Reviews, reviews everywhere!

The last week has been a whirlwind of reviews to coincide with the original publication date of my book in the US. Perhaps because of Michelle Obama’s memoir, quite a few books were pushed back a week and my new publication date is Tuesday, November 20th, just in time for people to read it before Thanksgiving dinner. It will make for many debates around the table, I am sure. So far the reviews have been very encouraging. Even the conservative Times of London said that parts of the book were “fascinating,” and that “This book is not as silly as its title suggests.” That’s high praise from a Tory paper!

What the Pool is reading this week!


Thanks to Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn (in part, at least), the number of young people identifying as socialist is rocketing, and now academic Kristen R Ghodsee is making the feminist argument for some of the policies adopted by socialist states, which, she claims, resulted in women having better sex. The book is born out of a New York Times op-ed she wrote, which points to a study that found women in socialist East Germany had more orgasms than those in capitalist West Germany. As Ghodsee goes on to explore in her book, a government that funds childcare, encourages women into the workforce and supports women into economic independence significantly increases women’s happiness. Ghodsee is an academic, but the tone is accessible and relatable. She’s quick to point out the significant failings of communist states, while illuminating some of the brilliant, but often forgotten, women in and around the socialist movement.
• BUY Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen R. Ghodsee or pop in to your local bookshop.

Literary Dinner Party

Back on April 16, 2015, the New York Times Book review did a “By the Book” segment with Freeman Dyson. In the interview, he was asked what his ideal literary dinner party would be, and he included NYU’s Joan Connelly and me in his guest list (which also included Mary Russell). Well, this weekend in Princeton, Joan and I managed to have two thirds of this party together with Professor Dyson and his wonderful wife Imme and two other renowned historians from the Institute for Advanced Study. It was a truly amazing evening.

Kirkus Review

From paid maternity leave to employment assurances, an argument for the benefits of socialism for women.

Ghodsee (Russian and East European Studies/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism, 2017, etc.) sums up her thesis in the introduction: “Unregulated capitalism is bad for women, and if we adopt some ideas from socialism, women will have better lives.” And if you disagree with the author, she clearly doesn’t care. “If you don’t give a whit about women’s lives because you’re a gynophobic right-wing internet troll,” she writes, “save your money and get back to your parents’ basement right now; this isn’t the book for you.” Ghodsee’s in-your-face tone sets the stage for a book that takes readers on a pointed examination of the Soviet experiment. Using her years living in Bulgaria as fodder for the narrative, along with decades of research, she makes the case that there are lessons capitalist countries can and should learn from socialism—e.g., how socialists pushed for equity between men and women and the benefits of collective forms of support for child-rearing. At the same time, the author isn’t blind to the failures of socialist regimes. “Hungarians never managed to redefine traditional gender roles,” she writes, “and domestic patriarchy was strengthened by pro-natalist family policies.” Still, she points to examples of Scandinavian countries where socialist ideas are working to improve women’s lives: “A wider social safety net,” she writes, “like those in the contemporary Northern European countries, will increase rather than decrease personal freedom…no one should have to stay in a job she hates for health insurance, or stick with a partner who beats her because she’s not sure how she’ll feed the kids, or have sex with some sugar elder because she can’t afford textbooks.” Ghodsee makes a convincing case, though she fails to investigate how socialism addresses LGBTQ and people of color. Perhaps she’s saving that for another book.

While the title is the literary version of click-bait, the book is chock-full of hard-hitting real talk.
— Kirkus

A lovely blurb from the journalist Kate Arnoff

A quietly damning indictment of the Lean In approach to women’s empowerment through the corporate boardroom. Ghodsee makes a compelling case for a more expansive understanding of feminism, where remaking the economy is central. A necessary reminder that today’s socialism should be as much about pleasure as it is about power and production.
— Kate Aronoff (

Summer reading: The Sum of Small Things

Read a review of this book and decided to check it out for myself. Overall, it is a fascinating read about the rise of inconspicuous consumption among the so-called aspirational class. There is a lot of interesting information in the book, and it reflects on the social consequences of growing inequality in the United States and how it is becoming more and more difficult to reverse its long term effects. Forget about the Rolex and the Benz, health, wellness, education, and security in old age are the new status markers.

the sum of small things.jpg