Books – Reviews


I’ve always been a reader, and if you are too, a wealth of resources is available to you.  Here are some of my favorites – they’re the ones I think are most interesting and valuable. (Note that,  as I add to the list, they’re un-categorized, and in no particular order.)


Making a Living Without a Job

by Barbara Winter (2nd edition  2009)

I met Barbara in Seattle when she was doing one of her 3-class series for one of the independent “university” continuing education series. I took all three classes and got to spend nearly one and a half days listening to her, despite her being increasingly hoarse and coughing with a bad cold. (But it was against her principles to let any of her classes down, so she soldiered on.) I really appreciated her efforts and she had much to say – and I, much to learn.

I like the book because it’s such an enthusiastic, yet down-to-earth, broad introduction to making a living without a job. The title tells you this book is not just for MBAs and the “entrepreneurs” who first look for “angel” funding to begin a business. This one is for any of us, who just want to make a little extra money while we’re getting through school, or who want to try this whole thing on for size.

She is astonishingly well read, mentioning other books (and authors) and telling stories on nearly every page. (In a quick perusal, I saw references to psychologist Abraham Maslow, entrepreneur Paul Hawken, Shakespeare, Tom Robins, Proust, and there’s a great list of books and other resources at the end of the book.)

She gives exercises for readers to find what makes themselves tick (because, after all, a business is you, and the better you know yourself, the better chance you have of enjoying the work you choose to do).

The book is divided into five sections.

  1. Getting to know your new boss (yourself, of course) – and finding the passion
  2. Doing your homework – your assets, obstacles and taking care of yourself
  3. Exploring your options – multiple profit centers and considering interesting and innovative possibilities, starting with the simple and obvious, and getting started
  4. Turning passions into profits – starting small and thinking big – or deciding not to, ideas and more on “getting”  ideas, as well as marketing on a shoestring
  5. Creating world headquarters – getting through the transition, enjoying the “spaghetti days” and making the dream real


Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Book

by Michael Fogler (1st edition 1997,  2nd 1999 – While there is a larger second edition, I still find even the first edition worthwhile.)

Fogler describes this as a “jump-start” for readers on the road to meaning and “simplicity” in life. In particular, he opens the philosophical discussion of what “meaning” really means to each of us and how jobs may or may not fit into that. For example, he says that our (western) way of life, especially in the US, “has become dominated by jobs, not meaningful work.”

With a masters degree in music, he worked variously as an underpaid adjunct and part-time guital reacher, evan as an advisor to college students, but he felt “terrible about being a job market ‘failure.’”

While he still yearned for that one full-time, career job complete with a benefits package and security,” he eventually decided to take the leap, and he quit his half-time advising job at the same time his wife quit her full-time tenure-track job.

The rest of the book is a justification of that death-defying act, and a description of how he and his wife lived afterwards.  The chapter titles will give you a hint of the rest of the book.

  •                 About “making a living”
  •                 A Different View of Economics
  •                 How Much is Your Job Costing You?
  •                 What Would Be Better: Higher income or Lower Expenses?
  •                 (Unlike Death) Taxes are Not Certain
  •                 The Gamble of Insurance
  •                 Your Conscious Plan for Liberation

And, the Appendix lists other resources and books.


The One-Week Job Project

by Sean Aiken (2012)

There are several ways to find out about careers and work life. We learn in different ways, and we can get closer to the nitty-gritty reality of different kinds of work to varying degree, according to the ways we choose to learn.

Moving along the continuum of degree of closeness to the REAL thing, you can read about all kinds of careers and jobs; you can listen to people talking about their work, and, on the Internet these days, you can find video clips to be able to watch people at work.  AND, you can learn through experience – i.e., just go do it.

This author jumped into an extreme form of the “just DO it” learning format, and the book is about his experiences.

At age 26, having graduated from college and pack backed through Europe and SE Asia, Canadian Sean Aiken realized he had been avoiding questions about his future and that he still had no clue what “jobs would actually be like…”

Hitting on the brilliant idea of discovering what jobs would be like by trying them out, he took a year to decide what he wanted to do next by working at a different job each week.

A friend helped him build a website and blog about his project, and he emailed friends and family for suggestions and help (and the blog eventually became this book). When he began, he wasn’t sure he’d find 52 different jobs within the year.

As his project gained notoriety, first in Canada and then beyond, he began getting offers from around the world. About mid-way through the year, he begin accepting jobs in the US. (He asked employers to donate his “earnings” to a non-profit, but accepted couches to sleep on, travel tickets and meals from employers, friends,  donors and many assorted well-wishers, who wanted to help support him in the project.)

The book is composed of profiles of varying length about his employers and stories of the jobs, people and places he traveled, with a number of more serious thoughts about what he was learning – much about the jobs, but, more importantly, about himself and work, the kinds of environments and people he liked to be around, the kinds of activities he liked to do and how far he could stretch and still have fun.

He blogged and posted pictures and videos on the website and the book came from that collection. (You can find the website at ). The book reads quickly, and the stories are of his adventures and infrequent mis-haps, but his learnings are intuitive, intense and insightful.


