I like the premise of this book, which is to explore what happens in people's lives after a defining event that happens at a relatively young age. EveI like the premise of this book, which is to explore what happens in people's lives after a defining event that happens at a relatively young age. Everybody thinks of Chuck Yeager as being that guy who broke the sound barrier, but then what??
In the beginning of the book, the author notes that there are very few women or people of color highlighted in the book, which is very true. He says that there just weren't enough women who were defined by a notable event during the space age. Well, if you're looking only at astronauts, that's true. But the book isn't just about astronauts. Widening his focus might have opened him up to a more diverse group of biographies, and indeed at the end of the book makes a list of women who could go into "volume 2". So, I guess women and people of color get stuck in the footnotes. (Better than being stuck in a binder?)
Also, I found that a lot of this book did focus on the details of whatever the notable event was much more in some cases than the aftermath. I've read almost every astronaut and NASA book out there, and was really bored during a lot of the astronaut chapters. The reason I wanted to read this book is to find out what happened NEXT. He gets around to it, eventually, for all of the people in this book, but it's not as captivating as the rest of the text, and not because what these people did wasn't interesting.
Finally, this book is written in British English, which is a little bizarre to read as quotes coming from the mouths of Americans (most, but not all, of the individuals highlighted in this book are from the US). I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, just a little strange.
But all in all, it was a relatively interesting and entertaining read. I'd recommend it, but maybe wait until it comes out at your library, or in paperback. ...more
Headstrong consists of 52 brief chapters about women scientists who have largely been overlooked in their contributions to humanity. Some of them (SalHeadstrong consists of 52 brief chapters about women scientists who have largely been overlooked in their contributions to humanity. Some of them (Sally Ride, Rosalind Franklin, Rachel Carson) may be more familiar than others. It's a sad fact that we still need a lot of books like this; honestly we need books like this that are geared for children, so that young girls can see themselves as scientists, mathematicians, engineers and inventors.
The only thing I disliked about this book I can't really fault it for. I'm sure the author hasn't gone through education (undergraduate and graduate) or a career as a scientist or engineer. One of the major reasons that women don't stay in the field is the emphasis on living your life 100% for your work, leaving no time outside for hobbies, families, or even sleep. That really goes double for women, who still have to be twice as good and work twice as hard to convince our advisors and supervisors that we're worth giving good projects to and supporting. The scientists profiled in Headstrong are all the "exceptional" women who give 100% to their work, and that's mentioned as a really good thing. I don't think that's the standard that anybody should be held to, and I know that one book isn't going to change the way things are, but it would be nice if we could start moving to other viewpoints of life as a scientist....more
Set in Florence, One Thing Stolen is the story of a young woman who is starting the downward spiral of some type of mental illness or neurological proSet in Florence, One Thing Stolen is the story of a young woman who is starting the downward spiral of some type of mental illness or neurological problem. As it's set in the first person, the narrative is poetic but also rather disjointed and confusing. It's hard to tell what's real and what's a delusion. What's really happened and what was just a dream. Her family members and other supporting characters aren't as easy to get involved with, probably due to Nadia's increasing disconnection with the outside world.
I'm not really sure how much I liked One Thing Stolen, but I also didn't dislike it. In general, confusingly narrated poetic books bother me unless they're amazingly well written, and this book was just, eh, okay. On the other hand, the book sort of redeemed itself in the last few chapters when things became more clear.
Hoping that the final copy (I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy) will have edited the Italian. The word "si" doesn't mean yes in Italian. However, "sì" (note the accent on the i) does mean yes. Not a huge deal, but an annoying grammatical mistake....more
Elena Vanishing is a very potent memoir of a young woman who suffered from disordered eating for many years in late adolescence and early adulthood. IElena Vanishing is a very potent memoir of a young woman who suffered from disordered eating for many years in late adolescence and early adulthood. It's coauthored by Elena's mom, which I think helps the story along as the viewpoint is Elena's the entire time, but doesn't suffer from her biases throughout the book.
I think the authors tried to write a book that would be as minimally triggering, or how-to, as possible, but I think it's almost impossible for that to happen in an ED memoir. There's a lot in here that could be used as an instruction manual, and I found it to be strongly triggering, even though numbers and quantities and calories and pounds were never discussed.
