Reading Challenge

Aileen attempts to read a book a week. Follow along as she loses her mind. We used the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge as inspiration, then went off on our own, as you’ll find we do a lot around here. Join in by reading the books Aileen reads, or by choosing your own.

Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking

Originally, I was a history major in college. History is an endlessly depressing subject. Most every major historical event ends with, “and they all died horribly.” The flu pandemic of 1918. London in 1666. The East India Company. The Roman Empire. Plague. Wars. Dynastic marriages.

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Word by Word

Word by Word by Kory Stamper offers an interesting and entertaining look inside one of the processes we humans use in our ongoing attempt to communicate with each other. I am talking about dictionaries, the books and now websites and apps we go to in an effort to understand not only what we want to say but what others mean.

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The Jane Austen Project

The Jane Austen Project is a perfect book for this time of year. At least for me it is. My brain is so filled with lists and half-baked hopes for a fun and festive holiday season that facts and figures can’t fit in. So I generally set aside my heavier reading and pick up lighter fare. On a side note, I am still attempting to get through The Calculus Diaries. It is slow going and I tend to read it when I feel anxious that I’ll have trouble getting to sleep. My confusion regarding the subject matter calms my anxiety and I am usually asleep within 10 minutes. Read more


Poverty in America takes many forms. In Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Sarah Smarsh reveals her personal experience of growing up poor in rural Kansas. Growing up as Americans moved away from farming and the midwest, Smarsh watched as support for her family’s way of life dried up, leaving very little left to tie a fifth generation farmer to the land. Read more

So you want to talk about race reading challenge

So You Want to Talk About Race

Given the abysmal voting practice of white women in the midterm election, it was clear to me that I needed to brush up on my talking points around race. There is obviously so much work to be done.  I was frankly floored that white women voted for conservative white men at rates higher than in the 2016 Presidential election. Shocking considering the garbage pulled by the current administration.

If you’re equally appalled and are at a loss over how to talk to people about the difficult subject of race, Ijeoma Oluo’s book, So You Want to Talk About Race, is a great place to start. Oluo’s writing is engaging, relatable and digestible. She breaks down conversations by topic, including subjects like police brutality, affirmative action, cultural appropriation and microaggressions. So much good info. Before you ask a single black woman a question about race and how to do better, take the time to read this book.

For my part, I will only be reading books by women of color for the next several months.  Currently on my list are This Will be my Undoing by Morgan Jerkins (Aileen wrote about it last week, but I haven’t read it yet), The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay.  What else? Comment with your recommendations!

This Will be My Undoing

If you only have time read one book this season, make it Morgan Jerkins’ This Will be My Undoing. Released in late January of 2018, the book is now a New York Times bestseller. It might be sitting somewhere in your house or on your kindle and maybe you haven’t gotten around to reading it. Read more

The Price of Motherhood Reading Challenge

The Price of Motherhood

I am a social sciences nerd. Give me that data! This book hit on all cylinders for me. The Price of Motherhood is written by Ann Crittenden, former reporter for the New York times, financial writer, lecturer, economics commentator, Pulitzer Prize nominee and mother.  It’s a well researched history and analysis of the impact that motherhood has on the economic and social standing of women. Every page of my copy is covered in notes, highlights, and lots of WTF?! and Really????

In my humble opinion, motherhood is a worthwhile endeavor. I’ve devoted my life to it – without regret.  I also wholeheartedly support every woman’s choice to become a mother or not. That said, there are real and insidious forces that keep mothers from achieving many of the advances of the women’s movement.  Studies have shown that an important element of the gender wage gap is a penalty for bearing children.

Would it have been nice to have more flexible options for being a mother and also remaining in the workforce?  Absolutely. Would I have liked to have opportunities that kept me professionally engaged, while also giving me the flexibility to attend to my children the way I saw fit? Without a doubt. Do I want my daughters to have better options should they decide to become mothers? Bingo. That’s why I’m here.

This book was published in 2001. I have many notes to myself to look into more current statistics, but from my experience and the research Aileen and I have done on the subject, very little has changed over the last 17 years.  We are no closer to family friendly work policies, access to quality, affordable childcare or government policies that do anything but punish women for doing the thing we are expected to do, be mothers.

As I mentioned before, the book is incredibly well researched. There are 30 pages of footnotes. It is a dense and infuriating read. I highly recommend it, but if you’re not into this kind of book, I’ll highlight some of the more interesting/disturbing facts:

  • Motherhood is the single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age.
  • Almost all of the activities of mothers are omitted from the scorecard of capitalism.
  • Mothers typically spend more of their income on their children, so countries who provide subsidies to mothers in the form of paid leave, reduced work hours and subsidized childcare, have much lower rates of childhood poverty.
  • US tax laws discourage two breadwinner families
  • Aside from not being paid for their work, mothers are omitted from other worker benefits like Social Security, disability insurance and workers comp.
  • Divorce laws and child support systems are heavily weighted in favor of the post divorce lifestyle of fathers.
  • Although childcare workers are entrusted with children during the most vulnerable and impactful years of their lives, the work is often classified as unskilled labor and paid an abysmal wage.
  • The US Department of Defense offers the largest and arguably the best subsidized childcare system in the country.
  • Women have often stood in the way of progress on this issue.

The final chapter of the book outlines some excellent policy ideas to improve the economic and social status for mothers.  Some of the ideas are revolutionary and some are simple and straightforward, but in the almost 20 years since the book was published, not a single one of them have been implemented in the US.

Good and Mad Reading Challenge

Good and Mad

Sometimes the books I pre-order match what is happening in my life. Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister is one of those books. I think this is a book that will engender many different reviews and reactions.

But what about mine? I have to say that I had a hard time getting into it. I generally skip Introductions and after wading through two pages of this one, I went to Chapter One.

And Chapter Two. And then I stopped. Went back to read Chapter One.

Was it me? I’m off my antidepressant medication schedule and so my brain felt a bit ham salad so I set the book aside for a day and then picked it back up yesterday.

And read literally 2 sentences before my dad called. He lives in a seniors only apartment and he wanted a ride to see his dermatologist. And since he offered lunch as the carrot, off I went. And then Older Son was home for a night and Spectrum Cable gave me the run around and here the post is due and the book isn’t read.

So I don’t know what I think of this book because for the first time since we started this, I haven’t read the book!

Let me look around the web to see if anyone interesting has anything worthwhile to say. Be back.

Here you go, Danielle Kurtzleben‘s review of Good and Mad for NPR is exactly what I was looking for.

Women & Power

This week I read Mary Beard’s manifesto (her word) Women & Power. At a scant 107 pages, the book is short yet powerful. Beard is one of the world’s foremost classics scholars. This book attempts to trace the oppression of women in the Western culture, the silencing of their voices from The Odyssey to today. As Beard says, “When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.” Read more

The Index Card Reading Challenge

The Index Card

This week has been such a shitshow I wasn’t sure this was the right book to talk about. But then I realized that The Index Card gives solid advice to people who worry about their financial life but have very little time and money to spend on it. That’s pretty much everyone I know. Read more