Lifestyle Books: Or Why I Mostly Stopped Reading Them

Lifestyle books are huge sellers in America. Expert and credential obsession is as American as apple pie.  Barnes and Noble is filled on any given Saturday with patrons looking for the latest trendy formula for how to be happy, how to find love, how to simplify, or even something as mundane as how to keep a clean house. I read my share as a young wife and mother.

The only ones I have found of any use at all are books full of recipes, preferably with nerdy food details included. We are a cooking clan in a world where few women -particularly young ones- can cook. So cookbooks are a handy thing to have on hand. Oh yes, and sewing books, although I’m not certain if those qualify as lifestyle books.

However, I did have a couple of lifestyle/how to books in my current reading rotation and two of the three served to remind me why I largely dismiss lifestyle books. Let’s review them.

take back your lifeTake back your life: My No Nonsense Approach to Health, Fitness, and Looking Good Naked! By Wendy Ida, published in 2011.

I actually paid for this rather than borrow it from the library, something I almost never do. I did that because I have a soft spot for sisters who take the time and put in the effort to help other black women get healthy and into shape. Black women are known to age extremely well, wrinkling a full decade, usually more, behind other women. Sadly American black women are notoriously poor stewards of that gift with 80% of us being over weight or obese. It’s one of those things where you put your money where your mouth is and so I did just that. I figured supporting Mrs. Ida in her quest to help rein in the problem was worth $11.94.

I was wrong. The book is full of psychobabble, scattered with useless little helps she labels “sexercises”, and generally void of anything you can’t find anywhere else for free, not to mention presented far better. “You go girl” was the cord running all the way through it rather than a wisdom and stewardship based focus for being healthy and vital. Practical, useful information was scant, or unoriginal when it was presented.  I couldn’t even finish it.

Grade: D

crows feet laugh linesLet the Crow’s Feet and the Laugh Lines Come, by Dena Dyer, published 2011. I bought this one too, albeit for only .50 at a used book sale courtesy of my local library.

This book is a Christian attempt to encourage believing women to reject the world’s reduction of their worth to nothing more than their youth and beauty or the fading thereof. Not a bad message, and at 44, one that I can embrace wholeheartedly.

There really is some good stuff in this book, and I tried to focus on those things rather than get caught up in my tendency toward literary snobbery. Both the writing and structure leave a lot to be desired. It might just be that this is the nature of the lifestyle book, and something that can’t really be helped. This isn’t prose after all. But still.

The author takes pains to provide balance, reminding women that there are things we can do to be responsible stewards of our health as we age. There was no free pass given based simply on the fact that we’re aging.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the ripping of Scripture out of its context to fit it into a narrative unique to the struggles of individuals or women in particular. I tend to instinctively recoil at that for a host of reasons but the overall message of the book was sound.

Grade: C

Content advisory: Nothing offensive in either book. Wendy Ida offers the occasional tips for improving libido and sexual experience for women but nothing to clutch your pearls over.

25 thoughts on “Lifestyle Books: Or Why I Mostly Stopped Reading Them

  1. Elspeth says:

    Couple of quick notes:

    ~There are very few genres of books I won’t pick up off the library shelf when my curiosity is piqued. Our library always has a shelf for books that are new and/or popular and I am endlessly curious about what Americans are reading. Usually when it’s a lifestyle book (or some current celeb’s autobiography), I sit and flip through it for about 5-10 minutes, put it back on the shelf and move on.

    ~ Besides erotica and/or romance, there really is nothing I won’t review.

    ~ I mentioned that are three nonfiction/expert/lifestyle books in my current reading rotation. This is the third:

    Had a recent quad injury which messed me up and kept me from running for a week. A couple of weeks before that I was plagued with cramps because I wasn’t getting enough fluids to run in this FL heat. Before that I had a nagging knee pain when I would run.

    I figured I better get back to the drawing board and see what I may have missed so I don’t get sidle lined again. I refuse to accept that my 44 year-old knees coupled with the 20 (okay…23) extra pounds I am carrying is the reason why I am having so many issues.

    So the occasional such book does make it off the library shelf and onto my book shelf at home for a few weeks, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Booky McBookerson says:

    Since we’re on “lifestyle” here and you brought up weight, I just read something that may or may not be news:

    Someone comments that EDCs are in toilet paper! Yuck! I’d bet they are also in tampons (not to get TMI here), yet most women think nothing of using those while balking at the idea of reusable alternatives. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that so many women especially seem to have that bit of extra weight (and then some) that they just can’t shake.

    I could go on and on, but I think that will do, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elspeth says:

    I actually appreciate the TMI link because I always consider reusable alternatives but then never follow through with it. Kind of late in the game LOL, but I could switch for the few years left that I need to be so bothered.

    Gonna take some time to read up on that, so thanks.


  4. Booky McBookerson says:

    For the tampon gals there’s the Diva Cup (silly name but…), and for the pad gals there are lots of cloth options. They can be a bit expensive initially but a basic one isn’t hard to make yourself (if I can do it, anyone can, lol).

