I have been on a serious nonfiction reading kick lately. It's such a new genre to me that I've been slowly easing into since I started reading it while working at the bookstore that it still feels vastly endless in what there is to read. I'm going to get back to fiction and YA very soon (I recently bought a ticket to Casey McQuiston's book event in May that I'm so excited for), but since I've been so busy, I've been relying on audiobooks to get me through. There's only one more month of finals prep and school busyness, so I'm hoping I'll have more time soon to delve into some good fiction. But for now, here's what I've been reading since my last review.
by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
This audiobook was an easy pick because I'd listened to the Call You Girlfriend podcast for a while. With the podcast finally over, I decided to pick up the book to extend the world a little longer. I always find it fascinating to watch the end of something that comes to feel like a permanent fixture, a part of a routine. The end of the podcast actually made me think a lot of this blog–how everything has a life cycle, but it's hard to know where to draw the line on something that feels like always.
I found the book pretty interesting. I loved spotlighting a friendship that was strong and powerful yet humanly flawed. I appreciate how they cast friendship as full of potential to be long, enduring, changing, and important just like a romantic relationship or a family one. They talk about surviving cross country moves, health scares, and dream jobs and losing them. They prove that friendship can last if the work is put in but also how they won't be the same forever.
Still, the book felt slow at times, and the alternation between Aminatou and Ann could be clunky. Sometimes the story felt too detailed and involved in a random subplot, and the balance between a memoir and a book about friendship sometimes blurs awkwardly.
by Reeves Wiedman
I first was intrigued by the WeWork rise and fall years ago when a podcast called WeCrashed came onto my radar in 2020. Can you tell my life is almost totally governed by podcasts? I loved that 8 episode mini series and its absurdity, so now that Hollywood has finally caught up to the story, there are the investigative books that are now coming out to capitalize on the story getting more attention. At the moment, I'm currently wading through the much denser version, The Cult of We. This book is a good primer for what happened with a bit more inside detail than you can get from the other kinds of media on it. Still, there wasn't a majorly different slant or conclusion here. I enjoyed the book, but it didn't particularly stick with me long after.
Let's Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World
by Danielle Friedman
I found this book super intriguing. It was wild to learn how exercise went from frowned upon to nearly a requirement in life for women. While exercise through the lens of men has been well explored, I liked the altered perspective of this history. The lighthearted writing and interesting vignettes kept the book moving. Like fashion trends, fitness has a new defining feature each decade that aims to meet a variety of ideals. Another connection to fashion is that the new inventions in materials and workout gear enabled exercise to take different shapes and forms.
From covering the cultural moments of the decades to the women who built practices like jazzercise and barre, the book is comprehensive but doesn't get bogged down. This was a fun read, and I highly recommend it if you even have a passing curiosity about lifestyle, exercise, and wellness.
by Jill Gutowitz
When Girls Can Kiss Now appeared all over my social media, I figured I should give it a read. As a pop culture and queer book lover, it seemed like the perfect fit. I mean, a memoire about a young writer who moves to LA, works in TV, and then makes a career writing pop culture articles about TAYLOR SWIFT? Seemed meant to be. So I took Debby Ryan and a couple other celebrity's recommendations and decided to read the book. While the personal stories of outrageous happenings of navigating life as a 20-something were interesting, there were times where it felt like Gutowitz was trying too hard to make things bigger, grander, and more absurd than they needed to be. The voice of the story sometimes felt like a hollow act that worked a bit too hard to be witty. It felt hard to find a narrative that was guiding us somewhere, and I procrastinated finishing the last few chapters.
by Emily Ratajkowski
This book had quite a moment a few months ago. From the women I heard talk about it online, it was a well received, emotional read. From the reviews online, the reception seems much more mixed. Her writing style is stark, bold, and unflinching. They feel like stories mulled over time and time again–smoothed to their most essential form by time. She wrote this book knowing exactly what she wanted to communicate, and she does it well. She captures naivety. She captures fear and sadness. She captures how dangerous and difficult the world is for young women. A lot of the dissatisfaction from the public seems to be from a lack of declaration of how to fix the system or a lack of commentary on the effects of the modeling industry on women as a whole. But that's not what this book is really about. She's faulted for wanting to have the benefits of fame and free trips and her body be viewed as an object of desire but also power over her art and her body and her intellect and her ethics. But, really, she's just willing to admit that she's human. Rarely do all of our desires perfectly align.
The book isn't perfect. But it resonates because Emily is willing to tell stories of harassment, assault, being looked at as a body and not a person with a stark bluntness that leaves no room for ambiguity that your bad experiences are not unique. That your worst moments are not a one off but one that has happened to so many women. She charts awful moments before fame and afterwards. So few of them depend on her fame or her status as a model. Some, like the fact that she's shot nude being weaponized against her, simply further make a point about how there's rarely a way to truly find empowerment through choices with one's body. There's always going to be unwanted subtext in our society that's inescapable. The book set out to tell one specific story, and it succeeded in that narrow point.
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