As employees of a company bound together almost literally by paper and a love of books, it only makes sense that we would end up wanting to talk about what reads we are working on during lunch. But as employees of said company, sometimes it’s hard to give up an hour of our day to talk about books we’re reading, when we usually have to talk about books we’re working on every other hour of our day. And so, Books ’n’ Bites was born. Come for the bites, stay for the books. Or something like that.
This month, we read Younger, the book that inspired the hottest show made for Gen X and watched, it seems, almost exclusively by millennials. We love the steamy romances (#TeamCharles), we laugh at the “insider” jokes (oh, Edward L.L. Moore. You don’t remind us of anyone!), and we gush over all the ways they get publishing entirely and hilariously wrong. I, for one, will never get over the episode where they waft through an exclusive pool on a summer Friday, talking to the only agent that works in publishing, played by Mr. Michael Urie. But as we entered our conference room, booked specifically for this purpose, the question was, does the book measure up?
On the one hand, duh. The book is always better. For starters, you really understand Alice’s (Liza’s in the show) motives, and the whole thing takes a dark and brutal look at ageism in the workplace. It’s very much meant to show second wave feminism at its core–one generation of women who sacrificed everything so that the next generation could have their corporate day in the sun. But what kind of pressures are put on us as those women to be fully invested in either home life or work life, and is it really worth the cost?
On the other hand, though, I mean…nothing is going to be as fun or insane as the show. We kept talking about how glamorous it all was, but we were thinking about the show. When we got down to the nitty-gritty, the book gives you a fairly honest depiction of what it is to be an assistant at a corporate publishing house, and a real exploration of what it is to be thought of as “young.” As the tension between Alice and Teri (Liza and Diana, man this is exhausting!) grows, you see a kind of person who is rare to find (at least, in our experience) in publishing houses, but definitely exists: the boss who just needs you to be the assistant, and not a manager-in-training. It was hard for Alice to come to terms with this new role in her life, since she was someone who had been mothering (and therefore, making all the choices) for over two decades, and it makes her decision between being an autonomous homemaker exclusively or becoming a politically minded corporate ladder-climber all the more high stakes.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a fun romp of a book, just like the show, but the book is tinged with something more serious, and something more enlightening. As we, the 20-and-30-and-40-somethings of Simon & Schuster, left our little book club, we went away with one great message: Make your choices in life, and don’t look back.
And if you ever get the chance to wear couture to a marketing meeting, do so, you amazing fierce queen.