Meghan FitzGerald releases Ascending Davos

Health care is one of the forever burning issues in our modern American life and, despite the efforts of many intelligent and talented men and women, the strides that have been made are often under assault and many are still pining away for effective care. Meghan FitzGerald has been on the front lines of that battle in her service as a nurse, but she continues to fight for a better way in her position as an educator. She has seen the health care system from every side; as a daughter, as a nurse, as a member of the corporate health care world, and from the classroom. Her book Ascending Davos, however, has more to offer than that alone.

The book would be a lesser work if it did not include her personal story. When I say personal, I mean that in the most emphatic terms. She takes us into the very heart of her life. One gets the sense reading these pages that FitzGerald is in a period of reflection about her travels from the days she spent as a nurse working in a dialysis center, her hard won and inspiring climb into the halls of corporate power, and those she met along the way. No one could deny her. Another impressive aspect, if not the most impressive, is that she remained the same person in her heart despite every change life threw her way. Her compassion shines through these pages just as much as her personal drive and , if anything, has deepened as the years unfold.


She writes it in accessible prose style adult readers of any level of can easily grasp onto. She wants to communicate, not lecture, and even her discussion of the principles she thinks are essential for effective leadership and success never come across as preaching to readers. It, ultimately, seems like she has written this book for readers just as much as she has written it for herself. She aims to give back to the world with this book, to share what she has learned, and it is difficult to finish this text without feeling like it has illuminated you in some fashion.

It is a brief read, remarkably less than two hundred pages long, and sparkles from beginning to end. She includes a healthy amount of research to underline her writing about health care, but it never has a scholarly air despite her academic background. The structure she adopts for the book likewise makes it an digestible reading experience for readers. Meghan FitzGerald’s voyage through the storms and rewards of her personal and professional life is laid out here in exquisite detail and many readers will finish the book eager to read it again. This is, perhaps, the ultimate compliment you can pay any writer. We should be happy there are powerful voices like hers heard above the din advocating for those who need help and Ascending Davos will stand for many years to come as one of the best chronicles of the health care issue available for anyone interested in the subject.

Kim Muncie

Rebekah Bastian’s Blaze Your Own Trail: An Interactive Guide to Navigating Life with Confidence, Solidarity, and Compassion

If you are looking for a book about life that’s different from the usual account and non-fiction, I think you can scarcely do better than Rebekah Bastian’s Blaze Your Own Trail: An Interactive Guide to Navigating Life with Confidence, Solidarity, and Compassion. I think the word solidarity in the title is unquestionably important. She tailors this book to speak to women’s experience in modern life, particularly American life, though the book reaches further than that. Any woman in an industrialized and successful society can relate to nearly any aspect of life she takes on in this book and there’s nothing about the way she tackles life that will strain your belief. It’s all the more interesting that she does so in such an innovative fashion.


There’s some important research that she did to strengthen this book, but the most important part is how she builds the work. Blaze Your Own Trail is nearly like a novel in the way it approaches narrative, but she confounds conventional wisdom but installing a wide variety of alternate “plot developments” into the narrative. She asks readers at the end of each of its 58 chapters to make two choices that will take them to different chapters and send the book’s main character down different paths in her life. It’s an interesting approach to what we normally expect from such work and sets it apart as like nothing else I’ve read in recent history.

She puts it out there too in an easy to follow way. There’s no pandering to the reader, no sense of dumbing things down so we can understand what’s going on, but she nonetheless comes to readers on their level. It’s never hammy and melodramatic. That’s another thing I love about it. I’ve experienced many of the same things contained in this book, I’ve heard friends who have went through other of the same moments, and it’s this part of this book that will perhaps carry the greatest weight with female readers.


Having said that, I believe men can get something out of this book as well. Insights into what women experience and how they feel, yes, but it is madness to think men are immune to the pain of martial failure, numb to martial joy, and don’t experience pain watching and assisting their failing parents. Bastian leads a high powered professional life as a Vice President with Zillow Group, but that doesn’t stop me or any other open-minded reader from relating to what she depicts in this book.

Rebekah Bastian’s Blaze Your Own Trail: An Interactive Guide to Navigating Life with Confidence, Solidarity, and Compassion has the sort of jolt experienced readers are looking for. It isn’t a same old, same old text rolling through the predictable turns of fiction and non-fiction alike. It is her first book, but you can’t tell. Instead, she’s written an inspired book brimming with imagination and insight that’s difficult to forget and begs for additional reading thanks to the various approaches that you can take while reading the book.

