A Friday bonus post for you. Back in the autumn I started thinking about what I might write for New Year this year and realised that I hate New Year’s Resolutions posts because they never feel natural and they add an extra level of guilt and obligation to my reading that I just don’t need. So instead of a resolutions post, but still in the spirit of new beginnings, I thought I’d write about some self-help/self-improvement books that I have read. Which meant I had to read some. And so I embarked on some reading.
This is not a genre that I read a lot – I have a low tolerance for inspirational stuff, but I try and keep an open mind. And trying to grow and improve yourself is good, and so in the interests of you, dear Reader, I did it. Here is what I discovered: I am really not a good candidate for self help books. They make me really quite angry quite easily. And it seems that as a person in a relationship but without children, a lot of them really don’t apply to me. But here were are, I’ve done the reading so you don’t have to. Lets start with the bad…
Most Unintentionally Depressing: Fair Play by Eve Rodsky
My main takeaway from this was that finding a decent man in America must be a garbage fire. This book claims to be “a revolutionary, real-world solution to the problem of unpaid, invisible work that women have shouldered for too long.” What it actually is is a way to gamify domestic labour that you trick your other half into playing with you. I had high hopes for this because it was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick and her fiction picks have always been interesting, but hooo boy. It’s definitely true that women have greater expectations placed on them by external and internal forces when it comes to running a household, but this feels like the marriage equivalent of a dating manual that advises you to trick your potential spouse. And despite what the blurb would have you think, it also only really applies to hetero-normative relationships with kids. And only then if you’re prepared to treat your partner like a child – which to be honest isn’t the relationship that I aspire to. I prefer to share my life with someone I can talk to like an adult about problems and, if you believe the author, it seems most men in the US can’t have a sensible conversation about shared workload and need to be tricked and gamed into doing their share.
Most Irritating: Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
I’m going to chalk this up to a lack of research on my part. My library suggested this to me (I can’t remember why) and knowing I was going to write this post I read the blurb and thought it sounded worth a try and got myself on the hold list. It came in just in time to read for this post more is the pity. Per the Goodreads entry “With wry wit and hard-earned wisdom, popular online personality and founder of TheChicSite.com founder Rachel Hollis helps readers break free from the lies keeping them from the joy-filled and exuberant life they are meant to have.” So far so good – but the bit I didn’t clock properly was at the end: “With unflinching faith and tenacity, Hollis spurs other women to live with passion and hustle and to awaken their slumbering goals.” The key word there being faith. There’s a lot of God and knowing that God has plans for your life and your journey in this, and that was not what I was looking for. There’s also a lot of American therapy speak that always makes my skin itch and big sections of the book are about juggling a job and kids. To be fair though, her relationship does sound a bit better balanced than the ones in Fair Play – so maybe not all American men are awful.
And now for the good…
Most Reassuring: The Likeability Trap by Alicia Menendez
Journalist Alicia Menendez examines the concept of likeability and why women either are perceived as cold but strong or warm but weak and why this is outdated and how to fight against it. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of this, but it turned out to be useful, reassuring and quite practical. I’m not sure how many things I’ll be able to implement in my life, but it definitely felt like someone with similar experiences and feelings to me was giving me advice. And as we go into a US Presidential election year, it’s really interesting to take a deep dive into the notion of female likeability so you know what you’re looking for in the commentary on the women in the running for the nomination and the presidency.
Most practical: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo
Julie Zhuo was an early hire at Facebook and at 25 found herself managing a team of designers. As the company grew, so did the number of people she was managing. In The Making of a Manager she discusses the perils and pitfalls of becoming a manager and offers helpful advice for how to avoid them. I actually found this the most useful of the lot. Not everything she talks about applies to the job that I do, but enough did that I started making notes. And although she works in tech and draws her examples from her own experience, it doesn’t feel like you’re being lectured by a Facebook zealot and it felt like she’d worked hard to make her advice applicable to most sorts of teams and workplaces and so I think almost anyone who manages people could get something out of this.
So there you have it. I think on balance I got enough from the good books to make up for the bad bits, but next time I do this (if there is a next time!) I’m going to pay better attention to the blurbs and try and decode things a bit better. Also maybe stop reading the stuff I don’t like before it makes me ragey. Three of these came from the library (hello again themes of my 2019 obsessions) but The Making of a Manager came from NetGalley.
Until Monday – Happy Reading!