We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published by Vintage

This essay is adapted from the author’s TEDx talk about feminism – put in simple language that makes good sense for the average person who wants to understand what feminism is and why it’s important in today’s world.

We Should All Be Feminists is short but powerful. It packs a ton of arguments into fifty pages. The author highlights how the marginalization of women in the US, Nigeria, and around the world harms both women and men and discusses simple things that can be done to educate ourselves and our children in order to halt misogyny in the near future. She shares personal stories and life experiences, as well as things she’s read and studied over the years that point to factual evidence of discrimination of women throughout the world.

This should be a required primer on feminism for anyone who is even the least bit interested in understanding the subject. Many people may not understand that feminism is simply about the belief that all sexes should be equal, and this essay illustrates that extremely well. I can see why it became such important reading and I highly recommend We Should All Be Feminists to just about everyone.

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The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

The Girl with the Lower Back TattooThe Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
Published by Gallery Books

I knew very little about Amy Schumer before listening to this audiobook – I knew she is a comedian, she stars in her own HBO show, and she wrote, produced and starred in the movie Trainwreck. However, I’d never seen her show nor have I watched Trainwreck. I heard she was smart and funny, and I like listening to smart and funny people, so I listened to her memoir. And it was FABULOUS.

Schumer is hilarious, sarcastic, in-your-face and doesn’t shy away from joking about just about anything. She is open and honest about her own personal life, most remarkably some of her sexual experiences and relationships. She is certainly the type of person who doesn’t take herself too seriously. But what I was surprised by was just how serious parts of this book were. Her father has multiple sclerosis, and she discusses what that diagnosis has been like for her father and her family (in some parts, in graphic detail). Her parents divorced when she was young because her mother fell in love with Schumer’s best friend’s father, and she talks the reader through how that entire situation shaped her as a kid. She discusses at length her relationship with her mother, which has changed drastically over the course of her life. And the most serious part of the entire book is when she begins discussing gun violence and how she got interested in the issue itself (a mass shooting at a showing of her movie). She spent a lot of time researching and she shares a lot of what she learned with the reader, including being very specific about her own beliefs around the causes of gun violence and what can be done to prevent it to the degree that we see it here in the US.

I read a few reviews where the reader was less than thrilled with Schumer’s level of seriousness throughout this book, and I have to say that I majorly disagree with that being an issue. To me, the book is such a perfect balance of funny, smart, and serious, and really shows what an interesting person Schumer is. I highly recommend this book and definitely suggest you listen to the audio, if you are so inclined. Schumer reads it herself and does a fantastic job. I always say how much I love memoirs read by the author and this was a perfect example of why I find them to be so successful in that format.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

Shrill: Notes from a Loud WomanShrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Published by Hachette

I hadn’t even heard of Lindy West when her memoir came full-force into the book world, but many of the feminist authors and activists I’ve come to admire over the years were recommending it, so I read a few pieces she’d written online before downloading this audio. I liked the snippets of West’s that I read, so I settled in for what I anticipated to be a smart, funny listen that would hopefully make me think differently about some issues. And I got exactly what I was hoping for.

Lindy West is incredibly smart, darkly funny but also witty and can even be silly funny, and bares all for the reader in her book. She talks about the experience of having an abortion and how it affected her (and, more importantly, the ways in which it did NOT affect her). She talks about having a “debate” on national TV about why it is not okay for comedians to make fun of rape, or more specifically, of women who have been raped. She rails against a societal message that to be fat is to be less than, that we should make judgments about people based on what their bodies look like. There is a LOT packed within these pages and I could have had twice as much, that is how much I enjoyed it.

I listened to the audio of Shrill, which West narrates herself, and it was fantastic. There’s nothing like an intelligent, interesting human telling his/her own story in their own voice, right into your ears.

There’s a lot to discuss within the pages of Shrill, but I’ll leave it short and sweet here. This book is really great, full of anecdotes and opinions, yes, but so much food for thought about topics even I, a self-proclaimed feminist, hadn’t really considered before. Highly recommended.

Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought ThemGet Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright
Published by Henry Holt and Co.

This book is the most fun example of why book clubs are great. I would never have heard of Get Well Soon if it hadn’t been selected for book club and I absolutely loved it – yay for book clubs! Each chapter in this book discusses one plague Wright highlights – from leprosy to syphilis to Spanish flu to polio, and many others – and the book was so incredibly entertaining as well as informative.

Wright delves deep into each plague and discusses the causes, the missteps, the failed treatments, and eventual cures. She does a thing where she highlights the heroes in each story as well as call attention to those who were less than heroic. She sheds light on how certain diseases could have been prevented, or at least the massive spread of said diseases could have been stopped, and goes into the implications of cures for future potential plagues down the road. She does all of this with the most hilarious, snarky, witty sense of humor and I absolutely LOVED it. Think Mary Roach or Sarah Vowell – Jennifer Wright is doing a similar thing here to what those equally hilarious women do in their books.

There are plenty of serious moments in the midst of the jokes, in addition to the straight up information that Wright provides. She talks a little about autism and the incredibly damaging belief that vaccines have a hand in causing it – she goes into explicit detail about why that theory came to be and dispels it swiftly and with force. It’s pretty awesome. She also discusses polio and how incredible it was that Salk came up with the vaccine he did, and how others were trying to do the same thing but were looking to profit from it, whereas Salk only wanted to cure a disease (which he did) and spread the cure to as many people, no matter their socioeconomic background, as humanly possible (which he did). There’s also a discussion about AIDS and how the initial treatment of AIDS victims in this country was not unlike the abhorrent ways in which people with diseases hundreds of years ago were treated and wow, does she go there. It is smart and effective and she makes some really great points. I love when an author can be this informative, interesting, make you think, AND entertaining all at the same time.

