my god, closing the store!

    The Starbucks advertising. I love Starbucks myself, but this book goes way over the top and becomes nothing more than an infomercial for the store. Is it really necessary to list all of the scone flavors? All the wonderfulness of all the management? This book is like a 15 on the suck-up-o-meter.

    The book seemed to be written for (by) a child, or an adult with a child like mind. I'm not embarrassed for Mr. Gill as this is his gravy train and he has more money and fame than I ever will, but he writes like and 11 year old.

    The other thing was the flashback and name dropping. He is asked to see the supervisor, which leads to a three page flashback about something. Everything is a flash back to meeting a famous person, which grows wearisome after a while.

    The premise of the story is a wonderful one, maybe Mr. Gill can give it another shot ans see if he gets it right the second time.

    ...more info
  • Couldn't Make It To The End...
    I wanted to like this book, I really did. The premise was great - a man who's had everything pretty much handed to him most of his life loses his job and has to learn the value of hard labor. Along the way he learns that he has been prejudiced and unfair in his perceptions of others.

    As great as the premise was, the resulting book was just slightly short of terrible. Gill does not have a talent for writing (to say the least) and the whole memoir sounds like a long conversation. He dips into his past on almost every page and often for no reason, and has no connections that make the memoir an interconnected piece, instead of a jumbled collection of memories.

    I appreciate his struggles and his attempts to make the best out of a bad situation, but the reality is, stories like his happen every day. There are plenty of displaced executives working as waiters, and doctors from other countries who are reduced to cashiering jobs at a local pharmacy (I've worked with many of them). While it's great that Gill wanted to bring light to his experience, he should have done justice to himself and others in his shoes and written a more coherent book. ...more info
  • Serving the coffee while drinking the Kool-Aid
    This is the story of Mike, a sixty-something who lost his big corporate job and had to make ends meet at Starbucks. During which he discovered slinging caffeine behind a counter is really the best job he ever had, because the Partners, whom he treats with a reverence usually reserved for religious icons or at least basketball players, are really swell.

    At times I thought of the Stockholm Syndrome as I read this: Gatsey was really identifying with, flattering and loving his captors as he contemplated his fate. While I think it's great that he didn't find it beneath him to get a minimum wage job when his network collapsed, I feel like there is a lot of untold story here, as well as story that's told over and over till it's threadbare. This guy had no social network to help him when he landed on his ear in his 50s? I know it's tough in advertising, a classic "young man's" profession, but he could have moved into related fields--PR perhaps. He could have become communications director for one of the many corporations he worked with. Did he even try consider these options? It's hard to believe a job at Starbucks was his best/only option. Maybe it was--but I was wondering throughout the first third of the book, did he piss some serious people off in his former life? He hints at being a tough boss and being resented by both employees and family members, without really going into what happened. In that way his look at himself is not "unsparing" but actually rather skin-deep. I feel like he left a lot of himself out of this memoir.

    But even given that, he spends 200 pages trying to make major dramas out of things like a cash drawer that was short, or being a couple of minutes late. He also paints glorified pictures of perfect management and uber-happy employees that I just cannot imagine. He might have asked his coworkers how they felt about their job, or him--a square "white guy"--but instead he sugar-coats every moment where there could be a little introspection with "Starbucks people are the GREATEST people in the world, kissy-kissy." His boss Crystal in particular has great potential for drama. She had a tough early life, the opposite of his, and was raised by a guardian who hated white folks and thought they were "the enemy." But Crystal rose up to make good for herself. He mentions early and often how she was always wearing expensive jewelry and clothing, and disappearing into a different high-end sports car after closing every night, and I found myself wondering how a Starbucks employee could afford such niceties. I was expecting some surprise payoff for these questions raised, but never got one. Similarly I never learned how the other employees, many of whom were street toughs, ended up at Starbucks, or how they liked it there. Other story arcs, too, just stopped cold. Every time Gill could have offered some reflection he instead returned to, "Starbucks is such a great place to work, and everyone is so happy!" No matter what you think of the coffee chain, this was unenlightening reading. As someone below me notes, it reads like an employment training manual. No insight at the end, about himself, about Starbucks, about the world at large and how it treats its older employees, nothing. Hate to say it, but it feels very much like he was angling for a movie deal from the very beginning. I understand this book was optioned for a film (to star Tom Hanks) even before the book was put out. If so I pity whoever spent the money. When tension hinges around things like grinding beans properly and making sure your cash register drawer balances, you have a dull story. And so much of this is dull--and more sugary than one of the company's sweet summer drinks. There could have been a good story here, but Gill has to get more distance from the company.

    I bought this book on a whim, only because I am a great admirer of Brendan Gill, the author's father, for many years a New Yorker columnist. Daddy was definitely a better writer than the son, at least judging by this book....more info
  • Makes you wonder...
    This memoir is just fascinating after each and every page. It lets you into the world of Starbucks and shows use being a barista is harder than it looks. It also shows you even in the wrost of times, there can still be the best of times. It makes you wonder more deeply of your own life....more info
  • Save your money...
    Although the message is good - we are not what we do - this has been said a million times in many much better books. Much of the book came off as pretentious, such as the many times he met colleagues of his famous father - these memories seem thrown in to fill pages and for bragging rights, not because they relate to his point. The writing style was overly simplistic as well - and the book is littered with cliches about money/success.

    Some of the details about how Starbucks operates were interesting, but there wasn't enough time spent on those.

    I picked this up at the library and was glad I didn't spend money on it....more info
  • Like Mad Magazine.......
    Really.... Save the holier than thou literary garbage for some never got layed Ivory league professor who couldn't hold a normal job with normal people if his life was on the line. Fact is most...I mean most! normal folks would enjoy this type of reading while on vacation or waiting in a airport terminal. That is the market for this, if not most publishing. I am so tired of some unaccomplished idiot's remarks that really mean nothing to 95 percent of the population. Listen fools!!! I have never met a soul (outside of the few I mentioned before) who thought A Tale of Two Cities was ..well.....good! or half the writing of Harwthorn and lets not forget the garbage and crap in old waldens pond!!! Really, most folks would rather read Mad magazine..and the fact that they are still publishig Mad after 30 years...well there is my pudding and proof!! Get a life. Oh, now it your turn to live up to the starnards I mentiona nd say..oh look at Ace's grammer...oh, he misspelled this or that...have fun, but I have a good life with good friends and well........lots of real GOOD books that us nothings share.....more info
  • Story will touch your heart
    Imagine having grown up meeting the likes of Ezra Pound and Ernest
    Hemingway, then going to Yale and becoming a corporate
    executive with J. Walter Thompson Advertising . . . along the way,
    you get to rub shoulders with Queen Elizabeth and Jackie
    Onasis . . . yet as you enter your 60s, you lose your job and
    develop health problems . . . plus, you are faced with a
    collapsing business, a new son and a divorce.

    That all happened to Michael Gates Gill, author of HOW STARBUCKS
    SAVED MY LIFE . . . things kept spiraling downhill for him until one day he steps into a neighborhood Starbucks for a latte and to his surprise, is offered a job on the spot . . . having nothing to lose, he accepts it.

