Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

Continuing on my feminist/sociology book kick, I finally read (well listened to) a book by Rebecca Traister.

Synopsis

From the back cover:
Today, only around 20 percent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine are wed, compared to the nearly 60 percent in 1960. Traister set out to investigate this trend at the intersection of class, race, and sexual orientation, supplementing facts with vivid anecdotes from fascinating contemporary and historical figures. This exhaustively researched and brilliantly balanced account traces the history of unmarried women in America who, through social, political, and economic means, have radically shaped our nation into the twenty-first century – and beyond.

Review

I was, admittedly, afraid of this book a little bit. As a twentysomething woman somewhat recently married, I fretted for a few months if I would find the subject matter discussed relatable. So I did what I should have done in the first place and Google Rebecca and found out she’s married so I could be reasonably well assured than All the Single Ladies wouldn’t be marriage-shaming. Which I realize is a weird thing to fear, but after a conversation I had with a few customers, seemed like a viable fear.

Two customers at the bookstore, one a new mother, the other the mother of a high school senior, told me they had been shamed by working moms for being highly educated women who chose to fulfill the traditional maternal role to stay home with their kids. And I realized that is something I fear from the feminist movement – being shamed for partaking in traditions such as marriage and motherhood.

All the Single Ladies is, I found, at its heart, all about choice. Choice in determining your own path and your own future as a women. For what seems like eons, women had no agency, and now we do. We have choices and opportunities. And that is the basis for Rebecca’s book – how the modern 21st century woman utilizes her decision making and choices to change and influence society and the world around her. For that, it is a spectacular read and a masterful blend of history, interviews, research, and social commentary.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Edition: Paperback • $17.00 • 9781476716572 • 368 pages • originally published March 2016, this edition published October 2016 by Simon & Schuster • average Goodreads rating 4.05 out of 5 • read November 2018

Essays, Non-Fiction, Psychology

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

I have long been intrigued by The Tao of Pooh and decided the holiday season was a good time to read it to try to keep myself settled and focused.

Synopsis

The how of Pooh? The Tao of who? The Tao of Pooh! … in which it is revealed that one of the world’s great Taoist masters isn’t Chinese… or a venerable philosopher… but is in fact none other than that effortlessly calm, still, reflective bear, A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh! While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is. And that’s a clue to the secret wisdom of the Taoists.

Review

I was a Winnie the Pooh kid. I grew up having the stories read to me, had stuffed animals of all the characters, and developed a particular fondness for Eeyore (the Eeyore pictures is my winter ice skating Eeyore and I have many more!). I was thrilled that all of my favorite friends from the Hundred-Acre Wood make and appearance in The Tao of Pooh.

Told in a series of short vignettes, written as though the author, Benjamin Hoff, has walked into the Wood to have a conversation with our beloved friends, The Tao of Pooh offers a glimpse not into mindfulness, as many popular books today do, but simply the art and way of just being. Living and thinking without over thinking or dwelling on how the world works. While it is important to understand the world around us, sometimes we need to let the minutiae of everyday life go and be more like Pooh.

A beautiful little gift book, it is worth a read for anyone who is feeling stressed about the little things in life and could use a bit of peace and sound mind. I would recommend The Tao of Pooh over Peace is Every Step.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.00 • 9780140067477 • 176 pages • first published April 1982, this edition published July 1983 by Penguin Books • average Goodreads rating 4.02 out of 5 • read in December 2018

tao of pooh

Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

Shrill by Lindy West

I have no idea why WordPress unpublished this review from last week, but here it is, once more on the blog!

In my never-ending quest to find a fun audiobook to listen to before bed, I stumbled upon Shrill and was immediately intrigued. I remembered picking it up at the store months ago and it sounding interesting so I figured I’d give it a shot!

Synopsis

Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible – like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you – bestselling author and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered she was anything but.

