How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

by Michael Gates Gill


$15.30 $17.00 Save 10% Current price is $15.3, Original price is $17. You Save 10%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, February 26
132 New & Used Starting at $1.99


Now in paperback, the national bestselling riches-to-rags true story of an advertising executive who had it all, then lost it all—and was finally redeemed by his new job, and his twenty-eight-year-old boss, at Starbucks.

In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a mansion in the suburbs, a wife and loving children, a six-figure salary, and an Ivy League education. But in a few short years, he lost his job, got divorced, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With no money or health insurance, he was forced to get a job at Starbucks. Having gone from power lunches to scrubbing toilets, from being served to serving, Michael was a true fish out of water.

But fate brings an unexpected teacher into his life who opens his eyes to what living well really looks like. The two seem to have nothing in common: She is a young African American, the daughter of a drug addict; he is used to being the boss but reports to her now. For the first time in his life he experiences being a member of a minority trying hard to survive in a challenging new job. He learns the value of hard work and humility, as well as what it truly means to respect another person.

Behind the scenes at one of America’s most intriguing businesses, an inspiring friendship is born, a family begins to heal, and, thanks to his unlikely mentor, Michael Gill at last experiences a sense of self-worth and happiness he has never known before.

Watch a QuickTime trailer for this book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592404049
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 147,001
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 - 14 Years

About the Author

The son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, Michael Gates Gill was a creative director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising, where he was employed for over twenty-five years. He 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