Get Well Soon is a total keeper. I loved it.

Two Rush-inspired reads

My boyfriend is a huge fan of the band Rush, and as a drummer himself, he particularly loves Neil Peart. He is also not a big reader, so when he suggested that I read a few books that he’s really loved over the years – both Rush-inspired – I definitely wanted to check them out. While I didn’t love either book, I can see how a Rush fan certainly would love them both. Here’s a few thoughts on these two books.

Clockwork Angels (Clockwork Angels, #1)Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson
Published by ECW Press

This is a sort-of steampunk, sort-of dystopian novel that was inspired by Neil Peart’s lyrics in the Rush album Clockwork Angels. It’s basically about a teenage boy who grew up knowing that the Watchmaker (almost like the Wizard from The Wizard of Oz) has put the world in such a perfect ordered way so that everyone can have peace and happiness. Everything is done in a prescribed way, every day is exactly like the one before it, and as long as everyone follows the rules and their routines, everything will be great. But when he’s on the cusp of becoming an adult in this society, he goes on an adventure that changes everything for him, as he learns that the way he grew up is not the only way of doing things, and he can live in a different society, with a different way of life, if he chooses to leave his father and everything he knows behind.

I liked the concept of Clockwork Angels enough and the way the world is explained by Anderson was interesting and gave me a feel for what’s going on within it. The main character, Owen was extremely ignorant about the world around him, which, although annoying, was of course by design so it made sense. Also, I would have liked to see a bit more character development within Owen, which could possibly have made me want to read future novels in this (I think) series. The story is well-paced and definitely held my interest – at no point did I consider giving up on the book, even though I found the writing and the story itself just okay.

The main thing I can say about Clockwork Angels is that I can totally see how a Rush fan would absolutely love it. There are tons of Rush lyrics sprinkled throughout the book – it would almost be like a scavenger hunt for a Rush super-fan to attempt to find them all. And now that I know some of the songs from the Clockwork Angels album, I can see how a fan of the band would love that the concepts of the album were expanded into a novel. Ultimately, this is a conceptual book more than anything else, and while it works on that level, either you’d like it if you’re a Rush fan and probably just not get it if you are not.

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing RoadGhost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart
Published by ECW Press

When Neil Peart was in his mid-forties, his nineteen-year-old daughter was in a fatal car accident. A year later, after being unable to cope with her grief, his wife Jackie succumbed to terminal cancer and also died. Ghost Rider is Peart’s memoir chronicling the year he spent by himself, driving around Canada, the US, and Mexico on his motorcycle, attempting to grieve and heal from the pain of losing the two most important people in his life.

Can you imagine losing a child, and then watching your spouse die just a year later? I certainly cannot, and I think these two things are the two things in the world most people fear the most. This was an interesting memoir because the way Peart chose to deal with his grief is definitely unique, but he knew himself well enough to know that this was the only way he could possibly heal and maybe move on to some other life he couldn’t dream of at the time that he started his journey. I liked reading Ghost Rider as a memoir on grief and found it interesting how Peart was able to heal himself throughout this journey.

While I liked the book, I can see how Rush fans must absolutely love it. Peart is a relatively private person and doesn’t like giving interviews or meeting fans, so for a Rush fan to get this much of an intimate look inside his thoughts, to get to know him this well, must be a pretty great thing. I would recommend Ghost Rider to any Rush fan or anyone who is looking for a memoir around the grieving process.

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White AmericaTears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
Published by St. Martin’s Press

This is a difficult one to “review” because there really can be no argument that what is being said here is in dispute, nor can we argue that it’s not being said in an eloquent, thoughtful, intellectual way by Dyson. He is a minister, so yes this is called a sermon, and it’s written as a sermon, but there is SO MUCH here that the format really shouldn’t matter. Anyone who says racism isn’t a problem in this country is either unable or unwilling to see the truth that is all around all of us, evidenced in every single institution we have, implicitly and explicitly woven throughout the fiber of the United States. As a white person, it may be uncomfortable at times to hear and see the truth of what we have done to create and cultivate racism in this country, but the truth is that we have. To ignore it is only furthering the problems and issues that centuries of hatred and ignorance have created.

There is so much in this book, so much meat to mull over and think about and discuss among friends/colleagues/family, that I think Tears We Cannot Stop falls into the category of must-read. But it’s one of those books that you can’t just read through, think about for a few minutes, and move on from. It’s one that needs to sink in, to fill your brain and consciousness, to reread passages over and over until the implications of what Dyson is saying are perfectly clear. This is not an easy read, but a critically important one. Don’t miss it.

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in BetweenTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Published by Ballantine Books

I’m not sure what to say about Talking as Fast as I Can that hasn’t been said by other reviewers – if you like Lauren Graham, especially if you are/were a fan of Gilmore Girls, this is a must read. She has tons of funny stories and reflections and some more serious thoughts about the show itself, what happened leading up to and during the filming for the Netflix 10 years later series, and all kinds of other stuff about her life, fame, etc. Graham narrates the audio herself and it is a fantastic performance, so definitely consider that if you’re an audio fan. The book was exactly what I expected, but in the best possible way. As I said – a must read if you’re a fan of the author or of Gilmore Girls.