Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell


Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and writer Nell Scovell, was released in 2013 in response to Sandberg’s 2010 TedTalk on the ways women tend to hold back both in business and in their personal lives. Sandberg uses personal observations and experiences, as well as well-qualified research, to encourage women to pursue their dreams, be confident in their convictions and, most importantly, lean in rather than hold back. From the success of this book, the term lean in has taken on a whole new meaning and launched a revolution where women around the world are creating “lean in [group] circles” or sharing experiences together through #LeanInTogether.

Lean In Sheryl Sandberg Book Review

The Pro:

From the first sentence, I was drawn into this book. Sandberg has a way of using precise and captivating research to justify the claims and assumptions she’s made from her experiences in both climbing the corporate ladder and being apart of a family. What makes this book so well acclaimed is the fact that it’s written by Sandberg herself, a woman who has led the charge for women in the corporate world and technology sphere – from her humble beginnings as the chief of staff for the US Secretary of the Treasury and working in the early-stages of Google to her most recent role as COO for Facebook. It’s safe to say Sandberg has been around the block, and although she works for a social network her personal life had been kept relatively private prior to the book launch. Readers (or at least readers like myself) were excited to learn about how Sandberg got where she is today. These experiences are qualified, and her convictions intelligent and intriguing. When you add justified research to the mix, you have a recipe for an intellectually stimulating and thought provoking content and words of wisdom.

The Con:

I genuinely do not have a con. The con is that I wish more men would be willing to read this book and gain some insight into what it’s like to have to fight to have a seat at the table, regardless of qualifications. The only other con I have is that this is another book that I would not deem as a business book.

Disclaimer: It is also not a feminist book, contrary to belief.

If anything, you can call it a well-written research paper, mixed with personal anecdotes, that encourages action and accountability in the women of the world. You might learn things that will help you in business, but you should not read the book for that purpose.


Important Takeaways:

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder. There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym.”

“Whenever possible, women should substitute ‘we’ for ‘I.’”

“It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.”

“Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better.”



Clearly, I give this book a well-deserved A+. While I don’t doubt that this book isn’t for everyone, it should be. As I said, this isn’t a business book but it’s not a feminist book either. This book is a revelation and, in turn, the start of a revolution. I would like to hope this book doesn’t become a classic, but I can’t see this book ever being irrelevant or outdated. It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, smart, lazy or apathetic, you will relate to this book in some shape or form. If you haven’t had any experiences where you can relate to this book, you read these experiences with the understanding that they can and will happen to you one day. While some of the real-life accounts can be daunting, they also instill action in readers to make small changes in their own lives to enact change on a universal level. Sandberg presents this evidence and these stories in a composed and classy manner, instilling motivation and hope rather than anger, resentment or surrender. That’s what makes this book an informational tale of “how to be a woman in the world.” A book that instills awareness and the desire for the right kind of change. If you haven’t already, please make a point to skim through this book, and lean in.



Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill


Think and Grow Rich, written by Napoleon Hill, is considered to be a modern day classic that refers to the experiences of more than 500 affluent men throughout our country’s history. These experiences are used to justify the premise that, “If you think it, then you will become it.” Originally written in 1937, Hill provides a step-by-step process for developing the mindset for the pursuit of wealth and, in turn, receiving wealth. This ranges from using everything from desire and faith to processes and self-analysis, with justification from stories about men such as Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. This book can be considered both a personal development and self-help book with a primary focus on achieving wealth.

think and grow rich

The Pro:

Considering this book was first published in the 1930s, it is quite interesting to read tactics and strategies on pursuing wealth that are still applicable in today’s technology-driven economy. It proves that the stories and experiences from great businessmen like Carnegie and Ford shouldn’t be taken for granted, as they have the ability to improve our business sense and mindset throughout our lifetimes. This proves that the concept and the stories told are true stories for the ages.


The Con:

This book was by no means an easy read. Although interesting at times, there were other moments that seemed to drown on. It is not a book you can read before bed, as it requires you to be alert and focused. Given its initial publishing date, the language is eloquent and lacks a conversational tone. It took me a significant amount of time to get through, but proved to be worthwhile.


