Do you remember the old summer reading challenge? After racing through my Ramona Cleary’s, I couldn’t wait to win that Dairy Queen ice cream cone. Back then, going to the library and turning in my filled-in reading chart was like receiving the star camper award for the week.
The fun of a summer reading challenge does not end in childhood. Summer gives us the opportunity to grab a beach read or something you wouldn’t usually pick up.
So don your sunglasses and dive into a book you may not have considered before. Here are reviews of the best and worst books I read in May 2022 to help you find your next summer treasure.
The Revenue Zone: The Ultimate Playbook for The Next Generation of B2B Sales, Marketing and Predictable Revenue Growth by Tom Burton
What’s It About?
I try to read one business book a month to keep up with what’s going on in the corporate world. Reading these books is especially important since I work from home as a freelancer and rarely get the opportunity to work on collaborative projects with different and refreshing viewpoints.
This book by Tom Burton grabbed my attention because it was an independent and first-time author who had loads of current experience I could learn from. The book is relevant for any business stuck in old ways of doing things or a person like me who is relatively new to a profession.
Tom Burton shares his philosophy that “what got us here, will not get us there” in The Revenue Zone. Burton shares his comprehensive yet uncomplicated and forward-thinking approach to gaining more clients, earning more revenue and building a loyal fanbase.
In The Revenue Zone, you will recognize familiar topics adapted to today’s consumer buying behavior, specifically B2B companies. First, Burton explains the Revenue Zone, where earning trust and building demand creates revenue and then teaches you how to build the roadmap to get there. Burton terms this the “Yellow Brick Road.” Then, the book transitions to maintaining customers, capitalizing on the customer’s positive experiences, and analyzing what works and what doesn’t.
What Did I Think?
The Revenue Zone is a simple, straightforward presentation of concepts that any B2B business can apply. I enjoyed how I could easily follow the step-by-step instructions and online tools accompanying the book. I went through the model with my own business, and wow, did I learn I had some work to do. It was a healthy exercise that got my creative juices going to improve my business and gain more clients. After reading the book and working through the exercises, I felt motivated to improve my business and had a practical guide on how to move the needle.
I appreciated the helpful explanations, online tools, and recommendations. The links and downloadable guides are a nice touch and useful. The book has many take-homes, but not selling but guiding customers to your product or service was the best tip.
I would highly recommend this book to any B2B business manager or anyone interested in how marketing to B2B customers has changed and how to structure and approach the new sales call.
This book was one of the most helpful books I have read this year, so it will be on my best books of May list. For more information on the author Tom Burton and The Revenue Zone, please visit his website at: https://www.therevenuezone.com/
Glad You’re Here: Two Unlikely Friends Breaking Bread and Fences by Craig Allen Cooper and Walker Hays
What’s It About
You may know Walker Hays from his hit singles “Fancy Like” and “AA.” But I knew there was something special and different about Hays after fanning over his down-to-earth Instagram and Tik Tok posts. His full-house full of warm hearts shines with every post: https://www.instagram.comhttps://www.instagram.com/p/CQ86empJpnq//p/CWpIIyylPTR/ o
I knew there was more to the story after reading a snippet of Hays’ back story. When One Country released its sweepstakes: https://onecountry.com/products/win-a-2021-yukon-denali-xl-be-like-craig, and I found out about his book release with friend Craig Cooper, I knew it fell into my lap for a reason. I immediately clicked purchase on Amazon for the download, which you can access here: https://smile.amazon.com/Glad-Youre-Here-Unlikely-Breaking-ebook/dp/B09MY3TVBV/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3GFQH5YQDOY85&keywords=walker+hay+book&qid=1653250386&sprefix=walker+hayes+book,aps,99&sr=8-2.
What Did I Think?
What a special gift this book will bring to any reader. The story is told from two perspectives: Cooper’s and Hays’. The story begins with Hays’ “aha” moment to move with his wife Laney and budding family to Nashville after cracking the singer-songwriter bit in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. Craig then discusses his big move to follow his dream with his family to Nashville.
Both go through some big trials, financial burdens and knockdowns while settling into their new Nashville lives. Craig is a pastor, and Hays is a non-believer, and the two tell the story of how they met, became friends, and how their lives changed with the power of faith.
The story was told beautifully. These two gifted storytellers have their special ways of bringing a narrative to life. Hays’ down-to-earth and creative humor balances well with Craig’s purposeful and eloquent way, so I enjoyed how each chapter gave equal voice to each writer.
