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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2007
Man - other reviewers - what book are you reading, or more importantly expecting to read!

A book I really enjoyed about a man's personal journey at the late stages of his life. Unlike the other reviewers I couldn't put it down and it was extremely moving how Mike changed from a successful, shallow man to a person who whilst not as materially as rich - certainly is happier in life.

Wow this man has met some people Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway - and how much more interesting his work colleagues in Starbucks are.

A recommended read - especially if you are feeling down - this story will inspire you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2007
I loved this book and couldn't put it down. I thought the way Michael's childhood story was woven into his adult crisis was brilliant. The characters he encountered in Starbucks were vividly brought to life. It is full of obvious life lessons, but is truly brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Michael Gill's story is remarkable. He had everything a man could ask for: a stellar career in advertising, a wonderful home and family, and the kind of life we all dream of. He is someone who could have come straight out of the TV series "Mad Men", but is a real character not an invented one. Despite achieving great success, he took everything he had for granted. He was selfish. He was arrogant. He wasn't there for his kids. He cheated on his wife. Then, just as he was reaching the age when everything usually turns right in your life, he lost his job, his wife divorced him and he became very sick. Thanks to a chance encounter, Starbucks saved his life. Literally. I don't want to spoil the story, but it not only gave him a job when he reached rock bottom but crucially access to medical care that saved him from a potentially fatal condition.

The facts of Michael Gill's rise and fall are fascinating, but what makes this a compelling and heartwarming tale of redemption is his brutal frankness and humility. If he had been a detestable character before, he became someone profoundly changed and worthy of respect despite the lowliness of his subsequent position. This book reminds me in many ways of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" except that this is no fiction.

It is being turned into a movie with Tom Hanks. If it is half as good as this book, it may get an Oscar.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2007
I couldn't agree more with Mrs Ridings (below). Although the author repeatedly says that he is so at peace with his new career, he keeps relating to all the big things he did in his past career, so you keep thinking that he in fact isn't at peace with it at all - and I therefore found the book a bit tedious. Strangely enough, I did find myself sympathising with the author throughout the book.
I bought this book to get to know a bit more about the Starbuck's business in a more playful way than reading a management book. And I did.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2012
This book will mean more or less to different people and will affect them differently at varying times in their lives.
The central character had a good if stressful job, family life that was squeezed into very little time and managed to cheat on his wife, probably because of the lack of connection with his family. He lost everything. Trying to support himself he takes a chance of an evening of recruitment in a Starbucks coffee shop an hour from his flat. The manageress takes him on board and he learns a lot of life lessons including how to be a more helpful, thoughtful person.
If you don't want to read info about the corporate structure or ethos of Starbucks, you can turn the page and next thing you can be asking yourself whether you would allow a homeless person in to use the restrooms or give free hot water.
The employee contracts cancer but gets medical care and while he has no guarantee of a long life, he is a lot better off for being with the firm than if he had been shining shoes on the street.
Mainly this is a man looking back over how his life has brought him to this moment and how it is still possible to learn and grow at an older age.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2007
My friend owns this book and we keep it in the bathroom for reading at those special quiet contemplative moments,thank god! Even reading this book in short segments is hard work, but I am of the philosophy that if I have started a book I must finish it! Michael Gills father must be turning in his grave, if the son of a supposed great New Yorker writer can produce such over inflated drivel. I understand this is a story about his personal journey from hard faced advertising exec to lowly but happy barista, but self obsession is never pretty. He moves from rememberances of his childhood and how his father was never there for him, makes the comparison to himself and how he treats his children, then moves on the same page to the rigours of cleaning a bathroom in store and that he could of never imagined himself doing this a jwtbcgxyz advertising agency. This is a formula he repeats on every page, infact a page rarely goes by when he doesn't mention his age or his previous life status. I find him a repative and unlikeable writer who feel the need to recant the same stories and anecdotes every few pages. I imagine if i were to read this book in one long sitting I would end up with repative strain injury!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2010
I first read this book on holidays in the States and it is a wonderful book with many layers of interest. Brilliantly written, the story develops with a tale of reality, an indept knowledge of the Starbucks coffee business and best of all a happy ending story of acceptance, consideration and humor. I would recommend this book as THE MANUAL for anyone working in the hospitality industry anywhere in the world. Michael Gill should be proud of this work.
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on 17 June 2014
This book was recommended to me by my sister in Canada,She had enjoyed it,I found it a very uplifting story, well. written & funny .
Mavis
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2009
Is it possible to enjoy a book, but simultaneously wish it had never been written?

