I was on break from grad school this week, so I used the time to do some relaxing fiction reading. I read some great books! I also passed the fifty book mark for the year, so I found that to be pretty exciting.
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Lukianoff and Haidt took an article that they wrote for The Atlantic and developed it into a book-length piece exploring the “three great untruths” that iGen believes, the effects of these beliefs, how they came to believe these untruths and what parents and universities can do to reverse the current trend of untruth.
There is good information to be had in this book, and the authors admit that they’re targeting some extreme cases in what is, while a concerning trend, something that they do not expect to spiral out of control. They also admit that many of the behaviors and attitudes that seem so extreme among these college students are “problems of progress.” In other words, our society has become such a good society that we find ourselves dealing with the problems made by that society. Truly minor irritations in the scheme of things.
Perhaps the most troubling thing that Lukianoff and Haidt point to is the rise in anxiety and depression in teen girls that correlates with their excessive social media use. I find that I struggle with anxiety, depression and the “need for more” as I spend more time looking at Facebook and Instagram, so it only makes sense not to have that as an option for a young girl in her formative years. If I, at forty, had to close myself off from social media as a hard boundary, perhaps teens (especially girls) should not be given the burden of dealing with social media.
Overall, however, this book is interesting in seeing trends, but it is not doomsday, and I think that some readers of the article and the book have taken it to be so. I also think that Lukianoff and Haidt’s suggestion to young people to take a gap year and work or serve during that year between high school and college would be a great trend that would reverse some of the extreme behavior of privilege seen on college campuses, as many college students who have swallowed the “great untruths” are ones who have been academically shepherded by parents from high school to college without ever really having a chance to play a role in the “real world.” (book 47 of 2019)
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Queenie is going through a “break” with her boyfriend. She has a supportive group of friends, an out-of-touch family, and a boss that just doesn’t seem to give her any good stories to write for their publication. She also has habit of spending too much time on an app called OKCupid, finding what amounts to a string of hookups. Will Queenie confront the pain that she has buried within? Will she get her life sorted out? Will her break with Tom led to a reunion or a break-up?
This book has its moments. It’s funny. I loved the interplay between her and her friends. Some of the skeezy encounters that she has with men are funny too. Others are just plain uncomfortable, and on occasion, violent. This is a book that has been compared by the publisher’s blurb with Bridget Jones’ Diary, so I was expecting lighthearted dating misadventure. I was not expecting someone with real pain, who was dulling that pain through a series of increasingly random and violent sexual encounters. In fact, I almost put down the book at one point because I was concerned that the content might get worse.
I am glad I didn’t stop reading though because the journey into Queenie’s darkness was worth it when I was able to read her coming into herself, dealing with her demons, and becoming the woman that she was always meant to be. This turned out to be a really good and really empowering story of a young woman dealing with the mistakes and traumas of her past and becoming stronger and more able because of those mistakes and traumatic experiences. (book 48 of 2019)
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This book covers about 18 months of the Ingalls family on their homestead and living in town for winter. Laura and Carrie going to school and Laura’s studies and social life are the focus of this novel. The children and I read this one aloud and I think this one is one of my favorites of this series. (book 49 of 2018)
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Daisy Jones and the Six was the megastar band of the 1970s, and they suddenly broke up with no one knowing exactly why. The narrator in this story is a journalist, telling the story of the rise and fall of the band, attempting to piece together the why behind the breakup. With several strong characters, and sex, drugs and rock and roll abounding, this book is quite a fascinating read.
I really loved this one, and I enjoyed the format of book as well. This is a mock documentary, told in a style very reminiscent of the old VH1 show, The Story Behind the Music. I spent hours watching that show, so getting the story of this band through contrasting interviews was so fascinating. It was hard to believe I was reading a novel and not a real documentary as I read the book. I also was completely pulled into Billy and Daisy’s story. I really just loved the whole book, and wanted to sit around and read it.
I also do need to stop and say that I have read all three of the books from my Book of the Month box in the month it came in for the first time ever. Great selections this month!! (book 50 of 2019)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Last year her book Spinning Silver made my top ten list for 2018, and it was the first book that I’ve read by her. I’ve been looking at Uprooted for months, and finally decided that this week was the time to read it. This story is perhaps a very loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, at least that’s what I heard when I was looking for reviews and things on the book. So, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong.
Every ten years a fearsome wizard, The Dragon, takes a girl from one of the villages under his domain. This story is told from the perspective of one of the girls he has taken as tribute. There’s interesting interactions, magical powers and a malevolent wood that seems to be stealing people for evil purposes in this one. I don’t want to say more about this book because I don’t want to give too much away, but this one has a good shot at making my list of favorite books for 2019. I’m debating whether I love it or Spinning Silver more. Seriously. I also purchased a kindle copy of His Majesty’s Dragon to see if I would like some of her other writing as much. (book 51 of 2019)
That’s all my reading for this week. I started reading for class towards the end of the week. (My new favorite topic is the history of biblical interpretation.) I also started Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, but as much as I’m enjoying it, I’m not really feeling fiction right now (too much research reading has my head firmly locked into nonfiction), so we’ll see what I end up reading for next week.
Hoping you have a great week, and if you live here in the US that you’re wearing your green for St. Patrick’s Day!!