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April 23 2016

To-Do List: Nonfiction Books

I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction. I think it gets a bad rep from when we were younger and all we wanted to read about were dragons and wizards, or a realistic fiction character living a life very much like ours (but more exciting). Throughout college I’ve developed a stronger affinity for nonfiction. Here are some of the nonfiction books I have saved in a wishlist on my Amazon account, or that I have already bought that are scattered around my room waiting to be read.

Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

(or rather, the last 67 pages)

I’m in the process of reading this book. I actually started it a year ago, but put it down to read some other books and am now back to finish it. I don’t blame Moss at all for my leave of absence. The book is an incredibly intriguing expose, but I personally crave a narrative of emotional twists and turns that only fiction can provide. Moss recounts the history of the processed food industry, and what certain standards and marketing schemes disguise. We always hear that processed foods are “bad.” Read this to be more informed. Here are some memorable facts I’ve bookmarked:

1.) Unlike with sugar or fat, we are not biologically predisposed as young infants to crave salt. We develop a taste for it.  

2.) Kraft uses the phrase “no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives” on its packets of Capri Sun because consumers were angry with its previous use of “all natural” that made its juice sound better than soda (when some flavors of Capri Sun actually have more sugar than soda does).

3.) Lunchables were created in response to the American public’s perception of bologna as heavy in salt and fat, to repackage (and hide) bologna in this convenient and happy modern lunch (with crackers instead of bread because of bread’s shorter shelf life, and with processed cheese that wouldn’t crumble) for working women to feed their children.

Sex and the Office by Kim Elsesser

This book is by a UCLA professor I had last year for a class titled, “Psychology of Gender.” In the class, we talked about why women are not as prevalent in leadership roles in the workplace. We discussed how women often cannot succeed in careers because mentorship is key, and most higher up positions are dominated by men who do not want to mentor young women because of how both the young women and other colleagues may misconstrue their intentions. On the flipside, young women also don’t seek or accept opportunities to network or be mentored by men in fear of how the potential mentor and other colleagues will perceive the relationship. Additionally, the few women who are in executive/managerial positions in male-dominated industries often develop what is referred to as the Queen Bee syndrome, in which high position women view female employees more critically than male employees. I’ve been considering pursuing further education in organizational-industrial psychology, so these topics are pretty interesting and relevant for me.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

In Newman’s prologue, she writes about how her job allowed her to travel in her twenties and thirties: “For the last fourteen years I’ve written for shows like That ‘70s Show, How I Met Your Mother, Chuck, The Neighbors… What this means about my life is that I spend about nine months a year in a room full of, mostly, poorly dressed men, telling dick jokes and overeating… I get about nine months of this and then a three-month hiatus–unpaid time off.” I read the prologue and first chapter standing in the bookstore in Chelsea Market during my spring break in New York last month, giggling to myself. One of the reviews on the back cover reads, “What I was Doing While You Were Breeding is kind of like if Eat, Pray, Love  were written by your funniest friend.” I loved Eat, Pray, Love and the first few pages of this, so I know this will be a fun read. I expect some outrightly hilarious but humbly insightful analogies and descriptions from Newman. Definitely purchase this if you’re having a hard time convincing yourself to stop Netflix and chill-ing and read instead.

Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel

As soon as I saw this, I thought of my copy of Sex and the Office patiently waiting to be read. Although there may be some overlap between the two books, Nice Girls explicitly lays out one hundred and thirty-three mistakes Frankel has experienced women having, along with solutions to each of these mistakes. While I don’t believe in blaming women, I do realistically understand that institutional change is difficult and I should be aware of how things women are socialized to do may be disadvantages in work environments. Additionally, since I am interested in gender in the workplace, this book seems like a good starting point for identifying how these “mistakes” can be tackled structurally by employers and executives. 
Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter

Drunk Tank Pink, the book title’s namesake, refers to the color used in prisons–specifically used to color county jails cells that violent drunks were put in. Alter details how a 1979 paper identified how men exposed to a bright pink cardboard were noticeably weaker than those exposed to a deep blue colored cardboard. This inspired the US Naval Correctional Center to repaint one of its cells pink for a seven-month trial period. New inmates would spend fifteen minutes in this pink cell and come out calmer. Officers saw no violent incidents during this trial period, even though new inmates are typically aggressive. From what I gather, this book is about how environment or circumstance affects people’s moods and behaviors

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Anyone who knows me at all will tell you I am an introvert. I’m actually pretty good with people (when I want to be) and have been described as “personable” by strangers, but I ultimately need some time by myself to recharge and often take the backseat in conversations. I sometimes look like I’m not having a good time when I am, get critiqued for not being a typical go-getter, and am considered mysterious (which is funny because I consider myself an open book). I hope this book would provide me with a better understanding of how to harness my own introversion.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

One of those self-help books. Useful? A hoax? I’m not sure. It was a #1 New York Times Bestseller so maybe the hype is substantiated by proven methods. I think it’s worth a shot. I personally am somewhat of a hoarder. I have old textbooks (they were expensive!) and printed out readings from previous classes (I might want to refer to them!), as well as old receipts (just in case) and ticket stubs (they mark some key moments). I’ve always been this way. Not an extreme hoarder, but definitely holding on to more things than necessary. Since I’m moving out of my LA apartment when I graduate in June, I want to whittle down my belongings so I can start fresh wherever I end up next. Just starting to realize this means I need to read this in the next couple of months!

Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

This. Title. The description on Amazon reads, “She writes about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.” Reviews do indicate, however, that the title is a bit misleading and Solnit’s essays cover more than just the humorous phenomenon of what’s referred to as “mansplaining.” Some reviews say the book is accurate and insightful, but depressing. As a gender studies major, I’m pretty aware that the reality of women is somewhat bleak (but I try not to let this discourage me!).

Happy reading!

About Unu Sohn

Hi! My name is Unu--pronounced “ooh-nu/new." I just graduated from UCLA, so I'm in the midst of figuring out adulting. I am Korean but was born in NYC and grew up in Hong Kong. Who knows where I'll be next? I love perfectly worded sentences, earplugs, and puppies. I like to try new things. Some things I’ve dabbled in: yoga, figure drawing, and ceramics.

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