The reviews are in: Ivanka Trump’s new book is “vapid” at worst, “earnest” at best, and “a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes” somewhere in between.
Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success went on sale Tuesday and seemed to immediately incite criticism from all corners of the internet. Trump has explained that the book is meant to “inspire you to redefine success and architect a life that honors your individual passions and priorities.” However, the self-help disquisition has been described in noticeably harsher terms in the book reviews that have come out since its release.
Take, for example, The New York Times’ Jennifer Senior, who indeed described the book as “a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes” “perfect for a generation weaned on Pinterest and goop.com,” adding:
Self-actualization is the all-consuming preoccupation of “Women Who Work.” In this way, the book is not really offensive so much as witlessly derivative, endlessly recapitulating the wisdom of other, canonical self-help and business books — by Stephen Covey, Simon Sinek, Shawn Achor, Adam Grant. (Profiting handsomely off the hard work of others appears to be a signature Trumpian trait.) For a while, it reads like the best valedictorian speech ever.
Business Insider’s Kate Taylor agrees, at least when it comes to Trump’s penchant for regurgitating other people’s advice.
The book […] reads like a mashup of countless essays and articles written in the past decade aimed at female entrepreneurs.
That isn’t to say all the advice is bad — it’s just that little is new. The book borrows heavily from books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston’s “How Remarkable Women Lead,” and backlogs of.
So does NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben:
Often, the melange of quotes and how-to lists give the book more the aesthetic of a Pinterest board than a career guide.
In a review for Slate, Michelle Goldberg focused more on Trump’s often unchecked privilege, summarizing the book as “a celebration of the unlimited possibilities open to working women when they have full-time household help” that “exploits and cheapens feminism.”
The review really picks up around the second use of the word “vapid”:
As vapid as Women Who Work is — and it is really vapid — there is a subtle political current running through it, one that helps explains how the socially liberal Ivanka can work for her misogynist ogre of a father. Beneath the inspirational quotes from Oprah and the Dalai Lama and the you-go-girl cheerleading, the message of Women Who Work is that people get what they deserve.
Her worldview, it turns out, is not so different from her father’s. Both see society through the lens of quasi-mystical corporate self-help, the sort pioneered by Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking and a major influence on Donald Trump. In their schema, success is proof of virtue and people are to blame for their own misfortune. If Ivanka Trump hasn’t expressed any outrage at the cruelties her father is inflicting on the poor and vulnerable, it may well be because she doesn’t feel any.
HuffPost’s own Emily Peck similarly remarked upon the First Daughter’s inability to “realize just how much being wealthy, white and famous helped her out in life.”
Trump’s book, written before the election but published Tuesday, is a grab-bag of generic work-life advice for upper-middle-class white women who need to “architect” (a verb that pops up a lot) their lives. But underneath that, and perhaps more remarkable, is Trump’s inability to truly recognize how her own privileged upbringing was key to her success.
Even Boston Globe’s Beth Teitell’s tongue-in-cheek appraisal speaks volumes:
Ivanka’s life seems pretty smooth, but in her book she reveals struggles, like the time Anna Wintour heard that she was about to graduate from college and called out of the blue with a job offer, a challenge familiar to many aspiring writers.
Ultimately, under the headline “We read Ivanka Trump’s insufferable new book so you don’t have to,” Mashable’s Chris Taylor packaged all the complaints into one succinct sentence:
Here is proof that a female CEO can write a business book that is just as bad — just as padded with bromides and widely-known examples and self-promotion and unexamined privilege and jargon — as one written by an overconfident male CEO.
Some reviews have, of course, been less critical. Meera Jagannathan described the book as “an earnest (if sometimes unrelatable) treatise on work-life balance, motherhood and workplace empowerment” in The New York Daily News.
The Associated Press apparently enjoyed the book’s earnestness as well: “’Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success’ offers earnest advice for women on advancing in the workplace, balancing family and professional life and seeking personal fulfilment,” the review reads.
In fact, “earnest” must be the euphemism of the week ― Maya Oppenheim noted the book’s “somewhat earnest tone” in The Independent, too.
Women Who Work currently boasts three out five stars on Goodreads, with only two written reviews submitted so far. It’s faring slightly worse on Amazon, earning only two and a half stars (out of five) from reader reviews there.
Book world ire is hardly new for Trump, though. Just last month, a horde of social media-savvy librarians schooled the author after her tone-deaf #NationalLibraryWeek tweet. It’s hard to believe they’ll be stocking her books on shelves anytime soon.