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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.

    Read her LinkedIn profile.

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Nonfiction Books – Two Stars – Not Awful

If you click on a cover and make any purchase from Amazon in the same session, I receive a small commission. It’s a way for you to support my reviews (if you like them).


Breaking into the Boys’ Club: 8 Ways for Women to Get Ahead in Business – Molly Shepard, Jane Stimmler, Peter Dean – 2009 . Lanham: M. Evans

Oddly, this book left me completely cold. It’s not bad or wrong–could it be that it’s just totally bland? I was hoping for something interesting in the chapter for African-American women, but alas, that one too just said nothing.

Building an Inclusive Organization: Leveraging the Power of a Diverse Workforce Stephen Frost and Raafi-Karim Alidina – 2019. New York: Kogan Page

There might be a good book in here, but it’s hard to find it in this repetitive, disorganized, and bloated manuscript. While attempting to justify diversity work through studies and anecdotes, the authors weaken their arguments by silly unsupported statements such as, “All of us, whether directly or indirectly, are dependent on women being paid fairly,” or “People perform better when they can be themselves,” or “People internalize diversity as a good thing in their own self-interest.” The authors refrain from thinking critically and speaking plainly about the benefits and pitfalls of a diverse workforce and instead wrap their observations in politicized verbosity. Because of their experience working with organizations, I’d love to see them take the whole thing apart and start from first principles. In its current form, it’s a disservice to those who are working hard to fight discrimination and improve workplace cultures.

Corporate Crap: Lessons Learned from 40 Years in Corporate America – Howard Harrison – 2018. Indianpolis: Dog Ear Publishing

As a fellow curmudgeon, I appreciated Howard’s condemnation of brainstorming, mission statements, Myers-Briggs, standing meetings, and outlandish CEO pay. He points out the silliness of formalizing mentoring and team building “exercises,” but he also objects to employee social events and even shaking hands which veers into oddball territory. It’s not clear who this book is written for. Perhaps he intended to enlighten the indoctrinated, but at the end he suddenly encourages his readers to “rise above” as though it’s a pity party. The tone is generally bitter, not funny, especially when he recounts the experience of being fired immediately after a holiday party and his wife’s being let go after she caught a black woman shoplifting. He makes some excellent arguments, but what could have been a humorous and witty read comes off ultimately as unpleasant.


Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power, and Relational Practice at Work – Joyce K. Fletcher – 1999. Cambridge: The MIT Press

The author argues that although women have been somewhat successful at work, the hierarchical nature of corporations is inherently male and should be questioned, if not undone. Good luck with that.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the WorkplaceGary Chapman & Paul White 2019. Chicago: Northfield Publishing

I was delighted that someone devoted a book to the wonderful mission of appreciating employees, and there is real value in this book. Unfortunately, too much time is spent promoting the authors’ assessment tool (which costs money) which allegedly will determine the primary way any one individual wants to be acknowledged: by words, by time, by gestures, by gifts, or by touch. Additionally, large sections present dubious studies that arrive at questionable conclusions (people leave their jobs because of feeling underappreciated—really? I thought it was because they hated their boss) or boil down to common sense (guess what, sometimes people prefer help instead of being thanked). The authors seem surprised when their own simple-minded assessment doesn’t capture the nuances of what people really appreciate when, instead of admitting that interactions between people are complex and can’t be captured in a simple survey.


Genderspeak: Men, Women, and the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense – Suzette Elgin – 1993. New York: John Wiley & Sons

A bit of a strange book in that Suzette swings from astonishing pronouncements—the US trails Japan in robotics because we lack a friendly metaphor for a robot (R2-D2 doesn’t count?) and that “women (and children of both genders) dislike male verbal teasing intensely” 🙁 — to rather overly technical and alienating psycholinguistic terminology and diagrams. She also takes several potshots at Deborah Tannen which seems odd. On the other hand, she has put great effort into providing specific examples of typical dialogue in order to help men and women be kinder to each other. Nothin’ wrong with that.


How to Say It for Women; Communicating with Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success – Phyllis Mindell – 2001. Paramus: Prentice Hall Books

Phyllis’s wide-ranging book swings from specific no-no’s (never say “I think”) to enormous generalities (women are born with better writing skills than men), but she’s onto something here. Maybe it doesn’t require a whole book to say it, but executive women need to express conviction in their own ideas before anyone else will follow.


It’s Not a Glass Ceiling; It’s a Sticky Floor – Rebecca Shambaugh – 2008. New York: McGraw-Hill

Although the book is not well-written, and she thanks her “literacy” agency, which is kind of sad, Rebecca attempts to document her anecdotal findings about women’s own failings that undercut their success. I’ll bet she’s right, and it’s too bad that her message got lost. She should try again.


Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results – Rebecca Shambaugh – 2012. New York: McGraw-Hill

Rebecca’s good intentions shine through in her long-awaited (at least for me) second book. Unfortunately, her efforts this time have turned in the wrong direction: instead of basing her arguments on her extensive experience with her clients, she invokes questionable “brain science” to justify her call for diversity by claiming that women are innately more creative, collaborative, and empathetic. There are two problems with this: 1) it’s not backed up by real science, and 2) the contradictory claim is made that women are just as decisive, authoritative, and tough as men, but they ALSO have these other “feminine” traits which make them even better leaders than men. Hmmm, marvelous creatures indeed; I want to give Rebecca the benefit of the doubt, and even I’m not buying it. The right approach requires less twisted thinking: diversity in and of itself offers advantages. We should not limit our hiring to white males; we should consider women, Asians, Hispanics, etc. because casting a wider net will bring a broader range of talents to the table. I would have preferred that this book be titled “Make Room for Everyone.” Diversity should not be limited to white women.


The Male Mind at Work: A Woman’s Guide to Working with Men – Deborah Swiss – 2000. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing

Publishers Weekly complained that this book is too negative which sounded kind of dumb to me at first, but I have to admit that by the end, I was pretty tired of hearing about how awful it is to work with women. A couple of the men that Deborah interviewed seemed to really dislike women and wish that they just weren’t in the workplace at all. I came away more discouraged than motivated, and perhaps others will feel as I did. The author probably didn’t realize how nasty the book would sound. Too bad because there’s some good material here.


Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex – John Gray – 1992. New York: HarperCollins Publishers

The extraterrestrial theme was amusing at first, but the simplification and repetition became boring and eventually irritating. Surely the secret to a magical relationship is more than knowing how to ask your spouse to take the trash out without making him mad. On the other hand, I applaud John’s courage. If I were to give romance advice, it would go along the lines of “Try to be nice; have sex when either wants to; and cling tight tight to each other because you are in for a very wild ride…in fact, forget it, your expectations are probably too high; you’re both too messed-up; and more marriages should end in divorce.” Which may not be what most people want to hear. Easier to talk about the trash.


The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead But Won’t Learn in Business School. Rezvani, S. 2010. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO

Selena has done a good job here in condensing much of the literature into straightforward friendly advice targeted at recent graduates. The book is clearly well-intentioned, and I expect we’ll see more of her thoughtful work. Her own lack of corporate experience makes the book a bit hypothetical, but it’s nice to see a young writer coming up in this field.


Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job – Stephanie Losee and Helaine Olen – 2007. Avon: Adams Media

Although I am adamantly opposed to this premise, the authors lay out the correct advice for what to do if you have been so incredibly stupid as to fall in love with a co-worker. There seem to be some contradictions, perhaps because there are two authors, particularly about which comes first, the career or the love life. That is, after all, the supreme question underlying this issue.

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories – Rebecca Barry – 2015. New York: Simon & Schuster

My brother knows the author and gave me this book as a gift. He had also recommended the novel Later, at the Bar, which I found a bit narrow and self-conscious. This book is a personal account of the author’s family moving to an old house in upstate New York to live the life of their dreams, working remotely and building a family. Rebecca’s intended novel emerges, hackneyed and ugly, so she turns instead to the easier solution of fulfilling her book contract with this one. Parts are poignant and funny, especially the kids’ witticisms, but I couldn’t shake the sense that this work was a fallback.


Seven Secrets of Successful Women: Success Strategies of the Women Who Have Made It and How You Can Follow their Lead – Donna Brooks and Lynn Brooks 1997. New York: McGraw-Hill

Inoffensive, but didn’t add much to the literature. This title made me determined not to use “seven,” “six,” “secret” or “success” or any derivation of those words in my title.


Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman – Esther Wachs Book – 2000. New York: Harper Collins

I find the tenor of these types of books a bit hard to swallow, but I know it resonates with some women. It’s great to be encouraging, but when claims of wonderful inherent female traits aren’t supported by women’s success in the corporate world, I don’t find them particularly convincing.


Women, Work, and the Art of Savoir Faire – Mireille Guiliano – 2009. New York: Atria (Simon & Shuster)

Charmant, and contains some practical advice for building a resume, but a bit too moi-focused and not enough toi-focused for my taste. Does she really think she’s the last person on earth who arranges their dining utensils to signal to the waiter that she has finished? Vraiment?





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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