    Gill is forced to start at the bottom, cleaning the bathroom . . . yet
    he quickly becomes accepted by Cystal Thompson, his
    28-year-old manager, and the rest of the mostly African-American
    staff . . . how he grows to love both his coworkers and the job
    is the basis of this book that moved me . . . I smiled, at parts,
    and generally felt moved by the author's plight in others.

    In particular, I liked the many stories that he shared . . . such
    as this one, told to him by his father told about James Thurber
    and Truman Capote:

    * "Thurber treated Truman like an office boy, asking him to do the most
    degrading things. Thurber is virtually blind. He would have assignations
    with women in the afternoon, right here in this hotel, and then call Truman
    over to help him get dressed. One day, Truman, in dressing him, reversed
    his socks so Thurber's wife would know that he had been undressed
    during the day."

    I also liked this passage, in which he described his mother:
    * "O, glorioso!" she would exclaim. Mother lived her life with a kind of
    passionate decision to view each moment as an incredible gift that
    she'd been presented with. Like a polite young child on Christmas
    morning, she always made sure she was thankful for, and not critical
    of, anything that was given to her in her life. She also was careful
    to keep all bad news buried.

    Yet it was Gill's experiences at Starbucks that I found most interesting,
    in that they gave me insight into both his life and the company's
    corporate culture; for example, as evidenced by this tidbit:

    * "Total availability" was Starbucks talk for being willing to go to work at any
    hour of the day or night. I had signed up for "total availability" when I first
    met Crystal and she had helped me fill out my job application. I had learned
    since that Crystal and every Starbucks manager really liked baristas who
    could be available around the clock. Many experienced baristas gradually
    asked for "no openings" or "no closings" or "no weekends." I felt that I might
    be able to do that eventually, but this year I knew I would have to offer
    flexibility. And I still felt that way. Especially since I still didn't really know
    what I was doing. I felt that Starbucks was still more valuable to me than
    I was to Starbucks. So I gave my life completely-physically, mentally,
    and emotionally--and promised, verbally and in writing, that I would
    be available whenever they needed me.

    The ending to HOW STARBUKS CHANGED MY WIFE was
    particularly satisfying . . . I won't give it away except to say that
    it touched my heart . . . and the book made me take a completely
    different view of Starbucks to the extent that when I now enter
    a store, I can truly appreciate the hard work that goes into
    making the chain the success that it is.
    ...more info
  • A Set of Lessons Disguised as a Story
    Michael Gates Gill offers up a set of important...and interesting...lessons in "How Starbucks Saved My Life." These lessons are imparted via a well-told and engaging story.

    Some lessons that I took away from this good book include: (1) it is important to take time to "step back" from everyday life and consider what is, and who are, most important to you in life and (2) keep your eyes (and mind) open for learning opportunities...excellent opportunities to learn and grow can come from unexpected places.

    This is a brief and easy read...but the content has stayed with me. The story itself is well-done, the book offers an interesting glimpse into a company (Starbucks) and there are a number of important "take-aways" from the book. I recommend this book highly....more info
  • Somewhat offensive at first
    This book was borrowed from a family member, who insisted it was an inspirational tail. If you look past the author's simultaneous arrogance and idiocy, there is a positive message there.

    As another reviewer noted, the author comes across as a spoiled jerk who trying to rationalize his past screw-ups by scrubbing toilets at a coffee house. His reflections prove the opposite of what he is trying to assert: he still doesn't "get" middle- or lower-class life.

    Two points immediately come to mind: Firstly, with a family line so closely associated with The Kennedy family, British Royalty, authors such as Hemmingway and Frost, and Manhattan millionaires, why in the hell wasn't he able to secure anything better than a job at a coffee house after being fired? Also, why does the concept of grout provide such a problem for this man? Is it the brain tumor?

    The writing style he uses is often...awkward. The concepts expressed (however silly) are of a level that conflicts with the quality of his writing. It smacks of being "dumbed down" by a team of editors to appeal to the typical 5th grader.

    Not altogether a bad read, especially if you can manage to glean the message the author is trying to convey. Just don't expect to feel moved....more info
  • Why you should read this book...
    This book was not what I thought it would be. If you are looking for a the starbucks success formula, writen from a business point of view, this is not your book.

    Instead, this book really is about hope. The author, down to his last dollar, on a whim, interviewed and got a job. The job was well below the high level executive job he forced to leave. He had to re-learn to take pride in work, not in a paycheck and a life-style.

    Most importantly, the author learned that being a white man with the 'right' education did not make one better than others. I don't think that I will ever be able to think of the person serving my coffee in the same light again.

    ...more info
  • Horrible!
    This book is one of the worst books I have ever read. Its suppose to be a memoir, but really it just brown-noses Starbucks. I think he wrote this book for ulterior motives. (I think he wanted some executive position and was hoping Starbucks would oblige after reading this book.) As I read the book, I kept thinking it would get better, a plot line would eventually unravel. It never does. He writes this book to feed his ego and the reader gets nothing out of it....more info
  • A Make You Think Read
    I gave this book three stars. I found the overall book good, and it does make you sit back and think a bit about your own life, and your priorities. I found the style of the book, with constant flashbacks got annoying after a time. It was easy to lose the thread of the discussion. I think if the book was 2/3 it's size, it would be excellent. I would also reduce the price 20%...more info
  • The Proof is in the Outcome
    The only place to read HOW STARBUCKS SAVED MY LIFE is on location--INSIDE Starbucks--where you can sample a steady supply of coffee and pastries, and mingle with the partners. Regardless of why Michael Gates Gill wrote this book (and if he has a speck of sense and an ounce of American blood he wrote it not only to champion Starbucks and the new friends he made there, but also to pay a few bills) there's a worthwhile idea at the heart of it--dignity and respect for everyone--service providers and guests alike...and yes, even sons of privilege. We could all do with a few more books that celebrate a good 'ol American work ethic at ground level. Unfortunately, there are plenty of "self-help" books on how to claw your way to the top of the corporate ladder--not so many on how to retrace your steps gracefully on the descent (the only one that comes immediately to mind is the lovely little book HOPE FOR THE FLOWERS). After reading Gill's book I have a new interest in Starbucks, its workers, its coffee, its pastries--yes, even its benefits. I hope they call me. In the meantime, BRAVO for Michael! He did what many people wish they could do--he got out of the rat race and he wrote a best seller that will soon become a movie. How many of us can claim similar success in the stretch of a year?...more info
  • MTSU Book Selection for Fall 2009 Freshman Class
    Middle Tennessee State University has selected this rather odd book for its incoming freshmen to read - perhaps more for what thoughtful readers can learn from someone whose life went off track a bit, than being an example of excellent writing.

    Written in the "Tuesdays with Morrie" genre, readers will have to grit their teeth a bit to get through the -- more than you'll ever want to know about Starbucks coffee - middle, and keep the various subplots sorted out to make it through to the end.

