A little fun fact about me: I’m not much of a reader. Over the last decade, I’m pretty sure I read like… three books: Bitter is the New Black, The Fault in Our Stars (those are affiliate links), and #Girlboss.
I have made it a point to read more books recently – basically starting with the quarantine – and I have enjoyed several of them, so I will be reviewing some of them periodically. I actually re-read #Girlboss a couple weeks ago, so I wanted to start with a review for it.
#Girlboss: An overview
#Girlboss was written by Sophia Amoruso, the founder and former CEO of Nasty Gal, a clothing brand that initially started as a vintage eBay store and soon grew to an uncontrollable beast of a company.
I actually first read the book shortly before Netflix released its series, about three years ago (also, I totally loved the show, by the way – it wasn’t the most well-done from a technical perspective, but oh my god, every single shot in that series was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve really never seen a prettier scripted series).
At the time, Nasty Gal was going through some controversy. The company had just laid off a pretty sizable chunk of its staff. The introduction to my version of the book actually addresses this and talks a little about why Amoruso thinks the business took a dive (mostly because it grew way quicker than anybody had anticipated).
Nasty Gal had also seen previous controversy over its working conditions and was once sued by employees for allegedly firing four women because they had become pregnant. These issues were not addressed in the revised introduction – and I honestly can’t see why it would be worth the bother considering how quickly the news cycle moves in today’s world. Why have a permanent reminder of poor publicity sitting on thousands of household bookshelves when everybody will forget in a couple weeks anyways?
Overall, though, the book basically serves as a manic memoir by a woman who went from petty shoplifting to running the fastest-growing retailer in, like, less than a decade.
Memoirs are probably my favorite genre because I enjoy the opportunity to connect with people and their stories. #Girlboss was enjoyable to me for its authenticity. Although I’m certain it was edited by an entire team of public relations advisors who chose to remove some of the grittier bits that would make the book “a bad look,” most of Amoruso’s essence still seems to be present in each page.
I do kind of wonder whether she’s actually this person at her core, or if it’s a character she chose to brand herself as (a la Paris Hilton, who also built an empire off of being an iconic queen on the world’s stage). Either way, I connect with her as she represents herself. She’s gritty, brazen, tough, creative, inventive, and driven, and I admire all of those characteristics.
The book also has a frantic, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, “okay I guess we’re here now” feel to it. Normally that comes off as bad writing, but I feel like the pacing is important to setting the scene. I don’t think it’s frantic because she doesn’t know how to write calmly. I think it’s frantic because she spent the entire time living her experience frantically.
To put it bluntly, I love it.
She has a lot of edge to her and it comes across clearly. She likes her edge. She’s like Elizabeth Wurtzel, but less academic and more educated-in-the-streets.
And it suits her.
The book also got me fired up. After I read it the first time, I immediately went to Goodwill and started combing through clothing racks for vintage clothing to hawk on eBay.
(Obviously, I didn’t quite see the same level of success.)
That’s what the book gets right, though. Amoruso’s character comes through so strongly and so sympathetically that you simply have no choice but to root for her, envision her life as yours, and start dreaming about your own future success.
It’s why I read it again this summer. I’m going through a career change – another foray into self-employment – so I needed to get fired up.
But that’s not to say that the book is perfect.
This is a memoir and it needs to be treated and appreciated that way.
But the book also includes a lot of empowerment for its readers and some specific details of how a person could replicate her success.
But it’s not a guide to starting a business.
In other words, I think the book tried a little too hard to be empowering. Memoirs don’t need self-help content. If your story is inspirational, your readers will be inspired. I think the book tried a little too hard to make itself marketable as a small business/start-up “read this and you’ll do better” type of book, too.
Amoruso’s strengths are not in the self-help or how-to genres. They are in the memoir genre. Having a book that feels like a mix of the three kind of waters down the substance of the story, in my opinion.
There may be some reasons why it’s written the way it’s written, though. Maybe a marketing team said, “It’s good, but you talked about yourself too much. People want to do what you do,” so she added the other content in post. Maybe she simply wrote too short of a memoir, so she felt she needed to pad the content with other things.
And who knows? Maybe her short, frantic style of writing wouldn’t have been able to keep the book engaging if her personal story hadn’t been distilled so much.
But I didn’t buy the book as a self-help or how-to guide. I just wanted to read the story of a really cool woman who built a hugely successful company from her bedroom.
You still get to do that with #Girlboss. Just not as much as you could if she’d kept the book focused.
So, is #Girlboss worth reading?
In my opinion, absolutely.
You probably could have guessed this because, like I said, I’ve read it twice and watched the series. I’m obviously a fan.
I got a lot of value out of reading it. As I mentioned, it’s inspiring. It’s punchy, it’s witty, it’s entertaining, it’s manic, and it’ll light a fire under your ass, no matter what line of work you’re in or what kind of business you’re starting. If you want to feel very hell yeah, give it a read.
It’s also short and to the point. I’m a slow reader and I got through it in a couple of hours. It’s easy to binge. You can – and will – read it cover-to-cover on your next day off. And then you’re gonna go work on your business with a very high level of focus (at least for a few days – it does wear off, as does most inspirational content).
That’s well worth the price tag.