I’m going to try something different this month, and rank the list from my favorites to never-agains. I had a bit of free time on the 22-hour hell-ride to and from Tokyo, so I happily powered through a few eBooks on the journey. Happy reading!
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of An Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
Exceptionally well-researched, fascinating, and in-depth dive into the new normal: independent working women who dare to dream of more than marriage and children. I absolutely loved the exposes on early feminists and suffragists who not only predicted the current state of affairs, but played an absolutely instrumental part in laying the groundwork. Essential reading for modern men and women – I wish it were three times as long.
Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest Lived Peoples by John Robbins
Few books have had an immediate life-changing impact on me, but this one definitely did. With the support of science, medicine, and decades of research, John Robbins makes an unshakable argument for restructuring your diet. He examines several disparate communities with striking similarities: a diet of primarily vegetables, no processed sugar (only fructose from fresh fruits), minimal to no meat, and no dairy or eggs consistently leads to longevity. And not just longevity, but absence of the dreaded but expected perils of our modern American society: cancer, diabetes, poor eyesight, nerve damage, heart disease, and obesity. Absolutely fascinating, and a great motivator for the current 90%-vegan diet I’m on (still making some exceptions for salmon and butter on popcorn).
Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove
Those of you who know me might be surprised by this pick: I have a whale phobia. But in a recent effort to get past my phobias and feel some healthy discomfort, I forced myself to face this one head-on. It ended up being an eye-opening book, not only helping me gain appreciation for whales as a species, but also exposing me to the unbelievably terrible practices of Sea World and any facility that holds captive sea animals. It was a well-written, emotional, and believable account from an ex-trainer. I even watched “Blackfish” after this, with no emotional repercussions. In fact, there were also whales in the movie we watched last night (“Racing to Extinction” – highly recommended if you want to cry yourself to sleep). Big strides!
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
This book had some of the best plot twists I’ve ever read in my life. I had a blast reading this, and highly recommend. It’s a heart-racing thriller of a novel.
The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell
While Helen’s writing style/personality annoyed me at times, the shining light of Danish goodness shone through. I would do just about anything to relocate to Denmark, and this memoir cinched it. They’ve got so many things sorted out (healthcare, daycare, education, work/life balance), but I’m also a massive fan of their culture and mindset. Quirky and enlightening.
It Was Me All Along: A Memoir by Andie Mitchell
This was a strange memoir to read while in the land of small portion sizes and the largest number of slender people I’ve ever seen in my life (i.e., Japan), but it offered a raw, honest account of life as an obese woman in America. Not just the physical and emotional effects of obesity, but also the all-consuming power of addiction. Very well-written and easy to empathize with.
Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in A Half-changed World by Peggy Orenstein
You’ll notice some overlap in my topics this month, and while I did enjoy Peggy’s book, they’re all kind of blending together at the moment. Exceptional writing and research, with lots of realities to reflect on.
Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of A Real Doll by M.G. Lord
God, I loved every page of this. It’s amazing how much Barbie reflects the current times; a new one came out every year since her inception in the 50s. See visual here: http://www.boredpanda.com/faces-barbie-evolution-1959-2015/. I loved learning more about her history and the impact on pop culture and women’s movements.
Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating by Moira Weigel
Chockfull of historical tidbits and Victorian eccentricities, this was a remarkably smooth read for its ambitious topic. It offered a really interesting (and accessible) perspective on social movements, in particular first-wave feminism.
The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
Well-researched and full of takeaways. I especially enjoyed the comparison of New Year’s resolutions from 19th century women vs. those today. We have clearly become so much more focused on our bodies as a direct reflection of our worth. It’s depressing, but Brumberg offers a deep and introspective history of this current state of affairs.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein
Peggy exposes the fabricated and disgustingly profitable industry behind girly, princess culture. While the personal stories and interviews are certainly enlightening, I was more fascinated by the sections on advertising and the consequences of persisting “girlie-girl” mentality and expectations into adulthood. Thought-provoking.