    After going back to see his childhood home on East 78th Street in NYC "to recapture some sense of the favored place" he "had once occupied in the universe," sixty-three-year-old former J. Walter Thompson advertising executive, Michael Gates Gill, makes his way into a nearby Starbucks. There, over a latte, he considers his situation: he's broke, divorced, on poor terms with his three children and persona non grata to his former wife whom he had divorced after fathering a son off to the side by a psychiatrist girlfriend.

    Not having noticed a "Hiring Open House" sign in the front of the Starbucks, he's surprised when an attractive African-American store manager turns to him and asks: "Would you like a job?" Thus, Gill, a former creative director for the world's largest advertising firm, who - upon graduation from Yale in 1963 and referred to his JWT advertising job by a "Skull & Bones" colleague - and, who had spent a 25-year career providing advertising direction for clients like Ford, Burger King, IBM, Christian Dior - found himself ten years after being fired from JWT saying: "Yes, I'd like a job."

    Written with a sort of stream-of-consciousness method that leaves the narrative - at times - all over the place, the reader is really dealing with three concurrent story lines.

    First, there's the older white man from the pampered class who's down but not quite out, who accepts an entry-level job at Starbucks and is challenged mentally, emotionally and physically by having to deal with commuting and daily life among the working poor.

    The second, is the story of a corporate executive who is scarred by not having been treated in an emotionally-supportive, respectful manner by his own upper-class parents (late 1940s through the 1950s) and former employer (JWT) and learns, job-wise at least (by comparing that organization with the mission and policies of Starbucks) that there's a "better way."

    And, third, it's the tale of a man who realizes - possibly, nearly too late (as he's dealing with a small, slow-growing brain tumor), that as an absent father (physically and emotionally) and former hard-nosed corporate warrior ("master of the universe") he has not treated his former subordinates, nor his wife and children with sincere respect.

    Gates describes his commute to work and daily life of mopping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, operating the cash register and giving taste-talks at a Starbucks in NYC. He refers to and tries to focus on his colleagues - esp."Crystal" the store manager - but, unfortunately, this reader found his descriptions and the narrative text related to these individuals more superficial than insightful.

    We live in a time where the juxtaposition of work lives and social class is fascinating to many readers; millions enjoy watching television shows like "Dirty Jobs" where a bright, well-educated man is seen working in - yes, a different dirty job each week. Others enjoy watching the verbal abuse young up-and-comers subject themselves to from multi-millionaire Donald Trump on his show, "The Apprentice." And, there's the whole genre of literature that can be traced back to Mark Twain's exploration of the stark class inequities that existed in sixteenth century England in "The Prince and the Pauper" that range all the way up to current titles like "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America" (where the Ph.D.-educated writer goes undercover and lives among the working poor to explore the survival strategies of the underclass).

    I found the first half interesting, but with each passing chapter the overly enthusiastic propaganda for Starbucks coffee became more tiresome. And, in the end, I felt more compassion for Gates' children and his wife than the now-wiser, more compassionate protagonist.

    R. Neil Scott
    Middle Tennessee State University
    ...more info
  • How to Leverage Misfortune
    As I sit considering my review of Michael Gates Gill's book "How Starbucks Saved My Life", I am reminded of my meeting with another man who wrote a book, Ray Bradbury. Delving still further back into my past, I also recall chatting with yet another book-making man, Robert A. Heinlein.

    Gill's book reminds me of the time when I too was forced to demean myself with honest work. The average or slightly less-than-average people who worked with me (some of whom were physically stronger than I) taught me many valuable life lessons. I demonstrated my natural superiority in the course of my work there, so naturally when it was time for me to leave I too was feted. I received pizza, heartfelt expressions of regret at my loss, and a large parade of exotic circus animals.

    Visions of my conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr¨¦tien entered my mind as I read of Gill's difficulties operating a cash register. His mention of peanut butter-covered espresso beans naturally brought to mind the evening I spent hanging out with former President Jimmy Carter, a man who was also associated with peanuts.

    Especially revealing was "Mike's" encounter with the Queen of England, a woman whom I have also seen, though I did not have the honor of assaulting her in my eagerness to score a cucumber sandwich, that wonderful British confection which consists of thin slices of a nearly tasteless vegetable of almost no nutritional value placed between pieces of white bread which is similarly tasteless and devoid of nutrition. Nor was I manhandled by her annoyed husband.

    Hold on, that passage made me hungry. Mmm, the chocolaty goodness of my bottle of Yoohoo plus the rich subtle chunkiness of my wonderful Chips Ahoy cookies are already doing their work. Uuuuhhhhh...

    Gill draws an interesting parallel between his coffee-tasting seminars and the supposed desire of his co-workers to become performers. Except maybe for that bitch, Tawana.

    Gill includes many anecdotes of his previous career as an advertising executive, focusing on his creative brilliance and skill with words. One such coup was when he livened up a meeting by driving a baseball into a crowd of his company's clients, forcing the elderly CEO of a major corporation to fling himself out of his seat. Thoughts of the trajectory of the baseball bring to mind my meeting, this very night, with world-famous physicist and author Paul Davies. Anyway, it's good that Gill's advertising career was halted before he put somebody's eye out.

    I fully understand why Gill was relieved to trade the hectic hypocrisy of his advertising job for Starbucks. Now he no longer has to think of ways to sell people a lot of overpriced junk that they don't need and isn't really good for them.

    I'd like to thank my agent for obtaining the services of Stanley Kubrick in making a movie version of my review. It will star George "Sulu" Takei, a cordial man with whom I once shared a delightful conversation....more info
  • I'm with you!
    I had to do this too, because I could not find programming work after the dot com bubble. Turns out I like working part time at Starbucks immensely.

    I am an artist and it's given me time to work on my paintings. I have them hanging at Starbucks too, so it's fun to talk to customers about my art as well as their cappuccino.

