We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
(Vintage, 2017, 288 pages)
So many people highlighted this collection of essays as one of their top humorous reads that I gravitated toward it after realizing I needed a break from all the negativity in the news. Irby is a talented essayist who is able to tackle topics you wouldn’t expect with an openness and sense of humor you have to appreciate. We explore her romantic history, her family life, job performance, her “hate” relationship with her cat, her physical limitations… there’s a lot of sass in this book and there is a bitter edge to her humor that you need to kind of gird yourself for.
It wasn’t the laugh-out-loud book I was hoping for, but I certainly had more than a few audible chuckles while reading. Irby doesn’t keep much back so if you decide to grab this well-blurbed book (praise from the likes of: Roxane Gay, Lindy West, Jenny Lawson, Rainbow Rowell) know that the content and language is in R-rated territory 😉
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
(Mariner Books, 2018, 288 pages)
I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it sitting on the “New Books” shelf at my public library. I feel like there was so much buzz about this book prior to its publication that I couldn’t not pick it up. This collection of essays reads as more of a memoir since it essentially chronicles Chee’s path to becoming a writer. The essays are beautifully written and I fully understand why there was so much pre-pub buzz.
The end of the Goodreads summary reads, “By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.” I’d definitely recommend this, especially for those who love literary fiction and enjoy reading memoirs by writers.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman
by Anne Helen Petersen
(Plume Books, 2017, 234 pages)
I know Anne Helen Petersen from her pieces on Buzzfeed. I follow her on Twitter. I subscribe to her newsletter. I knew I would be picking up this book I’m just surprised it took me so long. This book is comprised of 10 essays, each focusing on famous woman who is considered “too” something; meaning she has taken it upon herself to exist outside the boundaries of what society views as the appropriate way for a woman to behave. Petersen covers women from Serena Williams and Lena Dunham to Caitlyn Jenner and Hillary Clinton. She is deconstructing what it is about these women that makes people simultaneously love them and love to hate them. Petersen deep dives into how these women refuse to limit themselves by the societal norms so many people want to force upon them.
This is definitely a book I’d recommend.
Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
(Doubleday, 2009, 213 pages)
It used to be that the books most inclined to catch my eye were food-forward memoirs, but since becoming a mom those have been less on the forefront for me. I was strolling the aisles at my local public library not long ago and this collection of essays caught my eye. What Waldman hits on here is that regardless of how hyper-involved you are (or aren’t) as a parent, you will inevitably find a time when you see yourself as a “bad mother.” We’ve been conditioned by society to think nothing we do is ever really good enough – we’re keeping up with other mothers (and fathers) who only highlight the amazing things they do with/for their kids; keeping hidden the times they lock themselves in the bathroom with wine to cry it out.
This book offers humor, clarity, and the occasional moment that breaks your heart just a little. Whether you’re a new-ish mom or not, I think you can appreciate this collection of essays. I’ve been eager to read Waldman’s latest book, A Really Good Day, but I’m glad I got a better feel for her writing style thanks to this collection. If YOU are intrigued, check out this Modern Love piece that got her on a lot of people’s radars a little over a decade ago.
Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
(Liveright Publishing, 2017, 115 pages)
Despite the amazing reviews this book was getting, I found Mary Beard intimidating as an author. I was scared her work would be too academic and “high-minded” for me given how little I know about the Greco-Roman world (Beard is a well-known Classicist). When I saw my library’s copy of Women & Power I couldn’t resist checking it out and seeing if I could handle it… To my pleasant surprise, I could! This was much more readable than I’d thought it would be. I psyched myself out based on the author’s biography. Sure, you have to pay attention to what you’re reading – she packs a lot of punch in this slim volume – but this is accessible to the non-academic. Plus, there are pictures throughout 🙂
Hailed as a “feminist classic” already, Beard looks back at the history of misogyny and how women have been “put in their place” for ages. Her first essay addresses the silencing of women and her second looks at the relationship between women and power. We’ve been conditioned throughout history to determine who “deserves” a voice and who should have power based on a male lens. We’ve been guided by a history that prized men and devalued women. It’s time to acknowledge that and redefine how we interpret what power looks like.
I was surprised at what a pleasurable reading experience I had with this title; especially given the subject matter. Beard’s writing style was accessible and has me eager to see some of her earlier work.
If you’re intimidated by this book but keep hearing about it, pick it up! If you enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists this should also find a place on your to-read pile.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
(Harper Perennial, 2014, 320 pages)
Memoir blended with educational resources.
Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say
by Kelly Corrigan
(Penguin Random House, 2018, 240 pages)
This was my first time reading Corrigan’s work and I really enjoyed her style. I’ll certainly be picking up her previous titles. The content of this book was just what I needed to read. It’s all about the power of language and reflecting to think of how to act in various situations. Corrigan is able to use humor throughout the book, but there are also some heavy and emotional moments as she lets the reader into her life and explains how it is she came to the realization of what needs to be said and why.
This was a heartfelt and valuable book. I’m glad it found its way into my reading rotation.
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
(Harper Perennial, 2018, 272 pages)
I follow Morgan Jerkins on Twitter (@morganjerkins) and I don’t remember how I first was exposed to her work, but I’m glad for whatever it was that caught my attention. This collection of essays was so well-written and thought-provoking. In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel, below please find the review I posted on Goodreads:
“There are some books that you are content to read but don’t feel like you need to own. This Will Be My Undoing is a book that I’m so glad I read and that I will certainly be going out to buy so it has a permanent place on my shelves. The essays in this book are packed with so much that I know every time I revisit them I’ll come away having gleaned something new.
These essays talk about what it means to exist in this world as a black woman. There is no separating the two. Not only was I nodding along while reading I also found myself tearing up more often than I ever would have imagined I would. There’s so much depth here. It was a fabulous read.”
I definitely recommend (pub. date: January 2018).
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
(Dey Street Books, 2017, 272 pages)
I’m a Gabrielle Union fan and while I knew I would read this book I was wary about the quality of the writing. Celebrity memoirs typically go one of two ways, and I was scared to have this be a letdown. Union actually exceeded my expectations. The essays in this book range from humorous to serious. I laughed out loud a few times and I found myself raging alongside her when she talked about having to teach her black stepsons how to protect their lives in this world we live in.
This book reads the way Union would talk if she actually was one of your girlfriends dishing over wine. I definitely recommend it. She talks about everything from claiming your sexuality and partying with Prince to dealing with personal trauma and facing what it’s like toe be black in America. This was an entertaining and well-written book that lands firmly on the side of quality celebrity memoirs. That being said, while she does discuss her marriage to Duane Wade, there’s not a ton of dish there so don’t expect too much on that front 😉
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
(Simon & Schuster, 2008, 163 pages)
Brutally honest with sarcasm galore!