We’ve been talking a lot about books lately, and I’m on a bit of an audiobook kick (thanks to Overdrive, an Audible subscription, and good Kindle deals), so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been reading… (You know, just in case you’re looking for something to do over the 4-day Thanksgiving holiday besides eat ;)).
This was our book club pick in October, and – though the premise wouldn’t necessarily have attracted me on my own – I ended up being really glad that I read it. This summary from Amazon is perfect: Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring. It’s a fairly light read, but I found myself relating to the main characters (especially Elizabeth) in regards to aging, parenting, marriage, and friendship. Unlike The Nest (our last Book Club read) which had me thinking more about my parents, I connected with these characters even though they are still a life-stage or so ahead of me. That says a lot about writing and development in addition to plot line etc. For me, the book brought up questions about finding yourself after the parenting stage is over, and maintaining relationships (in the context of friendship and marriage) even as each of you grow, change, and experience life differently. There were a couple of silly/unnecessary (even a little random & under-developed maybe) sub-plots thrown in; but, overall, this prompted good discussion for our group and would make a nice read for lazy days by the fire.
This was kind-of a random pick, since it saw its hay day back in 2013 when it was first released; but, as you know, the topic of being a working mom has become very important to me lately, and when I saw that this was available as an audiobook through my library’s Overdrive, I decided to finally give it a go… (If I’m going to write/talk about being a working mom, this is a pretty significant/important part of that canon.) There were parts of it, of course, that I couldn’t relate to (because our jobs are just SO different); but, in all, I found Sandberg very likeable and wise. I loved hearing about her own career (including some of the inner workings of companies like Google and Facebook), and she definitely made me think about my own views of career and success + the way our culture sets women up (or holds us down) in those areas… Contrary to what I sort-of expected, I didn’t think this was a super feminist/girl-power read. The book is well-researched and supported (both anecdotally and statistically), but the tone is encouraging above all else. I’d definitely recommend it for working-moms, for sure, but also for any woman who has had to make choices between her family and her career, for mothers of little girls, and – if you can get them to read it – for men that work with and/or love a woman. 🙂
Oh man, there is so much to say about this one, it could probably be its own blog post, but I’m going to try very hard to be concise and intentional with my review. Before I go too far though, let me say that my opinion has changed (slightly) since Glennon’s (big announcement) on Sunday night. (See it here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) I wrote the first part of this a couple of weeks ago when I finished the book, and I decided to leave that “as is” then added a little section below with some “updated” thoughts so that you can see a little of my perspective shift too. As always, I welcome (kind and respectful) discussion in the comments (or via email) if you want to process too.
So… I really liked this book. I’m a fan of Glennon’s writing and work at her blog, Momastery, and I enjoyed her first book, Carry On, Warrior. I think she has some powerful and important words for women about identity, strength, bravery, truth, and love. She is raw and vulnerable, and she loves BIG. I think Glennon is doing good things in our society by giving women courage and a voice – especially those women that might be “on the fringes” in our society. This book did not disappoint on that front… It is about her marriage and its ultimate “survival” during a difficult season a couple of years ago. I remember hearing bits and pieces of that story in real time (about four years ago, I think – right after Carry On came out), and – I admit – I was greedy to get some of the details in this book. Then – unexpectedly about a month before the book released – Glennon announced that she and her husband were separating, and I vowed NOT to read it. How could I read a book about fighting for marriage from someone who had given up on hers – even after all the work they had done? Obviously, in the end, my curiosity and the hype (the book was even Oprah’s Book Club choice) won out, and I read it in spite of myself. (Well, actually, I listened to the audiobook – which is read by Glennon herself – and I highly recommend that method for this one.) The book is good. It is deep and personal, and it touches on the subjects of body image and sex in ways that I had never read before. I connected with Glennon is some areas, and found her ability to put the fears and insecurities of SO many women into words powerful. I think her respect for her husband and the institution of marriage is evident, but she’s also not afraid to question some of the things women are told by our society/the church/etc., and I appreciated that.