I also like the song lyrics put in at just the right moments. We often listen to a song but don’t digest the words and their meanings. This holds for Hays since his country music blends aren’t the typical slow storytelling country ballads but are a blend of different genres like pop and rap.
Most readers will love Glad You’re Here because the writing is authentic and honest, a “Wear your heart on your sleeves” story. The book aims to share an inspiring story to move and inspire others. If you are looking for a powerful and uplifting story, this one is a great pick.
To learn more about the Be a Craig foundation discussed in the book, go to: https://www.beacraig.org/.
Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals by Laurie Zaleski
What’s It About?
Funny Farm starts innocently enough when the author, Laurie Zaleski, talks about her happy childhood with a stay-at-home mom and a dad who provided a comfortable lifestyle. However, Zaleski’s dad was an alcoholic who was abusive to her mom Annie. Eventually, Annie decides to leave with her children and set up a new life, despite having no financial resources and an estranged husband bent on seeking revenge. They live hand to mouth in squalor-like conditions, while the dad retains his lifestyle in the house they left.
But through all the heartaches and downtimes, Annie makes it work for her kids. She never turns down an opportunity to look at the bright side and help another person or animal in need. Zaleski learns this work ethic and generous attitude from her mother. After building her successful business, she takes on the adventure of creating an animal rescue for her mother, who has already jumpstarted rescuing several animals.
The Funny Farm Rescue and Sanctuary in Mays Landing, New Jersey, is the finished product of Annie and Laurie’s dream. The Funny Farm now cares for over 600 animals.
What Did I Think?
Zaleski’s story is remarkable. I love the go-getter attitude of the entire family, despite the hardships. The story balances well with its back-and-forth storytelling between the light-hearted animal stories and the personal story of Zaleski’s family.
Even though the animal stories are humorous, the animals and Funny Farm serve as a metaphor for the rescuing Zaleski did for her mother and her family. They needed rescue, and they did it themselves and then paid it forward.
If you enjoy memoirs, you will love this one. It’s a story of hardships but wonderful redemption and a bit about dealing with end-of-life issues. It’s full of emotions, and you won’t want to put it down. Because the book has drama and humor, I’m putting it on the list of one of the best books I read in May.
To learn more about the Funny Farm animal rescue, you can check their website out here: https://funnyfarmrescue.org/. You can also check out their YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9aJTZKVpz8Cw23n7oIpcCw/featured.
The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad by Mike Birbiglia
What’s It About?
No one hands you the desperately needed child-raising handbook when you leave the hospital with a new baby. I can’t describe the clueless looks on my husband and I’s faces while we tried to desperately squeeze the last bit of advice out of the nurse to strap our newborn securely and correctly into the car seat.
So, any parent, especially a new one, will relate to the things you shouldn’t say openly (or just forgot in the sleepless nights) about having a baby and raising a child in The New One by Mike Birbiglia.
Already a famous comedian, Birbiglia writes this book in his comedic style. The book begins with the couple firmly stating they do not want kids and making fun of their friends who have them. However, as time goes on, his wife starts to warm to the idea of having a child, and the couple must decide whether they want to jump to the other side of the fence and start a family. The rest of the book details the experiences of this reluctant dad and his wife’s reaction to the antics.
Birbiglia and his wife, poet J. Hope Stein, wrote this book together. The chapters include interludes of Jen’s poems on her side of the story that Mike is describing at the time. I thought I wasn’t a poetry fan, but I found a place in my heart for Jen’s poems in this book.
What Did I Think?
Overall, this book made me smile and laugh out loud. It was a great way to safely reminisce about my own time raising a baby and silently commiserate with another parent on the things parents put themselves through while raising a child.
I enjoyed learning how this couple stumbled into and navigated parenthood despite major red flags like 1) not wanting kids and 2) Birbiglia’s burdening sleepwalking.
The only negative I have about this story is the typical theme of a wife wanting a baby and a husband who doesn’t. But this is their story, and I didn’t see it as something that held me back from enjoying the book.
New parents and comedy lovers will enjoy this book. For more information on Mike Birbiglia, check out his website: https://www.birbigs.com/. You can also learn more about J. Hope Stein and her book mentioned in The New One here: https://jhopestein.com/.
I Came as a Shadow: An Autobiography by John Thompson and Jesse Washington
What’s It About?