What Should I Do With My Life: The True Story of  People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

by Po Bronson (2002)

Po Bronson was already a writer when he came to a career decision point and decided to find out how others had made career decisions that transformed their lives.  The book is about their attempts to find their “true calling” and his into what he learned about this very fragile process worked for these individuals. Rather than doing library research, or calling “experts,” he traveled the US, interviewing people who had made significant changes. In the end, the friendships he formed and the stories they shared became the insights that form the value of the book.

He makes no claim to career expertise, and he tells their stories in first person, repeating some of the conversations they had, and describing both their and his own insights into their processes.

He grouped the stories into rough categories that describe what he saw as the main elements of their situations – that he came to see as primarily based on misconceptions and fears.

In the introduction, he describes some of his distilled learnings that are worth repeating. (Note: I’m the one who thinks they’re worth repeating because, when I was a career counselor for undergrads, alumni and graduate students, I saw these same elements repeating, time after time. It’s no surprise to me that he found them repeating in adults.)

He says, for example, “people have all sorts of psychological stumbling blocks that keep them from finding themselves.” And, he listed “a tiny sample, just to clarify…” (page xix)

  • The misconception that this question only matters to overeducated Americans suffering from ennui, when in fact almost anybody can find the question important to them.
  • The fear that our passions will put us in the poorhouse.
  • The fear of irreversibility, limiting future options.
  • The fear of not being on a path with a known destination.
  • The fear that what we need for ourselves might tear us away from our spouse, partner, or friends.
  • The misconception that our life doesn’t begin until we find an answer, when in fact, our failed attempts often establish why we will find our future “answer” so meaningful, that is, in contrast to our past.

Another of his sublime truths (in my opinion) – “…  if you take care of these obstacles, you create an environment where the truth is invited into your life.” To me, it means that at some point, you realize that you are where you’re supposed to be, doing what you want to be doing.


What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career_Changers

by Richard N. Bolles (2012)

There is annual change in “Parachute,” but this 40th Anniversary Edition brings a radical change in the Table of Contents, and the tone of the book, now putting more emphasis on survival and hope in the face of current economic adversity. It could equally well be described as a “Practical Survival Manual….”

A brief Introduction sets up the philosophy that guides the rest of the book  – explaining the need for and the way to find hope (by having alternatives) and the need to get job-finding survival skills BEFORE they are needed in today’s world. The rest of the book is divided into five major sections, followed by nearly 100 pages of appendices.
Here’s what you’ll find.
Section 1:  attitudes necessary for survival
Section 2: “advanced” job-finding techniques
Section 3: “advanced job-creation” techniques
Section 4:  making an inventory of what they have to offer the world
Section 5:  “47 principal ideas that we should share with others.”

Seven pages brief, this is the distilled core of the book and the current result of more than 40 years of Bolles’ curiosity, research and experience in the field of job-search.  To job-seekers who lack the concept of job-search or career management methods as survival skills, these principles represent fresh, new ways to find soul-satisfying work – that they never would have considered, had their lives not been disrupted by unwanted, lengthy job search.

The five Appendices, “the Pink Pages,” include: Finding Your Mission in Life, A Guide to Dealing with Unemployment Depression, A Guide to Choosing a Career Coach or Counselor and a Sampler List of Coaches.

In addition to the “47 principal ideas” mentioned above, several parts of the book stand. Reading the section titled “Survival Job-hunting is not just about better techniques,” helps us understand the position of those whose identity, meaning in life and reason for being are dramatically thrust into question, because ultimately, it is emotion that drives action.

In this regard, Bolles tells the story of his abrupt firing and the advice from an older man who told him, “You won’t believe a word of what I’m saying right now, but this will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. I’ve seen it happen too many times to doubt it.”  The older man was right on both counts; no one abruptly thrust into job search immediately accepts it as good, and it did turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Bolles, who soon began writing the first version of this book.

Bolles likens that sense of meaninglessness that often overwhelms the sudden job searcher to being stuck in the first act of a two-act play, because the meaning doesn’t exist until the second act fills in the context. Bolles believes (and I agree totally) that those who can maintain a sense of positive meaningfulness in their lives despite a long job search, have an advantage over others, in being less likely to fall into despair and slow (or end) their efforts at job hunt. That’s probably why Bolles says in the preface to this edition, “…this is, in the end, a Book of Hope, masquerading as a job-finding manual.”  I think he’s right.

While the general core of the book has remained constant over 40 editions, the specific material is constantly changing, reflecting the way Bolles’ sees the world changing around job search.

In addition to the additional content on increasing hope among job-seekers, he pulled together various mentions of “networking” and “contacts,” and added an entire chapter, “Networking in This Age of Social Media,” and even lists websites for further information.

Much of the material on “contacts” has been revised, however the term has been replaced by the rather awkward phrase, “bridge-people.” Most of us understand what “contacts” means, but we need his definition to know what he means when he says, “bridge-person.” (I know of a guy who calls himself a “bridge-person” because he lives under one.)



PS – if you find errors of grammar, punctuation, spelling, or even a lack of  felicity in expression, please let me know!