Men, feminism, silver linings, and John Green: my recent & favorite reads

 

I have been devouring books like nobody’s business lately and in the process have come across some really great reads. I’ve always been a bookworm, but I don’t usually have the abundance of free time to truly devote to reading for pleasure. If there is one positive thing about not being in school for the semester, it’s the surplus of time to read what I choose, when I choose.

1. The Mismeasure of Man – Stephen Jay Gould

One of my favorite professors lent this book to me back in January. It’s one of his favorites, and he frequently references it in our discussions, so he suggested I check it out. I’m digesting it piece by piece (unfinished), but it is a really stimulating and thought-provoking read. Gould discusses the history of “measuring” the worth and intelligence of man (he uses man in the title to point out that it was long assumed that women were inferior anyway). From measuring the size of skulls to IQ tests, he reveals the fallacies that surround these measurements and basically explains that the tests do not provide accurate information but merely reinforce systems of inequality (intentionally or otherwise). He discusses race and gender especially, pointing out the implications of socialized beliefs that people of color and women are naturally inferior. Groundbreaking stuff, y’all.

2. Female Chauvinist Pigs – Ariel Levy

I’ve already devoted an entire post to this book, so I’ll be brief. Essentially, Levy’s work is a discussion of raunch culture and how it has impacted the modern feminist movement. She details the history of the women’s movement from the 60s on and leads us up to the present day – a time of Playboy Bunnies and Girls Gone Wild. Her analysis is thought provoking and comes from a different angle than traditional feminist writings. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

3. How to Be Good – Nick Hornby

Another recommendation from my professor, this book makes you think. Nick Hornby has become one of my favorite authors, mainly because of his writing style. It’s not ornate or flowery – it gets the point across simply and bluntly. He’s just real about things – no bullshit. His writing has a way of reaching the reader’s most vulnerable thoughts and feelings (that’s how I was affected, at least). How to Be Good explores a woman’s struggle to understand what it means to be a good person, and she basically learns that it’s much easier to espouse goodness than to actually live it out. This is something that we can all relate to, because I like to think that most of us genuinely want to do good in the world.

4. Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

I’ve also written about this previously, so you know my thoughts. Still, I’ll once again recommend checking this book out (and the movie). It’s one of my favorite discoveries of the semester.

5. Killing Rage – bell hooks

I knew I had to read bell hooks at some point. I mean, she’s a feminist legend, right? So I picked out Killing Rage – Ending Racism from my favorite used bookstore. This one is unfinished also, if only for the reason that this book is INTENSE. Seriously, y’all, bell hooks does not play around. I can only read one chapter at a time because there is just so much to digest and ponder in her writing. She does not sugar coat anything or apologize for her feelings and that makes for some really powerful writing. And she hits the nail on the head every time. Every uncomfortable truth is strikingly evident after reading her words – you can’t read this book without acknowledging that racism is alive and well in our culture.

6. An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

Oh, John Green! Where have you been all of my life? I feel like my high school experience was majorly lacking because I never read John Green until now (at 20 years old). Katherines was my first book by Green, and it didn’t take me long to eat it up. His characters are immensely likeable and relatable and his plot progressions keep you hooked. I loved Katherines but I loved The Fault in Our Stars even more…

7. The Fault in our Stars, quite simply, broke my heart into a million pieces. In the best possible way, mind you. There are several explanations for this occurrence. One, the book is about two cancer survivors who find love in one another both because of and despite their illness. The main character, Hazel, has lung cancer – just like my mom. This book was almost TOO real for me (and my mom, who read it as well), but I ended up loving it. Literally, I could not put this thing down. I read it in less than 48 hours, experiencing a roller coaster of emotions during this very short time. Besides intimately relating to the story, Green’s portrayal of the love between Hazel and Augustus was just beautiful (I’m a huge sucker for romance). I could go on and on about this book, but I’ll just leave you with an insistent suggestion that you read it as soon as possible.

8. About a Boy – Nick Hornby

This is probably my second favorite recent read, after TFIOS. I just finished it today, a mere three days after I picked it up. God, this book is beautiful. So poignant and real. It’s an interesting look at masculinity and touches on themes of depression, suicide, and puberty. It traces the story of Will (36) and Marcus (12), whose paths cross unexpectedly. Their unlikely friendship develops as each of them grow in their own way. Their story is sometimes laced with sadness and despair, and other times full of hope and happiness. It’s also rich with philosophizing about the meaning of life, “the point of it all” and all of that good stuff. Read it. Check out the movie, too (with the always charming Hugh Grant as Will).

Next on my list: The Thursday Next Series, by Jasper Fforde. I’m still searching for more female-authored works – suggestions appreciated!

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