How Starbucks Saved My Life 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 144 reviews.
Perpetualkid More than 1 year ago
first of all, i LOVE starbucks, which is what caught my eye about the very starbuck-sy feel of the cover. After reading the first chapter, I was hooked. Gates' writing style is swift and easy to read, but chock-filled with antidotes from what he calls his "past life"--a life of luxury and wealth. His story of his downfall is relatable (it can happen to anyone!) and his story of overcoming his state is both inspirational (i am starting a new endeavor myself so reading about someone else's endeavor was strengthing and enlightening) and encouraging. it is never too late to start anew, he shows us. and his honest and heartfelt story of his own life is definitely a must read! His details and his stumbling in starbucks, to what he learns during it all.. I've recommended this book to everyone--and my brother is hooked!! Great for gifts to recent grads from college (my brother) or someone just starting work (myself). LOVED it!
PBWriter36 More than 1 year ago
While slow at times, the Writer does a nice job of demonstrating how enriched his life was and how (on a different level), how enriched it becomes. With his flashbacks, annoying at times, he really let's the reader get into his head. Overall I enjoyed this book and would love to work at a Starbucks after reading it ;)
mimiAR More than 1 year ago
I have given many copies of this book to friends and family(they all enjoyed it.) and have reccommended it to many more--including dozens of Starbucks employees. None had read it and few had heard of it. Surprising. Such good publicity for the company. I thought this was a wonderful story about a man whose life was in shambles through misfortune and his own stupidity. He then gets a thoroughly unexpected second chance. I loved getting an inside view of the operation too.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
OK, I am a Starbuck's nut. I go to Starbuck's every day I can. It's not just the coffee (double tall, extra foamy latte in the morning and/or grande coffee light frappucino, add a shot of espresso, in the afternoon), it's about the whole experience. A place that feels like mine, getting to know the staff, the whole gestalt. So what I may have enjoyed most about the book is the whole Starbuck's story about training and staffing and how a good manager builds a team and makes her particular store such a go-to venue for her customers. It may also be that I spent many years in the advertising business, like the author/main character, and really get what he's talking about. But it's also a story about life turned upside down and how to survive, even grow, in an entirely new place. I'll admit that I was wary of the story of a high level ad exec falling so far as to have to take a job as a trainee barista at Starbuck's. It didn't seem that the ego of the former could ever accept being the latter. But he convinced me that he really could be happy in this new world and that he was a better person for it. I still wonder how long he will last at it (until after the film is done perhaps?) But I don't doubt at all that he is now and will always be a very different person from the one he used to be. And now when I go to Starbuck's, I look with much more interest at the employees, their behavior and attitudes, and how it all relates to me. The book is in that sense a primer on growing and managing a good customer-driven business. And, for some people, how to accept who you really are and what you really should be doing with your life. It's a fast read, an easy read, and you just may stop and think a bit about what he has to say.
kronan1 More than 1 year ago
Loved it............................................ Michael Gill is winner. Not easy starting at the top and working your way down.   But this is a man who adjusted his attitude and made down up.  Kudos to you Mike.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story and great book! A quick and easy read that I didn't want to put down. Very inspiring.
Lmartin1228 More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book, quick and inspiring!
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A former advertising big shot loses his job, his wife and finds out he has a brain tumor. In a moment of desperation he accepts a job at Starbucks and finds the work surprisingly satisfying. He writes about getting to know his new job, while flashing back to his fascinating life of privilege, which included run ins with Hemingway, Sinatra and Jackie O. I enjoyed Gill's account of his time at Starbucks, but mainly because I worked at coffee shops for 7 years (through high school and college). So many of the details he talked about were things I remembered well. As a barista you really become a bartender of sorts for your customers. You get to know their drinks and names by heart and they tell you all about their lives. I was glad that Gill took some responsibility for the fact that his choices had got him to the point he was at. He didn't play the victim. It's a light, uplifting book. It won't stick with me, but it wasn't too sappy. Reading about my former profession was definitely my favorite part.
carrieprice78 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's ironic that Gill says that he is good at writing. He isn't. There were times when I absolutely hated this book for it's cloying predictability and poor sentence structure, but by then end of this book I just felt so sorry for the guy that it was hard to dislike him. Evident throughout the book were lifelong daddy issues, which I found annoying. It seemed like he had always had opportunity handed to him on a silver platter, and landed successfully most of the time. He often flashes back to incidents when he felt that status was everything. I couldn't help but feel that he must have been a big jerk.By the end of the book, with his estranged family and new work attitude, I had to give Gill some credit. I have to think he could have been more enterprising if he wanted to, but I am glad he found happiness in working as a Partner at one of the biggest coffee companies on the planet.
CandiBelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book hoping to get an inside look on how working at Starbucks is as well as seeing how the experience could possibly chance someones life. Unfortunately that wasn't completely the case for this book. While it started out good enough there wasn't enough convincing made by the writer for me to see how the chain could make an impact on my as a consumer looking in. There was a lot of whining done by the author on how he could no longer afford some of the riches he previously had (things the normal middle class reading the book wouldn't be able to connect to anyways) and there was continuous name dropping. "Oh well when I knew so-and-so" or "That one time when I was speaking to so-and-so" gets to be really annoying in such a small book. I was hoping for more humility from the author and didn't find it in these pages.
tahoegirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A coming of age novel for an old man, it was really quite sad, but I was still unsympathetic toward Michael even at the end, he had very few good qualities. A quick and easy read.
mikitchenlady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was just okay, but it would be hard for anything to compare to "Eat, Pray, Love" which I also read this summer. Michael Gates Gill loses his job, wife and life in his 50s, and takes a job at Starbucks on a whim. In this volume, he meanders from present to past in a way that I found incredibly irritating -- he'd begin to describe a conversation or confrontation at work, then flash back for pages and pages to talk about something somewhat related. These side stories were so lengthy and involved that I'd often forget what was going on when they began. I also didn't feel his emotions -- I mean it made sense that he would be sad, confused, angry, afraid based on the situation he was describing, but I didn't feel it, just understood it intellectually. I'd be interested to see how men react to the book -- maybe it's a guy thing.
skinglist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting read: Gates Gill's life changed substantially and eventually he chose to go with it rather than fight it. Interesting perspective from the author. Would love to visit his store.
ccaro25 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this could have easly have been a sappy feel go story, nothing could be farther from it. After being in a powerful high level job and beeing raised as a son of priviliage, Michael Gates Gill is on a downward spiral when he is offered a job at Starbucks. This story takes him through the scariest parts of a new job that any one can identify with and has him finding that the very people whom he would have never given the time of day are the very ones who save his life both literally and metphoricaly. By the end of this book we are given the secret of true happiness. A wonderful quick read .
ske2300 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book a great deal. It really showed how you can be the top of the "food chain" one minute and working for the top of the "food Chain the next. I enjoyed the wittiness, Gill's ability for introspection, as well as his stories and comparisons to his former life. For anyone in this economy that must reinvent themselves this is the book for you.
verka6811 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this book, I really did. The premise was great - a man who's had everything pretty much handed to him most of his life loses his job and has to learn the value of hard labor. Along the way he learns that he has been prejudiced and unfair in his perceptions of others.As great as the premise was, the resulting book was just slightly short of terrible. Gill does not have a talent for writing (to say the least) and the whole memoir sounds like a long conversation. He dips into his past on almost every page and often for no reason, and has no connections that make the memoir an interconnected piece, instead of a jumbled collection of memories.I appreciate his struggles and his attempts to make the best out of a bad situation, but the reality is, stories like his happen every day. There are plenty of displaced executives working as waiters, and doctors from other countries who are reduced to cashiering jobs at a local pharmacy (I've worked with many of them). While it's great that Gill wanted to bring light to his experience, he should have done justice to himself and others in his shoes and written a more coherent book.
autumnesf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Privileged majority old white guy loses everything and gets a reality check. Glad the guy ended up learning positive life lessons -- just too bad they needed to be learned in the first place. Good book, fast read.
lonepalm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disappointing Jumble: I'm not sure where to start with this review. I really, really wanted to like this book. I am a Creative Director (albeit not nearly as successful as the author was) and I recently spent 18 months out of work and had started to comtemplate a retail job when I was fortunate to find a job I wanted.