Important Takeaways:

“There is nothing, right or wrong, which belief, plus burning desire, cannot make real.”

“Success comes to those who become success conscious”

“The real employer of the future will be the public.”

“Be sure that you are worth more than you now receive.”

“All negative thoughts serve as stimuli to your subconscious mind, unless, you master these impulses and give it more desirable food upon which it may feed.”

“Mind control is the result of self-discipline and habit.”



I give this book a B rating. To be honest, throughout the entirety of this book I did not enjoy reading it. It felt like more of a chore to get through than anything else. However, when I sat down to review my notes, I realized that I had actually gotten a substantial amount of insight out of the book. The book largely talks about the effect your subconscious mind has on you and your future and the process in which you can begin to control it. While this was a concept I was already familiar with, the steps in which to take control of your mind were very helpful and informative. This, paired with the stories from our country’s most famous businessmen, made you feeling inspired and hungry. While it is not a book I would necessarily read again, it is still one I would recommend given the overall value I was able to take out of it. I recommend for future readers to write down every line or section that you find helpful, as to keep those specific pieces top-of-mind without having to re-read the book in its entirety.


Year of Yes

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes


The Year of Yes is about just that – a pact that Shonda made with herself where she would say yes for an entire year. In this book, you get an inside look at Shonda Rhimes, the person, rather than Shonda Rhimes, the founder of TGIT. Shonda the person is internally confident but externally afraid. She has all the characteristics of a writer, but lacks those of a creator and executive producer of some of the nation’s favorite guilty pleasures including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. As you learn about Shonda’s internal conflicts you, in turn, watch her fight through them due to her Year of Yes. During this year, Shonda sees how her life changes by accepting opportunities rather than running from them.

year of yes shonda rhimes

The Pro:

The book will make you feel connected with Shonda Rhimes but will also inspire you to get out of your own way and follow a path to success (ideally like Shonda, but realistically more like the climb from secretary to assistant director). It will open your eyes to the possibilities that come with taking advantage of opportunities. The book will give you a sense of guidance to becoming more focused and willing to succeed. With that, you also build a type of relationship with Shonda, as if she’s one of us. Shonda’s rationale behind always saying ‘no’ to the things that scared her is what makes this witty yet heartbreaking memoir so humanizing and relatable, while also making you love Shonda even more.

The Con:

With someone as successful and creative as Shonda, being a writer myself, I wished I had gotten a bit more of advice from her. Maybe some tips on how she got started in her career or any type of advice for reader’s who look up to her. The book is classified as a biography and, although it does give an overview on her past experiences and accomplishments, we really only get a thorough glimpse of her Year of Yes. This book is not at all a business book, but more of a self-help book written by one of the world’s best.

Important Takeaways:

“The only obstacle to your success in your own imagination.”

“Standing around like Wonder Woman in the morning can make people think you are more amazing at lunchtime.”

“I am not a person who can see a problem and not solve it. But I don’t mean that in a “heroic Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus” way. I mean it in a sad, control-freak “The toast crusts must be cut off to the same exact millimeter measurement every time” way.”

“No matter how hard a conversation is, I know that on the other side of that difficult conversation lies peace.”


As long as you don’t have the expectations of learning something tangible in terms of career or advice, this book is A+. Shonda is one of us. She’s insecure, she doesn’t always say the right thing, she struggles with friendships and relationships and, best of all, she doesn’t take it back. This is the type of book you won’t want to put down. It’s a quick, easy read that will give you the nudge you need to accept the opportunities in your life while also learning a lot about the woman behind TGIT. I would recommend this book to any woman in any industry. If you’re not a Shonda Rhimes fan yet, you will be after this book.

You can see how this book affected me in my Letter to Shonda (still anxiously awaiting her response).