The Girls by Emma Cline
This was a wonderfully original, visceral book. Difficult to put down and impossible to forget.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Hope is a badass! I was so impressed with her accomplishments in science, and how she overcame numerous struggles to get there. Her intentionality is admirable – it’s not “luck” that got her her own lab and her dream job. It’s her grit, ambition, and intelligence. We need more examples like her in the world of women.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
There is a ridiculous amount of hype (and controversy) surrounding this book, and I guess I’m not entirely sure why. The writing was definitely solid, the characters memorable, and the grimy sweaty life of a waitress was believable. Definitely a new spin on a coming-of-age story, and I enjoyed most of it. Worth a one-time read.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Louise is such a masterful writer, and this book was no exception to her rule of awesomeness. Definitely made me want to re-read her earlier works.
Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin
Fascinating take on the current ‘new normal’ of single women having children on their own, or delaying motherhood by freezing their eggs. A bit ‘cheerleader’ at times, but Melanie’s is ultimately a strong voice in support of these choices and alternatives.
The Cook-Up: A Crack Rock Memoir by D. Watkins
Once I settled into the jarring casualness of the prose, I found the situations enlightening in ways I will never experience first-hand (thankfully). Brutally honest depiction of Watkins’ career as a drug kingpin and hustler in Baltimore. Critical and unique first-hand perspective on the crisis of being black in America, with a secondary expose on the devastating effects of drug crime.
Man and Wife: Stories by Katie Chase
Wonderful writing, and I remember enjoying it in the moment. But the actual storylines floated away after I finished the book – maybe I’m just more of a novel girl, vs. short stories?
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
I’m still not sure why this new Backman book didn’t jibe with me, but I think it just came down to the main players. The writing is solid but I just couldn’t bring myself to care about or empathize with Britt-Marie. I’d definitely recommend Backman’s A Man Called Ove instead.
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
This book read at times like an episode of True Detective – I felt my heart racing and spine tingling at many points throughout the pages. However, I found that it fell flat about halfway through (sadly similar to Tartt’s The Goldfinch). I was holding out for the ending to wrap it all up, but it felt forced and was wholly unsatisfying. There was some great imagery in this book, though, and Tartt’s writing is truly a joy.
The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman
I love Sarah’s self-deprecating and unfiltered style, and this book definitely fell in line with her comedy. Fun read for the bus, especially if you aren’t ashamed to laugh out loud alone in public.
Ordeal by Linda Lovelace
I knew very little about Lovelace going into this, but certainly left with more than enough details about the extreme abuse and degradation she suffered during her rise to fame. The story is fascinating, but the writing quality sadly doesn’t match the intensity of the story.
Facing the Music: And Living to Talk About It by Nick Carter
The Backstreet Boys will always hold a coveted place in my heart. Their perfect vocal harmony seems to mirror the deep and honest bonds they have with each other. Nick was not my favorite Backstreet Boy, but he’s the only one with a memoir (so far). Inspired by the exceptional 2015 documentary about their reunion (Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of), I spent a night creepily catching up on their adult lives, and came across this memoir about Nick’s battles with alcohol, drugs, partying, fame, and a broken family. It’s good but not great.
Essential: Essays by the Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
My brief obsession with the Minimalist Podcast ended with the realization that every episode was essentially the same. I’m in full support of a minimalist lifestyle and am committed to lessening my load of physical and psychological garbage. I applaud Joshua and Ryan for promoting these tenets, and probably would have gotten something out of this book if I hadn’t already powered through the podcast. However, if you’re just starting on this path, you’d be best off just visiting the minimalists’ website – this book literally copy-pastes online segments onto the printed page.
50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality by Pepper Schwartz
I think this will be the last Pepper book I read – her writing style doesn’t match up with her real-life firecracker personality. Not a lot learned, either. Disappointing.