Reading Challenge #20: A Book with Career Advice


Title: Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”

Author: Lena Dunham

How it fulfills the challenge: This book doesn’t actually give all that much advice in the traditional sense, but the essays are written in such a way that you discover the career lessons for yourself. Namely, listening to your heart and going after the things you want even when it’s uncomfortable.

Genre: Memoir/essays

Quick Description: A book of essays about growing up, discovering who you are, and not being (too) afraid of who you turn out to be.

But ambition is a funny thing: it creeps up on you when you least expect if and keeps you moving, even when you think you want to stay put. I missed making things, the meaning it gave this long march we call life.

Highlights: Dunham’s writing style is warm and chatty. I’m pretty familiar with it because I’m a Lenny newsletter subscriber, and so I already knew I would like her informal writing style. Her stories are interesting and easy to relate to, even though I haven’t experienced a lot of the same things.

Low Points: Non-fiction tends to be aimed at a very specific audience, given that it’s usually written on a pretty narrow topic. You probably won’t like Dunham’s book if you like a more cohesive narrative style, if you don’t identify as a feminist, or if you don’t have an interest in the arts or media.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though in parts I wish the writing had been a little closer. A quick, interesting read.


Women Writers Reading Challenge #51: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore


So the early Wonder Woman? Yeah, she was kind of a badass. And she is descended from some of the most influential suffragettes and women’s rights leaders of the early twentieth century, owing debts to Margaret Sanger and Emmeline Pankhurst. Her creator also invented the lie detector (though the patented invention–the polygraph–would be created by someone else). It’s a strange road that leads to Wonder Woman, and Jill Lepore navigates crazy amounts of available materials to bring her history to life. Well paired with images, Lepore’s text is engaging, with just the right kinds of details. The history behind this character is…complicated, and the author explores her subject with enthusiasm and without judgment. I really enjoyed this book and all the wonderful, hidden, almost-forgotten stories that Lepore uncovers. If you’re interested in comics or feminism, consider giving this history a try; I think it will make you see this popular heroine just a little differently.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Women Writers Reading Challenge #47: Mimi by Lucy Ellmann


I don’t know what it is about some books, but from the moment I see the cover or hear the title of the book, I’m instantly convinced that it is a book I MUST read. They are usually quiet books like The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which is another book I love. I almost instinctively know that this book and I will be very good friends. Every time I see it or hear about it, the need to read it is just intensified. And that’s how it was for me and Mimi. I don’t know exactly led me to this book–destiny–I suppose. But I was in store for a book with beautiful lyricism. Ellmann has an unbelievable mastery of various literary devices like alliteration. And she gets away with exclamation points! I’ve been scared of excess punctuation since high school, but her exclamation points are so exciting and such a breath of fresh air. Her prose has a luminous, poetic quality and the story was just. so. good. It’s not a book that shouts; it’s much quieter than that. It tells one man’s story with clarity and light. It’s a book about love and growth–how one special person can change your life forever.

I know I haven’t explained this book very well. I certainly haven’t done it justice. You’ll just have to read it.

Have you read this one? I’d love to hear if you’re as crazy for this book as I am.

Are there books that haunt you? That don’t leave you alone until you read them? What were they and what were your thoughts afterwards?

Women Writers Reading Challenge #40: Marilyn by Gloria Steinem


This lovely coffee table book was created about 25 years after Marilyn Monroe’s death, which means that it has the benefit of many other biographies coming before it (more perspective). Originally conceived by Marilyn with photographer George Barris, the project was supposed to feature his pictures and her text to “set the record straight.”

Her death, just weeks after these photos were taken, meant that the project was buried. Gloria Steinem, the well known feminist activist, only met Marilyn once, but her biographic essays have an extraordinary amount of sensitivity, and she paints a portrait of the icon as vulnerable and utterly human.

One particularly interesting part of the text comes from Steinem’s discussion of Marilyn Monroe as a unique phenomenon–what other movie star has lasted so long in our psyches? She is still more well known than many of our current stars, and you only have to look at youtube makeup tutorials to see how she has endured. Steinem explores reasons for this as well as providing context for Marilyn’s troubled life.

If you’re interested in Marilyn Monroe or about old Hollywood in general, I would definitely recommend this book. I had no idea how powerful it would be to see the last picture taken of her before her death, but I found it incredibly moving.