The Bill Cook Story: Ready, Fire, Aim! (2008)
The subject of this biography, Bill Cook, is said to “epitomize the American success story”. From the early days of conducting business from the spare bedroom in his apartment, Cook built up a global multi-billion dollar business. So far, so American Pie. But the twist in the tale is that Cook continued to live a modest life and spends his money on a wide array of philanthropic causes, from historic preservation to marching bands. Whilst it seems a bit of an exaggeration to suggest this is typical (most super-wealthy givers seem comfortable being simultaneously conspicuous consumers and philanthropic), it is always fascinating to gain insights into the life and thoughts of notable donors. Given unlimited access to the subject and his wife, the author is able to paint a particularly intimate portrait, albeit one that is written in a style that never lets the reader forget his day job as a sports journalist. Readers will either like or loathe Hammel’s writing style – breathlessly short sections, bullet-pointed paragraphs and a plot-driven account full of narrative tricks – but those who stick with the text will emerge with many insights into the mind of a generous, though probably atypical, American businessman.