In her book, What I Know For Sure, legendary talk-show host Oprah Winfrey remarks, “What I love most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.”
Those recognized this month by Comstock’s as prominent women in leadership would likely attest to this. Each of them share one book that has impacted their professional thinking and life journey.
Carol Garcia, senior vice president of relationship management and marketing, Community 1st Bank
Favorite Book: Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
I have served on the Roseville Chamber Leadership Class Steering Committee for the past 22 years and each year we give a leadership book at graduation to each student. This is where I discovered the book Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek.
I connected with it because Sinek describes how leaders are the ones who run headfirst into unknown and oftentimes dangerous situations. They set their own interests aside to protect or pull others into the future. Those that are pulled along eventually may feel a safety net and help in the effort to see visions become reality.
Great leaders, he says, sacrifice their own comfort, and oftentimes their own survival in battle, for the good of those in their care. Great leaders also create environments where people naturally work together and accomplish remarkable things. This type of leadership style continues to resonate with me in the workplace, as well as through the organizations and nonprofits I’m involved in.
Martha Clark Lofgren, partner Brewer Lofgren LLP, Attorneys At Law
Favorite Book: The Accidental Adventurer: Memoir of the First Woman to Climb Mt. McKinley
The Accidental Adventurer is the memoir of Barbara Washburn, the first woman to climb Mount McKinley, which at 20,320 feet is the highest peak in North America. Barbara accomplished this feat in 1947, at a time when it was almost unheard of for women to even be included on climbing teams.
I personally enjoy high-altitude backpacking and summited Mt. Whitney by way of the Mountaineer’s Route, after three tries. I have found Barbara inspirational as a woman who realized she was presented with great opportunities and who deliberately chose to walk through doors when they opened, on a path that often was unplanned. Most of my best moments in life have been the result of “accidental adventures” and I hope, as I approach my 60s, to continue that trajectory.
Alexandra Cunningham, principal dancer, Sacramento Ballet
Favorite Book: Life in Motion by Misty Copeland
Back in 2013, I tore my ACL while performing onstage, had knee surgery and spent a year recovering before returning for a season and a half with the Sacramento Ballet. Then, suddenly on Feb. 23 2016, in ballet class, I landed from a jump and pop — it happened again. Of course I was devastated. I can’t dance professionally without my ACL and I immediately knew that I would be back on the operating table and out for at least a year, again.
During that time, my mom recommended that I read Misty Copeland’s book, Life in Motion. Copeland is a ballerina with American Ballet Theatre in New York City and considered a leader for racial and women’s equality, as well as a spokesperson for embracing all body types in the dance world. I picked up the book in March 2016 (after my first of two ACL reconstructions I would undergo) and remember devouring it.
The book journey’s through her life, her challenges to her career, injuries, what it is like to be a black ballerina in America — all the highs and lows of what it was like for her to persevere to, not only become a professional ballerina with one of the greatest ballet companies in the world, but a strong woman with a voice worth listening to.
The book helped me put things into perspective — while yes, I was pretty limited movement-wise with a full leg brace for months, it didn’t mean my whole life had to stop, and that book helped me see that.
Shobha Mallarapu, president and CEO, Anvaya Solutions, Inc.
Favorite Book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is a book I read a few years ago. It is written on the premise that extraordinary achievement is less about talent than it is about opportunity. That book reinforced my belief that anyone is capable of achieving similar success as someone else if they are placed in similar circumstances and given the same opportunity. It gave me an increased admiration for my late father, my role model in my community service efforts, who worked selflessly all his life to help those in need in all walks of life and all ages irrespective of economic status.
In part due to this book, I try not to judge people by the situation they are in, but instead treat the mentally, physically, economically or socially less-advantaged with compassion. It also serves as a reminder to myself that people who are born a certain way, grew up in a certain neighborhood or live under certain circumstances are not in that position by choice and it has blessed me with more patience and tolerance. I try to follow the same principles in my business to treat my employees fairly where they feel valued and appreciated. I believe that as a society, we should help each other succeed and achieve greatness together.
Quirina Orozco, assistant district attorney, Sacramento County
Favorite Book: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
When my high school choir teacher handed me sheet music from Les Misérables, I couldn’t even pronounce the title, let alone envision at age 15 how it would impact my life. For months, I bellowed lyrics in my bedroom in preparation for my solo, “I Dreamed a Dream,” which describes Fantine’s unrealized aspirations. But until I read Hugo’s full work, I did not grasp the suffering and tragedies Fantine endured — abandonment, workplace harassment, poverty and the ultimate sacrifice to save her young child. Her resiliency inspired me.
Les Misérables’ themes of justice, redemption and moral philosophy were instrumental in crafting my identity and catalyzing my interest in my present vocation, as well as my desire to serve my community.
For its part, the theatrical version ignited an enduring love of performing arts. I’ve seen Les Mis in cities across the nation. As long as injustice endures in the world and good people stand committed to fight against it, it will remain a timeless work worthy of sharing with our families. Until my 5-year-old son stops loving it, I will keep buying tickets.
Britta Guerrero, CEO, Sacramento Native American Health Center
Favorite Book: The Business of Fancydancing by Sherman Alexie
During my first year of college, a professor (who I wasn’t quite sure I liked) assigned The Business of Fancydancing. To this point, most of the Native American literature I had been assigned had been presented by non-Native teachers and most of it was written from a historical perspective.
Sherman’s writing was contemporary and honest. He wrote of complex characters who were emotional and poetic but paid their bills and went to school instead of simply being written in as extras in an old western. His work displayed tremendous pain and anger, but there was also love, humor and plenty of irony — much like the Native American experience.
Sherman is a true storyteller whose authentic style spoke directly to my heart and gave me, and many like me, permission to identify with the beauty of our struggle and clear understanding of living and walking in two worlds.