Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis” as Want to Read:
Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  6,173 ratings  ·  1,140 reviews
When Ada Calhoun found herself in the throes of a midlife crisis, she thought that she had no right to complain. She was married with children and a good career. So why did she feel miserable? And why did it seem that other Generation X women were miserable, too?

Calhoun decided to find some answers. She looked into housing costs, HR trends, credit card debt averages, and d
Audible Audio
Published (first published January 7th 2020)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Why We Can't Sleep, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Pam S Great question. As a childfree Gen X woman I was really disappointed at the relative lack of this perspective in the book. There are a few mentions of…moreGreat question. As a childfree Gen X woman I was really disappointed at the relative lack of this perspective in the book. There are a few mentions of women without children, but most of the book is about Gen X mothers specifically, not Gen X women generally. I feel that descriptions of the book should have indicated this somehow; that the focus is on parenting. I still found it to be an interesting read, but it did not resonate with me as I had hoped.(less)
Tanya Ehlert The author writes from a Gen X white CIS female perspective. She discusses some generalizations for CIS male Gen X cohorts and very lightly touches on…moreThe author writes from a Gen X white CIS female perspective. She discusses some generalizations for CIS male Gen X cohorts and very lightly touches on non-cis persons, but even saying that might be an exaggeration. (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,173 ratings  ·  1,140 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis
Jul 09, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Where do I even begin with this rubbish?

Reading the introduction to this book, I was amazed that what the author was saying about Gen X women in their middle age is so close to things my partner and I talk about.  Wow, I thought, it's not just us. These are generational things!

But then I got through the introduction and this quickly devolved into a big old pity party for straight, white, cisgender, upper middle class women. 

The moaning! Oh my god! You'd think the author was in the middle of havi
Anne Bogel
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I’m a bit young to be reading about women having midlife crises, but I took a chance on it, primarily because I trusted my friend who recommended it, who happens to be several years younger than me.

I found this book completely fascinating and far too relatable. In separate chapters, Calhoun examines many of these issues individually, like finding work, caregiving, job instability, money panic, choosing a single life, or a childless life, or not choosing to be single and childless ye
Elyse  Walters
Can’t sleep?
Wonder about others sleeping habits?

The author primarily focuses on Generation X women....
but....if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night won’t feel alone after reading ‘this’ book!

Ha... I read this during the middle of the night.

Ada Calhoun did her research!!!
She interviewed thousands of women around the country.
We get insights about what concerns Generation X women......
single women - divorce women - women with or without children - women working three
Alicia Bayer
Jan 24, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've finally finished this book, which is basically a pity dump for upper middle-class 40-something, privileged white women. Wow, what a lot of navel gazing and self absorption.

The author finished writing this book as she turned 42, which I don't even consider midlife (I guess I'm an optimist but I'm aiming higher than 84). I have a vivid memory of when I was 42. This memory rarely leaves me. I was sitting in an empty lobby in a children's hospital with my 6 month-old baby in my arms. Two janit
This book rang so true for me that it was like poking a raw nerve.

Ada Calhoun interviewed dozens of Gen X* women while doing research for "Why We Can't Sleep," and I could relate to so many of their stories and experiences. Intense anxiety about money and careers. Feeling neglected as a child because both parents were always working. The pressures and expectations of "having it all." Being a perfectionist and holding yourself up to impossible standards while at the same time feeling like a failu
Feb 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
3.5 stars

Self-help books have always been a bit of a “hit and miss” for me, which is why I’m very selective when it comes to choosing books from this genre to read. Of course, first and foremost, the subject matter needs to be interesting and also relevant to my current situation – on this count, Ada Calhoun’s newest book Why We Can’t Sleep did deliver, however in some ways, it also fell a bit short of expectations for me.

As a member of Generation X (like the author herself), it’s refreshing
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was lucky to receive an early copy of this book from Edelweiss. I have read a lot of books about women in today's society, but never one that examined the problem from a generational lens. I did my master's research paper on generations in the workplace, specifically the library, and it was really interesting to get a new perspective on it. Calhoun is a member of Generation X, and so the book focuses mostly on that generation, but there is plenty of context from the other generations as well. ...more
Generation Xers represent people born largely between 1965 and 1980 and represent a smaller generation than either the Baby Boomers that preceded them or the Millennials that followed. Calhoun interviewed a number of women in this age-group and cites a plethora of statistics that show that this is an anxious group of women. On one hand, they have more job opportunities than their mothers, but only up to a point. They have more student loan debt, credit card debt, and child care costs. Juggling w ...more
P.S.G. Lopes
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
***I cannot believe I was blessed to read this AMAZING book before it was formally released. I was invited to read this book through #NetGalley. ***

Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep has become my bible, my battle cry, my feminist go-to book for women my age. I got so much out of reading this book. The very second I picked up this book I literally absorbed each and every word and got angrier (in the best possible way), more passionate, and more dedicated to my own goals and missions.

