I've had Guaranteed to Last for a few weeks, and I think I can give a pretty comprehensive review. I'm a little more than halfway through content-wise (up to the Goose down vest with careful reading, though I've skimmed through the whole thing a few times), so here is my review.
- Gorman's writing style is very friendly. The purpose of the book is to give an insight into a huge company, but the way the book is written makes the reader seem part of the inner circle, privy to all kinds of insights in the formation and running of the company.
- These personal insights, particularly into the life of LL himself, are a really cool part of the book. When I used to think of LL Bean, I would think of the company. Now I'll think of the man first. It's really neat to be able to read about the founder.
- The book is filled with all kinds of scanned correspondence between customers and LL Bean (the man and the company). But not just regular joes telling him how awesome his boots are. There's a letter from President Franklin D Roosevelt thanking him for a knife (see below). There is also a whole double page spread on letters to the company lamenting LL's death.
- The original ads. I love seeing how the Bean boot or Field Coat were first marketed, how the blurb read (usually LL's writing), and how much they cost originally. If only Bean would bring back the old pricing for the 100th anniversary.
- The original catalogue covers. Very cool outdoor scenes in paintings. There are a bunch of these represented in the book.
- The format. I love the idea of going through a company's history through the decades with a focus on its iconic products of the decade. Main Hunting Shoe, Chamois Cloth shirt Field Coat, Boat and Tote, Goose Down vest, Norwegian Sweater, Deluxe Bookpack. These are the chapters of the book, and each piece is the focus of the chapter, as Gorman goes through the development of the company.
- The historical references. Each chapter (roughly a decade, give or take a few years) has a timeline with the major events of that decade interspersed with major events in the history of Bean. There are also historical references throughout the narrative.
- To be honest, there is only one con in this book for me, and it's housed in a pro. The extensive pictures are great, and it makes it an easy read, but there will often be places in the book where you'll get to the bottom of the right page, turn to continue reading, and have to turn again to pick up the narrative. There are so many pictures that there will often be two full pages with pictures. This can disrupt the flow of reading (I'm not really used to reading magazines or books with more pictures than words), and I'll have to turn back a few pages to remember what the last sentence was. This isn't a huge deal, but it did bug me a little.
In conclusion, I love this book. A big thanks to LL Bean and Weber Shandwick for sending me this book. I'm definitely going to enjoy finishing it, and it's a pleasant and easy enough read that I can tell it will get re-reads, even if it's just a chapter or two.
Check out Max's review of the book, if only for his description of his mom's reaction when she saw him in the book.
Here are some nice high res shots from the book. It will give you a sense of the content of the book, but seriously, there are pictures of this quality all over the book. Definitely worth it.