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    “Great graduation present!”

    Inspired to extend a helping hand to ambitious women working in corporate America, a veteran executive offers honest, practical, slightly irreverent advice about navigating companies that are run and populated predominately by men.


    Buy the paperback here.


    Learn to see yourself as others do and become magnetic, magnanimous, and memorable! Savvy advice, specific examples, and tactical exercises to develop your presence—in months, not years.

  • About the Author

    Jennifer K. Crittenden earned an MBA in finance and worked for over twenty years in the US and abroad, rising from financial analyst to chief financial officer. She is the author of five books, including the award-winning Discreet Guide for Executive Women. She offers professional development programs through her company The Discreet Guide.

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Nonfiction Books – Four Stars – Recommended

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American’s Last Great Newspaper War: The Death of Print in a Two-Tabloid Town – Michael Jaccarino – 2020. New York: Fordham University Press

Describing the Darwinian epic battle between the New York Daily News and the New York Post, Mike recounts the madcap behind-the-scenes shenanigans to one-up the other paper that he and other runners and shooters engaged in to get the “wood” and win the day. From covering tragedy and death to getting the scoop on Miss New Jersey, Spitzer, and Derek Jeter, the stories are a fascinating peak into a different era, but Mike also shares his personal journey of evolution from a get-the-story-at-all-costs cub reporter to a place where he just couldn’t knock on one more newly-minted widow’s door. Lively stories in a hard-boiled style.


Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay – 2014. New York: Harpers Perennial

In this hodgepodge collection of surprisingly loosely edited essays (some border on musings), Roxane covers topics as diverse as TV shows, Sheryl Sandberg, her own sexual assault, and issues of gender and color. Throughout, her reasonable, clear voice is an upbeat and hopeful reminder that sensible dialog about sensitive topics is still possible, and the success of her book is an indicator that honest and thoughtful writing is still treasured. Very enjoyable, but pick and choose essays that are of interest to you.


Bossypants – Tina Fey – 2011. New York: Regan Arthur Book. AUDIOBOOK narrated by the author

Unusual mix of essays about work, comedy, being Sarah Palin, Tina’s childhood, and childrearing. Whew. Despite her weird comedy, Tina is a rational, smart, and sympathetic role model. Maybe we have come a long way.

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant: A MemoirRoz Chast – 2014. New York: Bloomsbury

Yes, it’s a humorous cartoon book, but Roz so touchingly explains the experience of a child who watches her parents age, it feels like the most intimate memoir ever. Extraordinary.


The Enforcers: How Little Known Trade Reporters Exposed the Keating Five and Advanced Business Reporting – Rob Wells – 2019. Champaign: University of Illinois Press

A throwback to the 80s, this is a compelling behind-the-scenes tale of the illegal activities of the S&L industry and the corruption of its so-called regulators. The eventual disclosure of the whole mess by intrepid journalists toiling outside of the limelight underpins Rob’s case that independent business reporting is needed now more than ever and crucial to our democracy. [Rob also was an interesting and well-spoken guest on my podcast, Dear Discreet Guide.]


Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – 2009. New York: Knopf

This one wins the award for the most stomach-churning book on the list as it reports both anecdotal and statistical evidence of abuse, torture, and slavery of girls and women in the developing world. The book is openly agenda-driven—the authors want you to contribute to aids programs. I am reluctant to be critical of such a well-intentioned book, but despite their own good advice, they should have been more careful not to overstate their case. To claim that terrorism stems from gender inequality is just silly. We now know from the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism that over 95 percent of suicide-terrorism is driven by foreign occupation—which should make us reconsider our priorities. Nevertheless, the authors have done a remarkable job in bringing more visibility to the pain and suffering of millions of girls across the world. I am particularly intrigued by studies that show that women gain power when they have money, and it turns out that women are good with money—they invest wisely in their children and in their businesses. Could it be for once that throwing money at a problem could be just the right solution?

Lunch with Lucy: Maximize Profits by Investing in Your People – Sherry Stewart Deutschmann – 2020. An Inc Original

In this charming narrative about her experiences building her own successful printing company, Sherry supports her argument that putting employees first will result in higher profits. She created a unique culture that included an egalitarian profit-sharing plan, generous benefits, and a new way to calculate a living wage, and even an unconventional organizational chart. The takeaways from this book are surprisingly specific and profound.


The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace – Shaunti Feldhahn – 2009. New York: Broadway

I just recently came across this book and was amazed that her findings so closely mirrored what I observed in my career. Perhaps gender issues aren’t that mysterious after all. The information she gathered about men’s attitudes toward flexible work arrangements is particularly interesting. As in her first book, Shaunti takes an objective and open attitude to what she heard from the men she surveyed, to her great credit. While there is much here that will be rejected by women, her book is chock full of useful information, and I believe that these are rules we must play by until we have transformed the typical corporate environment.