    I can't imagine ever working a full-time job again. I make enough off my artwork to support myself along with my Starbucks pay. It's really satisfying. And I don't have to carry a dang-blasted beeper anymore!
    ...more info
  • Good read if you can get past the Starbucks marketing and are not judgemental
    I finished this book in one sitting because I was just so eager to experience the author's journey of picking himself up from rock-bottom. I would have given it 5 stars if not for the overwhelming Starbucks mention but was able to get past it because I have heard that it is a really good company to work for, and from personal experience have really come to appreciate the value of being in a positive work environment where you are around people who genuinely care about you, and bring out the best in you rather than beat you down. I've recently come to the conclusion that you can get positive work experiences anywhere from being a waitress to a high-powered CEO depending on what you find fulfillment in (and everyone is different in what they find fulfilling) and am happy to hear that the author was able to find it in the most unexpected of places. I applaud the author's candid story; it's one thing to be 30 and down and out, but in his 60s and being what seemed like on top of the world and to have to enter into a brand new world of unknown mostly on his own is exceptionally challenging. If you're someone who thinks that extra-marital affairs are "wrong" and are going to judge him for it, don't bother reading because you probably won't be able to get past that fact to see his other accomplishments. If you can empathize with someone who's just doing what he can to pick himself up you'll probably find this to be a good read. ...more info
  • Longest Infomercial I've endured
    A friend of mine gave me this book so I felt like I HAD to read it.
    It was painful though.
    The fact that the author was an advertising copywriter is way too obvious in this, the longest infomercial I've been through.
    If I could get paid for every time "Starbucks" was mentioned, I would be rich now.
    Way too much focus on Starbucks products.
    Having gone through business school I very much appreciate Starbucks' innovative Human Resource management and I share their views, particularly that one of respect to everyone. In fact, I'd heard about all this in case studies before.
    The book however has blatant product placement. Why do we need to read lists of products, which cakes are carried, etc. No wisdom in any of these.
    I'm sure some naive readers may end up spending a lot more money in Starbucks or getting a job there (nothing wrong with that) but the book should be given away for free as it seems to be a recruitment ad.
    Spare yourself the pain...more info
  • Enchanting Story
    This is a delightful book which celebrates "less is more". I really enjoyed reading Michael's journey, with all of its highs and lows. It's fascinating how he could create a positive experience out of a negative one, and he should be an inspiration to anyone who has been down on their luck.

    I think Michael's an interesting, good-natured person with a colorful history. The fact that he socialized with Jackie Kennedy, the queen, and famous authors only added to the story and contrasted his stations in life.

    Good for you Michael Gates Gill. You are worthy of being an author. This book is good for everyone, especially coffee drinkers. ...more info
  • Ode To Starbucks!
    If this isn't an ode to Starbucks I don't know what is! This upbeat little read has an appeal not unlike some of Starbucks Coffees. (To be honest I find their basic brews too bitter for my tastes most times.) The protagonist has what might be called your standard fall from grace and redemption through trail and error thing. We have all seen this kind of style before. The almost appologetic attitude of the writer gets annoying at times as he has to tread lightly through the multi-cultural work environment he must survive in. I find this a bit annoying, as it is true that high wheelers like this guy never gave most people the right time, let alone minorities, but why must all Caucasians today assume a humble attitude because of jerks like this! Give me a break! It seems we must all bow and scrape now because of past colonialism and arrogance of a few people like this.

    Gill has become a super convert to PC attitude, and its just what certain ultra-liberal mindsets love to see. This book certainly panders to that outlook. Notwithstanding these issues, I did find this little read amusing and uplifting in its own way. The author spends most of the time with flashbacks to his illustrous past, where he name-drops a lot of famous people that he knew through elite connections. Those elites have now abandoned him, and he is a happier guy now for his pentitence at Starbucks! Its a little thick, but I liked it nonetheless.

    I do think the author glossed over a lot of the issues one faces in a multi-cultural and generational work place. Sometimes the parties do not always come together as they do nicely here, and there tends to be a high level of disconnect and anger in some of these work environments today. The characters the author uses here are all likeable, and almost too nice!

    If you want a fun, somewhat uplifting and amusing look at the Coffee biz, then this little book will certainly provide that. Bring it along nice time you order at Starbucks!...more info
  • A 2nd Try for Meaning In Life
    This book is about a guy who doesn't get how to not fall for the Race to Nowhere but he does begin to get it when he loses everything and takes a job at Starbucks. This book is really a nice read and instead of making a boring list of one person's realizations, it actually has a writer's voice that everyone would like. The author is very candid about his shortcomings and everything he learns on the road to a life that's happy and fulfilling. My husband even likes it! ...more info
  • Simple but effective
    Many of the reviewers so far seem to be injecting their own biases into their interpretation of this book. We all do that, I suppose, but usually not to such a distracting degree. This seems to be a rather polarizing work.

    I've read better-written books but I was consistently impressed with how willing Mr. Gill is to expose his psyche. I could almost envision a therapist giving him the assignment to write this memoir so he could start healing. His life was obviously difficult for him to assimilate (although some of us may sneer at the concept of a life of privilege being difficult). As to the name-dropping, I thought the original purpose of name-dropping was to impress or even intimidate one's listeners/readers. Mr. Gill is merely sharing his experiences.

    It seems to me that he is still dealing with feelings of inferiority and perhaps a little shame at daring to write a book which will inevitably be compared to the journalistic stylings of his larger-than-life father. A great writer he is not, but he seems to be a good human being with a good story to tell.

    Personally, I am intrigued by the whole Starbuck's experience, as a customer, and I was interested and moved to read Mr. Gill's story from the vantage point of a "Partner." As someone close to his age, it is good to know that if the job I currently have and love were to fall apart, there is someone out there who has successfully started over and grown from the experience....more info
  • You can't hide who are you are, no matter how much starbucks you smother on it
    When I picked this book up and first started reading it, I thought I would really enjoy it. It's about a former rich high and mighty ad exec losing his job and having to work at Starbucks and realizing he actually likes it. And the parts of the book where he was learning to be humble and appreciate the little things in life, and work with people different than him were very enjoyable to read. But sadly, each chapter would have a flash back of his rich arrogant life, with no reason or purpose, and he would shamelessly name drop. He might be rushing to the train to get to his starbucks shift on time, and it will for some reason, cause him to recall the time he worked with Jackie O for a fundraiser, and she personally thanked him because he saved the day. Or another time he is talking to a co worker who is having tea, and this makes him want to write for 3 pages about the time he met the Queen of England, and how impressed she was with him. That and his cheesy sales tactics he loves to talk about...you know, the kind smarmy motivational speakers use, really knocked the book down quite a bit. I ended up flipping past several pages a chapter. But again, when he was his new humble self, i enjoyed reading about his adventures. But how humble is your new self when your book, which is entirely about how humble and happy you are in your small life is about half filled with celeb name dropping and achievements galore? ...more info
  • Loved the Starbucks Story, Hated the Interruptions!
    For the most part, I truly enjoyed this book. It's a very quick, light-hearted read. At first, I was afraid I was going to be turned off by it due to the border-line racist remarks he makes about potentially working for a younger, female, African American boss. However, he learns to regard her so highly that I felt it a true testimony that you can teach an old dog new tricks. I loved reading about the process of being initiated into the Starbucks culture and all the interesting, wonderful people he worked with, the customers whose lives he touched. I did feel that there were too many interruptions, though - people/places/things/events he'd bring up from his past career. Eventually I got very frustrated by these interruptions that would go on for a few pages at times. I would either skim them, or skip them entirely. Overall, a good read. Can't wait until the movie comes out starring Tom Hanks in a few years!...more info
  • You're never too old - a short memoir
    If you're a working stiff of a certain age approaching burn-out, this will give you another perspective on getting out of the fast lane. (The author didn't consciously make this decision himself - he got downsized.) Some of the flashbacks are unnecessary but they do show that the author did meet Jackie Kennedy Onasis, Hemingway, etc emphasizing again that he had come from a privileged sphere and wound up cleaning toilets at his new job. The accolades about Starbucks are at times too glowing but he was happy to have a job after sliding down so far. So give the guy some slack....more info
  • How Starbucks Saved My Life
    A very interesting story. Very well written. Big time executive no experience in common man's life. Learned how to appreciate people of all types and kinds. Another attention getter, held me captive for a full day. I recommend this to anybody. Terrific story, how a man is a success after all. Dropping from 6 figure income to ten dollars per hour, and realizing he is actually a bigger success in life....more info
  • How Starbucks Saved my life
    This was an excellent book about a man who had all of life's success and then suddenly had to deal with facing huge financial and health issues. He went from a successful executive to a barista at Starbucks. The story of how he dealt with people who were different from him is inspiring. I had heard him speak about his book and immediately ordered the book. I even purchased an extra book to give to family member who is in a stressful business situation to help put it into perspective....more info
  • Nice Little Book
    Judging by the breadth of the 100 or so previous reviews, this book is hard to pin down. It's really interesting to see such varied responses. I would conclude we learn more about ourselves from our response to the book than we do about the book.

