How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else


In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a big house in the suburbs, a loving family, and a top job at an ad agency with a six-figure salary. By the time he turned sixty, he had lost everything except his Ivy League education and his sense of entitlement. First, he was downsized at work. Next, an affair ended his twenty-year marriage. Then, he was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain tumor, prognosis undetermined. Around the same time, his girlfriend gave birth to a son. Gill had no money, no health insurance, and no prospects. 

One day as Gill sat in a Manhattan Starbucks with his last affordable luxury—a latté—brooding about his misfortune and quickly dwindling list of options, a 28-year-old Starbucks manager named Crystal Thompson approached him, half joking, to offer him a job. With nothing to lose, he took it, and went from drinking coffee in a Brooks Brothers suit to serving it in a green uniform. For the first time in his life, Gill was a minority--the only older white guy working with a team of young African-Americans. He was forced to acknowledge his ingrained prejudices and admit to himself that, far from being beneath him, his new job was hard. And his younger coworkers, despite having half the education and twice the personal difficulties he’d ever faced, were running circles around him.

The other baristas treated Gill with respect and kindness despite his differences, and he began to feel a new emotion: gratitude. Crossing over the Starbucks bar was the beginning of a dramatic transformation that cracked his world wide open. When all of his defenses and the armor of entitlement had been stripped away, a humbler, happier and gentler man remained. One that everyone, especially Michael’s kids, liked a lot better.
The backdrop to Gill's story is a nearly universal cultural phenomenon: the Starbucks experience. In HOW STARBUCKS SAVED MY LIFE: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, we step behind the counter of one of the world's best-known companies and discover how it all really works, who the baristas are and what they love (and hate) about their jobs. Inside Starbucks, as Crystal and Mike’s friendship grows, we see what wonders can happen when we reach out across race, class, and age divisions to help a fellow human being.


North American publisher: Gotham Books

Foreign rights: Penguin Group, Sabila Khan,

Foreign rights sold:  Australian to Random House Australia; Complex Chinese to China Times Publishing Company; Simplified Chinese to Academic Press; Czech to Columbus;  Dutch to Utgeefmaatschappij Kok Ten Have; German to Droemersche Verlag; Indonesian to Lentera Hati; Italian to RCS Libri Sp A; Japanese to Diamond Publishing; Korean to Sejong; Spanish to Ediciones Urano;  Russian to AST Publishers; Polish to Mt Biznes Sp; Portuguese (Brazil) to Editora Sextante; Portuguese (Portugal) to Reader's Digest Association, Inc.; Thai to Saengdao Publishing House Co.; Turkish to Mikado Yayinlari; UK to HarperCollins; Vietnamese to Phuong Nam Book Company; Marathi to Mehta Publishing House; Latvian to Zvaignze ABC Publishers

Film rights: Creative Artists Agency


“In the best tradition of The New Yorker, How Starbucks Saved My Life is one great read.”—The Wall Street Journal


“An intriguing look behind the counter of one of the world’s most recognizable brands.”—The Christian Science Monitor


“How Starbucks Saved My Life works as an interesting memoir of one man’s transformation. But it could also work as a wake-up call to corporate America.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune


“What a read.”—Booklist, Starred Review


"[An] enthralling true life tale of one man's attempt to right the errors of his past by physically working for self-respect instead of waiting for it to be handed to him on a silver platter."—San Antonio Express-News