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

Review

I love a good sociology essay collection and Lindy’s is up there with Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me. While I found some of the essays difficult to relate to from her perspective, a decent number of the essays have to do with body type and stereotypes, but they certainly made me think about my preconceived notions about people who are different than me, in terms of body type. People who are, as Lindy says, Fat, face a whole different and unique set of challenges in navigating everyday life, along with the stigma and dirty glances from other humans which I had never really noticed before.

While thinking differently about my inherent biases is my primary take away from Lindy’s book, there were certainly essays that reminded me that we really are just human beings, looking for love and respect from everyone. The essay about dealing with trolls is one I could relate to – I’ve been trolled online for having asthma, as well as the pair of essays, “The End” and “The Beginning.”

Lindy’s father died of cancer. And if you’ve ever had to watch a loved one die slowly from a disease or illness that medical science could no longer treat, you’ll recognize the optimism, fear, grief, all the feelings that are associated with the sense of loss, that Lindy describes. Those two essays resonated with me the most, and I highly recommend picking up this collection if you want a laugh, a cry, and all the emotions in between.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9780316348461 • 272 pages • first published May 2016, this edition published February 2017 by Hachette Books • average Goodreads rating 4.21 out of 5 stars • read in November 2018

 

Shrill b&w

Essays, Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool by Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella

This year will be the third year the bookstore I work at will host mother-daughter writing duo Lisa & Francesca. For the last two years, I’ve pretended that I’ve read their essay collections… This year I figured I better have some truth to back up those words.

Synopsis

The bestselling and “perennially hilarious” mother-daughter team is back with a new collection of stories from their real lives that are guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. Join Lisa and Francesca as they regret drunk-shopping online, try smell-dating, and explore the freedom of a hiatus from men – a “guyatus.” They offer a fresh and funny take on the triumphs and face-palm moments of modern life, showing that when it comes to navigating the crazy world we live in, you’re always your own best lifeguard.

Review

Apparently it takes a lot for a book to make me actually laugh out loud. I’ve met Lisa & Francesca half a dozen times (Lisa literally lives 20 minutes from the store) and in person, they’re quite funny. Their essays make me smile when I read them, but lately it seems, a book just can’t pull a laugh out of me.

I enjoyed reading Lisa & Francesca’s essays, I could relate to just about all of Francesca’s and Lisa’s reminded me a great deal of my mom. But something was nagging at me – maybe it’s the fact that I feel like it’s time to diversify our reading and, well, Lisa & Francesca are affluent white women. While I agree that women as a group tend to encounter sexism and other challenges, I felt like I kept wanting to scream “suburban white people problems!” while reading. Which doesn’t make for the greatest reading experience.

I wasn’t angry, per se, just disappointed. I feel like I’ve transitioned and grown as a reader in that, when I read nonfiction, I want to learn something. I don’t want to reinforce my own established beliefs. But I also live in the suburbs, grew up in a similar manner to Francesca, and find her writing so unbelievably relatable that it’s a bit absurd. So, long story short, if you live in an affluent area and your greatest concerns are about your dog’s bowel movements or being a writer in NYC, this is totally the book for you. If not, well, you probably want to look for something else.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.99 • 9781250059994 • 336 pages • first published July 2017, this edition published June 2018 by St. Martin’s Griffin • average Goodreads rating 3.7 out of 5 • read in May 2018

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Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

After reading Dear Ijeawele, I figured it was probably about time that I picked up We Should All be Feminists. Many friends and coworkers and customers at the store all raved about it, so time to jump on the bandwagon!

Synopsis

What does feminism mean today? In this personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now – and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Review

I think my comprehension is suffering of late, or I’ve inundated myself with so many feminist reads that they’re all starting to blend together. I read We Should All be Feminists just a few days ago, and I enjoyed it while reading, but now, a few days later, I cannot, for the life of me, remember details. Shorter works just don’t seem to stay in my head as long, I’m guessing because I don’t have the time to settle into the topic and really think about it for a few days – I read We Should All be Feminists in half an hour.