    What's good about Gill's story is the timeless values he supports. People first, an honest day's work, respect, kindness, appreciation and love for family. It's hard to argue with those, unless you're a teenager. Also, there are some good insights about his previous life of privilege; for example, the policy against praising an employee at J. Walter Thompson. For those of us who like to have our values validated in an easy read, we probably give this book a good rating.

    What's bad about the story is the author pooh-pooh's being rich and famous, a lot, and name drops, a lot. Half way through the book I'm wondering if it even gets published without the mention of Jackie O and other A-listers, all while telling us celebrity doesn't matter. Gill never mentions the low pay at Starbucks, but raves about the benefits. I don't think Gill says one bad thing about Starbucks the whole time.

    It's hypocritical and immature, but so is "It's A Wonderful Life." If you're angry at Starbucks, avoid this book. If you're looking for something to support your mostly liberal values, open it up and enjoy.

    ...more info
  • I Thought Starbucks Was a Haven Just for Customers!
    I was enchanted by this book on a number of levels. Certainly it's about the comeback of a human soul, from the despair of what he thought losing everything was about to finding a new life, perhaps richer in essence and spirit. In the past few years, I've watched how coffee cafes have become, for many of us, a place for reflection and community. I look forward each day to my Starbucks, and not just the drinks, but mainly, when I can sit down, read, watch people, and generally not feel alone in the world, as it swirls around me. It never occurred to me, until I read Mr. Gill's book, that the employees also have their own sense of community. Some of us, but not many, are blessed with that at our workplace. I was inspired by this book, in many ways, but perhaps most importantly in how to find the moments of each day, the meaning of those moments, and the flashes of fulfillment when work is well-done. One doesn't have to climb mountains to soar heights!...more info
  • I'm with you!
    I had to do this too, because I could not find programming work after the dot com bubble. Turns out I like working part time at Starbucks immensely.

    I am an artist and it's given me time to work on my paintings. I have them hanging at Starbucks too, so it's fun to talk to customers about my art as well as their cappuccino.

    I can't imagine ever working a full-time job again. I make enough off my artwork to support myself along with my Starbucks pay. It's really satisfying. And I don't have to carry a dang-blasted beeper anymore!
    ...more info
  • How Starbucks Save My Life
    Let me start out by saying, as others have, that I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, while the premise was interesting, the actual book was a chore to read. Also, as it went on, I found myself liking Michael less and less.

    The constant namedropping quickly begins to wear thin, especially when he mentions meeting Queen Elizabeth and Frank Sinatra within only a few pages of each other. It's as if he needs to constantly remind the reader that he was once "somebody", in order to validate his existence.

    To me the entire tone of the book, even the title, seemed condescending.
    I wanted to stop reading it about half way through, but I forced myself to keep going, hoping for some revelation or insight. The last fifty pages were particularly painful, especially those poems to his coworkers--and this guy was supposed to be a great writer?

    I gave the book three stars because I do believe it was written with good intentions.

    ...more info
  • Mind-numbing, sycophantic, too ironic for words
    This is one of the worst books I've read. In in, Michael Gates Gill waxes poetic about how his life was "saved" by Starbucks and its "Partners" after losing everything. With little self-awareness, Gill's plot line (which includes exciting twists like...hosting a coffee tasting) is studded with flashbacks to his former life, and encounters with...I'm not making this up...Ernest Hemingway and the Queen of England. Name-dropping is always tedious; in this book, it's laughable.

    Technically, the book is poorly-written. Gill's editor didn't do enough work in making the dialogue sound realistic. In Gill's world, no one -- including 20-year olds from New York -- uses contractions. Lines like "I am going to tell you...." or "You are doing well..." grate on the astute reader after a few pages; by the end of the book, you deserve a medal for continuing to read.

    Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Gill's memoir is his alarming lack of irony. Ostensibly, working at Starbucks taught him to "live like everyone else." He comes to understand the harsh realities of the working class, and even describes -- haphazardly and unconvincingly -- about coming to see the value of programs like Affirmative Action. That rosy picture is shattered in the Acknowledgments, where he thanks his agent for "help[ing] choose Tom Hanks and Gus Van Sant" to buy the film rights to his story. Which part of "living like everyone else" includes selling rights to Tom Hank? Clearly, Gill's CEO networks and Rich Man contacts are firmly in place; he's got friends in very high places, which erases any likelihood that an hourly wage at Starbucks is his last salvation.

    This, perhaps, is why my review is so fiercely negative: Gill had the opportunity to illustrate -- in clear, personal terms -- the difficulty of living on low wages, commuting 3 hours a day on aching feet, piecing together meals, and suffering the lack of decent medical care (much as Barbara Ehrenreich did in "Nickel and Dimed"). Instead of casting a gimlet eye on the injustices that surround him, however, he puts a rosy Starbucks spin on them. Whipped cream makes everything better.