Kim Muncie

Natasha Wallace’s The Conscious Effect: 50 Lessons for Better Organizational Wellbeing

Any study of how personal wellbeing, a larger issue than just physical health, influences the overall direction of any organization would be lacking if it did not likewise explore how effective leadership shapes that aforementioned wellbeing. Natasha Wallace’s The Conscious Effect: 50 Lessons for Better Organizational Wellbeing leaves nothing out in its discussion of the issue. Wallace’s long experience as a HR professional, a respected voice regarding leadership and personal development, and her own journey leading to the formation of her business Conscious Works buttresses her point of view at every turn during The Conscious Effect and helps make its fifty “lessons” even more convincing for readers.

One of the more satisfying aspects of this book, however, is its potential for universal application. Wallace, obviously, gears it more to serve the reader’s professional life, but the lessons contained within its pages can produce positive effects applied to the reader’s personal life as well. Following the examples and principles Wallace advocates in this book has a trickle-down effect just as someone floundering can negatively affect an organization or those close to them.  Her lessons are never obtuse or difficult to comprehend. These are things leadership, front line employees, and individuals can begin practicing in their everyday lives now and see immediate results from in many cases.


She does not expect readers to accept her ideas and words without supporting evidence. To that end, Wallace draws from multiple sources, all documented at the book’s end, to support her point of view and companies who faced related dilemmas and how they answered their challenges. This is another important factor in the book’s success. Her prose through the entirety of The Conscious Effect is another reason why this work should enjoy an appreciative audience for many years to come.  It, likewise, deals in the reality of these issues rather than fanciful situations lacking any real bearing on the day-to-day lives of its target audience. Wallace understands we have busy lives, as does she, and never wastes the reader’s time with self-indulgent digressions.

The book provides many chances for readers to self-reflect along the way on what they are reading and ask probing questions about the subject at hand. Wallace never employs these devices in a heavy-handed or laughable way; these opportunities are practical and laid out in concrete language rather than high-flown rhetoric. The recaps and case studies she includes at the conclusion of each section in the book underline this, but there are numerous graphics included throughout the course of The Conscious Effect contributing to our understanding of the material.

Wallace writes with the self-assurance of someone who accumulated these lessons over a professional lifetime, but she also brings to bear unique insights marking her as a student of human character. The latter is an important facet of what makes this book work so well and The Conscious Effect: 50 Lessons for Better Organizational Wellbeing would be a good but lesser work without those attentive glimpses into what drives individuals and makes them tick.

Kim Muncie

“I Hereby Resign” by Steven Manchel

You would think that the subject of handling employee transitions between direct business competitors has a wealth of literature on the topic. You would be wrong. Attorney Steven Manchel writes about the issue with a objective and learned eye in his book “I Hereby Resign” Job Transitioning: How Individuals Properly Prepare, Resign and Move to the Competition, and How Companies Best Manage that Process. It  has an agreeable length for the vast majority of readers; Manchel does an impressive job of condensing a wealth of information in a comprehensible and substantive fashion. There’s a lot to get out of this book for those concerned with the issue, an examination of the process, ways to address its flaws, and Manchel’s writing skills put you in good position to reap its rewards.

The technological nature of business communication and every day activity means there are more t’s to cross and i’s to dot than ever before. Manchel emphasizes what should be obvious; the critical need for your departure to conform with unshakable professional standards lest it diminish your professional profile and sour relations between otherwise dispassionate rivals. The primary thrust of the book is the scenario of moving from one company over to a direct threat to the former company, but “I Hereby Resign” has value for those thinking about leaving a job for some other field entirely. It outlines, at its core, an acceptable path towards separation that exposes no one to legal liability or conflict with others.


His aforementioned writing skill conveys these ideas with forceful sentences and orderly on-point examination of the issue. Manchel approaches this book in a systematic way familiar to anyone who knows how lawyers write and think and the profession’s talent for “making an argument” comes across in a vivid way with this book. Manchel isn’t beating on his chest over the issue but he evidences a clear desire to help companies better understand and formulate a path forward in such matters.

All those years composing briefs as paid off. Manchel doesn’t write like a novice author. Everything about “I Hereby Resign” Job Transitioning: How Individuals Properly Prepare, Resign and Move to the Competition, and How Companies Best Manage that Process smacks of the polish and professionalism one should expect from a respected litigator and former Court of Appeals Law Clerk. He has an academic’s passion for instruction as well illustrated by the dramatic way he frames this issue.

