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Mini-Reviews: ‘Hyperbole and a Half’ and ‘Why Have Kids?’

by Kim on November 21, 2013 · 14 comments

Today I want to share a couple of quick reviews of books I read several months ago that I didn’t take any notes on (bad book reviewer!). I also didn’t have very strong feelings about either book, but liked them well enough that I can think of a few readers I’ll be suggesting them too. But enough with the qualifications, on to the reviews!

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch

hyperbole and a half by allie broschEvery time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices. Touching, absurd, and darkly comic, Allie Brosh’s highly anticipated book Hyperbole and a Half showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, “The God of Cake,” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving,” and her astonishing, “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written.

I love the blog Hyperbole and a Half. Just love it. I’ve never felt like a piece of online writing was more true than the first time I read “This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult.” When I was approved for an advanced copy of Allie Brosch’s book of the same name, I may have squealed. Loudly. Whatever, I know you squeal at books too.

Overall, I thought the collection was a little bit uneven. The essays that hit were amazing, but some of them felt rough around the edges. I think the ones I liked best were those that used more illustrations than text. When Borsch focused more on writing (and hence fewer pictures), I didn’t think the essays worked as well. That said, I’m glad I read the book and plan to buy myself a copy the next chance I get, if only because I want to support Brosch so that she will keep on writing.

Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti

why have kids by jessica valentiIf parenting is making Americans unhappy, if it’s impossible to “have it all,” if people don’t have the economic, social, or political structures needed to support parenting, then why do it? And why are anxious new parents flocking to every Tiger Mother and Bébé-raiser for advice on how to raise kids?

In Why Have Kids?, Valenti explores these controversial questions through on-the-ground reporting, startling new research, and her own unique experiences as a mom. She moves beyond the black and white “mommy wars” over natural parenting, discipline, and work-life balance to explore a more nuanced reality: one filled with ambivalence, joy, guilt, and exhaustion.

I feel like even a mini-review of this book has to start with a few of statements of fact. I’m 27 years old. I don’t have kids. I don’t know if I want to have kids. I have friends with kids, friends who want kids, and friends who have decided they don’t want kids. And I don’t think any of those decisions are wrong.

Why Have Kids? was a pretty buzzy book when it first came out in 2012. As with other books about women and work and kids, there was a lot of criticism and cheering from various circles. Since I don’t, at this point, have strong feels about having children myself, I didn’t have a lot of strong feelings about the arguments in this book. I appreciated that Valenti was willing to look at commonly-held beliefs about having children and choices parents make in a new way. Women can’t make the best decisions for themselves and their families if we’re not willing to have those conversations.

Why Have Kids? was a good read, I’m just not sure what to do with the information right now.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of Hyperbole and a Half from the publisher for review consideration. I checked out a copy of Why Have Kids? from my local library. 

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy November 21, 2013 at 6:05 am

I think the author should have waited to write the book until her kids were teenagers. Just to give herself a broad perspective. Just saying.

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Kim November 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I didn’t think Valenti spent much time talking about herself and her daughter, mostly just as examples to tie together some other studies. Time might have given her a different perspective, but I don’t think it would have changed any of the facts she brought to the book.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) November 21, 2013 at 7:00 am

My bookseller recommended Hyperbole and a Half so I flipped through it in the store and decided against it. It sounds like I did the right thing.

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Christy November 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

I am 3/4 of the way through Hyperbole and a Half and of a similar opinion as you. I love her blog and a few of the best stories are included in the book. (Though a few favorites are missing.) However, as you said, her illustrations are usually more evocative than her essays and I would have been happy with nearly cover-to-cover Brosh artwork. I don’t remember if her little sister appeared in any of the illustrations on the blog, but she’s wicked cute in the book’s illustrations.

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Kim November 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm

The illustrations are so fun. She’s a fine writer, but the illustrations are what make the stories stand out. When she leans to heavily on words, I don’t think it works that well.

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Katie @ Doing Dewey November 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hahaha, I had no idea that Hyperbole and a Half had essays. I thought it was just a comic. The one you share about being an adult is really just perfect :)

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Jeanne November 22, 2013 at 8:02 am

The more people talk about having kids, the better the world will be–I like it that we’re the first generation to effectively have a choice. I was married for eleven years before we had our first, and I remember the culminating conversation about it, in the nine hours it took us to get from our friends’ house in Ohio back to our house in Maryland. We decided that we didn’t want to get the kind of jobs where you move around a lot, and we wanted to settle down somewhere and have cats and children.

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Kim November 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm

It is nice to live in a time when having kids can be a choice. There are still pressures attached to each path, but like you said it’s good to have options.

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Jenny @ Reading the End November 22, 2013 at 8:33 am

I very much agree about the unevenness of the Hyperbole and a Half book, and I also enjoyed it a lot. The story about hot sauce made me giggle uncontrollably because I can TOTALLY imagine little me doing something like that in my neverending quest for adult approval. :p

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Savvy Working Gal November 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I’ve been waiting for you to review ‘Why Have Kids.’ I am 51 and never had them myself. When I am asked why, I typically respond with “It never worked out for me.” Recently a woman was not happy with that answer and kept trying to probe further. My husband thinks I should just say I didn’t want them, but in reality it was more complicated than that. I just wasn’t up to the task. I wanted to read the book to see what Valenti had to say, but after reading your review I don’t think that I really want to. It sounds like she summed up why I didn’t have kids, but if someone is on the other side of the aisle they will never understand my decision.

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Kim November 24, 2013 at 4:57 pm

It seems to me the decision for most people is more complicated than that. IT’s good to have conversations so we can all start to understand those decisions better.

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Athira November 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I have my eye on Hyperbole and a Half! I haven’t been able to get hold of it yet but can’t wait to read it.

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Laurie C November 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Good to know what you thought of these. I think I’m too old for the first and not really interested in the second! It’s definitely good that women aren’t automatically expected to want children anymore, but sometimes you don’t know what something is going to be like for you until you experience it for yourself, so to me it’s kind of like thinking you can decide on something that’s either comes to you instinctively or it doesn’t.

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Rebecca @ Love at First Book November 23, 2013 at 6:49 pm

I think I’m just going to have to add Hyperbole to my library list. People are all raving about how funny it is!

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