Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Lillian Gilbreth: Redefining Domesticity

Lillian Gilbreth: Redefining Domesticity Lillian Gilbreth: Redefining Domesticity by Julie Des Jardins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an intimate and engaging insight into one of the most prominent 20th century female engineers. It covers everything that a young woman would want to know about a role model: how she dealt with conflicting desires for the future, how she managed the work-life balance, how she created a place of her own in the field, what ideals she worked towards, how she managed under the societal expectations of her time, and what lasting influence she imparted.

The author did a great job of making her early life relatable to modern, young women. She showed how insecure Lillian was of her future, as well as both her desire to follow and grow beyond the conventional ideals of femininity. Her meeting and subsequent life with Frank Gilbreth demonstrates just how important a supportive husband is for women like her. He gave her opportunities and encouragement to pursue a career outside the home. Also, the ways that the couple ran their household is incredible, although excessively concerned with efficiency at times. However, the book also honestly admit some downsides to the Gilbreth household: the hectic pace around over-packed schedules, the children feeling some lost of individuality, and often-absent parents. Still, I do find it admirable that Lillian does address these issues and bring in the human aspect into household management. In addition, it's admirable that Frank respects his wife's contributions.

Together, their ideas about efficiency impacted so many different fields. The author emphasizes how their work helped make productivity improvements in industry a lot more humane. Lillian, especially, contributed many ideas that have lead managers to focus more on raising worker satisfaction and decrease their fatigue. This book really makes you appreciate how much her unique perspectives altered her field, and how necessary it is to have minds like hers in the public realm.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Review: Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family by Shelley Emling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book to gain another role model, but I finished the book with four new ones. Those new role models are Irene Curie, her husband Frederic Joliot, Eve Curie, and of course Marie Curie. In school, I learned that she was a dedicated and brilliant scientist who won a Nobel Prize. But this book made me realize that she was also a mother who nurtured her daughters' potential for success depite being a sickly widow. She was the ambitious founder of two radium institutions. And she was a patriot who invented X-ray to diagnose injured soldiers during World War II.

Her daughters and their spouses were also as incredible, and I'm glad this biography included their lives. It portrayed their lives in intimate detail, and you see the familial bonds that held them together, the courage they showed during the World Wars, and the humanitarian sentiments that have driven them to improve the world.

This book is a must read for any ambitious young woman, especially if she plans to be a mother. The relationship between Marie and Pierre, as well as Irene and Frederic are good models of a relationship that's supportive of ambitious women. In addition, Marie's attitudes towards child-rearing do show how a mother can both work and be supportive of her children.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a really quick read, i finished it within 2 days. It has a very amusing sort of humor that revels in ironies and absurdities. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Dilbert comics or Dr. Who. Adams does a really great job of making just about every gesture and phase into a joke. I don't usually enjoy sci-fi books that aren't serious about the science part, but this was a nice change from my usual reading. I will definitely read the sequels.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

Six Pillars of Self-Esteem Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the book to read to get a foundational understanding self-esteem. It doesn't neatly fit into the categories self-help, psychology, or philosophy. However, it provides a lot of key insights into what self-esteem is based on. To Branden, self-esteem is grounded in one's awareness of themselves. Healthy self-esteem is an accomplishment that can't be won by self-delusion or affirmations. In the vignettes, he demonstrates many of the common mistakes people still make that diminish self-esteem. Overall, his explaination of self-esteem is very practical. I've also benefited from the sentence completion exercises he proposes.

His writing really shows how intimately well he knows the human psyche. Especially when he describes the negative inner voices, I saw a lot of myself in the book and how my mindeset harmed me in the past. He's very good at holding a mirror before our biggest irrationalities and arguing them into insignificance.

It's such a shame that the American culture did not adopt Branden's perspective on self-esteem. In the American public school systems, I never learned that self-esteem came from self-respect. Meaning that in order to feel good about myself, I would have set standards for myself and assert that I'm capable of living up to them. This is advice desperately needed in schools, especially where students are killing themselves (some literally) over social media posts.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys melodramatic romances with love triangles. Though the back cover on my copy suggests that this story is a tragedy of lost love, it comes off as more of a romantic comedy because of the absurd characters, rampant satire, as well as irony. This book would suite anyone who enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, though I do prefer the latter.