Definitely worth a read if you're interested in seeing inside the mind of somebody with anorexia. If you suffer from disordered eating and don't want to take the chance, maybe skip this until you're further along in your recovery....more
Spinster is part memoir and part exploration of what it has meant to be an unmarried woman in the US throughout the past 100 or so years. It's a topicSpinster is part memoir and part exploration of what it has meant to be an unmarried woman in the US throughout the past 100 or so years. It's a topic that I think needs to be addressed, even in 2015, as many people are still shocked when they find out that some women don't care to get married (or procreate, but that requires another set of literature, I'm sure). Spinster also weaves in a little glimpse of the history of marriage without getting too in-depth about it. The author's spinster muses (not all of whom were actually spinsters) include Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edith Wharton. So you get a little bit of biography and a little bit of history weaved into the memoir.
Ultimately, however, I found Spinster to be utterly dry and boring and lacking in any real spice or flavor. It was like ingesting a poorly organized academic text on not being married. I've read more interesting books about feminist muses (Reading Women, notably, by Stephanie Staal) or not getting married (Singled Out by Bella DePaulo). I think that if Kate Bolick had focused on one of the many aspects of her book, it would have been more interesting. Instead, the part-memoir, part-biography, part-history included tantalizing glimpses of what could have been without really nailing anything down. It also meandered and went back and forth and at times I had a hard time following which of the spinster muses was being discussed in any given chapter or paragraph. Or why I should really care to read an entire book about Bolick's ultimately uninteresting life. (I'm not married either, and I wouldn't write a book about it unless it were two pages long.)
Finally, and this is really a nit-picky thing that wouldn't have bothered me too much if the book had been better written, I really dislike when people go on and on about how Boston is a city for babies and New York City is for grown ups. As if Boston isn't somehow a "real" city because it's small. Boston isn't for everyone, New York City isn't for everyone, and that doesn't make either city pointless or illegitimate. It just makes me more annoyed at the common belief of NYC-ers that they inhabit the center of the known universe....more
Having read Rent Girl a while back, I figured getting an updated perspective on the life of Michelle Tea would be interesting. Sadly, I was greatly diHaving read Rent Girl a while back, I figured getting an updated perspective on the life of Michelle Tea would be interesting. Sadly, I was greatly disappointed by this book of memoir-essays. I think this book could more aptly be titled "How To Feel Better About Making Really Expensive Purchases After Having Been Poor For A Long Time, And How That Totally Makes You Awesome And Able To Judge Other People Because Seriously, You Used To Be Poor And Now You Can Afford Really Expensive Purses And Designer Clothes! But You're Not Pretentious And Rich Now, Really!"...more
I don't generally read fiction, so I was equally excited and hesitant when I won a copy of this book on LTER. I'm putting this review behind spoiler tI don't generally read fiction, so I was equally excited and hesitant when I won a copy of this book on LTER. I'm putting this review behind spoiler tags because, personally, I hate reading any detail of a novel before I start reading it. I'll try not to give away anything big, but if you're like me and don't want to know a thing, don't read ahead.
(view spoiler)[At first, I found the pace to be slow and frustrating. A lot of things didn't add up to me in the plot, which made me start compiling a long list of things that were completely wrong and didn't make sense that I was going to complain about in my review. Dr. Lise Shields is a psychiatrist at a correctional psychiatric facility, and in the beginning we are introduced to her and her patient Jason. For the first several chapters, I wondered why on earth a psychiatrist would take such long, walking, talk therapy breaks with a client, and what kind of celebrity Jason must be to get one-on-one therapy in a large mental hospital. (Psychiatrists give 15-20 minute medication checks with very minimal talk therapy, and talk therapy is typically conducted in groups and is facilitated by a social worker or psychologist.)
Eventually, Dr. Shields learns of a insidious plot comprising her patient Jason, the hospital administrator, and the FBI. The suspense builds a lot, but still, there are a lot of puzzling inconsistencies in the plot that frustrated me. Why doesn't her cellphone work when she needs it to? Why does everybody she meet either automatically trust her or call the police on her?
