3 out of 4 stars
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The Business of Being, by Laurie Buchanan, is a self-help book that asks you to think of your life as a business and see the many ways in which managing both are similar. It blends business advice, life advice, its own culinary narrative, and a crash course in French cuisine for a genuinely interesting read.
Maybe it's my cynical British background, but I'm always intensely sceptical of self-help books. I'm pleased to say, though, that The Business of Being took my preconceptions to the curb and stomped them. While a lot of the things I dislike about the genre were present, namely spiritualism (which only rarely reared its head) and trite diktats, they were overwhelmingly outdone by Buchanan's solid and actionable advice.
My biggest problem with The Business of Being was the story of 'La Mandarine Bleue', the narrative interwoven with the business and life advice. While it provided a change of pace that was much appreciated, it fell awfully flat. As an example of a small group of friends getting together to start a business right, it did its job, but it struggled as an engaging human story. So much time was dedicated to describing the sumptuousness of their newfound expertise and the lavishness of their homes, that I found the story to essentially be a group of pretentious rich people ganging up to make even more money. A rags to riches story would have been better received and much more relatable, given that most people reading The Business of Being aren't a cabal of independently wealthy homeowners in leafy Boise, Idaho.
The French recipes were a nice touch, but didn't particularly add much for me as I veer eastern in my own cooking. Ultimately, they barely register if you're not interested, and would be much appreciated if you are.
Both the business and the life advice sections are littered with interesting statistics and takes on the seemingly obvious. I know from my own time teaching that taking the obvious and re-framing it can be a powerful tool, and Buchanan does it deftly. The talking about and comparisons of various companies' mission statements, for example, was an interesting insight into an aspect of business that tends to get lost below balance sheets and quarterly forecasts (both of which were mercifully tucked away at the end here).
I give The Business of Being 3 out of 4 stars. Without 'La Mandarine Bleue', it would have been in the running for a four, but it makes up just a little too much of the book, and left just a little bit too much of a bad taste in my mouth. What the book is marketed on, being a self-help book designed to improve your life and your business with many of the same techniques, it excels at. It's a real shame that Buchanan dipped off course and included what is, I suspect, fundamentally a passion project.
The Business of Being
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