That being said, I apologize to anyone who was expecting a really in depth analysis of these 64 pages, but I have to admit, I sat down to write this review six or seven times in the last three days and nothing has come to mind. It didn’t leave a lasting impression, which is awful – I enjoyed it while reading, the subject matter is important, but it’s been lost to the thousands of pages of feminist prose and essays I’ve read in the last four months.

Does this mean I recommend it? Of course I do – it’s my next staff pick at the bookstore. But that doesn’t mean I have any idea what to say about it…

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $7.95 • 9781101911761 • 64 pages • published February 2015 by Anchor Books • average Goodreads rating 4.47 out of 5 stars • read April 2018

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Website

We Should All be Feminists on Goodreads

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Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

In my continuing quest to find the perfect audiobook, I decided to take a chance on a book I know I have an ARC for around my apartment somewhere… And I’d been meaning to read it for ages but then lost it. So the audiobook, perfect solution!… for the most part.

Synopsis

The Geek Feminist Revolution is Hurley’s manifesto and her call to arms, her life story and her moving personal experiences. Beyond addressing the ongoing conversations in the science fiction community, the core themes of her essays – fighting against the suppression of women, finding perseverance to thrive as an artist, and encouraging cultural change by critiquing its media – resonate with everyone. Her voice adds to today’s growing canon of feminist writing. Assembled herein are dozens of entries from her blog, including the 2013 Hugo Award-winning “We Have Always Fought,” and nine new essays written specifically for this collection.

Review

The audiobook needs a new reader. I don’t like being yelled at. I like being yelled at even less when I agree with what the yeller is saying. I think that The Geek Feminist Revolution is an important book for the post election, current #MeToo universe that we are living in today. And I really wish I had read it, instead of listened to it. However, I think it is also important that women remember that everyone is taken more seriously in their arguments when they maintain a level tone and refrain from screaming and yelling. But that’s not really the point of the book, just my point that it should be read, not listened to.

Feminist geeks come in all shapes and sizes. Today, the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs have started – I think it’s safe to call myself an ice hockey geek, I’ve been one from 2/3 of my life. But, as with most things when it comes to women liking things that have traditionally been “Male Things,” a heavy dose of sexism has accompanied it – how many times have I been called a “puck bunny” (a hockey groupie) instead of just being called a fan? More than I can count.

In The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley raises many points that a lot of geek girls can relate to – from the importance of Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (my favorite essay) to how to effectively take criticism from the masses in a world of constant Twitter wars. What I didn’t particularly care for, were the personal parts of the book that I found had nothing to do with the content of the other essays. It felt like a pity party for the author, instead of furthering the geek feminist revolution.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.99 • 9780765386243 • 288 pages • published May 2016 by Tor Books • average Goodreads rating 3.93 out of 5 stars • read in April 2018

Kameron Hurley’s Website

Geek Feminist Revolution on Goodreads

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Geek Feminist Revolution

Essays, Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I can’t say I’ve ever seen an episode of The Office and I’ve probably only seen 3 or 4 episodes of The Mindy Project. I can’t even really say that I’m a fan of Mindy Kaling. But I can say that my sister, Laura, is and that on her recommendation, I decided to read one of Mindy’s books.

Synopsis

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believe that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

Review

I didn’t laugh at all while reading Why Not Me? and I was expecting to. But I did enjoy it which I think proves that Mindy Kaling’s strength is in her writing, more so than her acting. When I first decided to listen to the audiobook I figured she would read it – most television/movie personalities read their own book, like Anthony Bourdain and Neil deGrasse Tyson. And I had reservations – I find that the register of her voice and my personal listening tastes are not always compatible. But in this case, they learned how to play nicely together.

I love the fact that my library participates with Overdrive – free audiobooks! As I approach what I hope will be a career related life change, I find myself becoming more and more anxious, fueling my insomnia, leading me to find something to listen to each night to fall asleep to. And that’s where Mindy Kaling comes in. And I realize the audiobooks I actually like, I start playing over the next day when I’m trying to stay awake, something I was surprised I did with Why Not Me?

