Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I started reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage) by Cheryl Strayed with some resistance. I had heard many people gushing about Wild, and, far too often, I am disappointed by books people gush about. I tried to temper my expectations as I started the book. My resistance faded quickly. Strayed writes honestly, sometimes brutally, about her life and her experiences. The words often felt so raw they rubbed against my comfort zone bringing old insecurities, stupid decisions, and brazen moves to the surface. I winced in recognition of emotional states and shook at my head at decisions I would never have made because I wanted to change the trajectory of Strayed experiences. Wild immerses the reader in Strayed's decision making, or sometimes lack thereof. Strayed takes the reader along on a ride that at times feels like being pulled onto a trail without full knowledge of what one is doing just as was Strayed's experience. I felt immersed in the book to the point, my feet ached from her shoes as she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and my back tensed as she struggled with her backpack. My heart ached as she faced her mother's illness and death. I winced more than once as she struggled with family issues. As Strayed recounted her encounters with people both on the trail and off, she proves no matter how many people surround us, we can find ourselves alone and no matter how alone we feel, there are people with whom we can connect. Wild offers a wild hike through one woman's journey of healing and discovery.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin had been on my reading list for a very long time after a couple of people recommended it to me and I'd seen it referenced as describing the "right" way to market. Perhaps I'm a bit too cynical, but reading this book made me realize why I hate so much of the marketing we see today. While this book is a how-to book about marketing strategy, I have to admit the techniques within sounded a bit manipulative to me. I'm a straightforward kind of person, and I truly don't appreciate it when people wrap up their marketing techniques in thinly veiled manipulations. In theory, I can see how permission marketing is preferable to many types of marketing, but it's really not that hard to use it to provide false choice. The book makes some excellent points about not spamming people and respecting other people's space. Godin also clues in consumers that they are agreeing to receive marketing material when they sign up for a newsletter or for a mailing list of one sort or another as well as a multitude of other things including creating an account on a website. While these things can offer some valuable information, the end goal is to sell product. While Permission Marketing is geared toward those trying to market products effectively and without spamming people, it also clues in consumers as to just what permission marketing is and how often they agree to allow a company or an individual to market products or services to them. For that reason alone, it is worth a read. I found the book itself interesting even when the techniques described made me uncomfortable. I already understood that newsletters and website are marketing tools but reading Permission Marketing made me think about how often I've given over my email address without a second thought. And, that reminded me why I receive so many emails I never even open and waste time deleting. One thing is certain, after reading Permission Marketing, I will never look at commercials, advertisements, websites, or even newsletters the same way. As someone who relies on publicity and marketing for my livelihood, I find myself torn between my discomfort with the techniques and my need to sell product, even more so after reading Permission Marketing.