I Came as a Shadow is the autobiography of John Thompson, the former Georgetown men’s basketball coach. But this book is not entirely about basketball. It also covers race relations and stereotypes. I Came as a Shadow covers issues like negative perceptions of Thompson and black athletes and structural racism.
The book includes the heart-wrenching story of Thompson growing up as a kid. He was put in the “baby room” at his school because teachers told him he was “retarded” even though he had a learning disorder. The book follows his journey to becoming the first Black head coach to win an NCAA championship through his retirement. The book includes many interesting stories like:
- Saying yes to a Nike endorsement before it was cool and recognizing the disparity between the coach’s endorsement deal and players who didn’t reap the Nike endorsement’s financial gains.
- Discovering the unknown and overlooked players that could lead Georgetown to the championship level.
- Fans at Ivy-league schools show up to games with hate-filled banners.
- Backstories about famous Georgetown basketball players.
- A face-to-face backdoor meeting with a drug dealer that could have ended a Georgetown player’s career.
- How did the famous towel come to be?
Thompson spent two years with Washington, a senior writer for ESPN’s The Undefeated, to write this book. Washington was under Thompson’s strict instructions that the book would not be a basketball book. Rather, it would be his opportunity to shed light on Thompson’s misguided reputation as a stern-looking spokesman on racial issues. If you know anything about Thompson, you know that he was probably the most stereotyped and misunderstood coach in college basketball. This is his opportunity to tell his story and leave a legacy for his children.
What Did I Think?
I loved how Thompson took his experiences and turned them into mechanisms to coach his players. For example, when Thompson was younger, he was held back a grade. Despite this, his teacher didn’t let any of the other students know and made sure Thompson wasn’t singled out. Later, while coaching at Georgetown, if he had a player benched because of grades, he would make up an excuse for that player, like putting a knee brace on him and saying it was an injury that kept the player out from the game.
You get a strong sense that Thompson always did the correct and appropriate thing in situations. He stepped out of the box to enlighten others on his coaching style, choices and racial issues. He values intelligence and instills in his players how to use their minds. As he stated, “More money is made from sitting down than standing up.” Yet, he still doesn’t discount the value of hard work.
The book is an insightful look into the smart Thompson and debunks the myths centered around the coach. This book is a respectful look at the coach in his own words, and I would highly recommend it.
For more about the author, you can visit his website at: http://www.jessewashington.com/
Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story by Rick Bragg
What’s It About?
Straight from the first page, Rick Bragg’s writing style dreamily pulls you into this autobiography of the famous rock ‘n roller, Jerry Lee Lewis.
The passengers were well-off people, mostly, the officer class home from Europe and the Pacific and tourists from the Peabody, Roosevelt, and Monteleone, clinking glasses with planters and oil men who had always found riches in the dirt the poorer men could not see. Weary of the austerity of war, of rationing and victory gardens, of coastal blackouts and U-boats that hung like sharks at the river mouth, they wanted to raise a racket, spend some money, and light up the river and the entire dull, sleeping land. They floated drunk and singing past sandbars where gentlemen of Natchez once settled affairs of honor with smoothbore pistols and good claret, and around snags and whirlpools where river pirates had lured travelers to their doom.
The story follows Jerry Lee from early childhood through his rising career, several marriages, family deaths, remade career and homecoming. Whether you love the legend or despise him, the story of Jerry Lee makes a great book.
What Did I Think?
Unless you are a die-hard Jerry Lee Lewis fan, you may drown out the details of every piano kicking performance. But despite the lengthy details, I stayed fascinated with the story, mainly to see how far things with Jerry Lee would plummet.
And oh yes, it’s filled with all the juicy details a classic rockstar story should include: sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.
This book joins the ranks of all of Bragg’s stellar books. Bragg is one of my favorite authors, and this book did not disappoint.
To support a local book store, you can purchase the book here: https://bookshop.org/books/jerry-lee-lewis-his-own-story/9780062078247
I encourage you to pick up one of the best books I’ve read in May 2022 or in my past monthly book recaps. You can also drop in a comment on your summer reading picks. Some other great resources for summer reading are:
If you are a first-time or independent author that needs a book review or are looking to navigate the editing, publishing and marketing process, please get in touch with me to discuss your work. You can contact me here: https://rivetservice.com/contact-rivet-service/. Writing the manuscript is only half the battle. Marketing your book is a major part of getting readers to buy your book.