If You Ask Me | Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me | Eleanor Roosevelt

As a history nerd, current government and politics student, and aspiring diplomat, Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my heroes. The fact that it took me over a month to read this set of advice from Roosevelt is not evidence that this book isn’t worth your time. I just had a 10 page paper on Ebola and a final due, along with crippling bout of anxiety where all I wanted to do was sit on my couch with my cats and watch Game of Thrones during that time. In fact, given this current political climate, I would argue this book is more important than ever.

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– I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

If You Ask Me: Essential Advice from Eleanor Rooseveltby Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary Jo BinkerDates Read: October 4 – November 5, 2018Publisher: Atria Books (October 9, 2018)Number of Pages: 272Courtesy: Netgalley

Experience the timeless wit and wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt in this annotated collection of candid advice columns that she wrote for more than twenty years.

In 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt embarked on a new career as an advice columnist. She had already transformed the role of first lady with her regular press conferences, her activism on behalf of women, minorities, and youth, her lecture tours, and her syndicated newspaper column. When Ladies Home Journal offered her an advice column, she embraced it as yet another way for her to connect with the public.

Over the twenty years that Eleanor wrote her advice column, no question was too trivial and no topic was out of bounds.  Covering a wide variety of topics—everything from war, peace, and politics to love, marriage, religion, and popular culture—these columns reveal Eleanor Roosevelt’s warmth, humanity, and timeless relevance.

Things I liked

  • The more things change, the more they stay the same. Things that people were worrying about 80 years ago – money, marriage, war, jobs – are the same things we are worrying about in 2018. Roosevelt’s advice is as applicable today at it was in the 1940s/50s.
  • The book, edited by Mary Jo Binker, is organized by topic rather than date/column, so all of Roosevelt’s relevant advice on a particular issue is presented together. 
  • Binker does a great job of giving historical context to certain sets of questions. As a history major a decade removed from American History 101, a gentle reminder of happenings during that time period was much appreciated.
  • Roosevelt is smart, sassy, and incredibly funny. But she is also incredibly honest and forthright, and doesn’t pull any punches.
  • It’s apparent that Roosevelt was largely respected by her readers, and it is equally apparent that she took great care in thoughtfully responding to them. Even to the most mundane of questions.

and things I didn’t

  • There was some repetitiveness/significant similarity in the questions asked and the advice given. 20-30 pages could probably have been cut out without losing any significant questions/advice.
  • Roosevelt’s advice on depression, which essentially boils down to “get up, go to work, and keep busy and all will be well” is a not a good look. However, it was likely the prevailing opinion at the time. A note that there has been significant advances in the treatment for mental health issues in the 60+ years since her advice columns would not have been out of place.

favorite quotes

Tolerance is an ugly word.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Governments do not become corrupt unless their citizens have allowed low standards to exist.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

This is your life, not someone else’s, and our own feeling is what is important, not what the rest of the world says.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

I enjoyed this collection Roosevelt’s advice columns and I am looking forward to reading more about her in the new year. I picked up Blanche Wiesen Cook’s 3 volume biography of Roosevelt at the Friends of the Library Book Store recently, so I am very looking forward to reading that in 2019. 

What other books on Eleanor Roosevelt would you recommend?



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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Published by Harper on September 13, 2016
Pages: 224
Buy on Amazon

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Mason doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.


Bottom Line, Up Front

I found The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson to be brutally honest, yet hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh take on the self-help genre. Instead of telling people they are special and talented, Manson argues that people need to be honest with themselves and be responsible for how they react to the things that happen in their lives. One of my favorite bits in the book is how we are responsible for everything in our lives. Maybe we don’t always have control of what happens to us, but we do control how we interpret and respond to it. I also enjoyed the numerous references to HBO’s The Wire.

It took me a while to read this. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it led to some uncomfortable realizations. More than once I was like “holy schnikes! He’s describing me!” I will need to go back through all the passages I annotated and reflect on some things. If you looking for a different type of self-help book, I highly recommend The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

Yeah, But What’s the Writing Like?

Manson is an excellent writer, and it shows in ‘Subtle Art’. His style is engaging, and funny, but very straight forward. He’s not going to sugar coat the fact that you may not be as talented and deserving of special things as you think you are, just because some inspirational teacher told you that you can be anything you want to be. That is false. I want to be a wizard, and yet that’s never gonna happen. Manson also weaves in funny anecdotes about people in his life who demonstrate the actions he’s currently discussing. No one is left unscathed. 

Quotes/Favorite Parts

“The key to a good life is… giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.”

“If you feel crappy, its because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved.”

What are some of your favorite humorous self-help books that I should add to my TBR?

Cat Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck