Hi there! It’s been a busy two weeks for me; last week I put out reviews for The Invisible Man (meh) and Emma (loved it!), and on Sunday Hannah Evans and I put out our February Pop Culture Pen Pals on Succession and The Good Place. Today’s blog post is a little short, because I’m trying to just keep it a little snappier in general, but if you’re really missing me, you’ve got plenty of options!
Angel – Elizabeth Taylor
No, not that Elizabeth Taylor. I’d never even heard of this Elizabeth Taylor, and had little to no idea what to expect when starting this book. Which is really funny and often quite moving! The main character, Angel Deverell, starts the book as a discontented, imaginative, and sulky 15 year old, who starts writing pretty much on a whim, but decides immediately that she’ll be a famous writer. And it happens! Her bizarre, scandalous books are a hit in a way that feels very recognizable (think: 50 Shades), and she’s rocketed to wealth and success, but not necessarily fulfillment. She’s an odd main character, and we actually spend at least half the book viewing her from the perspective of others, most amusingly her editor and his wife, who I would have read an ENTIRE series about. The final quarter is kind of grim and drags somewhat, which put a damper on my enjoyment, but the sense of humor reminded me of Barbara Pym, which naturally I loved and made me want to read another Pym book because it’s been TOO long!!
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People – Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald
This book was a common read at my work recently, and I was…underwhelmed. There’s some good stuff in here; Banaji and Greenwald do a great job at explaining the facets of their in-depth research on unconscious bias in an accessible way. The book is very readable, and the pages turn quickly, albeit a little repetitively. The main issue I had with it is that I didn’t feel they touched on the many ways that unconscious biases are often formed, shaped, and reinforced by very conscious policies and practices. I get that that may not necessarily be Banaji and Greenwald’s forte, but I would have gotten more out of the book if that was included.
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement – Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey
TW: sexual assault
Kantor and Twohey are two of the reporters who majorly broke open the Harvey Weinstein story, after years of open secrets, settlements tied to non-disclosure agreements, and intimidation from Weinstein and his protectors. They also did a lot of the major reporting on Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, and they meticulously track their reporting process in both cases. It’s a gripping book, that despite dealing with extremely heavy material felt almost soothing? That feels weird to say, but it felt similar to me to reading The Martian, in that the book is set up around a series of problem-solving, and it was fascinating to watch them steadily approach a really complex issue with the amount of compassion they had for the survivors. But goddamn, it really is disheartening how many systems have long been in place (and for the most part still are) to allow and cover-up sexual assault, and Twohey and Kantor do a great job at explaining those systems and how they relate to the individual cases they’re reporting.
Okay well I guess this is still over 500 words, so so much for snappy, but whatever!