Bookish fun

Remember those booklists from last week? Well, we had a lively discussion about those and other fabulous titles at the NEW Wine Women and Wellness in Hyde Park.


57th Street Bookstore is such a gem. Just looking at books is so much fun.


We had the honor of talking directly to the author of A Thesaurus of Women, Barbara Joan Zeitz.


An anthology of her online columns (CountHerhistory), the book celebrates women, most unknown, and their accomplishments, all well known. The women Barbara has researched invented/discovered or created the APGAR score, Brooklyn Bridge, brown paper bag, cell phone, District of Columbia’s Cherry Blossoms, Computer language, DNA, egg carton and refrigeration, environmental movement, NAACP, OSHA, relativity, social security, star distances, and more.


The day of our event happened to be Rosalind Franklin’s birthday, honored with a Google doodle, who is featured in Barbara’s book.


With snacks and delicious wine spritzers we discussed equality on all levels, ranging from current to historic events (it’s mostly economically motivated, as much of history is).


We talked about our inspirational books and inspirational women, and I learned more about my fellow business ladies as they mark their place in Herstory.


New books we added to our to-read list are: The World is Flat, Freakonomics, Gangleader for a Day and The Black Count.


Then we had fun posing with books (book quartet photos by NetworkHoncho).


Barbara learned that Roget’s Thesaurus is based on Dr. Peter Mark Roget’s love of words. So she decided that since she loved women so much, she would create a thesaurus of women.


I picked up my copy, and look forward to reading it soon. A Thesaurus of Women From Cherry Blossoms to Cell Phones is available here.


Our August NEW events will be in Evanston, with the Meet & Munch at Stella Boutique and our Wine Women and Wellness at Symphony’s Cafe.


NEW recommended business books

Reading biographies is inspiring, but sometimes we have to get into the nitty-gritty of business planning. We will discuss our favorite business books at tomorrow’s NEW Wine Women and Wellness event from 2-4 p.m. at 57th Street Books. RSVP on Facebook or our Meetup Group, or just pop in!


Business, health and life insurance consultant Karen McCormack of McCormack Consulting Group has the following recommendations:

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
“Most of us use checklists of some sort, but this is a great exploration of those critical areas like aviation and surgery, where doing things exactly right, every time, can mean the difference between life and death”, said Karen.  “The author explains how a simple checklist can produce a reduction in deaths from surgical complications, elimination of hospital infections and other fascinating stories of how they work in different applications.”
“Checklists are so much more than the things we want to get done each day and resonates with the business owner inside who knows that systems and organization are important, but doesn’t realize how much they can improve efficiency, communication and safety.”

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
“This is a hands-on, meat and potatoes kind of book that guides business owners and leaders through the concept of having and using a strategic plan,” she said.
“From the one-page strategic plan process, to the practical actions you can take to strengthen your business culture this book is more like a business cookbook—follow the recipe and you can have tasty success and growth too!”

Good to Great by Jim Collins
“A classic must-read compares pairs of similar companies with equal opportunities available to them, where one achieved greatness and the other didn’t.  This was based on an extensive 5 year study of the performance of well known companies over a 15 year period,” said Karen. “The author examines characteristics and traits of the companies leaders and offers some specific strategies and practices that the great companies use.”

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
“Gladwell is one of my favorite authors, who’s style of writing really makes you go, aha! Why didn’t I see it this way?” Karen said.
“While this book is a study of success and what makes some people highly successful (Outliers) and others not, it’s done in a storytelling format that is both fascinating and easy to read.  He examines culture, background, when and where someone was born, even family history as an explanation for these outliers.  He is well known for authoring the 10,000 hours rule which refers to the claim that it takes 10,000 hours to become expert at something.”


I’ve found the following to be helpful as I made the transition from corporate jobholder to solopreneur:

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
E-Myth is a great non-nonsense approach to setting up a business. It basically walks the reader through the operations of a business and insists that even as a solopreneur, you sort your roles out by category so that as you grow you have job descriptions at the ready to help you outsource tasks. It is not as complex as an actual business plan, but does showcase the need for a distinction of roles so you can avoid the pitfalls other businesses have faced from relying on reactive management and implicit partnerships.

I’m very inspired by Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Nonconformity and The $100 Startup.
The Art of Nonconformity addresses how we get caught up a sort of Groupthink of what our lives are supposed to be like, but that living our true wishes and aspirations can be far more rewarding. I still feel ‘conformist’ in many ways, but this book has helped me realize that I may not be so weird with my dreams after all.

