Author, Book review, Cathie Black, Crown Business, memoir, Non-fiction, Publisher, Setting, USA

‘Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)’ by Cathie Black

Non-fiction – hardcover; Crown Business; 304 pages; 2007. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Books about management are not normally my cup of tea. But when this one by Cathie Black, president of New York-based Hearst Magazines, was offered to me for review I couldn’t resist. In my day job I’m a magazine editor, so I thought it would be interesting to find out about the business from another perspective and to see whether I could learn anything from Black’s rise to the top.

Billed as “a memoir masquerading as a guide to career and life”, Basic Black isn’t a chronological account of Cathie’s career. Although she provides plenty of anecdotes about the various roles she’s had in the past — from ad sales on Holiday to president of a fledgling USA Today — this book is more about dispelling words of wisdom on how to successfully live a “360 Life”, one that that balances work and play, rather than an autobiography.

Packed with great practical advice and written in a friendly, accessible and chatty style, Basic Black is an entertaining, effortless read.  But I’m not sure it was pitched at someone of my age and experience, as I found most of the tips too obvious. Doesn’t everyone know that being passionate about what you do, going the extra mile and being prepared for all outcomes will serve you well in your career?

That said, I’m sure this book would be perfect for that 20-something female just starting out in the workforce, maybe even an undergraduate preparing for their first job interview. It certainly would have been of interest when I was first starting out, even if it was simply to reinforce my own ideas about how to get ahead in business.

But even if you don’t work in the media or couldn’t care less about moving up the career ladder, there’s plenty of enjoyable anecdotes within the pages of this well-laid out book to keep you reading on. I found a lot of Cathie’s stories completely fascinating, but then I’m always interested in the things that people do and say in this game called magazine publishing that I love so much…

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