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'Lean In' boasts strong sales, largely positive reviews

'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg, a book addressing women in the workplace, drew controversy even before it was published. But it now seems to have won over many reviewers and readers.

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“I dozed off twice while reading it,” Corrigan wrote. “Most of the book is kind of blah, composed of platitudinous-corporate-speak-intermixed-with-pallid-anecdotes.... 'Lean In' may not be the most impassioned or entertaining feminist manifesto ever written and, sure, Sandberg is somewhat blinkered by her big bucks and privilege and inhibited by corporate caution. Yet, it's great to have a woman with such a platform speak up about sexism.” 

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Of course the book has also had its share of detractors. Writing for Atlantic, Christina Hoff Sommers charged that Sandberg “is mired in 1970s-style feminism.”

“An up-to-date manifesto on women and work should steer clear of encounter groups and boys-must-play-with dolls rhetoric,” she wrote. “It should make room for human reality: that in the pursuit of happiness, men and women often take different paths.”

And WBUR writer Carey Goldberg identified what she calls “Sandberg’s biggest blind spot”: that some mothers don’t want to work while their children are young.

“Our greatest obstacle is not any girly self-doubt,” Goldberg wrote. “It is a rigid workplace culture that won’t let us ratchet down. It is employers who do not offer flexible alternatives that drive parents out, by offering only a binary choice between full-time-plus or the highway.”

Online reviews of the book have also been divided, with some readers singing its praises and others finding the content objectionable.

“This is a life-changing book, if you let it be,” an Amazon commenter named Cathryn Michon wrote. “By writing truthfully ... about her own failings and insecurities, Sheryl Sandberg tells every woman who reads this book that they are not alone if they ever pulled back from their ambitions, whatever they may be."

Michon also deplored "the vicious criticism" that has been hurled at the book. "The fact that there has been this much venom spewed at the writer of a business book (does anybody know what Jack Welch's dad did for a living or who paid his college tuition? Does anyone care?) tells you everything you need to know about how the playing field for women in business is in no way equal,” she wrote.

But a commenter on Goodreads named Aryn said she couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

“I am confused by this book, [because] it doesn't inspire me at all,” she wrote. “In fact, it makes me wonder if the other women around me actually feel this way??? I can't seem to relate to [Sandberg's] frame of mind. Maybe it's a generation thing? Maybe it was how I was raised, but I don't feel the same insecurities.”

Given the book's strong sales, one thing seems certain: “Lean In” – and the debate over its content – won’t be going away anytime soon.

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