Book Reviews: September 2018

I read four books in September. They were all just okay, no new favorites this time around.

  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

  • 1984 by George Orwell

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler

  • Florida by Lauren Groff


SO YOU’VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED BY JON RONSON

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson is a non-fiction book that dives into the human tendency to shame others and how people survive being shamed.

DSC_0079.jpg

I first heard of this book when Chrissy Teigen tweeted about it. To be clear - I don’t troll. I have never attacked someone online to name call, threaten, or doxx them. Occasionally, I retweet an article to express frustration at how evil people can be, but that’s where my online judgement ends. (Okay, okay. I complain about people who are part of pyramid schemes a lot on Twitter…but in those cases, I’m pissed at predatory MLM companies.)

The good thing about this book is that it made me stop and think about my mindset in moments I’m retweeting something. Am I just trying to make myself feel better? Do I know all the facts? Should this person’s entire life be over because of one mistake?

I couldn’t give this book more than three stars, however, and there were two main reasons for this.

First, Ronson didn’t give the reader any big takeaways. He interviewed various types of people, judges and journalists and “normal” people. At the end, I found myself wanting to read more from experts, because I found the parts about women’s prisons, court transcripts that shamed a girl into suicide (so heartbreaking), and feedback loops the most interesting but I didn’t learn nearly enough about those. All I really thought at the end was “I should try not to be so quick to judge others.” But...I was trying to do that before I read this.

Second, I was irritated at how he portrayed some of his interviewee choices. Interviewing a teenager who frequents 4chan* is fine but Ronson seemed more amused than bothered by her actions. Also, Ronson said at one point that Justine Sacco’s twitter joke wasn’t racist. Er, what? I think she probably did her time in the court of public opinion but let’s not pretend what she said wasn’t gross and racist. It was, and that’s what made her go viral in the first place. Side note: Sacco’s story was the only one I was familiar with prior to reading. Everyone else Ronson wrote about was new to me.

*(If you don’t know what 4chan is, don’t go there. Just trust me when I say it’s a vile place on the internet. I was introduced to it years ago and it horrified me so much I never returned.)

I think this book is a great conversation starter in the days of online pitchfork mobs, and it’s a good reminder to myself that I rarely know the full story. Just don’t expect it to be very deep.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

1984 BY GEORGE ORWELL

Orwell’s 1984 is a look into a totalitarian society where no hope for a future of freedom exists.

DSC_0096.jpg

I somehow missed reading this book in school. I’ve always had a general idea of the plot, but figured I’d go ahead and try it when I saw it promoted on Overdrive due to Great American Reads. I want to complete those “books everyone should read” lists, and 1984 is always on there.

I realize giving classic books a low rating makes it seem like I think I’m smarter than the book...but hear me out. That’s not the case. I completely respect the book’s impact. I get why it’s been taught in public schools for so long. Big Brother is terrifying because this world is not so far fetched.

I just couldn’t enjoy 1984 because the main character SUUUUUCKED. From the moment Winston had rape fantasies about Julia, I hated him. I’m sure some philosophy or history major out there could tell me what rape fantasies represented in Orwellian societies, but that wouldn’t change my mind. Julia was annoying but better than Winston. Ironically, I liked their last interaction the best. Want to know who was the most fascinating character to me? Chinless man who tried to give the other prisoner bread at the end - forget Winston, what was his thought process in that moment?

To conclude my whining - this is a book I should’ve been able to read in just a few hours. It took me six weeks.

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

YES PLEASE BY AMY POEHLER

DSC_0086.jpg

I’ve always liked Amy Poehler. I binge watched Parks & Rec for the first time ever this summer, so now I really love Amy Poehler. Celebrity memoirs always disappoint me, though. Poehler is a talented TV writer, but that didn’t translate well into a book. I lost count of the times she talked about how hard this was to write.

My favorite part was when she wrote a bit about all of her Parks & Rec castmates. That made me happy. She had some funny childhood stories too. It was mostly centered around her improv and SNL days, which I didn’t care for as much, but it was still cool to put together a timeline of her life.

On the plus side, this is a very quick read. If you’re a Poehler fan you’ll enjoy these stories. I just wish celebrities, especially hilarious ones like her, would stop writing books and just do a really long interview where they talk about their lives. I’d much rather hear Poehler talk!

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

FLORIDA BY LAUREN GROFF

Florida is a collection of short stories. Most are based in the sunny state, but a few stories were about Floridians on vacation.

DSC_0100.jpg

There were two stories I really enjoyed. Dogs Go Wolf, about two young sisters left on an island, and Above and Below, about a college student who became homeless. Those were my clear favorites, but as I’m writing this Salvador comes to mind too. So I guess those are my top three.

The last story, Yport, was the longest by far. I guess that one was supposed to be the best, but I didn’t care for it. I was annoyed at the mom who made her kids uncomfortable in order to go on some self-discovery mission to Europe.

Although the book overall was a bit dark for my taste, I think Groff’s writing really shines in short stories. I read Fates and Furies a couple years ago and while I enjoyed it, I remember parts of it being a little over the top. Florida’s length kept the writing polished but allowed plenty of room for standout lines such as: “One thing I liked was how the screens at night pulsed with the tender bellies of lizards.”

If you like dark themes you might love this. It is October, after all!

Rating: 3 of 5 stars