How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son Of Privilege Learns To Live Like Everyone Else

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In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a big house in the suburbs, a loving family, and a top job at an ad agency with a six-figure salary. By the time he turned sixty, he had lost everything except his Ivy League education and his sense of entitlement. First, he was downsized at work. Next, an affair ended his twenty-year marriage. Then, he was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain tumor, prognosis undetermined. Around the same time, his...
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Overview

In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a big house in the suburbs, a loving family, and a top job at an ad agency with a six-figure salary. By the time he turned sixty, he had lost everything except his Ivy League education and his sense of entitlement. First, he was downsized at work. Next, an affair ended his twenty-year marriage. Then, he was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain tumor, prognosis undetermined. Around the same time, his girlfriend gave birth to a son. Gill had no money, no health insurance, and no prospects.

One day as Gill sat in a Manhattan Starbucks with his last affordable luxury—a latté—brooding about his misfortune and quickly dwindling list of options, a 28-year-old Starbucks manager named Crystal Thompson approached him, half joking, to offer him a job. With nothing to lose, he took it, and went from drinking coffee in a Brooks Brothers suit to serving it in a green uniform. For the first time in his life, Gill was a minority--the only older white guy working with a team of young African-Americans. He was forced to acknowledge his ingrained prejudices and admit to himself that, far from being beneath him, his new job was hard. And his younger coworkers, despite having half the education and twice the personal difficulties he'd ever faced, were running circles around him.

The other baristas treated Gill with respect and kindness despite his differences, and he began to feel a new emotion: gratitude. Crossing over the Starbucks bar was the beginning of a dramatic transformation that cracked his world wide open. When all of his defenses and the armor of entitlement had been stripped away, a humbler, happier and gentler manremained. One that everyone, especially Michael's kids, liked a lot better.

The backdrop to Gill's story is a nearly universal cultural phenomenon: the Starbucks experience. In How Starbucks Saved My Life, we step behind the counter of one of the world's best-known companies and discover how it all really works, who the baristas are and what they love (and hate) about their jobs. Inside Starbucks, as Crystal and Mike's friendship grows, we see what wonders can happen when we reach out across race, class, and age divisions to help a fellow human being.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
There is no denying that Michael Gill's Starbucks application was atypical. For 25 years, this 63-year-old Yale alumnus had been a creative director at the prestigious J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. The privileged son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill had grown up amid cultural elites, rubbing elbows with James Thurber, Ezra Pound, and Ernest Hemingway, among others. But now Gill's marriage, his six-figure job, and his own business were gone, and he was seeking a job at the local coffee shop. His account of his apprenticeship in cappuccino making and race relations are instructive and ultimately ennobling.
Publishers Weekly

Baker lends his talent to Gill's memoir, the subject of considerable industry buzz and the basis for a 2008 movie starring Tom Hanks. Baker's enunciation and cadence perfectly match the essence of Gill, a well-bred and erudite-yet down-on-his luck-advertising executive who discovers the true meaning of life while working as a Starbucks barista. Baker also delivers especially evocative performances of Gill's hardworking-but fun-loving-young colleagues Kester and Anthony. His portrayal of store manager and mentor Crystal seems slightly underwhelming given her character's pivotal role in the story. All in all, Baker remains true to the spirit of the material, and his rendition of the workplace banter should ring especially true with service industry veterans. Critics quick to dismiss the project for its high-concept elements will probably remain unmoved, but fans of such popular inspirational/motivational memoirs as Tuesdays with Morrieshould find the experience good to the last drop. Simultaneous release with the Gotham hardcover (Reviews, June 4). (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Minneapolis Star Tribune
How Starbucks Saved My Life works as an interesting memoir of one man's transformation. But it could also work as a wake-up call to corporate America.
The Christian Science Monitor
An intriguing look behind the counter of one of the world's most recognizable brands.
The Wall Street Journal
In the best tradition of The New Yorker, How Starbucks Saved My Life is one great read.
Kirkus Reviews
When a formerly high-level exec hits rock bottom, he finds salvation behind the counter at Starbucks. Son of famed New Yorker editor Brendan Gill, the author was unceremoniously fired from J. Walter Thompson after 25 years as a creative director. While trying-and ultimately failing-to run his own consulting business, he engaged in a marriage-ending affair that left him broke as well as unemployed. He subsequently found himself drinking a latte at Starbucks during a "Hiring Open House." When a confident 28-year-old African-American woman offered him a job, Gill found himself transformed from a name-dropping, high-society hobnobber into an everyman who had to relate to people from all walks of life. In the fast-paced world of coffee purveyors, the only thing that counted was his ability to do the job and work alongside the other "partners" (Starbucks-speak for employees). At its core, the narrative is an inspirational story about someone who learned late-but not too late-in life that money and status aren't everything. If Gill is to be believed, Starbucks is a magical realm where people of all races, creeds and lifestyles intermingle, a place where customers treat baristas with respect bordering on hero worship. Unfortunately, what little enlightenment his memoir has to offer is swamped by Gill's mawkish tributes to a mega-corporation. Tom Hanks, whose production company has optioned the book, will have a tough time redeeming this nauseating paean. Way too much sugar. Film Rights to Playtone
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789571348551
  • Publisher: Shi Bao Chu Ban/Tsai Fong Books
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Language: Chinese
  • Pages: 323
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Gates Gill
Michael Gates Gill is the son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill and he was a creative director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising where he was employed for over 25 years. He currently lives in New York within walking distance of the Starbucks store where he works, and has no plans to retire from what he calls the best job he's ever had.
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