'Lean In' boasts strong sales, largely positive reviews(Read article summary)
'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg, a book addressing women in the workplace, drew controversy even before it was published. But it now seems to have won over many reviewers and readers.
The announcement that Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg would publish a book about the workplace, women's role in it, and how gender inequality still affects all of us, seemed to be greeted with equal parts anticipation and dread. Some potential readers couldn't wait to hear what Sandberg would have to say, while others predicted that it would just be another salvo in the âmommy warsâ â the endless debate over whether or not women who are parents should work full-time and what is best when raising children.
âThirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry,âÂ proclaimed the book's publisher, Knopf Doubleday. âThis means that womenâs voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our livesâŚ Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias.â
Sandbergâs book was released on March 11. Today, holding the No. 1 position for hardcover nonfiction sales on The New York Times bestseller list, the book has garnered largely positive from book reviewers.
âSandberg ... has written a brave book that is unabashedly personal and political,â Monitor reviewer Anna Clark wrote. ââLean InâÂ serves as a kind of philosophical and practical toolkit for women with ambitions of all kinds, and an education and inspiration for men who are aware that their workplaces and home lives are diminished when women are only a fraction of who they can be.âÂ
New York Times reviewer Anne-Marie Slaughter spoke positively of Sandbergâs voice in the book in her review.
âSandberg is not just tough, however,â she wrote. âShe also comes across as compassionate, funny, honest and likableâŚ. Most important, Sandberg is willing to draw the curtain aside on her own insecurities.â
NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan was less enthusiastic about Sandberg's execution but overall did applaud her effort. Corrigan said she found parts of the book dull but that sheâd still âslide âLean Inâ into my teenage daughterâs bookshelf.â
âI dozed off twice while reading it,â Corrigan wrote. âMost of the book is kind of blah, composed of platitudinous-corporate-speak-intermixed-with-pallid-anecdotes.... 'Lean In' may not be the most impassioned or entertaining feminist manifesto ever written and, sure, Sandberg is somewhat blinkered by her big bucks and privilege and inhibited by corporate caution. Yet, it's great to have a woman with such a platform speak up about sexism.âÂ
Of course the book has also had its share of detractors. Writing forÂ Atlantic, Christina Hoff Sommers charged that Sandberg âis mired in 1970s-style feminism.â
âAn up-to-date manifesto on women and work should steer clear of encounter groups and boys-must-play-with dolls rhetoric,â she wrote. âIt should make room for human reality: that in the pursuit of happiness, men and women often take different paths.â
And WBUR writer Carey Goldberg identified what she calls âSandbergâs biggest blind spotâ: that some mothers donât want to work while their children are young.
âOur greatest obstacle is not any girly self-doubt,â Goldberg wrote. âIt is a rigid workplace culture that wonât let us ratchet down. It is employers who do not offer flexible alternatives that drive parents out, by offering only a binary choice between full-time-plus or the highway.â
Online reviews of the book have also been divided, with some readers singing its praises and others finding the content objectionable.
âThis is a life-changing book, if you let it be,â an Amazon commenter named Cathryn Michon wrote. âBy writing truthfully ... about her own failings and insecurities, Sheryl Sandberg tells every woman who reads this book that they are not alone if they ever pulled back from their ambitions, whatever they may be."
Michon also deplored "the vicious criticism" that has been hurled at the book. "The fact that there has been this much venom spewed at the writer of a business book (does anybody know what Jack Welch's dad did for a living or who paid his college tuition? Does anyone care?) tells you everything you need to know about how the playing field for women in business is in no way equal,â she wrote.
But a commenter on Goodreads named Aryn said she couldnât see what the fuss was about.
âI am confused by this book, [because] it doesn't inspire me at all,â she wrote. âIn fact, it makes me wonder if the other women around me actually feel this way??? I can't seem to relate to [Sandberg's] frame of mind. Maybe it's a generation thing? Maybe it was how I was raised, but I don't feel the same insecurities.â
Given the book's strong sales, one thing seems certain: âLean Inâ â and the debate over its content â wonât be going away anytime soon.