There is much Manchel, given his pedigree, can write about with future books. Let’s hope he’s so inspired. This is an easy reading experience even for someone with only a cursory interest in the subject and powered by a bright and burning intelligence that leaves no loose ends and makes its argument with sound reasoning and a penchant for illustrating its points in compelling ways. “I Hereby Resign” Job Transitioning: How Individuals Properly Prepare, Resign and Move to the Competition, and How Companies Best Manage that Process isn’t a book you’ll dispense with after a single reading.

Kim Muncie

Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away With Murder and Behaving Very Badly By Jake Brennan

It takes a real knack to retell a story that many have likely heard many times before and still manage to make it compelling. As listeners of the popular podcast Disgraceland have already figured out, Jake Brenan is that rare narrator who can.

The true crime podcast focuses on musicians and those connected to them and the darkness that follows them usually connected to fame, drugs and sexual appetite, (but mostly drugs). The book, appropriately enough sharing the name of the podcast, uses the same concept and it is equally addictive. Brennan bookends this collection of stories with a focus on Elvis – fat and skinny/Elvis on the rise and on his way out. The most complex story of the bunch, it mixes a fair amount of reality –  his corrupt Con Man manager, his ballooning weight and reliance on drugs and his obsession with guns – alongside a fantastical, but wildly entertaining sequence where over the hill Elvis is talking with a svelte, cool Rockabilly version of what he could have been.

In between, Brennan recounts true stories about Sid Vicious in his last days, Gram Parsons corpse theft and Phil Spector’s bizarre relationships and the murder of one of his guests, among many other true tales.

For anyone even remotely interested in the more macabre side of rock, most if not all of these stories are likely familiar. But it’s Brenan’s flair for telling them that makes this book so captivating.          

Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away With Murder and Behaving Very Badly By Jake Brennan/Hardcover, 288 pages/Grand Central Publishing/2019

Black & Blue: Love, Sport and the Art of Empowerment by Andra Douglas

Black & Blue: Love, Sport and the Art of Empowerment is Andra Douglas’ fictionalized rendering of a lifetime loving the game of football and being told she couldn’t play. Good thing for us she never took those words to heart. Readers are treated to an often picturesque account of her upbringing in the American South, her relocation to New York City to pursue a career in the early Eighties, and her later role as one of the leading figures establishing women’s professional football in the national consciousness. It is too easy to say this is an inspirational story. It is, of course, but there’s so much more to it. This is the story of a society in flux, undergoing profound transformation, and football is the backdrop for this particular example of that change. It is also a personal but not uncommon story of someone told from an early age to jettison their deepest held dreams because they aren’t “allowed” to harbor such ambitions and how the human spirit balks at such inane restrictions.


She makes no bones about how difficult it was for her to get women’s professional football taken seriously. Sponsors are either lukewarm or else disguising their financial/sexual interest in women’s professional sports as a sincere belief in equality. Romantic partners object, parents are baffled and dismayed. Douglas’ fictionalized version of herself perseveres however, enduring life’s slings and arrows, and derives a personal satisfaction from being true to herself that approval from others can never match. Black & Blue does many things in an outstanding way, but its depiction of the author’s resolute character in the face of one adversity after another is dramatic and believable at every turn.

There is no real conclusion to this story. However, like any great fictional work imitates life, Douglas ends the book transformed by her experiences as both an athlete and owner. She has walked the front lines of a revolution in sport and her eyewitness account of incurring casualties and bonding with other like-minded souls, both men and women, along the way gives this book much of its life. It never feels ham-fisted ot riddled with affectations. The story of women’s professional football, however, doesn’t end with Douglas stepping away from the team after nineteen years. The book makes it clear she and others laid a foundation that will continue growing far and long after the book’s final pages.


Black & Blue: Love, Sport and the Art of Empowerment is part testimonial, part memoir, part sports fiction. Andra Douglas brings the sweat and crunch of an uniquely American sport to vivid life populated by a cast of characters that are difficult to forget. She has turned to other pursuits since her tenure as owner of the New York Sharks ended, but you can still feel the obvious love she has for this game. Her book is wise, knowing, and filled with a rush of energy carrying readers through from its humble beginnings to an ultimately triumphant conclusion that leaves a smile on your face.

Kim Muncie

“Culture Fix” by Colin Ellis

Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work from Liverpool, UK born author Colin Ellis is the latest entry in an ever growing library of books addressing the subject of organizational/corporate culture. It is difficult to conceive of a work more comprehensive and well-rounded on this subject; Ellis leaves no stone unturned in his appraisal of what it takes to implement and nurture a business culture that satisfies its participants and maximizes their potential. Ellis’ success in this area comes as no surprise; he boasts over three decades of familiarity with this subject and has a well-established reputation as a leading voice on the subject thanks to countless speaking appearances and previous books. Culture Fix doesn’t waste readers’ time with trite observations they can arrive at on their own or rephrased from other works; Ellis has a common sense yet individual approach to the subject apparent throughout the entirety of this book.