The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman



This book tells the story of Dan Millman, a young man in his junior year at the University of California who is training to become a world-champion gymnast. Late one night, something provokes Dan to end up at a local gas station managed by a 94-year-old man who refers to himself as Socrates. Socrates becomes Dan’s mentor and takes him on a journey to becoming a warrior – but not the one Dan’s been training to be in the gym.

giana pacinelli

The Pro:

  • If you are like me and feel that you need to be reading business books but want to be reading non-fiction – then this is the book for you. Now, this isn’t your typical business book. It is probably referred to as a spiritual book but I’m going to refer to it as a book that you should read to better prepare for living life.
  • The book is more specifically called Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives. And that is does. I would read this book on my lunch break and no matter what I was dealing with mentally or emotionally the wise words of Socrates always managed to put me at ease. It is a book that I will read again and it is a book that will give people clarity in their life, both personally and professionally, and the decisions they make. It is thought provoking and somewhat life changing, which shines light to the reason it was made into a movie (which I have yet to see).


The Con:

  • The book starts off rather slow. If you haven’t read a super helpful blog post (cough cough) that told you this book was worth it, you might lose interest quickly. Don’t lose interest. Once you have an understanding of where the story is headed, you will soon think about the book throughout the day and be eager to get back to reading it. This book is a lot like some TV shows, it takes awhile for the character development to progress enough that you are hooked.


Important Takeaways

“The warrior acts and the fool only reacts.”

“You can control your efforts, not outcomes.”

“Anger is a powerful tool to transform old habits and replace them with new ones.”

“I saw that I had never learned how to enjoy life, only how to achieve. All my life I had been busy seeking happiness, not finding it.”

“The secret to happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”



I gave this book a solid and easy A rating. Like I said, this book was almost an escape for me from a hectic and crazy workday. I wish I had my own Socrates to follow me around and remind me that the bad things that I think are happening to me are actually only happening because I let them. I’ve never read a spiritual book and have never intended to, but the way this book made me feel has opened up that possibility to find more like it. This book can be best referred to as mediation for those who can’t mediate.

SKIRTS in the Boardroom

SKIRTS in the Boardroom by Marshawn Evans


This book utilizes the real-time examples of author Marshawn Evan’s full life – student, lawyer, sports marketer, consultant, Apprentice winner and motivational speaker, to name a few. Marshawn explains how to be a SKIRT in a man’s boardroom. SKIRT as an acronym for – Sisterhood, Knowledge, Integrity, Respect, Tenacity and Substance. The book is as empowering as it is knowledgeable as Marshawn breaks the book into sections of how to breed success – from attitude and communication to commitment and clarity. At the end of each chapter, Marshawn summarizes the chapters’ main points and provides a short exercise to apply what you read into your own life.

giana pacinelli

The Pro:

  • You are learning from an unbelievably experienced leader in a wide variety of industries – and she’s a woman. You believe in what Marshawn is speaking because it has clearly worked. While some chapters mirror topics you touched on in undergrad or in a masters program – some people have experienced neither, and can still be successful! For me, some things I read I already practice. That didn’t make me bored, that made me proud. It was very validating. While Marshawn’s career is relatable to few, the tone in which she speaks forces you to feel a connection with her. As if you have the potential to be like her as well – if you practice what she’s preaching. What better business book is there?


The Con:

  • While I am all feminist and a bag of chips – I felt like some of Marshawn’s lines were a little exaggerated and over the top. It was sometimes so “I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR” it made what she was saying less authentic.
  • The other slight issue I had was the exercises at the end of the chapter. Now, I definitely agree with applying what you learn. And it makes absolute sense for her to leave these exercises at the end of each chapter. If she left it all for the end, it would be took overwhelming and you would’ve forgotten a lot of the material. But most people are not reading this book in their bed with a pad and paper within arm’s reach. If you are looking to expand your business knowledge, you may be reading like I was – on my hour lunch break to “relax.” I didn’t have time to review what I had read and dig deep into my soul. I did go back and do the exercises – but after I had finished reading and throughout a few days. Hey, at least I devote an hour to reading!


Important Takeaways

“You may be in business for yourself, but you will never be in business by yourself.” 

“You wouldn’t let someone else spend your money – don’t let someone else spend your time.”

“It’s about how well you know ‘who you know,’ what the ‘who you know’ say about you and how much the ‘who you know’ trusts you.”

