Educated, by Tara Westover

Five stars, read in April 2019. There was a lot about this that was depressingly familiar to me. I grew up in the same religion as Tara, though her family believed in it much more literally than mine did. Relatedly, her childhood was more violent than mine was; my version of the story is mostly…

We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Five stars, read in November 2017. This book covers the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. For each year, there is an article Coates wrote for The Atlantic, preceded by an essay (“a sort of extended blog post,” I think is how he describes it) in which he looks back on his own work and assesses…

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch

Two or three stars, read and reviewed in July 2014. This was not as exciting as I expected it to be, I think because I had a hard time connecting with the author. It may be obnoxious of me—and this wasn’t the only reason I didn’t connect with her—but I get impatient with women who…

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, by Wendy Simmons

Four stars, read in January 2018. I almost didn’t take this home, irritated with it for seeming flippant about a subject that is not in any way amusing (particularly after I’d just finished accounts by Jang Jin-sung and Suki Kim that were emotional and difficult to read). I flipped through to see the photos, of which there are many,…

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Four stars, or maybe 3.5, read in September 2017. I haven’t actually spoken to many people about Hillary Clinton, because I try not to for my own sanity. But when I have, and when I’ve read articles and books about her, they have almost never—the “almost” might not even be necessary—been entirely reasonable. Hillary has said…

Hidden Gems in Biography and Memoir

I won’t write about every one of these, because in some cases (Angela Davis, Meghan Daum, Mara Wilson) I’ve already written more than you wanted to read. In some cases—Anjelica Huston, Helen Mirren—the books are just a deep, interesting look into the life of a fabulous, fascinating woman (ha! and I have just realized that…

An Autobiography, by Angela Davis

Five stars, read in April 2017. Yes, once again a post has taken me this long to write. For years I have been meaning to find out more about Angela Davis, and as so often happens, now that I’ve finally met her books I cannot believe it took me so long—or that in all my reading, she’s…

Just Kids, by Patti Smith

Four stars, read in February 2017. I didn’t know much about Patti Smith before this and hadn’t heard of Robert Mapplethorpe at all, so this book was a springboard into a huge number of artistic works for me to explore. I’ve been listening to her first album, Horses, since finishing the book a few days…

Coretta: The Story of Coretta Scott King, by Octavia Vivian

Four stars, read in March 2012. I wrote this review back then, on my old blog, and have meant to repost it here. Now the timing is even more perfect, not just because of Black History Month, but because her name is in the news since Elizabeth Warren was punished for reading her words against Jeff…

Why We Can’t Wait, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Five stars, read in January 2017. If you want a perfect example of why this book is (STILL) necessary, consider this: It’s a book about the same time period, the same issues, as To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee—the book nearly every person in the United States had to read in school. While I…

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

Three and a half stars, read in September 2016. Do you sometimes have books that get stuck to whatever the circumstances were when you read them? Like, if you were in a particular place, then every time you go to that place you think of that book, and you almost feel as though you’re reading…

Where Am I Now?, by Mara Wilson

Four stars, read in September 2016. I discovered the grown-up Mara Wilson on Twitter earlier this year, and I was excited to learn she had a book coming out. Like many women our age (including Mara Wilson, who is two years younger than me), I was strongly influenced by Matilda as a child. There were so few…

Fresh Off the Boat, by Eddie Huang

Three and a half stars, read in September 2016. I don’t speak hip-hop, so a significant portion of this book was entirely incomprehensible to me. That sounds like a joke, but “colloquial” doesn’t even begin to cover the vocabulary, and that’s before I take all the sports jargon into account. I could at least get…

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, by Lindy West

Five stars, read in August 2016. This was every bit as brilliant as I knew it would be. I kept track of so many quotes I wanted to share, and by quotes I mean chapters, basically. I should probably just link to “Hello, I Am Fat,” because every word of it is gold, and I…

Hollywood Women Memoirs

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling Three and a half stars, read in October 2015. I like Mindy Kaling, and I enjoyed her first book. This second one was ninety percent frivolous and fun, ten percent actual awesome shit. The last couple pages made me feel like it was a much more important book than it was the…

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

Five stars, read the first time in 2014, then again in 2015. This is a book I’m going to read several times in my life. It’s one of my favorites, and I realized that—although I mention it frequently on lists and in recommendations—I’ve never posted an actual review. So I’d like to remedy that. After finishing…

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein

Four stars, read in December 2015. I was a little afraid, as I often am with celebrity memoirs, that this wouldn’t live up to my anticipation of it. I knew Carrie Brownstein mostly from Portlandia, but I’d heard of Sleater-Kinney and knew enough about that to be really excited for the book. I was not…

The Beats: A Graphic History, by Paul Buhle

Four stars, read in August 2015. I read On the Road five years ago, my first foray into the collective oeuvre of the Beat Generation. It wasn’t a huge success. But I’ve always had it in my head that I want to explore their work more, and I’m really into graphic biographies right now, so…

Furiously Happy / Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy: Five stars, read in October 2015. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: Three stars, read in October/November 2015. I really needed to know about Jenny Lawson a long time ago. She’s a blogger who became famous, partly because she’s insanely funny, partly because of the conversation she fosters about mental illness. Like her legions of followers, what…

My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem

Four stars, read in February 2016. This book started and ended with goosebumps. I knew even before the table of contents that I would love it, because it began with this quote that really speaks to me: Evolution intended us to be travelers . . . Settlement for any length of time, in cave or castle,…

Paddle Your Own Canoe, by Nick Offerman

Three and a half stars, read in November 2015. This is really enjoyable and I love Nick Offerman, but I’m a bit more than halfway through and have thirteen different books going at once and it’s getting hectic so I need to give it up for now. I fully intend to finish this at some…

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, by Peter Bagge

Four stars, read in August 2015. It occurs to me that a lot of our current problems are still problems because people don’t know enough about Margaret Sanger. The divide over abortion and birth control persists a century later because people (especially men) don’t understand how inextricably sex and politics are linked for women, and this…

The Unspeakable, by Meghan Daum

Three stars, read in November/December 2015. There are a few things I have in common with Meghan Daum that I’ve never known another person to share, at least not to the same degree (and they’re things about which degree really matters). Most of her essays contain some opinions that I find obnoxious—like the many actually…

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Five stars, read in November 2015. All I can do by way of reviewing this book is quote it extensively. I really don’t feel like I can say anything about it—a feeling which, to embark on a small rant, also applies to what I’ve seen others say about it—e.g. Ryan Holiday, the poor, dejected white…

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

Four stars, read in July 2015. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this. No matter how interested I am in a nonfiction book, I usually hit a lull about two-thirds of the way through, and then it takes me a couple weeks to pick it back up again. Nothing like that happened…

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Four stars, read September 2013. I’m really becoming a fan of the graphic memoir genre. I thoroughly enjoyed this, even though the translation seemed a little clumsy and the illustrations were awkward in places (I mostly just couldn’t stop rolling my eyes every time a character held up one forefinger in the air while pontificating…