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In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules
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In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  452 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
From Frida Kahlo and Elizabeth Taylor to Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, and Lena Dunham, this witty narrative explores what we can learn from the imperfect and extraordinary legacies of 29 iconic women who forged their own unique paths in the world.

Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of moder
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by National Geographic Society
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Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
I got this arc from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review, so thank u!

I'm so disappointed in this. I'm giving one star for the research and another for the few good essays in the middle of it. But I just can't get on board with this book. It already opened with an essay about how J.K. Rowling is Oh So Feminist, even though she is an abuse apologist and a racist. Through it, we also have an essay praising that Lena woman from Girls, who was accused of raping. I think around 80% of the women
Alisha Marie
Sigh. I was so looking forward to reading In Praise of Difficult Women. Then, I took a look at the contents page, said "Typical..." and started to read. Look, there are some good things about In Praise of Difficult Women and some of it was well done. However, there was some glaring oversight.

The Good: Some of the essays in In Praise of Difficult Women were really well-done. These essays just gave you a taste of what these women were like. Enough that you got a sense of who they were, but were st
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I had to force myself to finish this one in order to get it back to the library and stop the fine build-up. I don't feel the title is a good fit. The author's personal commentary, sprinkled throughout, was often annoying. In labeling each woman with a one word descriptor the author either hems herself in or wanders from the descriptor. Also, I'm curious to know, why these 29 women? How were these women chosen?

The title. In labeling these women difficult I feel Karbo is judging any woman who asse
Katie/Doing Dewey
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Summary: An engaging, inspiring collection where I enjoyed learning about amazing modern women and was left wanting to learn more.

This beautiful book, with its gorgeous cover, delightful illustrations, and scalloped pages, is an ode to women author Karen Karbo admires for being 'difficult'. She defines a difficult woman as someone who believes her own desires and aspirations matter and who doesn't let social expectations confine her. Something that made this book stand out from the many other wo
Daniel Swensen
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Three stars because I have some very mixed feelings on this book. Many of the bios are great: provocative, compassionate, incisive, celebratory. More than a few are tarnished by shallow, nasty, judgmental passages about their subjects that seem to come out of nowhere.

Also, while I can sort of get behind including genuinely divisive figures like JK Rowling and Lena Dunham (the title does include the word "difficult," after all), I also think it could have done with a bit more diversity. I agree
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
How fortuitous it is that I am reviewing this book for the first day of Women's History. There has been a slew of books for younger readers to introduce them to some really phenomenal women (and thank goodness for it!!!) but there seemingly not been a similar influx of books for adults. This book is a good fit for that deficit!

Each chapter focuses on a different woman and they range from politicians to judges to athletes to women who broke just about every barrier imaginable. And as the author c
Scottsdale Public Library
This compilation highlights 29 intelligent, notable women, ranging from Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to Shonda Rhimes. Their lives were messy; their lives were glamorous; their lives were imperfect. But above all, their lives exemplify what we can accomplish if we dare to be courageous and work hard to forge a path in this world. - Sara Z.
Stephanie Lo
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book. I am very disappointed in the lack of diversity of women chosen to “focus” on. I felt that all of the women chosen lacked depth and dimension in their description of their life.
Sara Cutaia
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WOMEN RULE! I loved these small glimpses into the lives and backstory of the powerful women we all know and love. This allowed us to know and love them a little bit more.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the introduction to Karen Karbo's In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules, the author states that "a difficult woman is a woman who insists on inhabiting the full range of her humanity." This book profiles 29 women in modern history who do just that.

Each chapter profiles one woman, beginning with a single word to describe them ("Fiesty" for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, "Indefatigable" for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "Determined" for Jane
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s a time of change for women right now. They are speaking out and being well, difficult in ways they haven’t been in quite a few years. Where it will all lead, who knows but it is certainly an exciting time to be reading about female icons.

This isn’t a book about the conventional, exceptional women you might expect to find but rather women Ms. Karbo has found fascination. That is not to say that the profiles aren’t full of women who bucked their time and the system. They fall mostly in two ca
Jun 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
To be fair, I didn’t finish the book (because it pissed me off). But from what I read, it upholds stereotypes about girls/woman and perpetuates misogynistic beliefs by portraying women who are authentically true to themselves and unwilling to change for society as “difficult” and by defining the definitions (and limitations) of success for women. Additionally, as pointed out in another review, this book spotlights majority white women. I fully believe that all of the women listed in this book ar ...more
James Kennedy Public Library
This book profiles 29 women deemed "difficult" when looking through the eyes of conventional societal norms. Basically, these women have been trail blazers in their field and when they dared to be true to themselves, outspoken, intelligent, career-driven, and not about to conform to societal norms just to make someone else happy, they were deemed difficult. Their male counterparts would and have been praised for acting the same way. I enjoyed reading about these women and finding out how they've ...more
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book introduced me to several powerful and strong women that I hadn't heard of ( Edie Sedwick, Vita Sackville-West, Diana Vreeland), and re-introduced me to women I thought I knew, but didn't know their whole story (Angela Merkel, Frida Kahlo, Janis Joplin). I liked how the author picked one word to describe why the woman might be deemed difficult and explained her reasoning. Although I liked the artwork of each woman, and the author's description, I still would have enjoyed photos of each ...more
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books, non-fic
I devoured this book in a day.

