Book Club: Men Explain Things to Me
Our Review - No Spoilers:
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
This was one for the argument history book. Although, to be fair, we've argued about everything.
There was no doubt about the fact that taking on a non-fiction book that deals directly with an important complex issue like gender inequality could ruffle some feathers, but there was definitely a point of agreement within the group regarding the overall feeling about this collection of essays; the debate came down to the intensity of the feeling.
As I on-the-fly mentioned, this book is a non-fiction collection of essays that addresses different issues and facts that fall under the umbrella of feminism and gender inequality. Solnit starts off the book with a bang with her first essay (or introduction?). It got all three of us excited for more! That was it really for our excitement, though, because the introduction was not representative of the rest of the book at all. I think our qualm about the shift in tone and style comes down to the fact that the title is not representative of the book. The title and intro hint at humor, playfulness, and shocking/infuriating personal anecdotes, but the rest of the book goes (mostly) academic.
Some essays are fantastically thought-provoking, as the writer delves into the intricacies of language, the advancement of feminism through history, and the importance of names (which, admittedly, doesn't sound very cool, but wallah it is). What happens, though, is that she starts to lose us somewhere in the middle, when she drifts off-topic entirely for a few agonizingly long essays. This is where we get angry and frustrated, and start counting the pages until the book ends.
Another thing that ends up happening is that, because these are essays that were published separately throughout her career, there's a lot of repetition of phrases and facts, and we end up feeling annoyed with the writer.
So now, we have a book that veers far off of the title/introduction, has a few fantastic points that become lost in at least two essays that are completely off-topic and unnecessarily wordy, and is repetitive.
Sadly, by the time we got to book deadline day, we were tired and annoyed. Rebecca Solnit would have been better off making the book way shorter with essays that are genuinely connected, and changing the title to something that isn't misleading. It was a bait-and-switch situation with the intro essay and book title, and the switch wasn't strong enough of a hook to take away from the disappointment of losing the bait.
I'm thankful to have explored some points she brought up in some essays, but this is definitely not a book I'd recommend to someone who wants to get into the world of feminism. If it were a blog, or if I were recommending specific essays individually instead, maybe.
TL;DR Our Review
★★ and a half
★★ and a half
★ and a half
We don't recommend it. The book starts well and it ends well, the title is a misnomer, and she gets really wordily off-topic somewhere in the middle. She has a few good points, but we left it feeling either angry or meh.
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