Kaling’s essays are witty and insightful, so long as you understand that they are not serious suggestions or ruminations. There are a few deeper moments folded into the lighthearted content, but for the most part, even if it doesn’t make you laugh, it will still bring a smile to your face. Along with Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I have a feeling Why Not Me? will be my summer read staff pick at the store this year.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9780804138161 • 240 pages • first published September 2015, this edition published September 2016 by Three Rivers Press • average Goodreads rating 3.9 out of 5 stars • read March 2018

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Essays, Non-Fiction, STEM

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

When my husband was studying physics, all he wanted to focus on was astrophysics. We watched all of Cosmos as it aired (a rarity for us) and frequently attended talks on the universe and astrophysics at planetariums in Philly. As Neil deGrasse Tyson has blown up in popular culture and his books become bestsellers, I figure it about time I read one.

Synopsis

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Review

Lately I have come to discover that I cannot fall asleep without listening to an audiobook and my library Overdrive app has become indispensable. Thankfully, there is no shortage of wonderful books to listen too and, following the recommendation of one of our publisher reps at the store, I decided to listen to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry as Neil deGrasse Tyson reads it himself. I’ve previously discussed how certain author’s voices ring in my head when I read their work (namely Anthony Bourdain and David Attenborough) and Tyson is one of them – if I was going to hear him in my head, I might as well actually listen to him read his own book.

I enjoyed listening to this collection of essays covering pretty much any physics topic having to do with astrophysics, however, as has always seemed to be the case with me and physics, since high school, I don’t remember any of it. My mind wanders – less so when listening to a book than when actually reading it, I can only read for half hour bursts – and I am a highly tactile learner. Visuals and auditory learning just aren’t my thing. So while I am the intended audience for Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I am, simultaneously not, thank you ADD.

Additionally, while listening, I realized that Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is really Cosmos in book form. Which is great – it’s now been four years since it first aired, people probably need a refresher course at this point. All in all, I enjoyed listening to Astrophysics, but I really wish I remembered it better.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $18.95 • 9780393609394 • 224 pages • published May 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company • average Goodreads rating 4.13 out of 5 • read March 2018

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Website

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry on Goodreads

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

Women & Power by Mary Beard

Oh the thoughts and tirades this book stirs up. But for the sake of review, I’ll try to keep it short and too the point. Add this to my growing pile of feminism reads.

Synopsis

At long last, Mary Bread has decided to address in one brave book the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over. Few, sadly, are more experienced with this kind of hateful barrage than Beard herself, who has been subjected to a whole onslaught of criticism online, in response to her articles and public speeches.

In Women & Power, Beard presents her most powerful statement yet, tracing the origins of misogyny to their ancient roots. In two provocative essays, Beard connects the past to the present as only she can, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated powerful women since time immemorial.

As far back as Homer’s Odyssey, Beard shows, women have been prohibited from leadership roles in civic life, public speech historically being defined as inherently male. There is no clearer example than Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, who seals her lips and proceeds upstairs when told to shut up by Telemachus, her son. Other mouths in public or, against all odds, gained power – from would-be Roman orators, though the great queen Elizabeth I – have been treated as “freakish androgynes,” attacked or punished for their courage – regarded with suspicion at best, contempt at worst. From Medusa to Philomela (whose tongue was cut out), from Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren (who was told to sit down), Beard draws endlessly illuminating parallels between our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship to power – and how powerful women provide a necessary example for all women who must resist being vacuumed into a male template.

Review

Emma Watson, hero to many young women, recently acknowledged that her position as a feminist comes with a dollop of white privilege. All things considered, as white, straight women raised in Western cultures, we are considerably better off in society than any LGBTQIA+ woman or women of color. This recently has made me realize that we are not only campaigning for equal rights for women, but that an additional hurdle, one that has been too often overlooked by straight, white women, needs to be addressed as well. I do not have the experiences of someone other than myself and I hope that as I continue to advocate for change, I embrace change for all, and that I do not rest on my laurels once I have achieved change for myself and those just like me, but that I continue crusading for all women.