“It’s not what you do one day to create a personal brand; it’s what you do every day.”

“If a woman can raise a family, singlehandedly prepare a Thanksgiving dinner fit for a king and run a household she can run a corporation and still have time to get her nails done.” 


I give this book an A-. It’s not necessarily a book I think I could read again but it is definitely a book worth reading and a book I would recommend (and I also wouldn’t mind meeting the author). It sustained my interest, taught me a lot and motivated me even more. It realigned me with my convictions and my goals and gave me that push on the butt that we all need every now and then to remember where we’re headed and why. Again, what better kind of business book is there?

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk



Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook was published at the end of 2013 by New York Times Bestselling Author and social media connoisseur Gary Vaynerchuk. The book’s reason for existence is to teach readers how to deliver appropriate “jabs” – the one conversation, the one engagement that slowly but authentically builds relationships between brands and customers. These jabs occur on various social media platforms so that when it comes time for the brand to deliver the right hook – the sell – customers are more willing and ready to listen.

giana pacinelliThe Pro:

  • The book is separated by each individual social media medium. Within each chapter, or social media channel, Vaynerchuk gives a brief history of the channel (how many users, target audience, types of content, ways to advertise, etc.) and then dives into examples of different posts from prominent brands on those channels. He critiques them on what worked and didn’t worked. Being a visual learner, it was extremely helpful to be able to take Vaynerchuk’s tutorial on the social media platform and utilize what I learned by critiquing brand’s posts and seeing if I understood why the post was good or bad. The way the book is broken up also makes it extremely easy to read. You don’t feel like you’re reading “social media 101” but more of an intermediate class that skips the boring verbage and goes right into the meat and potatoes.

The Con:

  • This con is of no fault to Gary Vaynerchuk and his literature, but just of the times. It took me almost a year to read this book from the time it was published and by that time a decent 25-30% of the content was already outdated. For example, information on LinkedIn, Google+ and Snapchat is cut down to about half a page because Vaynerchuk considered this an “on the rise” platform while, only a year later, they have already reached somewhat of “Celebrity Status.” This does not mean the book isn’t worth your time. However, when you finish the book you might feel like you’ve only become well-versed on half of the popular social media channels of the time. The pro to this is that you will feel pretty smart when you notice these outdated facts.

Important takeaways:

I’m not going to go into specific tips per social media platform, that is what the book is for. Some high level concepts that really made me go hmmmm.. are below and will hopefully peak your interest as well.

         “Remember when you were a kid, and you’d go to your mom and ask her to take you out for an ice-cream cone, or to the video arcade? 9 out of 10 times she said no. But then, every now and then, out of the blue, she would say yes. Why? In the days or weeks prior, something about how you interacted with  your mother before the unexpected outing to the ice-cream shop or arcade  made your mom feel like she wanted to do something for you. You made her happy, or maybe even proud, by giving her something she valued, whether it was doing extra chores or good grades or just one day of peace with your sibling. You gave so much that when you finally asked; she was emotionally  primed to say yes.”

            “You’re going to wear a different outfit and use different vocabulary when you’re sitting down for tea with your grandmother in her home than when you’re living it up with friends in a night club. “ (in reference to acting differently on different social media platforms)

            “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to  read. Make it for your customer or your audience, not for yourself.”


I give this book a solid B ranking. I learned a lot and will definitely be able to apply some of the strategies and tips highlighted. However, I feel like it took me an unnaturally long time to finish. Facebook is the first chapter and it is at least double the size of any other chapter of the book which I feel to be a little unwarranted. By the time you finish it you’re emotionally drained and may have lost your will to move forward. From my perspective, although Facebook has been around the longest, I definitely don’t see it to be the most important social media platform out there to warrant the space of almost half the book. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to fight through it. There are essential takeaways awaiting you.

Disclaimer: You should have some type of knowledge on these social media platforms before reading this book. This really isn’t “Social Media for Dummies.” If you have never been incredibly active on social media channels for business purposes it will be pretty difficult for some of the concepts to really resonate.