Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Reading: Of Mockingbirds and Assholes, Among Others

I know I have a list in the sidebar of the three books I'm currently reading, but the truth is, I'm actually reading lots of stuff. Of note right now are these two books:

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't by Robert I. Sutton, Ph.D.

The former is a lovely, well-researched portrait of Nelle Harper Lee, the author of the one-hit-wonder To Kill a Mockingbird. It can't be properly called a biography, because Lee refused to grant interviews or materials to the author. Rather, Sheilds has carefully culled from newspapers, school records, historical documents, as well interviews with friends and associates and the writings of Truman Capote--Lee's best friend growing up in Monroeville, Alabama and continued confidante into adulthood--to compile this book.

I'm about halfway through it. It's an easy read and well-written. Shields is a masterful storyteller and, at times, this book reads like fiction (though its content clearly isn't) in that he weaves his information into a story as told through the eyes of others. If you liked To Kill a Mockingbird and you've wanted to know about its author, read Mockingbird.

The latter book I'm reading for myriad reasons, about which I shan't go into great detail as this is a public blog. By reading it, I am not in any way implying that my current employment situation is anything but positive. I'm reading this book, because it's always good to understand how one fits in an organization and ones impact within the organization. I will, however, point out at the very least Sutton's test for determining if you are an asshole or if you work with an asshole.
Test One: After talking to the alleged asshole, does the "target" feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about him or herself?

Test Two: Does the alleged asshole aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful? (p. 9)
Add to that these statistics: 50 percent to 80 percent of employees (subordinates) report that their superiors have been abusive. Within peer-to-peer ranks, coworkers experienced nastiness 20 to 50 percent of the time. "Upward nastiness--where underlings take on their superiors--occurs in less than 1 percent of cases." (Emphasis added; p. 23)

Certainly a book I would recommend, especially as it seems that work has become a much more hostile, unpleasant setting for many people these days.

On top of those two books, I'm also reading Juanita Brooks' The Mountain Meadows Massacre, John McPhee's Coming Into the Country, and Literature from the Axis of Evil: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations--A Words Without Borders Anthology.

As I said to a friend the other day, it would be great to win the lottery and then just read, write, and snap pictures all day. Oh well. I suppose snatches of reading here and there will suffice for now.


ME said...

I'll have to run "Mockingbird" by the book group and see if anyone else is interested. I am!

Mary Ellen

Janet M Kincaid said...

ME: It's actually a pretty good read, especially given that Harper Lee is still alive and, since the publication of her book, has only given a handful of interviews in her lifetime. Here's hoping the book group bites!