Give and Take by Adam Grant


I have strayed a bit from the purpose of my blog. I know. I know. But it’s just that sometimes those of us who love children’s, middle grades, and YA books read adult books, too. So I’m introducing a new category today: adult nonfiction. To be honest, I was a little late to the adult nonfiction world. As an English major, I felt fiction was superior to nonfiction. But, thankfully, due in part to my husband’s voracious reading of nonfiction, I have come to really love it.

The first book I am reviewing for the adult nonfiction section is Adam Grant‘s Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (2013, Penguin). I purchased this book after my first full year as a faculty member and recommend it for anyone who is about to start a new position (in any field) or for anyone who wants to be more invigorated in their current role. Or for anyone graduating from high school or college or graduate/professional school this year. Okay, so I recommend this book for basically everyone.

Grant, a Wharton professor, starts out by defining what a giver is in contrast to a matcher and a taker. He spends a lot of time with research and practical examples of these types and details explicitly how being a giver (which I think I tend to be in most settings) can have negatives but also extreme positives.  Oh no, I thought. I’m going to have to give more until I achieve the success about which Grant writes. I have just finished my first year as a faculty member and was thinking I can’t give anymore. However, this turns out not to be the case.  In the last third of the book, Grant discusses how to be a smart giver, an otherish giver.  Smart givers do not get taken advantage of; rather, they select carefully to whom they offer their giving, realizing that by giving the pie (a metaphor Grant uses multiple times in the book) gets larger for everyone. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Grant explains the Reciprocity Ring, a concept that encourages a group of people to come together to share and fulfill others’ needs. I think this can be easily incorporated into any space. The book’s final section Actions for Impact includes resources and ideas about how to enact some of the book’s strategies.

Here’s what I like about the book:

(1) It’s useful across professional settings. Although Grant is a business professor, his book applies to those inside and outside the business world. The advantages of being an otherish giver are presented in a way that benefits multiple audiences. Readers from multiple fields will appreciate the accessible language.

(2) It’s helpful for those in mentoring roles. Naturally inclined to mentor and support others, I needed a book like Give and Take to make me smarter about the ways in which I give. The idea of encouraging mentees to pay-it-forward is wonderful, and I hope to incorporate this – and other ideas in Grant’s book – into my mentoring work.

(3) In many ways it’s a leadership book. The book is not marketed as a leadership text necessarily, but it should be on every leader’s bookshelf. Its messages are important in regard to building a successful team whose members champion a culture of giving.  Those new to leadership roles should pick up a copy.

Let me know what you think of Give and Take in the comments below!

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