‘How to Find Fulfilling Work’ by Roman Krznaric – Book Review

How-to-Find-Fulfilling-Work-cover-lowres

The lowdown:

We all hate our jobs. Well, I hated my job, which is exactly why this book ended up in my handbag. That, and my adoration for The School of Life and anything connected to Alain De Botton. In How to Find Fulfilling Work, Roman Krznaric gives compact advice on how we can use our passions and talents to create a meaningful career and live a simpler existence.

Supporting his advice with statistical data and an historical perspective on the evolution of work, Krznaric asserts that nothing is beyond our reach so long as we consider hybrid careers and direct our potential toward ‘wide achievement’: excelling in multiple areas rather than swallowing the popular notion of specialisation.

The book itself is neatly set into five sections in an attempt to keep a daunting topic easy and forthright; instead of quoting journal articles, examples are made of Hollywood movies and notorious personalities.

What I liked:

I felt less alone in my discontent. The use of case studies helped disprove the idea that something is wrong if we don’t find our work fulfilling. Dissatisfaction at work is widespread and does not discriminate amongst industries or personal temperament.

Exercises in brainstorming empower the reader to think outside the box and break a potentially scary change into manageable baby steps, often by recruiting others to provide suggestions and/or an element of mentorship.

What I didn’t like:

Although the content was reassuring, I felt I was already one step ahead of Krznaric’s ideas. This is possibly just a personal impression due to months of career-change rumination; those just beginning to feel restless may be enlightened by the suggestions on offer.

Also, the exercise that suggested sending a mock personal ad to ten people was beyond my reach. Yes, I could have scraped together some friends and family to throw ideas at me, but I couldn’t get past the fear that they’d think I was circulating chain mail. Again, maybe just me.

Verdict:

For those who have ever wondered if there’s more to life, this pocket-sized manual will prove that there is. Encouraging and written with kindness, How to Find Fulfilling Work is for anyone wanting to get a sense of value and meaning out of their working life. As John Burroughs said, ‘Leap, and the net will appear’.

4/5 Stars

‘The Short Drop’ by Matthew FitzSimmons – Book Review

The Short Drop

Big thanks to NetGalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

Still finding my way around NetGalley.com, this was one of my first approved requests and boy, did I hit the jackpot. Matthew FitzSimmons first novel The Short Drop is a spellbinding and immersive thriller, rich with political intrigue and complex familial mystery.

The story opens in an all-American diner. Ex-marine Gibson Vaughn occupies a booth while searching online for a way to support an ex-wife and six year old daughter. A television newsbreak recaps the disappearance of Suzanne Lombard, Gibson’s childhood playmate and daughter of family friend, senator Benjamin Lombard. The abduction occurred almost ten years earlier, after Gibson’s infamous computer hacking stunt that exposed dodgy dealings within Lombard’s cartel. But all was not as it seemed and Vaughn’s own father ended his life after becoming implicated in the scandal.

Now, with a bad reputation keeping him jobless, he’s desperate for honest work when approached by someone from his past. A friend of his father and an insider in the political sphere, George Abe seeks Gibson’s computer skills to help track Suzanne’s abductor who, after almost a decade, has sent through evidence of involvement in the case.

The pull of sentimentality yanks Gibson into the covert investigation. Abe Consulting uncovers a long and intricate back-story before landing on the horrifying truth of what happened to Suzanne Lombard all those years ago.

FitzSimmons is not a word-waster. Tightly written and action packed, The Short Drop is accessible without being patronising. Time is a major theme and he uses it to explore the texture of grief and the complexities of human relationships. Conventional narrative works to keep a fast pace while the depth of the characters allows the reader to form alliances and race with them toward a tidy resolution.

Matthew FitzSimmons has produced a fantastic piece of crime fiction. It’s marked as the first in a series and even though it’s unclear how much more of this story could be teased out, I wouldn’t be sorry to see more of Gibson Vaughn.

5/5 Stars

 

 

 

Note: If this is typical NetGalley standard, I may never visit bookdepository again. *

 

*This is a total lie.

 

‘JPod’ by Douglas Coupland – Book Review

Jpod

Recently, a new friend introduced me to the concept of biji, a Chinese form of writing roughly translated as ‘brush notes’ or ‘jottings’. This literary genre is defined by a three-part division consisting of different styles and lacking definitive structure. I sought an example of the format and was directed toward Douglas Coupland’s ‘JPod’, an off-beat story of life in a modern Vancouver office.

Meet Ethan, a 28 year old games developer who spends his days toggling between virtual world building, nicknaming co-workers, and fetching the company snack supplies. In his down time, he helps his family dispose of drug dealers, sever ties with psychotic lovers, and feed illegal immigrants squatting in his apartment.

After a ruling from new boss Steve, Ethan and his five pod mates must overhaul their current project to accommodate a turtle modelled on a reality T.V. presenter. They decide to corrupt the game with a rogue clown demon, stopping work only to deal with incestuous sexual emergencies, lesbian cult members, and the suspicious abduction of a recently appointed superior.

Obligated to undertake a rescue mission in China, Ethan fights off the threat of a viral outbreak, and begs a cantankerous author to rescue him from an early roadside death. Here, Coupland openly inserts himself into the narrative as a character that, although grumpy and not averse to sneaky blackmail, conveniently turns up to save the day.

‘JPod’ reads like a scrapbook, shifting between witty narratives, streams of consciousness in squashed or inflated text, character constructed interviews, anagram definitions, and a lengthy chunk of the number Pi. The biji style is used as a visual representation of life with its interruptions and conflicting demands on attention. Instead of finding the strange digressions distracting, the reader bounces around a lively story full of entertaining, and somehow relevant tangents.

Coupland has created a modern tapestry, one I can only describe as an absolute circus. My usual enjoyment of a book lies in how much I miss it after the final page. And still, every morning at reading time, I wish Ethan and the gang were still going strong. It was the first of Coupland’s novels I read and it certainly won’t be the last.

5/5 Stars

(You can find more on the history of biji here).

Note: I’ve been told there is a T.V. spin-off which I’ve ordered via Amazon. Stay tuned for my thoughts!