    If you really like Starbucks, save your money and buy some coffee...not this book....more info
  • Loved the Starbucks Story, Hated the Interruptions!
    For the most part, I truly enjoyed this book. It's a very quick, light-hearted read. At first, I was afraid I was going to be turned off by it due to the border-line racist remarks he makes about potentially working for a younger, female, African American boss. However, he learns to regard her so highly that I felt it a true testimony that you can teach an old dog new tricks. I loved reading about the process of being initiated into the Starbucks culture and all the interesting, wonderful people he worked with, the customers whose lives he touched. I did feel that there were too many interruptions, though - people/places/things/events he'd bring up from his past career. Eventually I got very frustrated by these interruptions that would go on for a few pages at times. I would either skim them, or skip them entirely. Overall, a good read. Can't wait until the movie comes out starring Tom Hanks in a few years!...more info
  • One of the Best Career Books Ever
    This is one of the best books ever written about mid-life career crisis. The story of the advertising executive who ended up cleaning toilets at Starbucks is filled with wonderful anecdotes that can be best appreciated by those who are middle aged and beyond. Young adult readers may not appreciate or understand the life-changing lessons (as seen by some of the one-star ratings from other Amazon reviewers) and some of the book comes across as almost too hard to believe. But the book is never preachy--just a narrative progression through a life that was changed due to corporate downsizing and personal selfishness. It is also very well edited, mixing the author's current progression at the coffee shop with his recollections of knowing Jackie Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway and others. The end result is a lesson in humility and the need for respecting others you would normally consider beneath you. It should be required reading for college career courses....more info
  • It's not great literature, but it's a great story!
    This book isn't a contender for The Best Book Ever Written, but given the title no one should expect great literature. It's a nice simple story (whether true, fictionalized, or a mix of both) that is an easy and uplifting read. Nothing original happens in it, but I enjoyed the characters and the writing style. Maybe some other big name stores could benefit from some customer relations tips from Mr Gill....more info
  • bogus marketing gimmick
    I bought this book wondering how anyone could enjoy slaving away all day long serving beverages. I have noticed over the years that hardly anyone works very long at any of the starbucks I frequented. Now I realize after reading this book that it's b.s. He only worked there a year. And, being in advertising, he came up with an idea to promote working at starbucks. I'd like to see him work there for 10 years. Now he's getting rich from this stupid book and the movie. This book is poorly written, it continually flashes back and forward in a confusing manner that's hard to keep up with. It's not interesting at all--it's just the usual horsepooh from corporate america....more info
  • Unusual true story
    Michael Gates Gill grew up in a wealthy household, graduated from Yale University, and had a lucrative career with a top advertising agency in New York. When he hit his 60's he lost his prestigious job, had a health scare, and had a strained relationship with several of his five children. Frightened by his inability to support himself, he took a job at Starbuck's which was offered to him half-heartedly and partly in jest while he was in a store as a customer. The job and his co-workers changed his life dramatically and his whole attitude took on a new and more positive tone.

    One criticism of this book is that the author tends to ramble at times, as his thoughts jump back and forth between his old life and his new one. I also got a little tired of his name-dropping each time something reminded him of a time he spent with one of his father's celebrity friends. Despite these flaws, however, the story remains a pretty amazing one and the book is quite entertaining....more info
  • How to work at Starbucks. How to reminisce.
    This is a very short, perfectly boring book. The story of Mike Gates, who worked 25 years for an advertising company, flying hither and yon, missing his children's Christmas, but not saving a dime - or else his ex-wife got it all in the settlement (he gave her their large house - so generous). His wife divorced him because after 30 years of marriage, he cheated on her with a 40 something psychiatrist and had a child with her - although he said he loved his wife. Now he's sorry about that, ruining her life, ruining his kid's lives - but doesn't seem to know or care how to make amends. The psychiatrist decides he's boring and doesn't want him any more, but he still sees the little boy, apparently at her place although she's never mentioned again.

    He seems to wander around, even after 10 years, never coming to grips with the fact that he was "fired" (too old and making too much money). In fact he does describe himself as an immature little boy - and he does seem obsessed with his childhood. 63 years old and still not a grown man is kind of scary - how many more are out there?

    Starbucks enters the picture, and miraculously he gets a job there - mostly cleaning which greatly excites him - he reminisces about how his wife or maid cleaned his house, and cleaning people always cleaned his office. See, he never had to clean his own office, it just mysteriously got cleaned. Does he know that nobody who works for a large (or small) company cleans their own office? Still, he doesn't quite understand what grout is. He also really wants the insurance for himself, and his 5 kids (at least two are grown, and one lives in Ireland). Guess the psychiatrist with many patients couldn't afford insurance for her son? He doesn't mention paying any child support either. He let his insurance lapse, but still managed to get an annual physical and an MRI without it.

    Pretty much everything he does at Starbucks reminds him of something else - like the time he ran with the bulls and Hemingway told him a story and called him "Miguel." Oh, and that time his dad worked with Jackie Onassis. She had a whispery voice. And who else? Oh well, I can't remember, but there was lots of famous people he knew. I just didn't care.

    He also brags on himself for getting his own personal doctor to go to the emergency room to check on the cousin of one of his lowly co-workers. See, look what power I have and what strings I can pull for little you.

    This guy got on my nerves. He had to have some money somewhere, because he's always got money to eat, ride the subway, buy his son presents, and buy himself paratrooper boots. Everything is so new to him, it's ridiculous. Once you get to know them, black people are okay. You get 30 minutes for lunch, and it's really important to be back on time, because the next person is waiting to go to lunch. He's never even been in a Wal-mart.

    There's something kind of fishy about this guy. Nobody 63 years old living in the U.S., is that naive. His stories about his great advertising and writing skills are not believable. He really doesn't come across as very bright.

    And I think the guy could have gotten a job at Wendy's or Wal-mart - and still have written the same story.

    Although the book is short, I had to skip through much of it, because life is short too.

    ...more info
  • Benighted Errant
    First, the answer to the burning question enquiring minds will doubtless want to know: No, it turns out that Michael Gates Gill no longer works at the same Starbucks on 93rd Street & Broadway that he wrote about in his memoir. Mr. Gill no longer needs to, you see; his book having been optioned by none other than two-time Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks, who's in fact fifteen years the author's junior. One may admire Mike--or as Ernest Hemingway referred to him when they shared mojitos in Pamplona in 1959, "Miguel"--for having turned his life around so spectacularly, by making not only all those alpacinos, but also lemonade out of the lemons he'd been dealt. But just because one may admire Mr. Gill for that, doesn't mean one should. This slight memoir of having gone from being El Exigente to a lowly ten-buck-an-hour barrista at a Starbucks--entitled, with only skim irony, "How Starbucks Saved My Life"--is insipid; filled with the sort of hard-won wisdom most of us have learned by the time we're half its protagonist's age, even if we didn't happen to leave Yale eighteen credits shy of an undergraduate degree.

    As they no doubt never said in the Gill household, "Oy!"

    On the audiobook I retrieved from a bargain bin at a large retail chain also famous for offering its worker bees second chances, narrator Dylan Baker did his best to emulate a shot of espresso and keep the listener awake. Still, I'd be lying if I pretended that I didn't have the urge several times to turn the recording off. That's not so much because Mr. Gill's story is boring, as because from early on it seemed to me that his come-uppance was more karmic retribution than the Dickensian parable advertised; nothing more, really, than a mercifully slight exhortation to remember the words of the sage Howard Schultz by treating everyone you meet with dignity and respect, evinced in a willingness to let them use the toilet. Indeed, while the author can be at times quite self-deprecating--as for instance when he writes about having lacked any athletic prowess as a child; how he's always been math phobic; how he couldn't read until he was ten years old, or has always been, in his own words, "an inveterate coward"--he conveniently glosses over in but a few pages his most glaring screw-up to date; viz., how his thirty-year marriage to the mother of his four eldest children fell apart after he fathered his youngest son with a fortysomething woman he met in a gym. Inveterate coward, indeed!

