It has been a while since I last shared some book recommendations. I have not stopped reading – quite the contrary, my shelves are bursting and I soon need a new bookcase. I think I am all set with enough reviews for you for the whole year. Let’s not waste any time and check out with my top five books you should read to get 2020 started.
It is no secret that I am a big fan of Netflix’s Queer Eye, a makeover show focussing on confidence, self love and new beginnings. Tan France is one of the five hosts and is in charge of all things fashion. His biography not only gives an insight into how he ended up on the show. It is also a truly inspiring story of a young boy with Pakistani roots in the UK who discovered his love for fashion. I personally found it very interesting to read about his entrepreneurial path – Queer Eye puts its main focus on Tan France’s style advice. But he is more than a mere style advisor: he successfully built companies in the fashion space and shares his stories in the book. I could very much relate to the start of his fashion business when he and his partner were sending out products from their living room.
Due to his Pakistani background, France openly talks about being different: a person of colour and homosexual as the host of a TV show. He also shares how he has been facing racism throughout his life. Some of his stories were truly heartbreaking but you can feel the strength and passion throughout his book. Watch out, there is some strong language in there – but I actually found it refreshing to see that this book obviously was written by France himself rather than a ghostwriter.
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf is a true eye-opener about how images of female beauty are used against women. Originally published in 1991, this book argues that while women have breached male-dominated power structures, the pressure to come up to unrealistic beauty ideals has increased exponentially at the same time. I read the updated edition published in 2002. Considering that this was long before the beauty craze on social media, I found it interesting – and shocking at the same time – how these unrealistic beauty ideals spread and enforced by the mass media have been affecting us for decades. It would be really interesting to read about the author’s view on the influence of social media. I think that these new media have fuelled the “beauty myth” and its adverse effects even more.
I could very much relate to many points to the book. I have personally experienced the scrutiny and I keep witnessing it around me. While male CEOs, politicians, role-models or leaders are hardly assessed according to their outward appearance, it is often the first thing which is noticed when it comes to women: “What was she wearing during that interview?”, “God, she looks tired!”, “She is successful but why can’t she get a better stylist?” Women have to be competent, hard-working, positive AND look perfect all the time while men can gain a bit of weight because their belly then indicates “they are successful and do not have time to exercise”. These beauty ideals not only distract us from what is important, they also are just another thing which makes us more vulnerable. The Beauty Myth is a must-read for feminists and anyone who questions unrealistic beauty ideals.
This book which served as the basis for the movie “Lion” starring Dev Patel. It is the story of a small boy who got lost in India when he accompanied his elder brother to work. He ended up on a train across India, lived on the streets of Kolkata and got adopted by an Australian family. Years later, Saroo Brierley made international news when he found his family with the help of Google Earth. For months he had searched the Indian subcontinent online hoping to find clues about where he was really from. What sounds like a tale of pure fiction is in fact a true story. I loved the movie but I enjoyed the book even more. It gave many more insights into the boy’s journey. While the movie focuses mainly on the search and Brierley’s life in Australia, the book allows the reader an insight into Brierley’s emotions and how he dealt with finding his roots. It also reveals more characters (such as his second brother in India) which were left out in the movie.
I personally found it very interesting to read about Mantosh, the second boy who was adopted by the Brierley’s. He was depicted as an extremely difficult character in the movie, only with small hints about why the boy suffered from mental problems. The book casts a different light on him and his relationship to Saroo. I read the book while I was travelling in India but this is a captivating read no matter where you are based.
I am usually not a big fan of self help books or guides about changing my life. However, this is definitely a guide for which I made an exception. In this book with its polarising title, Lois Frankel provides the reasons why a large share of women are still financially worse off than their male counterparts: character traits such as putting the needs of others before our own, the expectation that women should save but not necessarily invest and that they often trust their husbands or partners with the financials.
But this book also offers hands-on solutions. This book is for any woman who wants to not only improve her financial literacy and situation but also needs a no-bullshit approach about getting more confident with money and about not giving in to social standards which affect our finances. In contrast to many other books for women, this one does not make us look helpless or make excuses why we are victims. It builds on our strengths and encourages us. My favourite quote of the book: “Remember, Columbus would never have made it to America if Queen Isabella hadn’t financed his trip.”
This book is another sequel of the movie-turned “The Devil Wears Prada”. After “Revenge Wears Prada”, this novel focusses on Emily Charlton – remember the mean first assistant of Miranda Priestly. The story is set in Greenwhich, Connecticut. And the title already gives it away: mothers in athleisure with perfect manicures who know everything about their neighbours. Emily is not a suburb-girl at all but ends up there because her friend Karolina, a former model, was accused of drunk driving. Throughout the book, it becomes clear that something in that story does not add up and that Karolina is innocent. This is an entertaining story about friends coming back together to help each other out. (Not as entertaining as “The Devil Wears Prada” but a nice read when you need a break from work, life and Netflix.)
I accidentally bought this book twice – I first read “When Life Gives You Lululemons” and then thought “The Wives” is another book by Lauren Weisberger. For some reason, the same story was published under two titles. In any case, I enjoyed the read and handed the second copy over to a friend of mine.