    I used some no longer needed bamboo diaper soakers – cut to shape and blanket stitched around the edges. That would be much cheaper and one can add a waterproof layer and snap tabs if necessary. Bamboo fiber is soft and very absorbent, and doesn’t pill after many many washes, at least in my experience.

    Something like this but without the snaps:

    This should keep the men away, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Elspeth says:

    This should keep the men away, lol.

    Indeed it should, LOL. I read the link you posted. Guess I need to do some research and get on about buying that cup.

    But on a wider note, isn’t it strange that we spend millions of dollars per year on books that supposedly lead the way to a healthier, saner, more organized life and yet we are fatter, crazier, and less organized than any other generation that came before?

    Heck, I didn’t even bother to finish the book I reviewed here, and you know when my house got organized? When I 1) spent less time amusing myself and 2) printed off a couple of housecleaning checklists online (for free!) and faithfully fulfilled the list every day.

    I believe it was you who said that a book purchase is almost never a waste. Well, that one at the top of this review was a big waste. Lesson learned, I hope.


  6. Elspeth says:

    Speaking of lifestyles, recipes, and whatnot, my kid is getting pretty big into food photography. Yeah, trendy, but we have regular aspiring photographer around here too. My cornmeal biscuits have never (and I am pretty sure I mean never) looked this good:

    Oh, my favorite cook books are anything from America’s Test Kitchen or Alton Brown, along with the very old Betty Crocker cookbook. none of the news one measure up. Oh, and Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. Love that one because all the baking is whole grain and most all the recipes turn out great every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Maeve says:

    OK Els, you’re going to have me writing my “in defense of romance” post rather earlier than I had planned, LOL


  8. Elspeth says:

    Looking forward to reading it, Maeve. I may even link to it, assuming you offer a good defense. But what I really want to know is: Have you bought any fabulous heels lately? You know, lifestyle stuff. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Maeve says:

    NO!!!! I’ve not bought any shoes, nor handbags! And – I’m selling a bunch of them (the handbags). they served their purpose but now I’ve got other tastes, so no need for them to take up real estate. I’m not opposed to lifestyle books/blogs – every now and then there’s a little gem that drops in my lap and that makes it all worth while. Admittedly, though, when I’m talking lifestyle, it’s nothing which actually improves me as a PERSON, just the superficial stuff, LOL


  10. Elspeth says:

    Okay, about that biscuit recipe, Maevey. Before I get to that, I want to add a caveat: I use freshly milled cornmeal that I get from this company. Ran across it on vacation when my husband saw a road and said, “Wonder what’s down that way?” The guy was in the process of milling corn and grits old style on a 100+ year old grist mill.

    I am more than certain that a commercially milled corn meal will produce a different end result. Oh, and since I know you’re in a Southeastern harbor mecca where shrimp and grits is probably a big deal, their grits are to. die. for. Ok, the biscuits:

    1 cup all purpose flour
    1 cup corn meal
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons sugar
    1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
    1 stick butter, diced (colder is better)
    3/4 cup buttermilk (if you need more add in by tablespoons)

    Mix dry ingredients. Rub in the butter with fingers until together it’s like pea sized crumbs. Stir in buttermilk gently. Roll out dough into rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Fold dough in thirds, back down to about 3/4 inch think. Use 2-inch cutter to cut out biscuits.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Maeve says:

    Els!!! Those biscuits are going on my table to tonight (fixing a brown sugar & balsamic glazed pork tenderloin and I think they’ll be the prefect complement). Definitely going to check out that vendor for the cornmeal, but in the interim, it will just have to be whatever I have on hand (White Lilly, I think?)

    Maybe I’ll take pics of the leftover crumbs, LOL


  12. Maeve says:

    Having to ‘fess up that no bisuits (cornmeal or otherwise) were had Chez Maeve et Filles last night. Too much homework. Too much housework. Too much everything.

    No biscuits.

    Le Sigh


  13. Elspeth says:

    You’ll get around to them. Meanwhile, I wanted to tell you that the chicken dish was a huge hit last night.

    Even 7-year-old, who doesn’t get particularly excited at the sight if a mass of vibrant veggies on her plate, ate it all up and asked for more.

    I didn’t have any hazelnuts, so I toasted up some walnuts, chopped those downs and sprinkled on top. They added a wonderful flavor!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Maeve says:

    I saved the recipe, Els and would like to try this weekend.

    I’ve been in the midst of a major overhaul of the house – including the kitchen. Right now things are in a hideous uproar (I’d take pics, but then they’d be forever and I’m hoping to develop some form of situational amnesia once it’s all over). It’s like the worst parts of moving in and out all combined – packing and unpacking; trips to the charity store; the local recycle/dump; etc. The end result will be fantastic but the “getting through it” is just wearing me out to no end.


  15. Maeve says:

    Made the biscuits last night, Els. Sublimely delicious! In all fairness, I was hurrying and mine didn’t turn out beautiful as yours, plus I crammed them into a too-small pan, but nobody cared because they were fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Elspeth says:

    Very glad they turned out well. I was having a very good baking morning the day I made those and Bright Eyes took the picture.

    I was happy that they tasted good, but she is big into the food being at the height of aesthetically pleasing. She has me stepping up my presentation game, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.