Having said that, this book was disappointing. I can't say exactly why, but as I read the book, I kept finding myself skeptical of the story. I don't doubt the truth of the story, more the how and why of it. I just keep finding myself suspecting that will Gill is telling this story of how he's come to love his new found humility, the Creative Director in him had planned all along to write a riches to rags story. He recalls minor details and what he was thinking at the time, which I seriously doubt he'd have recalled months later. He also has the annoying habit of shoehorning frequent name dropping into common stories. It seems every situation he would find himself in would cause him to think of the time he was hobnobbing with someone famous. From Ali to the Queen of England, Gill seems to have met them all.

Worst of all, it seems that even when he's telling us about his newfound humility, he's sounding awfully superior when he says it. He takes great pride in his embracing of the little people.

It was an OK book, and frankly I'm surprised at all the positive reviews. But, maybe I'm just a little too cynical.
bookladymn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a quick and enjoyable read.
phyllis01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Michael Gill is a son of New York privilege (New Yorker writer/editor Brendan Gill was his father) who found himself in a personal and professional mess, mostly of his own making due to hubris and inattention. The book chronicles his journey from arrogant jerk to pretty decent human being.
tgoodson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's really hard to feel sorry for this guy, and it's just as hard to admire his enlightenment.
mochap on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
blech--tried to listen to this on CD, but couldn't get through the first disk.
skyeval on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The idea is okay, but name-dropping...Oh my God. He's so full of himself. The only thing that they are counting on making it interesting is that he took a job "beneath" him. What is that all about? There were interesting moments, but all in all, it's forgettable.
deidramacleod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A little too much Starbucks propaganda at times, but a quick, enjoyable read about taking a less expected career path and finding satisfaction.
maggiereads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
He used to work at the best ad agency in New York City. He used to have a six-figure salary. He used to have final say over accounts such as the United States Marines, Burger King, IBM, and Ford. He used to wear Brooks Brothers and commute to work via a car service. He used to live in a home with 25 rooms and a two-story library. He used to have a loving wife.In a companywide clean sweep, Michael was swept out with the old. It happened at a breakfast meeting with a bright young woman he had hired years earlier. After 25 years of dedicated service Michael was let go. He walked from the meeting realizing he had nowhere to go and nothing to do.The firing came at a critical time in Michael¿s life. He had some major problems. Months earlier he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The operation could wait, but eventually had to be done. He also met and courted a woman who became his lover. The affair produced an offspring his wife could not ignore. At 53 years-of-age and without a job, he needed money for medical bills, a divorce lawyer, and a bouncing baby boy.This was Michael¿s messed up life. He needed income and his attempts at consulting were, dare I say, rather insulting. He couldn¿t blame his contacts. What did he have unique to offer his former clients other than cheaper rates? The meager returned phone calls slowly dried up.One thing, through the whole degrading process, Michael could not give up was his daily Starbucks lattes. He had taken to using the famous chain as his headquarters for consulting. What did it matter he hadn¿t a corner office? He had done quite a bit of work for the agency during coffee breaks at Starbucks anyway.With latte in hand, Michael sat daydreaming when a woman spoke, ¿Would you like a job?" The first chapter begins, ¿This is a true, surprising story of an old white man who was kicked out of the top of the American Establishment, by chance met a young African-American woman from a completely different background, and came to learn what is important in life.¿From hubris to humility, from being served into the service of others, Michael Gates Gill has written a quirky memoir in "How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live like Everyone Else."Note: What kind of life is Gill living now? Tom Hanks has bought the rights to the book and Gill is enjoying success on his book tour. Hmm, has he changed?