I’ve always loved reading books growing up. If you know me personally, you know that as a kid, I would usually carry a book and a notebook around with me anywhere I went. We moved to a new town when I was in the fourth grade and I think reading was an escape for me as I tried to fit in and find my place in a community where most of the kids had known each other since preschool. Since then, I have loved the feeling of starting a new book, discovering and getting to know characters I may not have known otherwise.
One of my favorite topics to talk about with friends is dissecting an amazing (or not so amazing) book one of us has recently read. Since i’m always giving and asking for book recommendations, I thought it would be fun to have a series on Street Style Philosophy where I can share recent books i’ve read and get some tips from you guys on any must-reads i’m missing.
If you ask me what my favorite book is, I’ll go blank and not know where to begin. I may have a few books in mind that have stood out over the years but it would be difficult to pick one favorite. I think it’s more fun to talk about books that someone has recently read so on that note, here are the last five books I’ve read and what I thought about them (I’d love to hear yours too!).
You’ll Grow Out Of It, by Jessi Klein
Klein is the head writer on the show, Inside Amy Schumer, and pretty hilarious. This book is a collection of essays on aging, sexuality, dating, and other random topics. I could relate to so many of the stories and even if I didn’t, I found myself laughing out loud.
Here are the author’s thoughts on buying a wedding dress:
“Dresses are brought out from back rooms with somber reverence, like the Torah being revealed from the ark.”
She also dedicates a chapter to why women should get an epidural, which was poignant and funny:
“The term natural birth. ‘Natural.” It sounds so…natural. So relaxing. So earth goddess. So feminine. But how often do people really want women to be or do anything ‘natural’? It seems to me the answer is almost never. In fact, almost everything “natural” about women is considered pretty fucking horrific. Hairy legs and armpits? Please shave, you furry beast. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to remove your pubic hair, that’s also an abomination. Do you have hips and cellulite? Please go hide in the very back of your shoe closet and turn the light off and stay there until someone tells you to come out (no one will tell you to come out). It’s interesting that no one cares very much about women doing anything ‘naturally’ until it involves them being in excruciating pain. No one ever asks a man if he’s having a ‘natural root canal.’ No one ever asks if a man is having a ‘natural vasectomy.’
People get so opinionated about this and I honestly feel like it’s a personal decision. I don’t see a problem with discussing it though and doing your research so you’re educated on the subject before arguing for either side. I can say that I got an epidural both times and have no regrets. The most recent time was three weeks ago when our son was born and my main concern was the anesthesiologist not getting there in time. I distinctly remember repeating, “is it too late? I don’t want it to be too late” and being terrified that I wouldn’t get it in time. Good news, it wasn’t too late!
Another favorite (Jessie’s friend telling her this advice):
“Men rise to the standards you hold them up to,” she explained. “Their behavior will always be the exact bar you allow it to be.”
This is so true.
The book is a lot of those kind of truth bombs but told in a light and funny way. Read this if you find that the only time you have to read is before bed, which results in you falling asleep two pages in. This will keep you up for at least a chapter.
We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is good. Really good. I first discovered Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie through a TED talk with the same title, which you can find here. This is a personal essay adapted from the writer’s TED talk, in which she goes into further detail on the injustice associated with gender stereotypes that often go unnoticed.
The word feminist has such a negative connotation associated with it. When I told some people that I was reading this book, I could tell by the look on their face that they thought I was one of those women that hated men, didn’t shave their armpits and thought women were the superior species.
One story that stood out to me was where Adichie describes a time when she was at an event with a male friend and she tipped a valet attendant that had just retrieved her car. The attendant accepted the money from the author but thanked her male friend. Both of them had wondered why and realized that he had assumed any money she had to tip him must have came from her friend, who is a man, rather than herself.
She also tells the story of a young woman in Nigeria who was gang-raped at a university and was subsequently vilified and blamed for the crime by both males and females:
“Yes, rape is wrong, but what is a girl doing in a room with four boys?” The author writes, “let us, if we can, forget the horrible inhumanity of that response. These Nigerians have been raised to think of women has inherently guilty. And they have been raised to expect so little of men that the idea of men as savage beings with no self-control is somehow acceptable.”
This is hard to read but doesn’t it sound familiar? The same thing happens in the US.
I can think of many examples in my own life where gender biases have come into play. I work for a large corporation in an office environment surrounded by educated and enlightened people, yet there have been times when I walked into a meeting with a male colleague and a man would shake my colleague’s hand but not mine. Gender stereotypes exist all around us and unless we recognize them, point them out, and talk about them, they will continue to place limitations on both men and women.
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
I recommend this book to all my friends. Kalanithi was a neurosurgery chief resident at Stanford, 36 years old, and almost done with his training when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He wrote this memoir about facing mortality and living a meaningful existence in his last year of life.
The author writes about what it was like to go from a doctor to a patient, having experienced both perspectives. As I was reading this book, I got the feeling that there was a sense of urgency involved. I kept wondering if the author lived long enough to tell the entire story and by the end, I felt as though I was losing a close friend.
One paragraph in particular, which the author directs to his infant daughter, left me crying and wishing there was more to this story:
“There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all past. That message is simple. When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”
The epilogue was written by his wife, Lucy, who picks up where he left off and offers an absolutely beautiful portrayal of their last few moments together. If you’re looking for an authentic book that makes you feel all sorts of things, read this!
You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
I normally don’t like self-help books but this one was fantastic. I can be my own worst critic sometimes, especially when I’m doing something new. This book offered some insight into why I feel stuck sometimes and tools I can use to live like the badass I’ve always wanted to be.
One paragraph that I related to was the following:
“Instead of wasting hours and days and years trying to figure out your perfect next move, just DO something already. Oh the time we waste rolling ideas around in our heads, imagining what-ifs, coming up with perfect reasons why and then perfect reasons why not, tearing at our cuticles…get out of your head and take action. You don’t have to know exactly where it’s going to take you, you just need to start with one thing that feels right and keep following right-feeling things and see where they land.”
I often don’t feel like I have enough time to write and have trouble setting aside time to do the things I love to do that bring me a sense of fulfillment, such as photography and working on this blog! Or I’ll wait days to post something because I need it to be absolutely perfect.
Some things I’m working on doing are waking up earlier, which coincidentally is no longer an issue now that we have a newborn, having an editorial calendar in advance of a writing day so I can just sit down and write rather than spending 30 minutes trying to think of a topic, and writing while nursing.
I’ve been nursing Dylan every two hours and going back and forth between Instagram and Facebook, checking for updates. I feel like I can do so much more with this time, considering it’s a huge chunk of my day so I plan on learning how to type quickly with one hand or at least use that time to brainstorm my next post.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book was written for people who want to pursue a creative life, whether as a writer, artist or another unconventional path, but are constantly doubting themselves and their skill. Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love and had many failures before achieving success with her most well-known book.
One paragraph stood out to me:
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”
There were parts of the book that focused more on magic and mystical ideas that I found myself rolling my eyes at. She mentions a book she was working on at one point and stopped mid way because she felt uninspired and the idea left her. She describes how the idea was then transferred to another author, Ann Patchett, through a kiss, i.e. magic, and Patchett then went on to write, State of Wonder, which had the same plot that Gilbert originally had in mind. I may just not be the type of reader who is open to the unexplainable but I thought these ideas took away from the book as a whole. I was looking for something more concrete.
Overall, I thought the author offered a mix of some valuable advice to aspiring authors and some cheesiness. If you want to get a glimpse before committing to the entire book, check out her TED talk, found here.
What do you think? Will you read any of these books? Have you read any of them? Comment below!