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CAPITALIST BOOK REVIEW: The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland...

I'm mostly a reader of non-fiction.  When I read fiction, it generally better focus on something I can relate to and have an interest in, like the workplace.  Is that lame?  Maybe, but it's just who I am.

If you're looking for fiction that takes a relective look at the workplace in modern times, I've got The-gum-thief two authors for you - Max Barry and Douglas Coupland.  

My latest read is a fictional tome call The Gum Thief (Coupland), written back in 2007.  I'm recommending it to anyone who likes a nice mix of workplace, pop culture and "what the ### does it all mean" vibes.  Here's the storyline from Wikipedia, which I found to be an accurate description:

"The primary plot of this novel involves two characters, Roger and Bethany, employees of a Staples in North VancouverBritish ColumbiaCanada. The two characters come from very different walks of life. Roger, a middle-aged alcoholic, is coping with an ugly divorce from his wife and the loss of access to his child. Bethany, a goth girl, is dealing with coming of age and working in what Coupland referred to in his 1991 novel Generation X as a McJob.

What brings the characters together is a journal that Roger has decided to keep. In the journal, Roger begins to discuss his issues and his pressing thoughts, including a novel he would like to write called “Glove Pond." Bethany finds this journal, and writes a letter to Roger. In the letter, Bethany says they should continue to write to each other, but to pretend that they know nothing about each other outside of the letters themselves at work. After writing letters back and forth, Roger and Bethany strike up a friendship in the letters.

Interspersed within the main text is the novel within the novel: Glove Pond. As Roger begins to write Glove Pond, different characters in the novel respond to his writing in their letters. The Glove Pond sections are interspersed within the other letters."

It's not a love story between a 50-year old dude and a 25-year old goth girl.  No romance is involved, just a friendship that involves through the writing in the diary.  Things I got out of The Gum Thief:

1. People almost always have some type of creativity in them.  It's just beaten down by society.

2. If people had an audience to give them unfiltered feedback on their work mixed with encouragement, the sky's the limit.

3. People to provide unfiltered feedback in an encouraging way are hard to find in the workplace, because they're mocked for caring by the people around them.

4. Staples, even with low wage hourly jobs, is a microcosm of any workplace, regardless of the average salary of that workplace.

5.  It sucks to be an underemployed middle-aged professional America.  True, these are first world problems, but it sucks nonetheless.

I'm recommending The Gum Thief for your reading list - workplace themes and the untapped potential of your daily grind employees.  It's a book HR leaders can love.


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