I legitimatel
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Parts of it made me angry. It is all about how Gen X women have it worse than women of any other generation, which is of course BS. If she had just focused on our challenges and not tried to make it a who had worst contest, it would have been great book. The challenges and differences were on point, but when she says - "and that's why ours is worse", I wanted to throw the book across the room.
Also, it was very white hetero upper middle class centric, and the lack of understanding of diverse view
"Boomers deserve full credit for blazing trails while facing unchecked sexism and macroaggressions and for trying to raise children while giving up their own dreams. But Gen Xers entered life with "having it all" not as a bright new option but as a mandatory social condition."

Confession: being born in 1981, this classifies me as a (very old) Millennial and not a Gen Xer. But I figure I had a crush on Zach Morris as a kid, so, you know, I'm close enough to Calhoun's target demographic to warrant
Emily Banks
Rounding down. I nodded my head a lot and related to so much but it didn’t go beyond that. It’s a list of “here’s why we’re anxious and depressed” which, shockingly, only served to make me feel more anxious and depressed.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Calhoun's book about wedding toasts. This one felt forced to me. I could not relate more to a book--I am gen x also struggling with sleep. But I am not sure the answers in here are right--or at least new. There's a lot in here about structural issues like fair pay and second shift stuff and a lot of personal stories. She points out that wine drinking has become this generation's self-help philosophy. This seems true, but I'm not sure it's unique to this generation. I appreciate her artic ...more
Emily K.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a dud. I can't help but feel like it would benefit from more historical, political, and economic context. Her "research" is largely anecdotal, from a sample population of ~200 women. It makes arguments like Gen X's experience of the challenger explosion contributes to them being helicopter parents, millenials are happier because they had Elmo. It wants to argue that the specificity of middle class Gen X misery is somehow more unique than the misery of anyone else in the year of our ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
3-1/2 stars, rounded up

This was an interesting follow-up to Invisible Women. That book covered a huge amount of global data regarding how women’s needs, both economic and physical, are overlooked on all levels, from the family microcosm to the medical world to corporate design to government. This book is much narrower, focusing on the issues facing USAmerican women of a certain age -- Generation X, born between 1964 and 1981. And mostly white, middle class, hetero-cis women. (But if these women
Christine PNW
I both read and did not read this book - I saw it on my feed, checked it out of the library, read the first several chapters, skimmed it a bit, and then read the end.

I think where this book fails is in it's focus on the single demographic of Gen X women, when many of the issues explored by the author are just endemic to womanhood in general. It's also extremely reliant on anecdote, which is fine, but which means that it isn't a particularly reliable basis for things like policy changes.

What did
Leslie Lindsay
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A searing exploration of stresses that keep GenX women up at night (literally and metaphorically), I raced through this book, which completely resonated.

So, so grateful to have received an early copy of WHY WE CAN'T SLEEP: Women's New Midlife Crisis (Grove Atlantic, 2020) by memoirist/journalist Ada Calhoun. I was feeling especially down the day it arrived--you know, that existential angst--and was immediately gleeful after reading the book's description: we are a group of women with outward ma
Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition
Every woman between 40 - 60 years old should read this book!
It is so well researched, realistic and affirming - for all of us who feel we should not be allowed to be happy unless we are living perfect lives, having it all and doing it all correctly, at all times.
Whew, such a relief not to be compelled to "self-help" in order to be perfect at everything - if we are feeling overwhelmed at times, maybe it's because that being overwhelmed is a sane response to what is happening in our lives right no
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book works best as a mirror, and wasn't as resonant for me because there are a lot of mirrors out there for me. The title is fairly misleading - there is nothing about sleep in this book, nor is the case made for Gen X midlife crises being particularly unique. Calhoun breaks (largely) cis, middle and upper class Gen X women's lives and concerns into chapters (eg relationships, career, finances) with a final synthesis chapter.

