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 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.
Let 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.
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.