Ellis has a slightly off the cuff manner defining the book that makes for an inviting reading experience. It isn’t so casual as to lose its focus, but his relaxed style helps bring to life what might be a dry subject for some readers. His preface for the book has this quality present stronger than anywhere else in the book and lays out the general goals he hopes to achieve without ever belaboring them for the reader. The book’s structure centers six pillars of culture Ellis believes are essential to observe if an individual or organization hopes to transform their culture into a vibrant atmosphere encouraging creativity, contentment, and productivity.

He has put a great deal of research into reinforcing his ideas but it never overwhelms his own voice. The secondary materials, instead, complement Ellis’ own ideas and conclusions and he never overlooks documenting them for those who intend on further reading. The straight forward approach he takes towards presenting the aforementioned pillars incorporates both quantifiable ideas about culture with Ellis’ own personal views in a fully integrated way. You will never feel like his voice overtakes the work, but Ellis’ talent for making his voice a part of the reading experience is critical for the book’s success.


Culture Fix is not a brief gloss job, but it has lean economy eschewing useless digressions and sideshows. The book’s individual sections within each “pillar” are never lengthy or wordy and the brisk pace Ellis maintains throughout the work sweeps readers along. Culture Fix isn’t a book demanding to be read in a traditional fashion; its structure gives readers the flexibility to drop in and out of the text as they wish and need without undercutting the book’s value for readers. It’s the latest achievement in Ellis’ long career and reinforces his status as one of the most insightful voices heard on this subject. He understands the concept of culture and its many implications with thoroughness and imagination only a handful of his contemporaries equal and his latest work proves this. Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work is one of the best books of its type published in recent memory.

Kim Muncie

The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard

Ray Wylie Hubbard may not be top of mind to casual Country/Americana music fans, but he certainly influenced a slew of the musicians making that music today.

It seems rather appropriate then that Hubbard’s peers and acolytes would come together to explain his musical brilliance in writing. The Messenger, though not the best book to explain the life and career of Hubbard (that one would be his own 2015 memoir, A Life… Well, Lived), it does a pretty solid job of explaining his appeal by those who know him best. Chronicled by Brian T. Atkinson, the book collects an army of interviews from friends, peers and followers; folks like Bobby Bare, Steve Earle, Ben Kweller and Chris Robinson, among many, many others. But the most touching tributes come in the forewords, by longtime pal Jerry Jeff Walker and relative newcomer (at least compared to Walker and Hubbard) Hayes Carll. One of the best stories recounted here is the 1973 live version of Hubbard’s “Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother,” covered by Walker on his live album with a shout out to the song’s author in the intro, a move that brought a lot more attention to Hubbard’s own work.

The book covers his early years, playing folk music in college as part of Three Faces West, and his evolution to a folk/country singer songwriter on par with Walker, Kris Kristofferson and Guy Clark. Like his memoir, The Messenger is pretty frank about his substance problems drawing a clear distinction between his pre- and post- sober career.  A strong book, paired nicely with A Life… Well, Lived, this latest entry in the Hubbard library is further proof of just how influential his music remains today.

The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard/Hardcover, 272 pages/Texas A&M University Press/2019

Kris Oestergaard explains Transforming Legacy Organizations

Kris Oestergaard’s Transforming Legacy Organizations is a short book brimming over with information. It has an ambitious aim. Oestergaard studies how long-standing companies with deep histories are able to compete with modern start ups if they are willing to embrace innovation, encourage a culture valuing its principles, and commit themselves towards overcoming whatever perils may obstruct their vision for future development. His examination is well rounded. There are no extended sidebars or useless personal reflections. He maintains a conversational tone throughout that makes the book’s ideas accessible for a broad-based readership. Transforming Legacy Organizations is a brisk and informative read.

I found his construction of the book to be one of its strongest components. Oestergaard builds Transforming Legacy Organizations in a coherent fashion by laying out a thesis of sorts and roadmap for readers during the book’s introduction whilst also serving us notice of the general template for what follows. Oestergaard does not fill the book with one pronouncement after another lacking substance to back his assertions but, instead, buttresses his claims and ideas with solid research that never overwhelms the reader. Transforming Legacy Organizations is not a scholarly work, but it is informed by a thorough reading of what has been written about innovation in established companies and advancements made over the last decade. It is current and forward looking throughout the entirety of the book.