About 80% of the way through the book, I figured out the key to this mystery, and at that point, the book finally made a ton of sense; all of the strange details fell into place and the book was no longer frustrating but fascinating. Now I sort of want to pick it up and start over again from the beginning, knowing now how it ends! If only I didn't have a million other books to read...! (hide spoiler)]
Definitely recommended if you're into books about mental illness, or thrillers, or fiction in general. The book is very fast-paced and hard to put down at times.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A detailed look into the shortcomings of Alcoholics Anonymous, The Sober Truth refutes many claims of AA's efficacy (citing many studies that have beeA detailed look into the shortcomings of Alcoholics Anonymous, The Sober Truth refutes many claims of AA's efficacy (citing many studies that have been done over the years) and contemplates what it would take to scientifically find and validate a truly effective addiction treatment paradigm.
**spoiler alert** He Wanted the Moon is a captivating account of Dr. Perry Baird's mental illness as recounted by his restored memoir and by his daugh**spoiler alert** He Wanted the Moon is a captivating account of Dr. Perry Baird's mental illness as recounted by his restored memoir and by his daughter. The book is split into roughly two parts, the first composed of Dr. Baird's painstakingly reconstructed manuscript and the second more autobiographical about the author and her father.
Dr. Baird's account of his manic-depressive illness in the mid-1940s is honest, compelling, and absolutely horrifying to read. It saddens me so much to think of how poorly people with mental illnesses were treated and the stunning amount of ignorance in not only people without mental illnesses but also among the very people caring for mental patients. Dr. Baird was subject to all sorts of horrifying "treatments" from restraint, cold packs, and finally, a lobotomy that led to his early demise in his mid-50s.
Dr. Baird had a brief career as a notable dermatologist and a medical research scientist hoping to find a cause or a cure for his illness. Unfortunately, his career was held back and ultimately ended by his illness. It's heartbreaking to think that, had he become ill a few decades later, he could have benefitted from mood stabilizing medications such as lithium. But either way, his "treatment" in several mental hospitals certainly helped to provoke relapse and worsen his symptoms and disease.
The author, Mimi Baird, grew up mostly not knowing her father, as the culture of silence pervading mental illness in the beginning of the 20th century led her mother and other family members to refer to her father as being "away" and leaving it at that. This book catalogues her attempt to get to know her father posthumously, to preserve his genius and make sense of his illness.
I would highly recommend this book to anybody interested in mental illness, as the first-person account of Dr. Baird's treatment is, although absolutely horrifying and breathtakingly sad, probably one of the best accounts of early-mid 20th century mental illness "treatment" that I've read....more
Saving Normal takes a deep look at the newest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is generally regardedSaving Normal takes a deep look at the newest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is generally regarded as the bible of psychiatry. It's used by primary care doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, etc. to diagnose mental illness in their patients. The newest revision, known as DSM-5, has stirred up an awful lot of controversy. This book takes a look at that controversy and explores what the impacts could be in the US. Allen Frances explains the possibilities and impacts of over-diagnosing mental illness in the general population, arguing that many of the revisions take "normal" (whatever that means) life experiences into the realm of mental illness.
However, the author remains very positive about psychiatry in general, and does a lot to explain how the field is helpful for many people. Many people do suffer from mental illness, and having a proper diagnosis leads to life-saving treatment. I really like that about this book, because other critical reviews of the DSM-5 (namely "The Book of Woe" by Gary Greenberg) take down the profession of psychiatry as a whole.
What I don't like about this book is how poorly edited it is. The author uses a lot of complicated and technical language and concepts without explaining them; if you don't have a good knowledge of what the DSM is and what psychiatrists do, you might be totally lost reading this book. He uses a lot of acronyms without explaining them until much later in the book, if at all.
Also, I really disliked the language of this book, which made the author come across as totally ensconced in cisgendered,-straight-white-man-privilege world. He uses the term "man" to mean humanity. He only uses the pronoun "he" in the book. Actually, he uses "she" maybe three times, only making it all the more obvious that he views the world through a man-lens. He makes no critical analysis of mental illness used as a tool to oppress women in his critique of psychiatry throughout the ages.
In addition, I can live without the evo-psych. Nothing makes me take a book less seriously than conjectures about why humans act the way they do based on what we suppose our distant ancestors did before the invention of fire. Things only get weeded out in evolution if they kill people BEFORE they can reproduce. Many people tend to forget that, including this author. Suicidality couldn't and can't (and didn't) get weeded out of our gene pool because many people commit suicide after reproducing, if suicidality is even genetic to begin with (which has not been proven). Also, evo-psych looks at the world in a severely male-centric, heteronormative way.
I think the most useful part of this book was chapter 8, which gives practical advice to patients who have a mental illness or think they may have one. It's good to know what kind of information to have on hand when seeing a somebody in the mental health field, and how to take a critical look at options regarding diagnoses and medications. So if you skim through the rest of this book, I recommend waking up a bit when you get to the end!...more
**spoiler alert** I have to say that Curtis Sittenfeld keeps getting better with each novel she writes. Prep started out great but ended on such an aw**spoiler alert** I have to say that Curtis Sittenfeld keeps getting better with each novel she writes. Prep started out great but ended on such an awkward note that it ruined the whole book for me. I couldn't put down American Wife for the first couple hundred pages, and then it fizzled out and fell flat. I feel like Sisterland started out slow, but it picked up and kept going and eventually pulled me in. I found the resolution to be satisfying, not so awkward like Prep, not anticlimactic like American Wife, and not picture perfect and annoying either....more
This book delves into the topic of why the exclusive pursuit of happiness and positive emotions can be counter-productive. The main theses tends to beThis book delves into the topic of why the exclusive pursuit of happiness and positive emotions can be counter-productive. The main theses tends to be very commonsensical, and the authors do an okay job explaining and rationalizing their ideas.
The thing I hate about this book, and all other pop-psych books, is the "science" they use to back up their claims. I know I'm biased as a physical scientist, where I can run an experiment and get a concrete answer; much like a math problem that has a verifiable solution. Social science, however, in my mind, isn't really science. It's asking a bunch of people to fill out a survey or do some weird experiment that always tends to prove the hypothesis of the experimenter. This is always prone to sample bias, experimenter bias, sample size problems, questionable interpretation of results, etc. However it always makes for flashy PR. (A sort-of made up example that is very close to one of the studies used as concrete evidence of human nature in this book: "We made a dozen people angry before having them throw darts and they did better than the dozen people who we made happy before the dart-throwing. Therefore being angry improves performance by 500%!!!!!")
At any rate, many of the concepts in this book are related to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which has also been "proven" to be one of the most effective therapeutic methods for people with depression, anxiety and similar mental illnesses. So a lot of the concepts can be boiled down to DBT's four main areas: mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. It makes sense that people who understand their emotions, can deal with them (even if that means distracting oneself while backing away from the metaphorical ledge), communicate assertively with others, and be mindful of the moment they're living in (instead of projecting into the future or dwelling on the past) are going to have, if not a happier life, then at least a life with less stress, anxiety, depression, etc. Incidentally, I thought it was funny how, in the last chapter, the authors discuss being present in being bored (instead of continually distracting oneself with TV, smart phones, etc.) as being "mindless", when actually it's an amazing example of mindfulness, which the authors think is not worth the hype. I don't think anybody argues that being mindful 100% of the time is beneficial for anybody, but still, the authors have to sell books.
Really, I liked this book, and I think it's worth reading. But being the research scientist / skeptic that I am, I am unable to read books like this without finding at least a million flaws. So don't take my word for it, read it yourself. There's still a lot of good stuff packed in here....more
I generally love books by Julie Anne Peters, although at time they can get a little formulaic. I really enjoyed "Lies My Girlfriend Told Me," because,I generally love books by Julie Anne Peters, although at time they can get a little formulaic. I really enjoyed "Lies My Girlfriend Told Me," because, even though it's a quick and easy read, the story is captivating and interesting. The characters are all diverse, believable, and easy to love (or hate, but in a good way). I highly recommend it to people of all ages who are interested in lesbian fiction....more