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Book Review - Inferior

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It took me almost two months to finish this book by Angela Saini. Partly because I read super slow in English and partly because it's non-fiction and that usually takes a little longer. I enjoyed it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have continued reading it. But I felt a little like there's no coherent message.

There wasn't a single topic this book was about. It starts with research on brain differences between men and women, moves on to the idea that women had contributed as much as men to the dinner table (as gatherers) and evolution, and finishes up with a discussion on whether male dominance is inevitable and why it isn't. Then there's a seemingly random chapter about menopause and wise old women. As I said, I enjoyed reading each of these, but it felt to me as if it was more a collection of essays rather than a book with a unifying theme.

I guess the unifying theme is research and lack thereof on women as influenced by the patriarchy, but no conclusion or summary connected the different themes for me. I may write another post next week connecting some of the themes, but I do expect a non-fiction book to do that for the reader. I think the point of writing a book (rather than a collection of essays) is to have a single message. You can go on tangents, of course, I enjoy tangents very much. But for me, a non-fiction book should leave me with a big-picture understanding of the topic.

Now, it's entirely possible that I'm applying my academic standards on a popular science book. You could argue that it's unfair because this is not an academic, peer-reviewed book. And I would say you have a point. But reading non-fiction is something I do when I want to learn about a topic and understand it. I need that big-picture conclusion to understand the broad implications of the research, and that's what's missing in this book.

The obvious question now is, would I have had such high standards if a man wrote this book or do I exact higher standards because the author is a woman? I think not, and I can quote as evidence my lukewarm reviews on non-fiction books written by men. The only thing, when you consider these reviews, is that I had the same issue with all of them: lack of a coherent message. It could be me.

Bottom line: an excellent read if you're into that kind of stuff.


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