Most of the family members are very amusing, but I do get annoyed with the two protagonists Marianne and Elinor. Both of them come off as snobby. They get portrayed as superior to the other characters in taste, morals, intelligence, talent, beauty, and manners. But, they get disgusted by everyone who breaks their unspoken rules of taste and conduct. Marianne is the worst at this, and it's satisfying to see her undergo a transformation at the end. Elinor, however, hasn't changed much even though I think she could improve her ability to communicate emotions. Her problem is that she looks down on people who display excessive emotions. But she never really addresses how her stoicism lead to her loved ones hurting her unintentionally and then said persons becoming really upset when they found out how they've hurt her.

The book doesn't get interesting until the climax because there's very little suspense or action, besides Elinors' lukewarm and Marianne's off-the-scene trysts. However, the fallout makes the book worth reading. There are incredible insights into how vanity can make someone an absolute wreck. in addition, the book shows how people can grow to love someone and change in the process of the relationship. I think it's a good counter-message to the idea of "chemistry" and "love at first sight". Also, it shows why men of integrity is much more admirable than taste and passion in a man.

In this book, sense as portrayed by Elinor is the ability to socially manuveur while avoiding disgracing yourself, offending others, and being manipulated. Whereas, sensibility as portrayed by Marianne is the ability to properly appreciate beauty and respond emotively. Sense seems to be superior to sensibility because Marianne had to change and Elinor didn't. However, I think Marianne at the end of the book had a better balance of sense and sensibility, and it shows in her ability to attract a richer suitor than her sister. Sensibility is still really important because it makes life pleasurable and worth living. And it also seems to have a transformational, or healing power over Marianne's husband.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so glad that someone recommended this book to me and I finished reading it while I am in college. This book is highly applicable for the girls in my generation who grow up with fantasy romances from movies and YA novels. They show many unrealistic matches between the rich, handsome, mysterious man and the plain, shy woman. Yet, they become bestsellers and set box office records. This goes along with Gottlieb's point that the entertainment industry is feeding on young women's fantasies and acting as enablers for their ridiculously high standards. I know I have a rigid idea of what I want in a relationship, and reading this book made me realize how close-minded I'm being. I also learned to focus my "needs" vs my "wants", look for guys I'm comfortable around vs the ones who excite me, and not to mistake "romance" for "love".

There was also a section about "alpha" men-the suave, ambitious types- that I found interesting and relevant. The main point is that alpha men typically commit to stay-at-home or part-time working mother types because they can make up for the effort that he can't put into the family and marriage due to career. That made me rethink what "dating my equal" would mean. Also, it seems that careerists need to find someone who's willing to make more of the compromises. So, I can see why Gottlieb (a successful writer) would push for more women like her to consider the supportive, considerate "beta" man type.

I thought Gottlieb's narration was highly amusing. She's somewhat neuorotic, but she has great wit and irony. Plus, her voice is counterbalanced well with the grounded rationality from Evan Marc Katz and the experts she sought. Even though Lottlieb's thoughts in the book are unbelievably irrational, she's refreshing critical about herself and it lead to many revelations for me. I never really understood why some guys think women are crazy until I read about Lottlieb's and her friends' overly judgemental attitudes and entitlement to the "perfect" lover. At the same time, I also saw those superficial traits in myself and I do think I would act similarly if I don't watch myself.

This is a great book for women who are somewhat like Gottlieb in her twenties: ambitious, career-oriented, cosmopolitan, confident in her dating value, has higher education but dumb in common sense. It really helped me figure out how I could factor career and family into my life plan.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Review: Letters to a Young Contrarian

Letters to a Young Contrarian Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hitchens really seems to enjoy being a role model in this book. He has a very charmingly insolent manner when he shares his work as a contrarian, which makes this fun to read. It's not so charming if you don't already agree with his views on religion, socialism, politics, etc. However, he does drop advice that contrarians of all sides can benefit from. Among them: how to avoid groupthink, why you should avoid identity politics, how to deal with opposition, and so on.

The one thing that annoyed me about this book was that it had many obscure socialist/classical liberal references without footnotes. At least, it was obscure for a well-read college student which appears to be his audience.

I'm too conflict-avoidant to be a contrarian, but I do love entertaining radical ideas. This book helped me by showing how I can become more resistent to social pressure and sophistry. That way, I can be more objective when judging ideas. This book is ideal for college students in my generation. It's a short read (141 pages) and it does address our powerful desire to change the world for the better. Right now, a lot of students are getting mired in identity politics and the results are just as bad as Hitchens claims they are. If I ever get into a conversation with a social justice supporter/activist, I would recommend this book to them with the hope that it will help channel their rage and passion into more productive endeavors.

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