Another book about amazing women- although I really liked that each woman had a focal attribute which their individual story revolved around.
The author wasn't afraid to provide her often hilarious 2 cents about each lady, which gave this book a lot more personality than previous "awesome women" books.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
This book profiles 29 women deemed "difficult" when looking through the eyes of conventional societal norms. Basically, these women have been trail blazers in their field and when they dared to be true to themselves, outspoken, intelligent, career-driven, and not about to conform to societal norms just to make someone else happy, they were deemed difficult. Their male counterparts would and have been praised for acting the same way. I enjoyed reading about these women and finding out how they've ...more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author did a great job of briefly highlighting the unique things each woman did that made her "difficult". The stories were short enough to capture your attention, inspire you, and make you want to learn more. I wish more women of color were in the book.
Christine Merrill
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such a fantastic collection of essays! I learned so many fun facts about so many incredible women--highly recommend, especially as an easy book to keep on your nightstand and read one or two essays at a time!
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, library, non-fiction
I enjoyed this book even though I agree with some reviewers that the author heavily focused on white women. Where the hell is Rosa Parks? And I know it’s Karbo’s book but I’m truly shocked that Martha Graham and Louise Brooks were not included. Don’t even get me started on Edie Sedgwick. Why???
Cathy Lamb
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was just flat out interesting. I loved reading about inspiring, strong women who often came from nothing, or hard childhoods, or hard experiences with men and life, and through grit and courage and a belief in themselves, fought their way up and out. They didn't sit home and try to please everyone.

There are chapters on Coco Chanel (born into a poor house in France), Angela Merkel (father was a pastor, she moved to East Germany and watched the wall being built as a child), Nora Ephro
Victoria Gilbert
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Looking forward to this 😊
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting look at the lives of some very interesting women! I do hope she does another volume that includes Georgia O'Keefe!
Karen Karbo's book redefines the strong woman by examining the lives of twenty-nine women, who are difficult. These women do not strictly meet the criteria of a feminist or campaigned for the rights of other women, but instead are individuals, who dared to be themselves. This can best be summarized in Frida Kahlo's chapter, where Karbo describes her painting: "The Suicide of Dorothy, Halte, 1938". Commissioned by an upper elite, Karbo states that Kahlo could have painted an idealized portrait of ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss, read-in-18
If you're going to be difficult, people are much less forgiving. If you insist on planting your flag in the sand for your politics or other beliefs - even if it's just a belief in yourself - be prepared to be called out the moment you evolve, rethink something, change your mind, contradict yourself, or just behave in an inexplicably human way. It's as if by flaunting expectations, we've also unwittingly agreed to be held to impossible standards.

I've read quite a few books about feminists in the
Karen Karbo has composed short biographies of 29 women she believes didn't allow others to define for them how to live. These are her choices and any readers who don't like the women she chose can, of course, write their own books. That's the type of statement a "difficult" woman would make, and it can rightfully be said. I found many of the bios interesting, and only didn't finish reading a few that I found uncaptivating. My biggest problem with the book, though, was Ms.Karbo's tone. Much of th ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Praise of Difficult Women is a collection of 29 short biographies of women that author Karen Karbo is or has been inspired by over the years. The women range from obvious historic figures like Amelia Earhart and Frida Kahlo to more current figures like Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler and pretty much everything in between. Karbo does a great job of telling each woman's story concisely, but also shows just how multi-faceted each woman's life is/was. While I wouldn't have personally chosen the same ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author, Karen Karbo, immediately defines the attributes of what she thinks makes a woman "difficult: "Any woman who honors her true self more than she does the expectations of the culture in which she lives is difficult. Any woman who cares less about what other people think than what she thinks about herself is difficult. A woman whose primary goal in life is not to please, or be pleasing – yes, so very difficult. Do I even need to say that a woman who speaks up is difficult?"

Clearly, a lot
Julie Akeman
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fine collection of women who were considered 'difficult' simply because they didn't follow the status quo of their day, be it the 1900's the '60's or even today. Every woman needs to read this, and men who actually respect women should read this too. These are women of fire, considered stubborn simply because like Rosa Parks, refuse to budge from their rightful place. I love the first story which was J.K. Rowling, that I have a huge amount of respect for because she struggled with depression a ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really, really wanted to like this book. The idea is a great one- showcase a variety of women who didn't stick to the norms, who pushed boundaries. Showcase these women and discuss the lessons one could learn from their lives.

It's a great idea, but it's not an idea that Karen Karbo achieves in this book. I'm reading an advance copy so perhaps things will change, but honestly I don't foresee large edits and changes. My disappointments were in three parts in particular. The first area of disappo
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women
This is a complicated book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it and the short, entertainingly written biographies about influential women, including some I wasn't familiar with. It was at times a lot of fun to see women being praised for being ambitious, hard-working high-achievers.
On the other hand, there were issues that made it hard to love this book as much as I was enjoying it. At times the author's commentary drifted uncomfortably close to the kind of criticism of the patriarchy and male
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Karen Karbo's first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year. Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, were also named New York Times Notable Books. The Stuff of Life, about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was an NYT Notable Book, a People Magazine ...more
“Don’t waste time trying to change your anger into something that makes you likable; you will only wind up disliking yourself. Write your rage, paint it, film it, dance it, lyricize it, poeticize it. You don’t have to be good, just honest.” 0 likes
“There's only one very good life, Diana wrote. And that's the life you know you want and you make it yourself.” 0 likes
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