Now, on to the review! Women and power, what a Pandora’s box of discussion topics such a title evokes. While I don’t have any recollection of being told to shut up, I have definitely been talked over until someone assumed that I would give up and be quiet. Which I wouldn’t. My mom always taught me that I was as strong as my voice and my voice was as strong as me. Basically, the only way to effect change would be to keep talking until I could no longer be ignored. It didn’t always serve me well, but I would always stand up for myself though throughout most of my high school years, I was called a bitch behind my back. Thankfully social media was not widely used back in the early ‘aughts.

My mom worked in education administration and would often be the only woman at meetings. Which always seemed to weird to me – the majority of teachers are women, but most principals and administrators are men. As her daughter, who also pursued a career in education, I struggled to get a reaction that wasn’t “Oh, you’re Amy’s daughter.” So I did the most patriarchal thing I could – changed my last name, my whole identity, when I got married, just so I wouldn’t constantly be compared to my mother or judged by some men’s perceptions of her position in the state educational system.

Every sentence, every phrase, Mary Beard hits the nail on the head. And, like most women, she doesn’t have an answer for how things can change. I don’t think any of us do. Sexism and misogyny is so rampant in cultures world wide that it is going to take a lot more than a few speeches for things to change. But I have to believe that they will. I have to believe that the great reckoning is coming for all those, men and women alike, who have aided in the silencing of women and, in the case of women, their peers. Until we all stand together and listen with respect to each other, we will fail to see forward progress.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $15.95 • 9781631494758 • 128 pages • published December 2017 by Liveright Publishing Corporation • average Goodreads rating 4.17 out of 5 • read in February 2018

Women & Power on Goodreads

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Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

This seems like an apt title for this week! I am an unabashedly HUGE Eagles fan and I have been, according to my mom, since birth. It helps that her father, my grandfather, played for them briefly in the 1950s. We are an Eagles family, we bleed green. And nothing, well, almost nothing, frustrates me more than when I am trying to answer one of my female friend’s questions about the sport and a man feels the need to jump in and explain what’s going on to both of us.

Synopsis

In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.

She ends on a serious note – because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!”

This updated edition of the book features that now-classic essay as well as Solnit’s recent essay on the remarkable feminist conversation that arose in the wake of the 2014 Isla Vista Killings.

Review

The great reckoning, in terms of sexual assault, had been bubbling beneath the surface of society for years, decades, even centuries, before it burst through the surface and made headlines in late 2017. The most important aspect I want to make sure that I state in regards to this review is that Men Explain Things to Me is not an essay collection that bashes men.

Rebecca Solnit’s purpose in collecting together the essays that make up the book Men Explain Things to Me is, like any good journalist’s intention, to make her readers aware of things that are going on in the world today. Each essay in the collection deals at least in some small way how we interact with each other, both as members of society and within personal, intimate relationships. It is about encouraging women to find their voices and encouraging men to think about how their words and actions are perceived and interpreted.

For a fairly short book (less than 200 pages), it took me the better part of three weeks to read. Not because it was dense, or because I didn’t like, but because I wanted to make sure that I remembered Rebecca’s words and used them to do good in the world. One of the biggest strengths and challenges with the written word is that they can be interpreted in many different ways. Reading Men Explain Things to Me can be twisted and turned to make anyone’s point, and I don’t want to do that. I want to take what Solnit writes and make myself a better contributing member of society. And I have to believe that’s what she would want as well.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $12.95 • 9781608464661 • 176 pages • first published May 2014, this edition published September 2015 by Haymarket Books • average Goodreads rating 3.92 out of 5 • read in February 2018

Rebecca Solnit’s Website

Men Explain Things to Me on Goodreads

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119-Men Explain Things to Me