The $100 Startup offers case studies and worksheets to debunk  the myth that we need angel investors or huge savings to make our dreams come true. Chris interviews a variety of businesses making a minimum of $50,000 in annual income, showing that 1. We don’t have to wait for a big payday to realize our dreams and 2. Success doesn’t necessarily consist of 6-figure or million-dollar goals.

I also have the Business Plan workbooks pictured above, but have not made it through either of them, because my business has been in such flux over the past year in terms of artistic focus and even the products that are actually selling. My goal is to get back to these though and set up a more formal business plan as I flesh out what makes sense for me from a financial and creative perspective.

What I do is check all these types of books out from the library, and if they resonate with me I buy them to actually use them. Ultimately you have to determine what inspires you, what appeals to you, and whether you learn through audio, visuals, reading or other means. It never hurts to fill your brain with insights and the experience of others, and then to pull out of that knowledge what applies to you.


On that note, I also want to mention The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. It is similar to Nonconformity in that it values efficiency over working the traditional 9 to 5 job. I like this book for its thought-provocation and its resources, but it is skewed toward more service-oriented vocations or electronic products, making heavy use of Virtual Asistants, automated systems, and the internet. Not as applicable to those with handmade products, retail stores, or location-oriented businesses. I also think that most entrepreneurs like being involved in the day-to-day operations, and this seems to be more geared toward people who like to live a mobile lifestyle away from the business. I can’t find the article now, but there was a journalist seeking Tim out to see how he is doing, a few years later, but not being able to track him down, causing a bit of skepticism on the truth of his claims.

I’ve read numerous books on starting a creative business too, but that list will take some time to compile. Join us tomorrow to share your favorite reads!

The Gutsy Women Booklist

“I collect new books the way my friends buy designer handbags.
Sometimes, I just like to know I have them
and actually reading them is beside the point. …
The mere act of buying them makes me happy —
the world is more promising, more fulfilling.”
~ Dora in Literacy and Longing in LA

This coming Thursday, July 25, NEW is hosting its Wine, Women and Wellness event at a bookstore. It’s been a long time since I was in 57th Street Books, but I remember it being a wonderful, old-fashioned bookstore experience. If you are a bookworm, you definitely want to come and hang out with us that afternoon. You can RSVP on Facebook or our Meetup Group.


As a bookworm, I am having a hard time picking my favorites to share with the group. So I went through my quote books picked by how many pages certain authors filled with their wisdom, which turned out to be a lot of gutsy, entrepreneurial women.

“Focus on what these seemingly disparate women
have in common:
They are all risk takers and decision makers
who know that creativity doesn’t just happen by itself
but requires hard work.
Each realized that in order to pursue her passion,
she had to become a savvy businesswoman.
All have learned to ask for help and to offer it.

~ Kathie Fitzgerald, Crafting a Business

To me, the ultimate gutsy woman I learned of in childhood was Miep Gies, the woman who helped hide Anne Frank in an Amsterdam attic. Anne Frank Remembered is her story. Since then, there has been a theme of reading about independent women throughout my life.


“Cooking was so endlessly interesting
that I planned to make a career of it,
though I was sketchy on the details”
~ Julia Child (age 39 at the time)

From a more entrepreneurial perspective, My Life in France by Julia Child was a fantastic complement to the Julie/Julia movie when it came out. I love Julia Child’s sense of humor, and her groundedness as she details her journey to TV stardom.

“I laughed. Me on television?
What an idea!
We had hardly seen a single program
and didn’t own a television set.”
~ Julia Child

Recently I completed Confessions of Madame Psyche which is a captivating novel about an Asian-American girl/woman set in Northern California from the early 1900s to 1959. I learned a lot about California History but also admired the entrepreneurial perspective of a family capitalizing on a young girl’s ‘psychic abilities’ and the business aspects that come with that. It is a great book to get lost in on a weekend. What struck me is that Mei-li has a variety of ‘careers’ throughout her lifetime, from being a psychic to literally joining the circus to other vocations (can’t spoil the story by listing them).


I’ve written about Margaret Fountaine, a ‘spinster’ who was fascinated with butterflies and made a business of collecting them. Another entrepreneurial lepidopterist was Maria Sibylla Merian who traveled to Surinam on her own to research and draw tropical butterflies and other critters. I’ve read Kim Todd’s Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis and Die Blumenkönigin: Ein Maria Sibylla Merian-Roman, with Die Falterfrau: Maria Sibylla Merian by Uta Keppler still on my shelf to be read.

