I’m only halfway through this book but I can already tell you, you MUST read it (if you’re into non-fiction I suppose): Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich is one of my favorite social critics, and if you haven’t read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America you really need to RUN to the library right this minute and start reading. It was first published in 2001 but sadly is more relevant than ever.
Bright-Sided is unexpectedly fascinating, a book that I picked up in a hurry through the stacks mostly because of the author and not because (I thought) I was especially interested in the topic. But she delivers piercing insights on so many aspects of American culture it has been a surprisingly informative read… from The Secret to downsizing to the origins of Christian Science to Calvinism to motivational speaking. Ehrenreich’s talent is in producing these pretty information-dense books in a thoroughly engaging way: she writes with a strong narrative voice that is wry, skeptical, and critical, but with a delightful dry sense of humor that keeps some of the grimmest critiques from sounding dour.
On a lighter note, I devoured Tina Fey’s Bossypants in two days. I once heard some scientist type on NPR claiming that since laughter is a social cue, people never laugh when alone… I know definitively that is not true because I laughed out loud many times while reading this. It’s hard to review an author who is funnier AND smarter than me so I’ll quit while I’m behind.
I also finished a book by another of my idols, Things I Learned About My Dad (In Therapy): Humorous and Heartfelt Essays edited by Heather B. Armstrong. I asked for it for Mother’s Day even though it’s a collection of essays about fatherhood – about being a father, having a father, being married to the father of your children, etc. Interesting to me that the strongest writing came from bloggers who I’ve already heard of and followed – which is not to say that I’m totally hip but that the really famous ones have earned their fame by writing well. If you’d rather just read their blogs… my favorites came from Heather of course, Jon Armstrong,Alice Bradley, James Griffioen, Doug French, and Eden Kennedy.