My aunt Mollie sometimes likes to send me things in the mail. Whether it’s $100 for fun, some postcards she got on a trip or random knick-knacks she found at an Asian market, I know that whenever I get mail from her it’s going to be a good time. So when I came home one day and found a package on my desk from her, I was obviously excited. I opened it and found a book called “Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World” by Lisa Bloom. The cover makes it look like it’s a self-help book and honestly, the title isn’t doing it any favors in that department. Neither is the huge, five-line endorsement by Dr. Phil, right under the extremely Photoshopped picture of Bloom posing with a bunch of books. I showed my stepmother Courtney, and we both laughed at what we thought, judging by its cover, was a joke.
After taking another glance and finding that it’s a New York Times bestseller, I read the back: “[Girls and women] are excelling in education at every level yet obsessing over celebrity lifestyles and tabloid media, leaving many of us unable to name a single branch of government — but nearly all of us can name at least one Kardashian.” I laughed, thinking that couldn’t be true. I mean, come on. Legislative, executive, judicial; Kourtney, Kim, Khloe. Not rocket science, right? Wrong! Bloom backs this up with stats, which she also uses to support the notion that 25 percent of women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than a Nobel Prize.
I mean, what? This can’t possibly be true. I started reading and I became engrossed. Bloom, the daughter of high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, discusses the issues that American women face today — that we focus so much on our looks and the celebrities who we model ourselves after that our fascination is making us stupider and we’re becoming unaware of real issues in the world — and is just as astounded as I am. Seriously, it’s unbelievable. I like to think that as a young woman who reads the news, listens to NPR, and is an active leader in Coalition, I am a pretty aware person. But from a global perspective, I am so ignorant to what is happening to people on this planet, it’s not even funny.
“Think” is structured into two main parts: the problem and the solution. Bloom first points out all of the steps backward women have made in the past generation when it comes to their rights and their smarts and backs this up with intriguing examples. She then presents solutions for individuals to become more aware and less stupid.
The solution that caters the most to any lifestyle is reading. When I was in grade school, all I did was read. I was reading the first three Harry Potters in kindergarten and Jane Austen and Shakespeare by second or third grade. I dug it. I kind of hated playing at recess, so I would just sit on a bench with my teacher and a book while everyone else ran around. When I started high school, I stopped reading as much. I just didn’t have enough time. But, as Bloom points out, I really do have the time and I’m just doing stupid things with it. While I could be reading a memoir following the life of a child bride who fights for a divorce in an oppressive misogynistic society, I’m instead stalking peoples’ prom pictures on Facebook or reading up on Lindsay Lohan’s hospitalization (I was legitimately concerned).
It took me a week to finish the book, with work and distractions and other summer activities, but it was well worth it. It’s intriguing and poignant (despite Bloom’s redundant writing style. Girl, I get that you’re a vegan legal analyst with a hot boyfriend) and hits so close to home for me that the fact that I’d never found this an issue before makes me a little uncomfortable. Fran Lebowitz said, “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” I know girls who could care less about our government and politics, even though women still have so far to go in terms of equality and civil rights. Girls who, like me, don’t have enough time to pick up a newspaper, so are grossly uninformed about the issues that we face. We can’t speak on these issues because we don’t think about them. We don’t think about them because we don’t read about them. So, in an effort to remain part of that 75 percent who would rather win a Nobel Prize than be on the cover of Seventeen and to be the educated, informed young woman I expect myself to be, I’ve decided to read a book a week for a year, kind of like a 365, except a 52. I’ll be reading 52 books, ranging from autobiographies to childhood classics, and writing brief posts about them and why I believe they are important.
I’m basing my list off of the recommended reading at the end of “Think,” and a few books I’ve had on my list for a while, but I could definitely use some suggestions. If you have one, holla at me in the comments.