BUT (full stop)… Glennon has been described as a “Christian Blogger,” and I just don’t think she is. I do not think this is “Christian” book. In fact, it’s probably dangerous to read this book through that kind of lens… Her story has a lot to do with self-exploration and self-knowledge. She finds strength through things like counseling and yoga and writing. Those are GOOD things; but they aren’t Jesus. I won’t attempt to judge or determine Glennon’s personal faith or relationship with God, but I will say that though I think she gets much right (about love and forgiveness in particular), she also gets a good bit wrong. Readers of this should be wary of thinking it is in-line with scripture and Biblical teaching. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just be cautious…
Edited to Add (Wednesday, 11/15): Sunday night on Facebook and Instagram, Glennon revealed to her community that she is now in love with a woman named Abby (who also happens to be a very famous soccer player and equal rights activist). I’m going to be honest… my first reaction was, of course she is. I was cynical, maybe even a little angry. Not because I don’t think she deserves to be happy or because I am against this lifestyle choice; but because I just felt like it was so “cliche” (trendy almost) right now. I’ve often compared Glennon to or discussed her in the same context as Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love and several other books – including one on marriage – who just recently *also* came out as gay). Liz Gilbert is a lesbian, so now Glennon is too. It wasn’t the kindest response, I admit, but it also wasn’t all that original. My guess is that many people thought the same thing, and Glennon probably expected it. (The Washington Post even ran this article on Monday comparing Liz and Glennon.)
Then, over the next few days, I really thought about what that announcement meant to me. I guess her “change” didn’t surprise me all that much, but I was disappointed because it made me feel like Love Warrior wasn’t the book I thought it was. If this is all true (which I believe it is at least in Glennon’s heart and mind right now), then Love Warrior really wasn’t a book about overcoming insecurities, understanding your body, and fighting for (both emotionally and physically) intimate relationships. It was about a woman who was confused. And, along those lines, I felt like I couldn’t connect with Glennon the way I initially felt like I had when I read the book anymore. Again, not because I think she is “wrong” or “bad,” but because we are, deeply, different. For me, the message of Love Warrior has completely changed now. Glennon’s marriage wasn’t hard because we are ugly, sinful people living in a broken world – for her, it was hard because she wasn’t with the right person. Not even the right gender. That’s an entirely different book, you know? So… The truth is, I don’t know if I’d still recommend the book… I’m still glad I read it, but I think my experience would be different now. I think a whole new population of women will relate to Glennon in a whole new way now (and, let me be clear, they deserve to have a voice and hear their story told too), but I don’t necessarily think I do anymore. Does that make sense to some of you?!?!
The good news is, Glennon said in her post that we’re allowed to “think and feel whatever [we] want,” and that she is entering into a new stage of leadership in which she cannot worry about what we think of her. I respect that, and I’m genuinely happy to see all the THOUSANDS of supportive, kind, and loving posts in the comment section of her announcement. But, I’d also bet that this left many women feeling confused and alone – and I wanted to speak to that response too. So there you go.
(And now I DID basically write a whole blog post on this. So much for short and sweet! Sorry!)
I’ve been a fan of Vanderkam ever since I read 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think back in 2014, and this has been on my list (yes, there is a literal list) since it came out last summer; but my internet-friend and fellow working-momma Kelsey’s strong recommendation finally pushed me to just bite the bullet and buy it (in my case with one, very valuable, Audible credit). I’m glad I did. Ultimately, I didn’t think this was all that different from 168 Hours (and I’d still recommend that one first if you’re only going to read one), but I do really appreciate that Vanderkam – in both her books – takes a very different approach to time than most of the “time-management” books popular today. Instead of saying, “do less,” “slow down,” “you are too busy,” (which, admittedly, is a needed message at times too), she says: “just be smart,” “be intentional with your time,” “make the most of your hours,” “you CAN do the things you really want to do.” Vanderkam isn’t against leisure time or rest (quite the opposite, in fact), but she makes some really good points about the fact that TIME is really the great equalizer. I have just as much of it as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the mother of eight. She also makes a good case for looking at our time in the scope of a week (168 hours) instead of a day (which feels overwhelming). When you look at it that way, she says, you can work 40 hours a week and sleep 56 (the recommended 8 hours a night) and still have 72 hours – y’all, that’s almost double the time spent working – to be with your kids, exercise, socialize, pursue hobbies, etc. I found this very encouraging motivating – especially for a working mom who worries about not spending enough time with her family – and was even inspired to track my own time for a week. (I started Monday and will let you know how it goes/ what I’m learning/changing .)
Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays/breaks are some of my FAVORITE times for catching up on my reading list (second only to summer and beach vacations), so I have quite a few in line for the next month or so… I’m currently finishing up Emily Ley’s Grace Not Perfection (full review and giveaway coming SOON), All Joy and No Fun on parenting (only $1.99 on Kindle right now), and Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (my Overdrive checkout ran out before I finished – BOO). After those, Hillbilly Elegy is high on my “to read” list, and Small Great Things – the latest from Jodi Picoult – is my book club’s choice for January, so I’m hoping to read it (not even on Audible) over the holidays too. (I also still have I Let You Go and You Will Know Me – among others – on my Kindle ready to be read incase things get really wild…)
So, what have you read lately? Have anything to add to one of the above reviews?!?! What’s on your list for this winter? I’d love if you’d share in the comments!