I originally picked this up only because it was written by the son of Brendan Gill (in the 1970s Gill wrote a deservedly best-selling memoir, HERE AT THE NEW YORKER, of his time at the famous magazine: it was a favourite read of mine at a relatively early age - 14 - when I had heard of only a fraction of the literary celebrities Gill describes and occasionally eviscerates.) Gill hasn't inherited his father's gift for witty description, but his prose is perfectly readable and his story is sadly typical of many of the older generation.

Read as a personal memoir, HOW STARBUCKS SAVED MY LIFE is a straightforward tale of how a Son of Privilege unexpectedly found himself a casualty of the callous corporate culture, thrown onto the scrapheap in his sixties. His marriage disintegrated, followed by his health, but at his lowest point he was offered a job in his local Starbucks. Donning the green apron and starting at the bottom, he found a corporate culture which was far friendlier than the merciless, high-pressured advertising world he'd left behind.

So far, so self-affirming and even heartwarming... But what makes me wish it had never been written is Gill's pathetic gratitude for an entry-level service job.

On a personal level, such humility is commendable.

On a political level, however, I shudder to think of some corporate reptile reading this book and taking from it the message that the perfect lower-level employee is one exactly like Gill: someone who is crushed, ground-down and utterly desperate to hang onto any employment, regardless of how onerous the duties are.

This, I fear, is the potentially harmful message of the book. What is doubtless intended as the story of one man's redemption through humility and hard work actually carries a less palatable message about the desperation of the average working stiff in America, not to mention the tragic waste of talent and experience when older, highly-trained workers are laid off in their thousands to "save money".

Seen in this light, it's really not so heartwarming after all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 March 2008
"How Starbucks Saved My Life" is based on the appealing premise that taking a less prestigious, blue collar job can restore your self-esteem and allow you to regain a sense of what really matters in life. Michael Gates Gill joins Starbucks at the age of 64, having lost his job at J Walter Thompson and been essentially unemployed since. At Starbucks, he regains a sense of purpose and a connection with others.

This heart-warming little book would be the perfect read if condensed into a Readers Digest magazine. At its full length (which is still comparatively short), it becomes tiresome. There is far too much information about how great Starbucks is: we are told numerous times about the employee medical benefits, how Starbucks will put you through college, how Starbucks cares about its partners (employees) and so forth. We get a very comprehensive description of how Starbucks toilets should be cleaned and how to balance a Starbucks till. The book is also padded with frequent flashbacks and stories from Gill's previous life - unfortunately, very few of these are interesting and inevitably they interrupt the story just when something was about to happen.

But the biggest flaw for me was the writing, which felt like a sample from a grade school creative writing class. Here's just one example: "I liked their laughter. I remembered that Crystal had told me that the original vision of Starbucks had been based on an Italian Cafe. I imagined there would be a lot of laughter in that kind of place."

While it is apparent that Gill's life changed dramatically over the year, that he grew in confidence and as a person, we never really get a concrete sense of how that happened. In the same way that we are told (frequently) how funny everyone thinks he is, without ever getting a sample of that humour, we are left to extrapolate the personal growth that he has gone through. There is far too much here about what Starbucks is like as a place to work, and not nearly enough about the transformation that it led to. A book that covers similar territory but is much better overall is Cliff Walk: a Job Lost and a Life.
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