may reads : stepping out in the real world

like I said when discussing adult fiction, nonfiction really isn't my cup of tea, particularly. I want to read it, but when I actually take the time to sit down and crack upon a non-fiction book, I tend to get swallowed up by boredom.

and this month, I decided to get over that hesitancy. I didn't read as many books as I usually do, but hey--I'd rather take some time and understand what I'm reading rather than just gloss over it and not get the full experience.

+ the feminine mystique +

honestly, I liked this one the least, and ironically, it's the only one of these books that I actually own. *shrugs* this book was written by Betty Friedan, an American feminist and writer focused on activism. this book focused on the "problem that has no name"--the unknown issue that was hell-bent on creating discontent and depression in middle class women across America. it looks at the housewife and goes through all the issues that classic femininity and being a mother--and only a mother--has created. its main argument? that by reducing women to household beings and only that has shattered their sense of self and that this longing for an identity separate from their role as a mother, wife, or housewife is slowly but inevitably killing them.

now I had a lot of problems with this book, even though it had some really true and really great things to say. I'm not going to sit here and condemn the book, because I do think there is some worth to reading it, but I do think it might be better to read bell hooks' writings before touching on this one. I was able to look at Friedan's perspective as a middle class, white woman and realize the hypocrisies she was overlooking, especially those concerning class issues. there's a big theme of "women are being oppressed, women are being broken down by society, the only way for women to break out of this housewife zone is to become women with careers" but because of her focus on white middle to upper class women, she neglected to see just how different life and "oppression" was for those with less privilege and opportunities. so that was really interesting, and I'm so glad I was prepared for that aspect of this book, because bell hooks mentioned it quite a lot in feminist theory.

another aspect of the feminine mystique that I did not love was the hate on traditional feminine roles. there was constant ragging on housewives and women who chose to be mothers. I get that there are issues with how femininity is viewed (because back when this piece was written, it was expected of women to fulfill traditional feminine roles and behaviors), but that doesn't mean its the all encompassing evil that Friedan seemed to think it was. yeah, I don't understand how women who choose to be housewives and mothers and only that work because I don't function like that, but I respect their choice, and I'm sure that's what they want in life. and that doesn't make them less of a person.

and finally, it was just so freaking loooooooong. this took me thirteen days to read. THIRTEEN DAYS. and I didn't even read the epilogues or the final comments. I just said "be gone with you!" and threw it across the room (well not actually but you know the feeling this kind of book leaves you with. I was drained.)

overall, worth the read, not worth reading again. plus, there was a whole section on Freud and that just pisses me off in general, lol.

+ the anatomy of an illness +

this book. guys, I don't know if I have the words to talk about this book. but I guess even if I don't, I'm still going to, because this book was such a random delight of a read. benefits of working in a library: when you're doing self-maintenance, you find all sorts of books that you never would have picked up before.

this book was a sort of analysis of what it's like to have a chronic illness, from the perspective of someone who had his own chronic illness. Norman Cousins joked in the first chapter that he laughed himself to health, but the reality is--that's exactly what he did. he was semi-diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a condition that could have left him dead within a few weeks, but because he took a risk--aka taking Vitamin C intravenously and watching humorous videos--he was alive to write this book. his condition wasn't completely cured--he still felt pain and has the lasting effects that chronic illness always leaves on a person, but he was alive.

it was just such an interesting read. he goes through what it's like to be diagnosed, to have that rug ripped out from under your feet, to be ill, to feel like you have no hope left and that all is pointless, to be determined to live, to fight for your life and your body with every ounce of strength that you have left. it made my heart feel whole, and I have never felt so inspired. I'd been debating for months on what I want to do with psychology degree, and it was only after reading this book and just mulling over it for a few days that I finally decided. although I became a Psychology major in order to become a counselor, I really feel pulled toward clinical health psychology, and once I make it to graduate school, that's what I want to do. I didn't even know clinical health psychology was an actual thing, but it is, and there are doctors who do research about illnesses and conditions like mine, dedicated to understanding the relationship between our bodies and our minds and our overall health. I've made tentative decisions about my career before, a lot of times, but this is only one where I've felt truly confident that this is where I need to be. and that makes me so excited.

so thanks, Norman Cousins. your little brown book that I picked up by chance really shook my world.

+ feminist theory : from margin to center +

my fave out of all these. dude. I felt like I learned so much, and I really wish I'd bought this book instead of the feminine mystique. this book deals with what feminism actually is, what it means to be a feminist, and how people have twisted feminism into an identity that takes only the pieces of feminism that they want to advocate. it has such a good perspective on white feminism vs. women of color's feminism, and it also goes into class differences and all that. and even though it wasn't easy to read, it was still very engaging, and I kept encountering so many good quotes. it was just a very good, very well written, very detailed book. I don't really have that much to say about it except that you definitely should read this, I fully intend to read more of bell hooks' books, and that I'll definitely be buying a book so I mark in it and write all my thoughts (that's the issue with library books... *sigh*).

one other thing that I loved about feminist theory : from margin to center is hooks' argument that you shouldn't call yourself a feminist. instead, feminism is something you should advocate. white privilege turned feminism into more of an identity instead of a movement, and in some way, that takes away from the power and the history of the original movement.

nonfiction can be engaging. I know that now. but sometimes it takes a while to get into it, and it helps to keep that in mind as you're trying to read this kind of book. something that helped me make progress even when I would have rathered read something else was just to read 25 pages twice a day, every day. and sooner or later I'd find myself reading 50 pages twice a day or more, or just to the end of the chapter because I wanted to see how everything wrapped up together.

even if you're like me and are a little intimidated by the reputation that non-fiction has, don't worry. you can do this. and who knows--maybe you'll learn something.


  1. Nonfiction is something I should probably attempt to read every now and then, but I'm still stuck in the Y.A section of the library so it will probably take a bit.

    1. it was tough for me at first, but like I said, if you pick a subject you really like and just read 10 or 15 pages a day, you'll be amazed at how fast you get through nonfiction books. it really worked in my case!

  2. Love this post! I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but I really like the books I do read. I mainly choose books on colonial history - Walter Borneman and Nathaniel Philbrick are by far my two favorite authors.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

    1. I had never heard of those authors before! I have a hard time reading historical nonfiction (mostly because it can get really dry...and I get bored easily). But I do remember loving David McCullough's biographies when I had to read them for high school.

      Thanks for the comment! <3


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