    Most of "How Starbucks Saved My Life", when it isn't alternately filled with shameless name-dropping of Papa, Jackie Kennedy, or John Updike--said by Mr. Gill's famous father Brendan to possess "the silkiest hair of all God's creatures"--centers around the eponymous chain, and how the author came to espouse its basic tenets. That's really too bad, considering that most, if not all, of the insights this self-styled Siddartha shares are just, well, nonsense. For example, only a WASP with a lot of white guilt would aver to thinking it a good thing, when superiors ask their subordinates to do them "favors", as opposed merely to ordering them to perform tasks. Forgive me my naivete, but I always thought that a favor is something done at the discretion of the person doing it. If the choice, then, is to do as one is told by The Man or be fired for insubordination, seems to me that the only person being done a favor is oneself, as one's conscience entreats, "Hey, do us a favor here--try not to screw this one up too badly?" Similarly, as has been noted by many about the nonsensical way in which Starbucks refers to its customers as "guests". . .well, um, guests don't pay when they come to your house, do they?

    No, far from being some knight errant who finds the Holy Grail in the form of a venti cup of ordinary joe, Mr. Gill comes off when all is finally said as little more than a benighted jerk. ...more info
  • Great inside book
    This book give a good and true inside look at the starbucks workplace. It also shows humility and how a rich can go to almost rags. a great book...more info
  • Fabulous!
    I adored this book. You will find yourself cheering for the author by the end. What an amazing story, I found it truly inspiring and plan to give a copy to my father as a gift. It will resonate with anyone who is searching for greater meaning in their lives and can appreciate the simple joys of performing a job competently and finding happiness from good conversation with others. The author is so content with his work - just by making his customers and co-workers happy. I would recommend it for all ages from high school-aged kids starting their first jobs to retirees....more info
  • Disappointing drivel
    I was really looking forward to reading this. I like Starbucks and I love "turned-my-life-around" memoirs. I got about two chapters in to this and just couldn't continue. First of all, this dude takes too long to say anything. He goes into painful detail about things that aren't relevant, but glosses over the affair that ended his marriage (without much remorse, I might add.) The stories don't always add up. If he's so talented and well-connected, as you would infer from his boasts about his brilliant career (without any meat to back this up), wouldn't SOMEBODY have hired him for more than minimum wage? Yeah, his consulting company may have dried up, but how much effort did he put into finding another line of work? If much, this minor detail is left out. But the long-windedness and moronic tales aren't even what kills this author's effort. It's just not interesting. The writing is boring and wooden. Worst of all, I couldn't bring myself to care about his predicament. This probably had something to do with his seeming to be pretty okay with fathering an illegitimate child in an adulterous affair that destroyed his marriage and landed him in the pits he was "saved" from. But whatever. Bottom line: don't waste your time. If you are interested in reading a really terrific memoir, I heartily recommend "Sit Ubu Sit" by Gary Goldberg. ...more info
  • Dumped ad guy finds his true calling at coffee house
    Golly and gee whiz! At times this book seemed so much like a long and breathless flack piece for Starbucks that I wanted to put it down. I wanted so much for Gill to write something, anything, negative about the company so that it would seem like an authentic business memoir. As I reached the book's end, though, I realized why he was so gung-ho: he still works as a Starbucks barista.

    Gill is an unabashed name-dropper, and some of his celebrity tales strain credibility. I particularly had a hard time buying the one about Ernest Hemingway and bull-running.

    The book's strength is in its redemptive story of an arrogant ad man who shed his Yale-educated pride to serve coffee and a smile to others -- and to clean many a toilet with a graceful humility.

    It also inspires as an example of landing on one's feet after being dumped by the corporate world late in one's career. Career paths do not have to be linear to be fulfilling.

    Starbucks treats its employees, called Partners, with Respect and Dignity, Gill writes. That's something he rarely received or gave at the advertising agency where he spent 25 years.

    The Seattle-based company "saved me from my pursuit of empty symbols, but also my anxiety about a fear-filled superficial life that hadn't been, in the end, helpful or even enjoyable for me."

    Amidst all the false euphoria, this part of the book rings true. That, and its portrayal of Gill's fellow Partners, make this one worth reading.

    And Mike is funny. Glorioso!...more info
  • Interesting read, makes you think, but has holes
    Interesting premise - spoiled man of privelege is forced to join the serving class and actually finds happiness. I like Gill's writing style and the book kept me interested. I did see some holes, such as details (or at least more info) on the 10 years between the ad agency and Starbucks. And how, exactly, did he embark on the path that caused his family to break up? How did his move at the book's end really come about? I felt much was glossed over or disregarded as irrelevant, when in fact it's relevant to grow this reader's empathy with Gill and his story. Perhaps he was worried about being seen as a bad guy (when in fact, he's just human), or perhaps there was heavy editing by Starbucks PR. Overall, a good, quick, interesting read. I just think substantial info was missing....more info
  • Great humbling story
    This book was fantastic. Michael Gates Gill (Mike) loses his job as a big wig advertising executive to someone half his age. He is sitting in his local Starbucks drinking a latte trying to figure out what to do next and a woman working for Starbucks asks him if he wants a job. His entire life changes after that moment. He takes the job, struggles with his "stumbling down the ladder" mind-set, overcomes his insecurities, humbles himself, becomes happy, develops friendships, and life ultimately is re-born for this guy.

    The way Michael Gates Gill wrote the story is very interesting. He has met many famous people in his life (and he's not afraid to share that in the book) that don't seem to mean as much to him as his usual guests that he serves everyday and his partners. Great story, I highly recommend this book!...more info
  • Pass Me a Tissue
    I was going to jump off a bridge this morning, but then i read this book and decided to wait until tomorrow. Very sappy. Starbucks is wonderful, the people are wonderful, the coffee is wonderful, the benefits they offer are wonderfully...someone needs to tell this guy he needs to wipe the chocolate Starbucks brownie off his nose. All that aside there were some enjoyable moments....more info
  • Light On the Depth, A Few Extra Pumps Of Saccharine.
    When I saw this book in the bookstore I intrigued at the premise: A hot shot older advertising exec. who's fired after twenty five years, finds himself working at a Starbucks on 93rd and Broadway with a crew of black employees that a year ago he would have crossed the street to avoid. The book follows a year in his life as the coffee house and his co-workers turn his life around, in a simplistic, Hallmarky movie of the week kind of way. This is a true life story that could easily have been serialized in the pages of Readers Digest for it's message of redemption and finding oneself through the wand of the espresso machine The best way I can describe my feeling after finishing it, is thin. It's not bad, a bit overly sweet and sentimental, and frankly I'm shocked every Starbucks in the nation isn't selling this thing for the amazing shower of love he bestows on the company. Two thirds of the way through I kept thinking this has all the elements of a feel good holiday movie, and at the end it's mentioned that Tom Hanks has bought the rights. That seemed about perfect....more info
  • Wonderful Read -- thought provoking
    Great book -- couldn't put it down. Very thoughtful -- made me consider how I was living my life and my true purpose. One of those books that you would read over again, to remind yourself about life's meaning....more info
  • Laughable Schlock
    When I picked this book out at the library, I knew I was in for a sappy, corny, gimmicky literary ride, but I was hoping that the narrator would at least provide some quasi-intriguing insights into how Starbucks' corporate values and philosophies can be applied to life's everyday trials and tribulations (plus curveballs like acute illness). Let me just say, hahahahaha. Michael Gates Gill is the most unsympathetic of characters imaginable. He's insufferably clueless, but if he actually had one iota of insight, he'd realize that everything he says just serves as fodder for the reader to further despise him.