New Co-Founder Erica Thomas recommends Shiksa Goddess: Or, How I Spent My Forties by  Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning Playwright Wendy Wasserstein.
“I found this book to be very motivational,” Erica said. “Wasserstein writes honestly about her goals and her passions, and what she learned about herself as she attempted to accomplish a to-do list she wrote for herself. She writes about both her successes and her failures, but mostly about those goals that you are driven to fight for no matter what. It’s also an immensely funny, passionate read that is hard to put down – which doesn’t hurt.”

Another book Erica enjoyed is But Enough About Me: How a Small-Town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet by celebrity journalist Jancee Dunn.
“This is another favorite by another wildly successful woman author who writes about herself with ego-free self-deprecation and wit – I always find it reassuring to read about highly successful women at the top of their careers who still face ordinary human challenges like insecurity,” Erica said. “As Dunn describes her first experiences interviewing some of the biggest celebrities imaginable, it is her stories of how she overcame her own insecurity around these titans that inspired me, and that I still refer back to.”

“An award is just a little icing on the cake,
a fun night, but it can never fully define you
or be the declarative sentence that describes your genius,
because it doesn’t.”
~ Goldie Hawn

I checked out A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn on a whim, and was surprised at how much depth this actress known mostly for playing a ditz has on a personal level. I filled my quotebook with pages of her wisdom, and will borrow the book from my mom (whom I gifted it to) again for a refresher.

“If we just let go and trust
that things will work out the way they’re supposed to
without trying to control the outcome,
then we can begin to enjoy the moment more fully.
The joy of freedom it brings
becomes more pleasurable than the experience itself.”
~ Goldie Hawn

Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story was a captivating read about the story of Barbie as a business, with a variety of misadventures interspersed. I read it years ago so I don’t remember specifics, but it was enlightening.

Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love profiles a variety of woman business owners in the crafting industry, which was very inspirational to me when I was still thinking of taking the plunge into a creative business from a corporate job.

Since many crafty women aspire to be Martha Stewart, I have to put Martha Inc. on the list. It was a very insightful book, but not in a good way, unfortunately. Part of me wishes I could still be a Martha fan, but while I admire her ability to build an empire, as a person I do not aspire to make my way the way she did.


Years ago I read Millionaire Women by Jeanne Torrence Hauer, which profiles 16 high-profile businesses including The Pampered Chef, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Lillian Vernon Company and Two Men and a Truck. In the pre-wikipedia age, it was nice to get insight into how long it took for these woman business owners to make it, but the book might be dated by now.

In the pre-blogging era, I also found Diary of a Small Business Owner by Anita F. Brattina insightful, taking us through her growing pains with an expanding company and employee management. Her company appears to be defunct now, so I am not sure if this is a good example anymore.

Writing books is not as easy as it seems.

“Persons who have read the book have told me
it must be marvelous to be able to sit down and dash off sentences that read so smoothly.
I have a hard time convincing them
that the sentences I consider the easiest to read in the book
are the ones that I labored over and rewrote and rewrote
before I was satisfied I had made my meaning clear.”
~ Margaret Mitchell

On a trip to Atlanta I was captivated by Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone With the Wind. It is a very long read, but I loved learning about the relationship between her and John (he was so devoted) and the “perspiration in quarts and the application of the seat to the pants to the seat of a hard typewriter for months and years” (John Marsh’s words) that went into gone with the wind.

“Despite its length and many details
it is basically just a simple yarn of fairly simple people.
There’s no fine writing, there’s no philosophy.
There is a minimum of description,
there are no grandiose thoughts, there are no hidden meanings,
no symbolism, nothing sensational —
nothing at all that made other best sellers best sellers.
Then how to explain its appeal
from the 5-year old to the 95-year old?

I can’t figure it out”
~ Margaret Mitchell

A few other books celebrating gutsy women are shown here.  Want to celebrate more women writers, perhaps for a whole year? Check out this blog from the UK.

Stay tuned for a listing of recommended business books another time!


cartoon via Evanston Public Library

(Note: I am linking to for convenience, but I recommend keeping your LOCAL bookstore in business by ordering from there, or use your library for a more economical way to get your wisdom on–renewals let you keep books for up to 3 months).

“Why are we reading if not in hope
that the writer will magnify and dramatize your days,

will illuminate and inspire us with
wisdom, courage and the possibility of meaningfulness,
and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries,
so we may feel again their majesty and power?”
~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is an exciting, fresh group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking in the Chicago suburbs and beyond. Focusing on no nonsense networking, the group holds fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds together. The NEW art of networking involves semi-monthly events that remind us why we love being entrepreneurs, and introduces attendees to other radiant, inspirational women entrepreneurs as we form a community that is open-minded, focused and friendly.

Booklist at a glance: