Non-Fiction, Psychology

Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

As my husband and I have started house hunting and I may have a bit of a… collecting problem, I figured it was high time I got my butt in gear and started working on developing useful and effective cleaning and organizing habits!

Synopsis

From the Back Cover
Finally, a housekeeping and organizational system developed for those of us who’d describe our current living situation as a “f*cking mess” that we’re desperate to fix. Unf*ck Your Habitat is for anyone who has been left behind by traditional aspirational systems. The ones that ignore single people with full-time jobs; people without kids but living with roommates; and people with mental illnesses or physical limitations. Most organizational books are aimed at traditional homemakers, DIYers, and people who seem to have unimaginable amounts of free time. They assume we all iron our sheets, have linen napkins to match our table runners, and can keep plants alive for longer than a week. Basically, they ignore most of us living here in the real world!

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Adulting, the philosophy is more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve for it to bring you happiness, not stress.

Review

I’ve never been good a cleaning or keeping my room/dorm/apartment particularly tidy. I love to organize, but I’m not always so good at maintaining said organizational systems. I struggle with anxiety and I often will retreat into bed rather than clean. So needless to say, I could use some help, some real help, not my mother-in-law wanting to throw everything away.

I started listening to Unf*ck Your Habitat one Sunday afternoon while my husband and I were cleaning and I spent all of my allotted cleaning time doing the dishes. One should not have to spend and hour doing dishes. And that is when I finally admitted I had a problem.

I appreciate Rachel’s approach of adopting small changes over a period of time and not expecting yourself to develop a whole new cleaning mentality overnight. Her dissuasion from marathon cleaning also makes a great deal of sense. The chapters are laid out sensibly and also include ways to handle organizing your space for a variety of different living situations.

Additionally helpful is the chapter on emergency cleaning (which I find myself doing before my MIL comes over) as well the chapter on how to set up fresh cleaning habits when moving – and given that we have just put an offer in on our first house, it is incredibly helpful. So if you’ve watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and feeling overwhelmed, give Rachel’s Unf*ck Your Habitat a try. And even if you don’t want to dive right into the book, I found her website tremendously helpful as well.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $16.99 • 9781250102959 • 224 pages • published January 2017 by St. Martin’s Griffin • average Goodreads 3.79 out of 5 stars • read in February 2019

Unf_ck Your Habitat (2)

Essays, Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

After watching Making It and meeting Nick in June at Book Expo, I figured it about time I read one of his books. When I realized that I read so many books by famous women that are thinly veiled self-help memoir-y type books, I realized I owed to my inherently bias self to pick one up for men and give it a go.

Synopsis

From the Back Cover:
When it comes to growing a robust mustache, masticating red meat, building a chair, or wooing a woman, who better to educate you than the always charming, always manly Nick Offerman, best known as Parks and Recreation‘s Ron Swanson? Combining his trademark comic voice and very real expertise in carpentry, Paddle Your Own Canoe features tales from Offerman’s childhood (born, literally, in the middle of an Illinois cornfield) to his theater days in Chicago to the, frankly, magnificent seduction of his wife, Megan Mullally. Offerman also shares his hard-bitten battle strategies in the arenas of manliness, love, styles, and religion, and invaluable advice on getting the most pleasure out of woodworking, assorted meats, outdoor recreation, and other palatable entrees.

Review

I feel like most books I read this days are a 7 out of 10. I enjoyed them while reading, and then almost immediately forget them. Maybe a passage or two stands out here and there, but for the most part, they’re in one ear and out the other, particularly so as I’ve found I enjoy listening the celebrity read memoirs as audiobooks these days. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have the patience for them.

But, Nick Offerman has a gentle voice and so I’ve been listening to Paddle Your Own Canoe to help me fall asleep at night. It certainly isn’t boring, but it does put me in a sleepy state of mind (though my husband says I’m practically narcoleptic, so there’s that…). The tales he shares of his childhood and young adulthood are funny and interesting, a bit raunchier and irreverent than I was expecting, but still enjoyable. Men are definitely the target audience, but I enjoyed his tales and especially his words of wisdom to men.

There are a lot of rich white dudes who say things about masculinity and women that are toxic and misogynistic. Nick Offerman, thank goodness, is not one of those men. His advice is practical and reasonable and boils down to “be a good person, don’t be an asshole,” words we can all strive to live by. But overall, I would say Paddle Your Own Canoe is about on par with Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me as far as parts memoir, humor and life advice.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9780451467096 • 352 pages • originally published October 2013, this edition published September 2014 by Dutton • average Goodreads rating 3.67 out of 5 stars • read February 2019

Paddle Your Own Canoe (2)

Essays, Non-Fiction, Psychology

Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger

Self-Help January continues! This book originally came out in November 2017 and I still have an advance reader copy… I’ve been sitting on it for almost 2 years and decided now was finally the time to read it. I love Iliza, so much so that I decided to use her book for my first “bookface” picture!

Synopsis

From the Back Cover:
Have you ever been pissed because you’re not pretty enough, and then gotten even more pissed that someone didn’t find you as pretty as you think you are? Have you ever obsessed over the size of your thighs while eating dessert, all the while saying you’ll work out extra tomorrow? Or spent endless hours wondering why you have to bear the brunt of other people’s insecurities? I mean, after all, I’m pretty great. Why cope with insecurities I don’t already have?

That last one’s just me? All right, then.

But if the rest sounds familiar, you are experiencing girl Logic: a characteristically female way of thinking that appears contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world. You end up considering every repercussion of every choice (about dating, career, clothes, lunch) before making a move toward what you really want. And why do we attempt these mental hurdles? Well, that’s what this book is all about.

The fact is, whether you’re obsessing over his last text or the most important meeting of your career, your Girl Logic serves a purpose: It helps push you, question what you want, and clarify what will make you a happier, better person. Girl Logic can be every confident woman’s secret weapon, and this book shows you how to wield it.

Review

Last week I wrote about what I call “Self-Help January” and my doubts about how helpful self-help books written by middle class female white millennials can be. And I came away without a clear answer to my question. And now I’m back with another white female middle class (elder) millennial written self-help book. As this is my primary demographic, it is the subset I am most drawn to for self-help, but I also want to find books to review and recommend that are applicable to those outside this narrow subset as well. And Iliza, how I love you, seems a bit more helpful than last week’s Adulting.

If you haven’t seen or heard of Iliza, allow me to introduce her to you. She is a stand-up comic (but so much more!) and she won Last Comic Standing – the youngest and first woman to ever do so. She has a handful of Netflix specials, two (short-lived) television shows, Forever 31 on ABC and Truth and Iliza on Freeform. Her most recent Netflix special, Elder Millennial, is her best thus far.

Her honest and confident approach to life make her a role model for all young women, as well as her peers. And she freely admits that she doesn’t have everything sorted out – that her life is still a work in progress and her success is not a measuring stick for others’. The topics she covers in Girl Logic stem from the female-centered topics of her stand-up and focuses on three primary relationships: the relationship with have with ourselves, with other women, and with men.

The relationship with men section entertained me, but as someone who’s been in a relationship for the entirety of my twenties, I didn’t find much to relate to there but I know a lot of my friends who have also read Girl Logic found her advice here to be most helpful. For me, I have had a crappy on-off relationship with my body it feels like. I hate it, I love it, I’ve starved it, coddled it, over-fed it, under-exercised it, etc. It is always helpful to hear about other women’s similar struggles, if only for a reminder that it’s something we all do and our inner-monologue (aka Girl Logic) is both helpful and harmful in this relationship.

Iliza’s last point starts with a bit of an apology in regards to her previous acts – acts where she hasn’t always been as kind to other women as she would like. And that particular section is tremendously helpful. Women should support other women, but not blindly follow them just because they are women. But lead with kindness and respect – that’s really all that matters. You don’t have to be friends, but with mutual kindness and respect, life will be a lot happier all around.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.99 • 9781602863347 • 256 pages • first published November 2017, this edition published November 2018 by Hachette Books • average Goodreads rating 3.90 out of 5 • read January 2019

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Non-Fiction, Psychology

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Funny story. This is one of the top selling books of the year at the bookstore I work at. We’re even sponsoring an event with the author in a few weeks in Philadelphia. I did not know this when I started ranting to my boss about how much I hated it. Oops.

Synopsis

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bitesized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you to: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, Create a life you totally love. And create it NOW. Make some damn money already. The kind you’ve never made before.

Review

Maybe I just don’t get it. I haven’t read too many self-help books, but my general understanding of the genre is that they are supposed to make you think critically about your life and make suggestions on how to change it. Please, anyone with further insights, please correct me if I’m wrong. I was so afraid I wasn’t “getting” You Are a Badass, and that I was perhaps getting unjustifiably angry, when I was about halfway through that I did something I never do mid-book – I looked up other people’s reviews on Goodreads. I’ll do it before I decide to read something and after, but not during. But I have to say after doing so that I’m glad I’m not the only one.

Now, if You Are a Badass has worked for you, I’m going to suggest that you stop reading right here. If you are looking for a practical self-help book and you are considering purchasing/reading You Are a Badass, please take the following with a grain of salt. Everyone is unique, and if you think this book will work for you, please disregard the following rant.

Gripe #1: How You Are a Badass handles anxiety. I have anxiety. If you wish to see the details, check out my review of Furiously Happy. And it is not something that I would say I have already overcome. I am in the process of “dealing and healing” as my husband puts it and anyone who tells me to just “get over it” as You Are a Badass does, well, let’s just say I don’t respond as well as I should.

Gripe #2: Lack of practical and usable advice. I’m sorry, I apparently don’t know how to connect deeper with “source energy” or change my vibration level to match that of what I would like to attract to my life. Putting out positive thoughts only works so well, and the author, in my opinion, has just been lucky.

Gripe #3: Assertion made by You Are a Badass: You are annoyed by other people’s behaviors because it reflect that which annoys you about yourself. Uh, no. People who almost hit me with their car while I’m crossing the street? No. People who ignore warnings on doors and walk right up to me with their dog and give me an asthma attack? No. People who talk loudly on their cellphones in public places? No. People who treat retail workers poorly? No. Moving on.

Gripe #4: Author freely admits that she wrote You Are a Badass very quickly and on a short deadline. It shows.

Two of my coworkers absolutely love this book. And good for them. I’m glad that they have found a book that speaks to them. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t speak to me.

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback $16.00 9780762447695 254 pages published April 2013 by Running Press Adult average Goodreads rating 4.02 out of 5 read in January 2018

Jen Sincero’s Website

You Are a Badass on Goodreads

Get a Copy of You Are a Badass

You are a Badass

Non-Fiction, Psychology

You’re Not That Great (But Neither is Anyone Else) by Elan Gale

There are some advance reader copies (ARCs) that, when sitting in a pile of hundreds of other ARCs on our staff lunch table at work, just call out to me. There are fewer that actually make it to my desk, fewer still that make it home with me, and fewer still that I actually read. For working at a bookstore and getting access to literally hundreds of ARCs, I might only read 3 each year. But I’d been in the market for an actually helpful “self-help” book, and the nonstandard approach of You’re Not That Great seemed to demand that I read it.

Synopsis

The self-help industry tells you that if you’re positive, if you put your best foot forward, and if you just believe in yourself, you will find happiness. Let’s be real: You can read all the inspirational quotes you want. You can spend your days giving yourself affirmations in your heart-shaped mirror and trying to learn to love yourself. You can say your mantra over and over again while sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat in a Whole Food parking lot. But the truth is, you’re not a “badass” and you still don’t have the life you want. That’s where this book comes in. This book teaches you how to stop trying to FEEL BETTER, and urges you to BE BETTER. It will help you harness all the negativity in the world and use it to improve your life. Positive thinking is for assholes. Negative thinking is for winners.

Review

Me prior to reading this book : I’m a millennial and I’m special unicorn. Me after reading this book : I might be a millennial and special unicorn, but I’m not really a great person. And being a great person is more important that being a special millennial unicorn.

The last time a read a self-help book (The Fangirl Life), I hated myself more and more after each chapter. In reading You’re Not That Great, a certain amount of self-loathing is a prerequisite. One must accept that they’re not that great in order to become great. Now, I knew absolutely nothing about Elan Gale, I didn’t know he was a producer of The Bachelor (which, oddly enough, I’ve never seen), and I purposefully did not look up any information about him until I was done reading. Primarily because I wanted to believe he is a credible authority on his subject matter.

Now, he is not a psychologist, which is probably why our publisher rep at the store suggested that we shelve this book in humor, but as a real life person, with real life experience (not just the experience of patients and extensive study), I find him to be uniquely qualified to write the anti-self-help self-help book.

You’re Not That Great is, yes, very humorous, but it is also incredibly helpful. For centuries, millennia even, court fools were the only ones allowed to make fun of their lord/king. And in the poking fun, was also at least a morsel of truth. It’s like when someone tells you they have good news and bad news and ask which you’d like to hear first. I’m sure 9 out of 10 people will say the bad news first, because then they get to cheer up, and maybe even laugh a little, when they hear the good news.

It is an age old practice because it is an effective one, one that Elan Gale uses to his great advantage to drive home the purpose of his book, or what I believe should be the second subtitle for the book, “But You Can Be Better.”

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $20.00 • 9781478918295 • 192 pages • published December 2017 by Grand Central Publishing • read November 2017

You’re Not That Great on Goodreads

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You're Not That Great

Non-Fiction, Poetry

Adultolescence by Gabbie Hanna

When this book first showed up at the bookstore on Monday, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. After my less than stellar experience in reading modern poetry last week with Milk and Honey, I didn’t think I would really want to try again. But after all the teenage girls started asking for it on and after its release date Tuesday, I figured I better see if we were going to have another Milk and Honey type of situation on our hands at the store.

Synopsis

In poems ranging from the singsong rhythms of children’s verses to a sophisticated confessional style, Gabbie explores what it means to feel like a kid and an adult all at once, revealing her own longings, obsessions, and insecurities along the way. Adultolescence announces the arrival of a brilliant new voice with a magical ability to connect through alienation, cut to the profound with internet slang, and detonate wickedly funny jokes between moments of existential dread. You’ll turn to the last page because you get her, and you’ll return to the first page because she gets you.

Review

I’m not a big poetry person, but I am a millennial, and the publisher marketing synopsis’ last line is absolutely true. I could launch into a whole big long thing about being a millennial, what that means to me vs. the rest of the world, and how Adultolescence is a perfect example of the millennial mindset, etc. etc. But that would be ranting, and annoying, and I don’t want to be either today.

So let’s start out with why I actually started reading this book – yes, the teenagers at the store did have a little something to do with why I read it so quickly after it’s release date, but I bought it on Monday, before it was technically available to said teenagers for many reasons. There is, though, one that truly sticks out: Gabbie and I both went to Pitt, The University of Pittsburgh, Hail to Pitt! So not only do we have the shared experiences of being part of the same generation, we have four years worth of memories and, I’m sure if ever meet and have a chance to chat, we would be able to go on and on about Oakland (the Pittsburgh neighborhood, not the CA one), the Cathedral of Learning, the Penn State rivalry, the uniqueness of Pittsburgh weather, how awesome it was to be done for the school year before May even started, though we’d probably disagree on sports – I’ll take the Eagles over the Steelers any day.

To say I connected with Gabbie and her poetry is an understatement. I have anxieties, panic attacks, and I have no idea what I want to do with my life, no really. While I love my bookstore job and I one day want to go back into teaching and I’m happily married, I still don’t know what I want my life to look like in five years, ten years, twenty years (other than I would like to be employed and still happily married). My brain is filled with the same doubts and insecurities as Gabbie’s and, while I don’t presently make videos of my life (though I’d like to try at some point), I do have this book blog, so I guess that counts as another similarity.

Adultolescence is the perfect book for anyone who needs to know that they are not alone in the world – their doubts and fears are felt by many others as well. It is the perfect book for my generation – a week into owning it and it already looks well worn and loved because I keep going back to my already favorite poems because I’ve needed a pick me up or some cheering up during the week.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars (I’m still getting used to poetry)

Edition: Paperback • $16.99 • 9781501178320 • 256 pages • published September 2017 by Atria Books • average Goodreads rating 4.32 out of 5 • read in September 2017

Gabbie Hanna’s YouTube Channel

Adultolescence on Goodreads

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Adultolescence

Non-Fiction, Poetry

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I received Milk and Honey as a wedding present over a year ago. Last night I decided I might as well pick it up and see what all the fuss is about. 

Synopsis

this is the journey of
surviving through poetry
this is the blood sweat and tears
of twenty-one years
this is my heart
in your hands
this is
the hurting
the loving
the breaking
the healing

Review

So… I still don’t think I fully understand the obsession. This book has spent over a year as a bestseller at the bookstore, first on the New York Times list, then on the Indie list. Milk and Honey was originally self-published and I will readily admit I am skeptical of anyone who is self-published. Milk and Honey was then picked up by a major publisher, Simon & Schuster, who published the edition that is readily available on the shelves of most bookstores. It’s popularity is even to the point that when people come into the store looking for our poetry section, we immediately ask if they actually want the whole section, or if they’re looking for Milk and Honey.

This is not a book about feminism. This is a book about femininity. There is a HUGE difference between these two terms and one that I think is frequently lost when people start describing this book to each other. One of the few reasons I finally decided to read it after looking at it on the shelf for over a year, was that I had been told yesterday that it was a book that celebrated feminism. While recanting her own experiences with hurt (abuse), love, and heartbreak, Kaur encourages women to love themselves. When, in the last chapter, she attempts to turn to feminism, I take great issue with many of the poems in that chapter, one in particular:

our backs
tell stories
no books have
the spine to
carry

women of color

I’ll let that one sink in for a minute. Rupi Kaur spends pages of poems before that encouraging women to support each other. She looks out for her sisters, her fellow women. And then she includes that poem. Until I read the last line, it was my favorite in the entire book – it was the one that I finally felt I could connect with. Throughout Milk and Honey, Kaur uses that last line (beginning with a hyphen) to indicate the audience of a specific poem, or to guide your thinking towards a particular phrase or point in the poem. And I realized, this particular poem was not for me. I felt like I could not claim to identify with it because I’m a white middle class suburban blonde haired blue eyed young woman.

And then I realized, that yes, this poem must be overwhelmingly true for women of color, particularly in the US and Canada – I cannot begin to understand the differences in their experiences of life here and my own. But I think the power of poetry is for all people, all of Kaur’s “sisters” to find themselves in her words and I believe her last line here is exclusionary. These words rang particularly true of my grandmother, an immigrant from Germany post WWII. These words fit so many immigrants, women who identify as part of the LGBTQI community, victims of abuse, the list can go on and on.

But what it boils down to, is that Rupi Kaur’s poetry made me feel something. It may not have been the feelings she intended – I was angry most of the time I was reading – but the point of poetry is to elicit a feeling, so on that part, well done.

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $14.99 • 9781449474256 • 208 pages • published October 2015 by Andrews McMeel Publishing • average Goodreads rating 4.26 out of 5 • read in September 2017

Rupi Kaur’s Website

Milk and Honey on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey

Non-Fiction, Psychology, Sociology, Young Adult

The Fangirl Life by Kathleen Smith

This book was put in my cubby by one of my coworkers when it was still just an ARC about a year and a half ago, prior to its publication. I’m not sure if they were trying to send me a message, or if it was intended for me to pass along to my fangirl YA book club members, but either way, I’m glad to have been introduced to, and read, The Fangirl Life.

Synopsis

You’d probably know a “fangirl” when you see one, but the majority stay relatively closeted due to the stigma of being obsessed with fictional characters. However, these obsessions are sometimes the fangirl’s solutions for managing stress, anxiety, and even low self-esteem. Fangirling is often branded as behavior young women should outgrow and replace with more adult concerns. Written by a proud fangirl, The Fangirl Life is a witty testament to the belief that honoring your imagination can be congruous with good mental health, and it’s a guide to teach fangirls how to put their passion to use in their own lives.

The Fangirl Life encourages you to use an obsession not as a distraction from the anxieties of your life, but rather as a test lab for your own life story: How can a character girl crush be useful instead of a waste of time? How can writing fan fiction be a launching point for greater endeavors? How do you avoid the myths that fictional romance perpetuates?

By showing you how to translate obsession into personal accomplishment while affirming the quirky, endearing qualities of your fangirl nature, The Fangirl Life will help you become your own ultimate fangirl.

Review

Before starting to read The Fangirl Life, I would have considered myself a mild fangirl – I have my fandoms, I’m a book hoarder, I make everyone I know read Throne of Glass, I love Downton Abbey and the Jazz Age, I adore Hermione Granger, I can quote Gilmore Girls like there’s no tomorrow, I have an extensive collection of Eeyore mugs, and I buy everything I can get my hands on that has to do with Peter Pan. But my fandoms have never gotten in the way of my personal relationships. If anything, they’ve allowed me to bond faster with people when I feel socially awkward or anxious or when trying to make a new friend. I created a book club for the sake of meeting new friends and shamelessly used my obsession with bound tomes to do so.

But as I was reading The Fangirl Life, I began to hate myself and went though a self-doubt crisis – what if everything that I thought was normal and healthy was actually really bad for me? Was I using fandoms as a ways to escape from my friends and family when I just needed some alone time? Was I using my love of Downton Abbey to convince my now husband to have a ’20s themed wedding against his will? Did collecting Eeyore mugs mean deep down I was gloomy and depressed? Was my love of Peter Pan indicative of my inability to mature and act like a responsible adult? Was the article I wrote about how I’m like Paris Geller more accurate than I let myself believe?

I guess that’s the problem with reading Self-Help books – unless you, or someone you love and care about, think you might need help, you don’t. Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken. Thankfully, I realized that Kathleen Smith was not judging me. She was not telling me I had a problem, or problems, as I had myself convinced, but that I should be mindful of when I am using them to escape from reality in an unhealthy way. I also realized, I’d never read a Self-Help book before and that if I really am tearing myself apart over one that doesn’t necessarily apply to me, I could probably do with reading a few to help bolster my self-esteem a bit.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9781101983690 • 240 pages • published July 2016 by Tarcherperigee • average Goodreads rating 3.97 • read in April 2016

Kathleen Smith’s Website

The Fangirl Life on Goodreads

Get a Copy of The Fangirl Life

Fangirl Life