Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
In today's world, when work and home life seem to intertwine and
many of us are tethered to technology that keeps us constantly
available, time is our most precious commodity. In
Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has theTime, Brigid Schulte takes a look at the U.S.'s perpetual time
crunch and what makes us all in such a hurry. Schulte offers
extensive research regarding time, work, and play in the U.S. and
the results are fascinating: it turns out time is gendered in our
society. Schulte argues that the myth of the "ideal worker"
(an employee who puts in hours upon hours of face time in at work
and will drop everything at a moment's notice for their employer)
is detrimental to the health and happiness of individuals and does
nothing at all to support families. Women, particularly
mothers, assumed to be the care givers in families, are the ones
who suffer the most; they make less money, are less likely to rise
to management levels within companies, and feel relentless pressure
to be the perfect parent. Schulte offers lots of data to back
up her argument, and she suggests changes (including paid
maternity/paternity leave, paid vacation, flexible work hours,
more egalitarian household duties, etc.) that she thinks would
offer better support to families and in turn generate happy,
healthy, and productive workers.
I found this book extremely interesting to read despite a topic
that, handled differently, could have easily been boring; it made
me look at structures in our society that are taken for granted and
realize that, yes, we can have more time, better gender equality,
and still be a productive society. I do wish more attention
was paid to how low income families and people of color are
impacted by "the overwhelm" as the author describes it-although
Schulte occasionally addresses both income and race, there's plenty
more that could have been discussed along those lines.
Despite that flaw, I came away from this book with the feeling that
the topic of time--both work and leisure--is incredibly important to
discuss and that a cultural shift in how we think about time could
have a huge, positive impact on our society.
Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a familiar name to many vegans; she’s written a number of vegan cookbooks, including the classic Veganomican, an essential recipe collection and culinary guide for those who avoid cooking with animal products, and she has a popular website focusing on vegan baking and cooking, Post Punk Kitchen. Her latest cookbook endeavor is Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildy Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, and let’s just say I’m in love. Isa Does It is chock full of over 200 delicious and easy-to-make recipes, highlighted by beautiful photos and charming illustrations. As with all her recipes that I’ve made, I’ve found them to be fairly quick (between a half-an-hour to an hour to make) and layered with complex flavors. This is a great cookbook for people who aren’t vegan, too; as a vegetarian, I find I’m occasionally disappointed by vegan cookbooks because they use a lot of uncommon ingredients or dairy replacements that I wouldn’t want to buy. Isa Does It relies on fairly common ingredients, making it a great choice for not only vegans, but also for vegetarians and for omnivores looking for ideas for “Meatless Mondays.”
Isa Does It
Jesmyn Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction with her book Salvage the Bones, a novel that follows a poor Mississippi family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina and uses their story to confront issues of poverty and racism. Ward’s new book Men We Reaped continues the discussion of poverty and race, but this time the stakes seem even higher: Men We Reaped is a memoir centering on the death of five men, in as many years, in her small DeLisle, Mississippi community. All five men touched her life in some manner, but the heart of the book lies with the death of her beloved brother Joshua. Though the circumstance of each death varies, they are inevitably linked by unyielding poverty and deeply systemic racism.
Interspersed between the stories of their deaths, Ward tells stories of her childhood; the nonlinear storyline of the book unwinds like a puzzle—as more pieces of her childhood and details of her community are revealed, the issues that tie the deaths together become more apparent, and her feelings that the black men in her community are being stolen away are understandable. Ward knows the hopelessness, the fear, and sadness left behind when a community loses its men; this is her attempt to tell their stories and let the world know that their lives mattered.
Men We Reaped
One of my favorite things about reading a novel is when I come across one with characters so believable, so engaging, that I think about them for days after I’ve finished the book. Eleanor and Parkwas just one of those books for me, and I nearly decided not to read it because it was labeled as young adult fiction. Based on the recommendation of someone whose opinion I trusted, I put my teen lit prejudices aside and found I couldn’t put the book down once I had picked it up. Eleanor and Park are sixteen in 1986, social outcasts, and falling in love over comic books and New Wave. I’m certain I would have been friends with them in high school.
Tension in the novel arises from Eleanor’s home life—she lives in poverty with an abusive stepfather. Her situation is a tough one, and it’s heartbreaking, but author Rainbow Rowell manages present her story in a realistic way without turning it into a schmaltzy after-school special. I consider the absence of schmaltz a major feat since this is basically a story about two socially awkward teenagers falling in love for the first time, and it’s ripe with opportunities for sentimentality. This book is good for anyone, teen or adult, who likes great character development.
Eleanor and Park
While reading two books, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Two Whole Cakes, I came across references to a movement called “Health at Every Size (HAES).” Unfamiliar with the phrase, I did a little research and found a book called Health at Every Size: the Surprising Truth about Your Weight by Linda Bacon. In her book, Bacon discusses obesity and dieting and concludes that humans have evolved to store fat well, but not to lose it. She uses scientific studies (she herself is a scientist) to back up her argument that diets don’t work and that a number on scale does not determine a person’s health or wellbeing. Bacon urges people not to look at food (any food) as good or bad, but to listen to their bodies and eat food that makes them feel their best—energized and strong. She also encourages readers to incorporate more activity into their daily lives, but to focus on activity that is enjoyable and not a chore.
This is not a diet book; in fact it’s the opposite: Bacon advises people to pay attention the way their bodies feel in relation to food and movement to improve health, not to lose weight. I really, really liked this book; it was incredibly refreshing to read a book talking about health that urges you to listen to your body, to trust it to tell you what you need—I’d rather trust myself with my health than a diet industry that makes a huge profit selling people one particular body ideal.
health at every size: the surprising truth about your weight