    So, Gill sets the stage by letting us know that for the majority of his life he has been racist, elitist, adulterous, selfish, and an absent husband and wife. For instance, when he is first describing the mother of his youngest child, he says he was reluctant to interact with her because he "did not have affairs...especially with people [he] met at a less-than-exclusive gym." All of this is especially heinous because he is completely unaware of how offensive he is. Even if he were to do a complete 180, he's already painted himself as such a na?ve, pathetic egotist that we're not even rooting for him (at least not me). But this is largely theoretical, since whatever miraculous transformation he claims to have undergone is revealed to be complete pretense on almost every other page. First of all, this book is a total exercise in name-dropping. Somehow he manages to liken his first opening at the Manhattan Starbucks' store to running the bulls in Spain in order to impress Ernest Hemingway. As he brings out the big guns with Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali (not to say that Papa isn't a big gun too), you can just feel him desperately clinging on to a past that he has supposedly left behind in favor of his new Starbucks-engendered humble and grateful outlook on life. (I mean, how humble can you expect a guy to be when he admits, "I had called my business Michael Gates Gill & Friends because I was in love with the sonorous sounds of my full name."?) Even his disapproving father, the psychic ties with whom he has supposedly cut with the help of Starbucks and his manager Crystal, makes a prominent appearance in the author's bio ("the son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill"). Since when does a 64 year-old writer need to use his father to sell his books? I even thought for a moment that the quote of praise by a Thomas Moore on the back of the book might have been a mischievous form of name-dropping, placed there with the hopes that readers would be stupid enough to think Gill had managed to exhume his personal buddy Sir Thomas More to extract some words of praise from the famous philosopher. Gill's eureka moments ring totally hollow and false. He'll say something to the effect of, "I suddenly realized, standing there on the subway platform, that I had ruined my son's life by putting my work ahead of my children." Or when he's reminiscing about his daughter, Annie, graduating from high school, he tells us, "I realized with a pained clarity that I had missed so many precious moments with her, and with all my children." Another endearing revelation: "I felt an actual pain in my heart at that moment, realizing with regret my arrogant assumption that God had created me and those like me to rule because we were worthier than other races of people." There's no development of any of these insights; they just happen "suddenly" (one of Gill's favorite words: "I was suddenly feeling the whole in my heart," "Why was I suddenly thinking of him?"). His language in general is so stilted. When his soon-to-be boss warns him that the work as a barista is no walk in the park, he replies, "I know. But I will work hard for you. I promise you this." Who talks like that?


    I get the impression that Gill had a reasonably good idea for a book and title that would sell and then either decided to write it under the influence of some highly intoxicating substance or managed to convince a plethora of monkeys to write the book for him.
    Seriously, it's not even spell-checked or edited, up to the final page of the acknowledgements where he manages to screw up the alphabetical order in the list of Starbucks' partners he wishes to thank. This was one of those books that is so awful that you keep reading and reading just out of curiosity as to whether or not it will ever redeem itself. Well, that, in and of itself, was the book's only redeeming quality.

    ...more info
  • MTSU Book Selection for Fall 2009 Freshman Class
    Middle Tennessee State University has selected this rather odd book for its incoming freshmen to read - perhaps more for what thoughtful readers can learn from someone whose life went off track a bit, than being an example of excellent writing.

    Written in the "Tuesdays with Morrie" genre, readers will have to grit their teeth a bit to get through the -- more than you'll ever want to know about Starbucks coffee - middle, and keep the various subplots sorted out to make it through to the end.

    After going back to see his childhood home on East 78th Street in NYC "to recapture some sense of the favored place" he "had once occupied in the universe," sixty-three-year-old former J. Walter Thompson advertising executive, Michael Gates Gill, makes his way into a nearby Starbucks. There, over a latte, he considers his situation: he's broke, divorced, on poor terms with his three children and persona non grata to his former wife whom he had divorced after fathering a son off to the side by a psychiatrist girlfriend.

    Not having noticed a "Hiring Open House" sign in the front of the Starbucks, he's surprised when an attractive African-American store manager turns to him and asks: "Would you like a job?" Thus, Gill, a former creative director for the world's largest advertising firm, who - upon graduation from Yale in 1963 and referred to his JWT advertising job by a "Skull & Bones" colleague - and, who had spent a 25-year career providing advertising direction for clients like Ford, Burger King, IBM, Christian Dior - found himself ten years after being fired from JWT saying: "Yes, I'd like a job."

    Written with a sort of stream-of-consciousness method that leaves the narrative - at times - all over the place, the reader is really dealing with three concurrent story lines.

    First, there's the older white man from the pampered class who's down but not quite out, who accepts an entry-level job at Starbucks and is challenged mentally, emotionally and physically by having to deal with commuting and daily life among the working poor.

    The second, is the story of a corporate executive who is scarred by not having been treated in an emotionally-supportive, respectful manner by his own upper-class parents (late 1940s through the 1950s) and former employer (JWT) and learns, job-wise at least (by comparing that organization with the mission and policies of Starbucks) that there's a "better way."

    And, third, it's the tale of a man who realizes - possibly, nearly too late (as he's dealing with a small, slow-growing brain tumor), that as an absent father (physically and emotionally) and former hard-nosed corporate warrior ("master of the universe") he has not treated his former subordinates, nor his wife and children with sincere respect.

    Gates describes his commute to work and daily life of mopping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, operating the cash register and giving taste-talks at a Starbucks in NYC. He refers to and tries to focus on his colleagues - esp."Crystal" the store manager - but, unfortunately, this reader found his descriptions and the narrative text related to these individuals more superficial than insightful.

    We live in a time where the juxtaposition of work lives and social class is fascinating to many readers; millions enjoy watching television shows like "Dirty Jobs" where a bright, well-educated man is seen working in - yes, a different dirty job each week. Others enjoy watching the verbal abuse young up-and-comers subject themselves to from multi-millionaire Donald Trump on his show, "The Apprentice." And, there's the whole genre of literature that can be traced back to Mark Twain's exploration of the stark class inequities that existed in sixteenth century England in "The Prince and the Pauper" that range all the way up to current titles like "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America" (where the Ph.D.-educated writer goes undercover and lives among the working poor to explore the survival strategies of the underclass).

    I found the first half interesting, but with each passing chapter the overly enthusiastic propaganda for Starbucks coffee became more tiresome. And, in the end, I felt more compassion for Gates' children and his wife than the now-wiser, more compassionate protagonist.

    R. Neil Scott
    Middle Tennessee State University
    ...more info

 

 
Old Release Old Products