There is a lot of cited data in this book, and I apprecia
Sherri Thacker
“You come to this place, midlife. You don’t know how you get here, but suddenly you’re staring 50 in the face!” Yes this was me 6 years ago when i turned the big 5-0 and I knew this book was written about me. Especially with the title as I have not slept good in YEARS!! But this book is more about the facts of being in the Generation X group of women which according to this book, I miss it by a year since I was born in 1963. I found myself skimming large sections because I was losing interest. T ...more
chantel nouseforaname
I needed to read this, this past week was a little crazy, so it was necessary. Sometimes you feel like you're doing too much, giving too much away, expecting too much of yourself, etc. This just reminds you that you can do whatever you want and that it's important to put yourself first and not follow anyone's/society's rules for you. My problem with the book is that it's a little white feministy. However, it's whatever. It's a soothing, calming, marginally reaffirming read. ...more
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book hit a little too close to home. Ada Calhoun is part of Generation X - the one that came after the baby boomers, grew up the 1970s (I'd forgotten how flat out weird that was), dealt with their parents getting divorced, graduated out of college into a recession, went through another one, and had to deal with a society that kept insisting they could 'have it all.'

Calhoun does a good job of pulling together research from medical journals, sociology papers, popular culture and interviews w
Erin Bartels
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Witty, well-researched, and full of compassion, Ada Calhoun's book about Gen X women's midlife crises/issues/concerns hits home. If you're a Gen X woman, you will find here someone who watched all the same TV shows, listened to all the same music, and had all the same fears as you did growing up. She'll show you how growing up in the 1970s and 1980s affects some of the things you may be facing now that you're in your forties. And she offers strategies for dealing with such varied things as pre-m ...more
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved every word of this book. It was so fascinating and like looking into a mirror. All generations face challenges but it was validating and eye opening to read issues that uniquely define Gen X women. The book was equal parts encouraging and depressing, but felt redemptive in the end. Gen X women are resilient, hard working, tough, reliable, loyal, team players. It’s funny to overlay the generational differences exposed by Covid on her theory - fits perfectly. Read it, and when you do, call ...more
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing cool to do but reading as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader.

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

When Ada Calhoun found herself in the throes of a midlife crisis, she th
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Listening to other women's stories this year has given me confirmation, finally, that our expectations have been absurd. So many women I spoke with--objectively successful women--felt ashamed of their perceived failures.

What if we're not failures? What if what we've done is good? At any rate, maybe it's good enough.

I'm not a Gen X, but I am an older Millennial--one who graduated and got a job before the 2008 recession. I don't face a lot of the challenges faced by the women in this book, and yet
Nichola Gutgold
A bit too whiny for my tastes, but the author makes many good points about why today’s Gen X woman is overwhelmed. She quickly concludes on an optimistic note after bringing the reader through hundreds of negative pages. I don’t highly recommend but if you’re into these kinds of books about the current state of women, I recommend you read it. I don’t completely agree with her, but that might be the optimist in me.
Molly Ferguson
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
I am planning to buy this book for all of my friends who are Gen X. So much of it resonated with me! The premise is that our generation was told we could "have it all" and then hold themselves to impossible standards that cause stress and anxiety. I really appreciated how deftly she used research with examples from real women and bits of pop culture. There is even a playlist at the end! A caveat: I do think this book is written for white middle class women, though she claims she interviewed wome ...more
Bruin Mccon
Why Can’t We Sleep is a non-fiction book made for Gen X women who, as the title implies, really need some shut eye.

I read an excerpt of this book in a magazine what feels like at least a year ago and I was very excited to get my hands on an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, this book rocks. It’s the catharsis you’ve been waiting for!

“We’re the first generation of women raised from birth hearing the tired cliche ’having it all’—then discovering as adults it is very h
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not what I was expecting it to be, but it was interesting nonetheless.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Mt. Lebanon Publi...: Why We Can't Sleep 1 4 Jun 09, 2020 12:36PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
  • What Rose Forgot
  • The Other Wife
  • Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society
  • The Twisted Ones
  • Cupid's Match (Cupid's Match, #1)
  • The German House
  • Let It Snow
  • Hole in My Life
  • Empire of Lies
  • Lady in the Lake
  • Dragonfly
  • The Strange Ones
  • XYZ: One Man, Two Kids, Ten Devices and an Internet-Sized Generation Gap
  • Ulterior Motives
  • The World That We Knew
  • Save Me from Dangerous Men (Nikki Griffin, #1)
  • A Christmas Hamster
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Award-winning journalist Ada Calhoun is the author of the NYC history St. Marks Is Dead, chosen by Kirkus and the Boston Globe as one of the best books of 2015; the essay collection Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give, named by W magazine one of the best 10 memoirs of 2017; and Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis, coming out January, 7, 2020. ...more

Articles featuring this book

The beauty of a paperback novel is multidimensional. Allow me to explain: The format allows you to catch up on some of 2020's biggest books...
133 likes · 14 comments
“One of the main problems in making dreams come true? They cost money.” 4 likes
“We’re the first women raised from birth hearing the tired cliché “having it all”8—then discovering as adults that it is very hard to have even some of it.” 3 likes
More quotes…