The first section of the book concerns itself with what legacy organizations must do to prime themselves for innovation. Oestergaard stresses the need for awareness – even long standing successful companies can benefit from examining what other, perhaps younger and smaller, companies are doing in this realm. Self-awareness is key as well. A clearly delineated purpose is essential for success and defining goals leads to a greater chance for realization. He faces the specter of bias – personal and institutional – and how our predispositions towards new ideas can often subvert our forward progress. Once again, he backs his ideas in this area up with detailed existing examples – his writing on Amazon’s evolution illustrates his ideas in clear fashion.

The second half of the book looks at what Oestergaard deems the “immune” systems in a company’s workforce, overall structure, and societal that can undercut an organization’s efforts pursuing innovation. He acknowledges human nature’s natural wont to embrace stability and the status quo over pursuing innovation and change, better the devil you know than the one you don’t, but Oestergaard sees this as a potential fatal flaw in an organization’s approach. If legacy organizations desire continued growth and relevancy, it is essential they avoid such stumbling blocks. He lays out a clear path for doing so after looking at how these immune systems manifest themselves in a company’s structure.


The final portion of the book begins by revisiting an example Oestergaard writes about near the book’s beginning – the “extra razor” and how it relates to optimizing innovation. Gillette added new razor blades to their shaving products in the belief it provided more comprehensive results for customers who shave, but Dollar Shave Club entered the commercial picture, simplified the product by reducing the number of blades to a minimum and sold their product at low cost to the consumer. Proctor & Gamble responded with their own club, but the belated response came only after they realized they were facing a huge new competitor.

He delves into how companies can augment innovation by exploring digital and emerging AI platforms\ vehicles citing General Electric’s efforts as a prime example illustrative of his point. Organizational culture hacks are also discussed as a critical tool in facilitating augmentation of a company’s innovative ambitions. The third tier in Oestergaard’s discussion of implementing an ongoing vision for innovation is how this aspect of a company’s purpose can benefit from mutation – more specifically, how bold ideas about new company structure and technologies can open up thrilling new avenues of potential. His discussion of the subject is, once again, laden with many well chosen examples illuminating his point. Kris Oestergaard’s Transforming Legacy Organizations has something for everyone interested in the subject and those in business leadership positions will find it rewarding to return to this book again and again.

Kim Muncie

Risk: Living On The Edge by Michael Tenenbaum

The financial information pertaining to risk factors alone are what help pack Risk: Living On The Edge full of vital history in the age of mass data and tells some great stories involving the rise of it all in chapter 3, and that’s one of its more fascinating parts early on for me. The information in the stories are key to getting interested in the following chapters in the book from where I’m standing, and these financial situations involving numbers find the right placing. But there’s so much more to give this book five stars for, chapter 3 is only where it starts to take off.


The adventures of Michael Tenenbaum are another story within the story altogether and that’s where it achieves most of its praise-worthy content once a little prepared for it in the early chapters. This isn’t some quick scan of information, it’s the opposite, filled with a maximum wealth of exciting and informative literature on the subject. And one of first-hand accounts from an actual risk taker of global status. You get just as much on Tenenbaum himself and it’s a long but economical read with an enormously satisfying approach to a subject not everyone thinks about.

I couldn’t set it down once I got into it, but it can be read chapter by chapter like anything else, it’s just worth mentioning that it reads pretty- fast and easy for its length. You never have to back track to guess where something is going, it moves freely through each chapter, so it takes its own risks in that department, but it has no lumps to be found in the process. I could use a whole series of this from Tenenbaum, but it could be asking too much because it really leaves no variable facts uncovered but who doesn’t like updates either.

If that isn’t enough it’s full of ways to stay informed on risk measures of just about any kind while you learn about how and why it’s important to manage risk at any cost and in any situation. It’s a lot of great information and it’s told in a way that takes right inside the mind of the author who’s lived everything he’s written about with Co-Author Donna Beech. You get the accounts of a risk taker himself who shares what he’s learned by way of world travel to some of the most dangerous places and situations to be in. GOODREADS:

You also get the angle of what he’s learned as he’s gone, and that is where Tenenbaum shares a magnitude of unembellished facts that not only entice on the subject but would fascinate the novice or even the curious and send them away happy they read it. This book will please any and every reader who buys it, and you can’t say that about everything going out to shelves and devices these days. Tenenbaum writes a book to be compared to that of any on the dangers and benefits of risk taking for everything it is worth.

Kim Muncie