Maternity: Letters from Working Women – Women’s Co-operative Guild (ed) – 1978. New York: Norton

Anyone who thinks that birth control is not a health care issue should read this book. These letters from British working class women in 1914 recount their childbearing and economic history as part of an anecdotal study conducted by the Women’s Guild. They also remind us of the danger, drudgery, hopelessness, and spiraling poverty associated with excessive childbearing: “eleven children in thirteen years,” “five stillbirths,” “four children under the age of five,” “mother eats last,” “the poor mite finally succumbed at nine months,” “eight miscarriages.” No wonder that many of them allude to the relief that death would bring. The moral aspect of reproduction is that forcing families to bring children into that kind of hell is nothing other than immoral.


Opting out? Why women really quit careers and head home – Pam Stone – 2007. Berkeley: University of California Press

Very interesting book based on interviews with a number of well-educated and successful women who stopped working. Pam sets herself a difficult hypothesis that the women were pushed out by the corporate world, despite their own claims to the contrary. I would be cautious about trying to out-guess these super-smart women. Her corollary that the corporate world must make changes to accommodate women is too agenda-driven for my taste, but the book is well-written and worth reading. I particularly appreciated her insight that when husbands say, “It’s your choice, honey,” they mean, “It’s your problem.”

Opting Back In: What Really Happens When Mothers Go Back to Work – Pam Stone and Meg Lovejoy – 2019. Berkeley: University of California Press

The authors re-visited the women they researched in the Opting Out book to see if they had returned to the labor force twelve years later—and how. Most had, but in far different jobs than the high-paying professional roles they had left behind. Whether because of a change in their values or the difficulty in returning to prestigious jobs after an absence, they had moved into more traditional female-dominated areas, such as teaching and non-profit work. The cumulative outcome of their individual stories is that the women’s choices ultimately have inadvertently reinforced traditional gender roles whereby the women’s careers are diminished in comparison to their mates’, and we lose their contributions in the corporate world.


Play Like a Man, Win Like a woman – Gail Evans – 2000. New York: Broadway Books (a division of Random House)

This one is the real deal. Despite its goofy title, Gail gives concrete examples of how things play out in corporate America, and her personal experiences are right on. I find the representation of corporate life as a competition with men, and of corporate women as nitwits, somewhat distasteful, but it helped keep her messages simple.


The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others – KristiHedges – 2012. NewYork: American Management Association

In researching material for my training program on presence, I came across this excellent book. Kristi focuses on your inner intentions to strengthen your message through your presence. Her takeaways at the end of each chapter are very valuable.


Shorter: Work Better, Smarter, and Less – Alex Soojung-Kim Pang – 2020. New York: PublicAffairs Hachette

This book is great, and Alex was a terrific guest on my podcast. Confirming our fears, he unveils the many ways in which we employers and employees waste our time and other people’s time and dismantles the arguments about why we couldn’t get the same amount done in four days. Lots of common sense and anecdotal examples. [A quibble: One star off because forcing the structure of the book into design phases was constrictive, faddish, and hard on the reader.] A hopeful book that should be widely read.


Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries, and Quagmires of Today –  Philip Galanes – 2011. New York: Simon & Schuster

Amusing columns address awkward issues in modern times. Philip correctly points out the goal of good manners is to prevent bumps in the road, or to smooth them over if they can’t be avoided. That overarching objective can guide you in many situations he doesn’t address in the book.


Speak with Impact: How to Command the Room and Influence Others – Allison Shapira – 2018. New York: HarperCollins Leadership

Although much of this material has been presented before, it is wonderfully organized here with an excellent index. Also useful are the book-related resources on Allison’s website, including videos to demonstrate what she’s writing about. Since terrible presentations abound, help the world by sharing this book widely.

Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count – Karen Wickre – 2018. New York: Touchstone

Well-written and well-intentioned, this book is more about building a network of contacts (both online and irl) than what we usually think of as “networking,” actually going out and talking to people. A lot of the advice is common sense or intuitive to anyone with social skills, but I imagine that this book would be extremely useful to a professional who has just moved to the U.S. A fine resource.


Tales from the Boom-Boom room: Women vs. Wall Street – Susan Antilla – 2002. Princeton: Bloomberg Press

A fabulous piece of reporting about the complicated labyrinth of sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuits against Wall Street firms in the late 90s. The book is chock full of facts, legal intricacies, he said/she said counterpoints, dozens of names and characters, and yet ultimately what emerges is a sad story–that the plaintiffs were wronged and damaged and that largely their efforts were pointless. Over 25 years later, it is interesting to compare their complaints with those of Ellen Pao who sued a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Although her firm is not a brokerage house on Wall Street such as those that Susan describes, it also operates in a male-dominated industry focused on money. The Wall Street women reported being called obscene names, of being groped and physically attacked, of having their clients stolen, being demoted and fired while Ellen complains of being pressured to have sex with a co-worker (which she did), being invited to dinner (which she declined), and receiving a book of erotic drawings (that she kept). I can’t find the comparison much cause for joy, but perhaps it is a reflection that the working environment has gotten slightly better for women. On the other hand, the contract that Ellen signed as part of her employment contains a mandatory arbitration clause just like the agreements signed by the Wall Street women. Although pressure was brought to prohibit those types of clauses so that an employee isn’t forced to give up her civil rights, it appears that some things haven’t changed.


Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about How Women Become Leaders – Alice Eagly and Linda L. Carli – 2007. Boston: Harvard Business School Press

The book is extremely well-written and lays out an extraordinary argument against bias in the workplace. Too bad that all male corporate executives won’t read this book, or even many female executives, given its dense academic prose. The authors unfortunately disclose their agenda early in the book in that they desperately want to show that women are superior leaders, but when over 70 percent of employees say they would rather work for a man, it’s going to be pretty hard to prove that.


Women and Sports in the United States: A Documentary Reader – Jean and Susan K. Cahn (ed.) – 2007. Boston: Northeastern University Press

An excellent collection of essays, articles, op-ed pieces, and miscellaneous writings about the progress, coverage, realities, and problems of female sports participants over the last 125 years. The written chapter introductions felt a bit obligatory, but most of the selected writings are varied and interesting. A couple of standouts were: David Zirin’s essay on the “all-too-quiet” retirement of Mia Hamm, pro-basketball player Mariah Burton Nelson’s excerpt from The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football, and Jean O’Reilly’s own essay on how female athletes are portrayed in the movies (usually badly). The editors were willing to include opposing viewpoints, such as an incredibly stupid essay by George Will on Title IX, which adds to the tension of the book. I might have pulled the section on Title IX forward because of its continued controversy, but you can always read that section first. Outstanding work.


Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation and Positive Strategies for Change – Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever – 2007. New York: Bantam Dell (a division of Random House)

This well-researched book drives home the importance of negotiations for women in the workplace and how younger women are in fact less inclined to ask for what they want than the first generation of working women. Reluctantly, the authors describe the “social style” that I believe is most effective for current female executives. It seems to irritate them that women have to adopt a particular style to be successful, but I say: whatever works.

Workplace Warrior: People Skills for the No-BS Executive Jordan Goldrich and Walter G. Meyer – 2019. Austin: Greenleaf Book Group

Full disclosure: I interviewed Jordan on my podcast and found him to be a wise and experienced coach. His book is a balanced perspective on straight-talking managers who get stuff done but who may leave some bruises while doing so. Recounting his own wake-up call when he paid a big price for his lack of interpersonal skills, he advises us on how to understand those in our midst who have been called abrasive or bullies and how to tame our own warrior spirit to become more effective leaders, even in our politically correct and politically charged environments.


Yes Please Amy Poehler – 2015. New York: Dey St. AUDIOBOOK narrated by Amy Poehler

Completely charming and true to Amy’s character on Parks and Recreation, this mishmash of essays and stories recounts Amy’s rise from a passionate but poor improv actor to household name. She is wise, practical, funny, and honest and comes across as a wonderful person. I appreciated her emphasis on how many years she worked on her craft before she found fame and fortune. She’s right; most people don’t put the work in. A real American story.


You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation – Deborah Tannen – 1990. New York: William Morrow

Terrific, mostly-data-driven book that documents men’s and women’s speech habits and offers interpretations in a socio-linguistic context. A great window into “hearing” men and women, but Deborah is careful and correct not to turn this into an advice book.

Nonfiction reviews:

*****Five Stars

****Four Stars

***Three Stars

**Two Stars

* One Star

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  • Archived Issues

    Click here for the "Debunking Psychological Studies" Issue - November 2019.

    Click here for the "Imposter Syndrome" Issue - May 2019.

    Click here for the "Improv" Issue - Mar 2019.

    Click here for the "Podcast" Issue - Jan 2019.

    Click here for the "Books" Issue - Nov 2018.

    Click here for the "Civility and Anger" Issue - Sep 2018.

    Click here for the "Women and Money" Issue - July 2018.

    Click here for the "Training" Issue - May 2018.

    Click here for the "Lady" Issue - Mar 2018.

    Click here for the "Year of the Woman" Issue - Jan 2018.

    Click here for the "Sexual Misconduct" Issue - Nov 2017.

    Click here for the "Empathy" Issue - Sep 2017.

    Click here for the "Uncommon Courtesy" Issue - July 2017.

    Click here for the "Humor" Issue - May 2017.

    Click here for the "Stage Fright" Issue - Mar 2017.

    Click here for the "Women's March" Issue - Jan 2017.

    Click here for the "Executive Presence" Issue - Nov 2016.

    Click here for the "New Opportunity, i.e., Looking for Work" Issue - Sep 2016.

    Click here for the "Business Travel" Issue - July 2016.

    Click here for the "Bully" Issue - May 2016.

    Click here for the "Men, Women, and Money" Issue - March 2016.

    Click here for the "Boss" Issue - January 2016.

    Click here for the November 2015 Apology Edition.

    Click here for the September 2015 Single Mother Edition.

    Click here for the July 2015 Negotiation Edition.

    Click here for the May 2015 Birthday Edition.

    Click here for the Mar 2015 First Edition.

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