Ok, I have a dirty little secret. No, it’s not that I’ve read the entire 50 Shades Trilogy. My secret is that I bought 50 Shades of Grey, the first book in the series, and gently turned each page so that I could return the book the next day. I wasn’t convinced that 50 Shades was worth the fuss or deserved to be on my bookshelf. The book originated as Twilight “fan-fiction.” Author, E.L. James took characters and themes from Twilight and spun them into her own erotic BDSM fantasy - or, as many are calling it, “mommy porn.”
Whether you think the notion of fan-fiction is derivative or inventive, it’s pretty popular. Websites like fanfiction.net exist solely so that fans can distribute their versions of their favorite novels (WSJ has a great article on Fan Fiction here). After James’ novel gained a cult following, Universal Pictures and Focus Features won a heavy bidding war for the rights to make the film adaptation, which ended in a rumored 7-figure deal. So what’s the scoop? Is 50 Shades worth all of the hype?
Reading 50 Shades of Grey is like eating Pringles. You say you’ll have just one, but in moments, you’ve finished the whole tube and it’s time to get on the treadmill. 50 Shades is a quick and easy read, but you might want to grab something by James Joyce after, just so you can make sure all your brain cells are still firing.
Putting aside my frustration with Twilight and similar stories of controlling and manipulative partners, I still couldn’t get behind the book enough to give it a recommendation other than: “Everyone else is reading it.” In fact, I was unsure whether or not the book had an editor before being formally published. The following words and phrases appear repeatedly, “Murmur,” “Aargh,” “Inner goddess,” “Jeez,” and – I’ll stop there, I only have 500 words for this review.
Women are drawn to the book for it’s alleged “sexiness.” My friends that are fans continually reference the “Red room,” as if they’ve just discovered their next sexual fantasy. And, ‘news’ outlets reported that rope sales dramatically increased with the release of 50 Shades. This left me wondering; maybe this was a ploy by the rope industry…
Now, I’ll refrain from revealing anything too personal here, but I will say, at first the scenes are intriguing. However, by the third sex scene, I found myself laughing aloud. For the first time in my life, I’d faced sexual fatigue. 50 Shades is in no way a show of subtlety or delayed gratification. It’s 5 pages of story, SEX, 3 pages of story, SEX. After a while, I couldn’t help but say, “Read that already!”
Despite my obvious qualms about the book, and my less obvious worries about what a 7-figure adaptation deal signals about the state of American minds, I’m not saying that 50 Shades isn’t worth a read. Whether I like it or not, this has become a feature of pop-culture, so you might want to read, if only to know what everyone is talking about. Consider this a guilty pleasure and make sure that your literary diet is supplemented with more substantial fare.
And, in case you’re wondering, I did return 50 Shades of Grey to the store. I borrowed 50 Shades Darker and 50 Shades Freed from friends. I may have read the trilogy, but it won’t have a place on my bookcase.
I am not typically a reader of self-help books, but when I finally closed the pages of Celia Ward-Wallace’s A Woman’s Guide to Having it All: Life Lessons to Live By I somehow felt stronger. With 30 life lessons divided into 30 chapters, there’s a lot to learn from this certified life coach and inspirational speaker. Whether you are seeking a healthy relationship, a better job or just want to be lifted out of rock bottom, this book is full of ways to find balance.
Not only a light and airy read, A Woman’s Guide to Having it All is a source for your own journaling, documenting--basically a “figuring it out” guidebook. Perhaps the greatest source for learning comes within the blank lines at the end of each lesson where you can fill in your own thoughts. I, for one, felt Life Lessons 20 and 21 in particular spoke to me: “You Teach Others How to Treat You” and “Ask for What you Want.” Listing ways to spend a few hours taking care of myself really made me re-prioritize my life for the better.
The book opened with Celia’s own unique story. She details her upbringing as a white girl in a very diverse Los Angeles neighborhood. Her parents were organizers, supporting the labor movement and the people around them. Ultimately, it was the loving home where Celia was brought up and the appreciation and acceptance her parents showed for others that led her to a life of helping others, herself. She went on to study intergroup conflict and prejudice as well as civil and women’s rights at UCLA and the People’s College of Law. After college, she spent several years directing a community center offering programs and services dedicated to helping people discover a better quality of life. Even when times weren’t rosy in her own life, Celia pushed through, kept learning and took nothing for granted. If that’s not being Made, I don’t know what is.
As you read the book it shifts focus further and further from Celia’s life to the reader’s own, as all self-help books should do. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tidbits Celia shared about her own life to illustrate an example in each chapter. I felt I really got to know Celia by the end of the book. Her warmth radiates beyond the pages and her support of you and your own goals is genuine. The interplay between author and reader is what makes readers want to ultimately explore more and more about themselves.
What did I learn about myself after completing this book? Sometimes it’s OK to seek the help of another through the published word. This book is an easy read, not preachy and makes you feel like you are sitting down to chat with a good friend. Lesson learned, indeed!
Most of us stay busy--it just comes with the title of Made Woman. But as Made Women we have to make time to read. It’s fundamental. Here’s a list of must-read books to check out next time you have some time on the train, in the salon chair, or (if you’re lucky) lounging on the beach:
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant – This is an incredible tale dating back to biblical times of women and the sisterhood that they shared. It puts a fictional spin on the women in the Old Testament and makes them very human. It's such a powerful story of how important women are and always were. ~ Jessica Dumont
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot – I don't think it's only a must-read for only women--everyone should read this. It provides interesting commentary on medical ethics. ~ Brook Turner
For Women Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn – This is a book EVERY woman should read if they are or ever want to be in a relationship with a man. It’s a great book about understanding men and how they think as well as understanding ourselves and what we can do to make relationships work. This book has worked wonders for my fiancé and I. There is also a For Men Only version which is equally great. ~ Lindsey Eilse
Women and Money, Suze Orman – This book discusses money in a way that speaks to women. Before I read this I didn't realize how backwards my understanding of money was. I think gaining a better understanding of money and a better attitude toward money management is the first step toward gaining wealth. ~ Serena Watson
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – It's not my favorite book, although it is up there. Fitzgerald's writing is ethereal, deliberate, beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. For me, it opened my eyes to the effect a few sentences could have on the imagination, and I've wanted to be a writer ever since. ~ Erica Crespo
What are your personal must-reads? Let us know in the comments below!
Cash a little tight? Gearing up for a large purchase? Or are you simply planning for a better financial future? (Get 'em Made Woman!) Whatever your motivation, these are our top resources that will help you get your money right in no time:
Women and Money
Even the most financially savvy ladies in my book club took something away from this one. In Suze Orman's signature no-nonsense manner, she relates how being confident and self-sufficient are directly linked to our financial well-being as women. Read "Women and Money" and then share with your mom, best friend, co-worker, aunt, nail lady....
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
In "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," personal finance author Robert T. Kiyosaki lays out his viewpoint on money in a way that is interesting and straight-forward. This is one to read NOW if you plan to be wealthy. It's also a good conversation piece when talking to other professionals, because most have read it.
I Will Teach You to be Rich
Don't sleep. In one of the most informative and simple money blogs out there, Ramit Sethi helps people cut the crap and figure out how to stack chips. That simple. What I love most is Ramit's conversational tone. As a Stanford graduate he could talk you in circles, but he takes a more laid back approach. Check it out. And then share it with your friend who is always broke. ;-)
A friend of mine recently shared this site with me. Thank goodness! Specifically geared toward women, Learn Vest simplifies tricky financial topics. The tools and calculators will show you where you stand financially, and they offer expert advice on handling things like taxes, major purchases, and saving for college. Add this to your favorites and your bank account will thank you.