Usually, in response, I will shuffle about and be like, “Oh, that’s nice,” and then change the subject, because what is there to say? Books speak for themselves. And, in my opinion, they often work best when they’re a private communion between text and reader. I know that when I read a book, even a very popular book, I often feel like I’m the only person in the world who likes that book.
However, I do really enjoy it when people find out about books from me and then actually read them. I think the time that I most enjoyed it was when my friend Jessice (a very high-powered CEO…at least I think she is a CEO?) mentioned that she’d read The Second Shift on my recommendation. This is a book that I went around recommending to everyone in the entire world, and no one ever took me up on it. It’s not an obscure book; I think it was a best-seller when it first came out. It’s basically a series of case studies wherein the author, a Berkeley anthropologist, looked at dual-worker couples who had children and assessed both: a) their attitudes on how much work each spouse should do within the house; b) the actual amount of work each couple did within the house; and c) how they justified any existing disparities.
I think that when I recommend this book to most people they’re like, “No duh, women do more work in the house,” and they dismiss it.
Well obv. That’s not the interesting part of the book. The interesting part of the book is the psychology of it. Why do women do more work? How do couples justify it?
When the researcher, Arlie Russell Hochschild, began the study, she expected that she’d just find that most couples believed, ideologically, that women ought to do more household labor. But that’s not what she found. Instead, she found that most couples believed that men and women ought to split household labor equally. BUT, even when this was the belief, the actual practice was that women did more. In response, her book turned into a study that focused on this disconnect: why do women do more work even in families that believe in equality?
Fantastic book. Life-changing. Especially for writers. More than anything, the book is a series of extremely well-observed narratives: a look at the way that belief and psychology and social dynamics have a practical effect on how two people arrange their lives.