Peaks and Valleys
by Spencer Johnson, MD

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0325-8, Publisher: Atria Books, 2009
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*


I rather liked 'Who Moved My Cheese?' and was happy to be presented with a copy of its sequel 'Peaks and Valleys' at a networking forum. My happiness evaporated as I read the book.

For a man who managed to make mice into credible change managers Spencer Johnson, MD has made people seem incredibly one dimensional.

This is a simple book. The message can be neatly summarised onto Post-It™ notes or post cards. The author has saved the reader even this effort by extracting the quotable quotes and quoting them (just in case we missed them in the text). Usually I am happy with highlighted text to reinforce the key messages. Here it got on my nerves.

Roberto Goizueta, the former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company summed up the whole book (before it had been written) when he said 'Bad things happen because of what we did in good times. Good things happen because of what we did in bad times.' This book takes that idea and stretches it out into a parable for modern times.

It is fitting that the book should have been published just as the world went into a global financial crisis that caused many people to suffer loss of income, jobs, self-esteem and even identity. This is a book about moving past one's fears and into a personal vision that can inspire a person to even greater success than previously achieved.

There are some great slogans. The book is full of them. It almost begs to be made into a motivational calendar or diary. The construction of the book, as a fable within a story, is perhaps what lets it down. If Spencer had stuck to the formula from 'Who Moved My Cheese' I might have started to relate to the young man and the old man who are the protagonists of the fable without being distracted by Michael and his story. If you don't like Russian dolls start at page seven and finish at page ninety-four. The key lessons are all in the fable. The story is a ruse to bring it into modern day.

This is a quick and easy read. In 'food for thought' terms it is a snack, not a meal. Like many snacks, it contains some highly nutritious elements but is too synthesised to be truly good for you. If you don't mind your messages being so distilled as to be practically pre-digested and regurgitated, then you may find this book is just what you need.

This book is an innovative offering, beautifully presented, but ultimately unsatisfying.

* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "The Director's Dilemma", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.

Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards