Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy by Hallie Lieberman #Mini-Review

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy cover

The first person to receive a PhD in the history of sex toys, Hallie Lieberman has written a fascinating book that tells you everything you wanted to know on the subject, and more. For example, did you know that until as recently as 2008, it was illegal to sell sex toys in Texas? Obscenity laws there (and elsewhere) set the stage for decades-worth of headaches and careful maneuvering for anyone involved in selling them. Regardless of the specific topic—whether it’s about manufacturing, advertising, or selling—there is always a story to tell on how things were done, and how they evolved over the years.

If you enjoy learning the history of how commonplace items came to be, this is an interesting read.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Pegasus Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Hallie Lieberman

Title: Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Published: November 7th, 2017 by Pegasus Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

Once only whispered about in clandestine corners, vibrators have become just another accessory for the suburban soccer mom, showing up in all manner of pop culture, from sitcoms to talk shows to the pages of glossy women’s magazines. But how did these once-taboo toys become so socially acceptable? The journey of the devices to the cultural mainstream is a surprisingly stimulating one.

In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman—who holds the world’s first PhD in the history of sex toys—starts at the beginning, tracing the tale from lubricant in Ancient Greece to the very first condom in 1560 to advertisements touting devices as medical equipment in 19th-century magazines. She looks in particular from the period of major change from the 1950s through the present, when sex toys evolved from symbols of female emancipation to tools in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consumerist marital aids to today’s mainstays of pop culture. The story is populated with a cast of vivid and fascinating characters including Dell Williams, founder of the first feminist sex toy store, Eve’s Garden; Betty Dodson, who pioneered “Bodysex” workshops in the 1960s to help women discover vibrators and ran Good Vibrations, a sex toy store and vibrator museum; and Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic engineer who invented the silicone dildo and lobbied Dodson and Williams to sell them in their stores. And these personal dramas are all set against a backdrop of changing American attitudes toward sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues, and more.

Both educational and titillating, Buzz will make readers think quite differently about those secret items hiding in bedside drawers across the nation.

About the Author

Hallie Lieberman
Hallie Lieberman

Lieberman obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2014, with a dissertation on Sex Toy History. Her writing has been published in Bitch, Bust, Eater, The Forward, and Inside Higher Ed, among others. She is often featured on podcasts such as “In Bed With Susie Bright” and Bitch Magazine’s “Popaganda.” She has given talks at many university events and conferences. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Author photo and bio via author’s website.


5 Nonfiction Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading

Nicki at Secret Library Blog did a post about some nonfiction books she added to her Goodreads TBR shelf, and I really enjoyed reading it. I thought it was a fabulous idea, so I’m borrowing her idea and writing up a post of my own. Thanks, Nicki!

In no particular order, here are some of the nonfiction books I’m looking forward to reading over the next few months:

(If any of these books interest you, just click the covers to add them to your Goodreads.)

Underneath it All: A History of Women's Underwear by Amber J. Keyser

Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear by Amber J. Keyser

ebook ARC, 96 pages

Expected publication: January 1st, 2018 by Twenty-First Century Book

Throughout history, women’s lingerie garments have played a complex role in women’s lives. Learn how undergarments protected and shaped women’s bodies to fit the ideals of the time, enhanced desire in intimate relationships, made statements about social movements such as women’s suffrage, and provided a way to express individual style and personal empowerment. With each swing of the fashion pendulum, new undergarments forced the body into the preferred shapeflat bust and angular ribcage, lush bosom and high waist, sloped shoulders and ample hipswhich in turn, affected women’s health and activities. Learn how lingerie has been used as a status symbol, a marker of social class, and an economic driver throughout history.

This book seriously appeals to my inner history geek. The evolution of women’s fashions over the centuries never ceases to fascinate me, so when I saw this title on Edelweiss, I was instantly intrigued. I’m curious to see what I will learn!

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir cover

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele

Paperback ARC, 257 pages

Expected publication: January 16th, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

The emotional and powerful story of one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter and how the movement was born.

From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.

The Black Lives Matter movement shines a much-needed light on the continuing systemic racism faced by African-American in the United States. Social injustice, racism,  and inequality are issues I’ve been paying close attention to (especially over the past few years), so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it.

Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment cover

Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

ebook ARC, 176 pages

Expected publication: January 9th, 2018 by City Lights Publishers

America loves guns. From Daniel Boone and Jesse James to the NRA and Seal Team 6, gun culture has colored the lore, shaped the law, and protected the market that arms the nation. In Loaded, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz peels away the myths of gun culture to expose the true historical origins of the Second Amendment, exposing the racial undercurrents connecting the earliest Anglo setters with contemporary gun proliferation, modern-day policing, and the consolidation of influence of armed white nationalists. From the enslavement of Blacks and the conquest of Native America, to the arsenal of institutions that constitute the “gun lobby,” Loaded presents “a people’s history of the Second Amendment” as seen through the lens of those who have been most targeted by guns: people of color. Meticulously researched and thought-provoking throughout, this is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the historical connections between racism and gun violence in the United States.

Kirkus Reviews describes Loaded as a “provocative cultural analysis arguing that the Second Amendment and white supremacy are inextricably bound.” With white supremacists boldly taking their hatred to the streets more and more, I’m even more eager to read this book and what it leads me to ponder upon.

Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America cover

Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America by Peter Edelman

ebook ARC, 320 pages

Published October 31st, 2017 by The New Press

In addition to exposing racially biased policing, the Justice Department’s Ferguson Report exposed to the world a system of fines and fees levied for minor crimes in Ferguson, Missouri, that, when they proved too expensive for Ferguson’s largely poor, African American population, resulted in jail sentences for thousands of people.

As former staffer to Robert F. Kennedy and current Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman explains in Not a Crime to Be Poor, Ferguson is everywhere in America today. Through money bail systems, fees and fines, strictly enforced laws and regulations against behavior including trespassing and public urination that largely affect the homeless, and the substitution of prisons and jails for the mental hospitals that have traditionally served the impoverished, in one of the richest countries on Earth we have effectively made it a crime to be poor.

Edelman, who famously resigned from the administration of Bill Clinton over welfare “reform,” connects the dots between these policies and others including school discipline in poor communities, child support policies affecting the poor, public housing ordinances, addiction treatment, and the specter of public benefits fraud to paint a picture of a mean-spirited, retributive system that seals whole communities into inescapable cycles of poverty.

Poverty and the treatment of those who are less fortunate is another high-interest topic for me. I expect this book—much like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City—will likely leave me angry and upset by the time I reach the end. But like other matters of social injustice, these are important things to know about… no matter how upsetting it may be.

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s cover

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the ’70s and ’80s by Grady Hendrix

ebook ARC, 256 pages

Published September 19th, 2017 by Quirk Books

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

I spent my teen years reading a LOT of horror novels. Some good, some bad, and at least one that was so utterly terrifying, I had to throw it out the front door in order to be able to sleep. I wonder how many books I will recognize as I read Paperbacks from Hell? This should prove to be a fun trip down memory lane!

(If you’re curious, the book I tossed was The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Creepiest book EVER!)

~ ~ ~

Most of these books deal with heavy topics, but I’m looking forward to reading them all. Do any of my nonfiction reads interest you? Leave a comment and tell me which one(s)!

Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead by Paul Vigna #Review @paulvigna @deystreet

Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead cover

I am obsessed with The Walking Dead.

That’s right. I said it. OBSESSED. I own the entire series, and I make it a point to buy it as soon as I see it hit the shelf. When the latest season isn’t airing (IS IT OCTOBER YET?!), I binge watch the show from start to finish—once a month. (And no, I don’t think that’s excessive at all. My family on the other hand… well, that’s a different story.) I’ve watched it so much, I’ve unintentionally memorized pretty much all of the dialogue. We have a TWD trivia game, but no one wants to play it with me because I always win. I like to point out little inconsistencies on episodes. (Example: “Chupacabra” [season two, episode five] After Daryl Dixon [Norman Reedus] is thrown from his horse, and hallucinates a conversation with his brother, Merle [Michael Rooker]? Pay attention to the dirt on Daryl’s mouth. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.)

Like I said… obsessed.

Needless to say, when the opportunity came along to read an review copy of GUTS, I was all over it like the walkers who took out the Anderson family in “No Way Out” [season six, episode nine]. I was thrilled to be approved, and promptly tore into it like… well, you know. (And I swear, that is the last time I do that in this review… no more walker jokes. Promise!)

Vigna has put together a comprehensive guide to everything The Walking Dead. From how both the comic and the show came about, to season recaps and the rundown on its phenomenal ratings, and even a bit of philosophy, this book has it all. There are several areas in the book where the author gives detailed thoughts on particular events that happened during the show—such as Glenn Rhee’s (Steven Yeun) miraculous escape from certain death by conveniently hiding under the dumpster after Nicholas’ (Michael Traynor) commits suicide and causes them both to fall off the top of the dumpster into a hungry herd of walkers gathered below. His stance on why it shouldn’t have happened and how the show broke its own ‘rules’ in order to pull it off was one of my favorite parts of the book because the dumpster-death-that-wasn’t annoys the hell out of me every time I see it.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is how a goodly portion of it discusses things of the show that my family and I often talk about. Whether it’s nitpicking little things (like the length of the grass) or discussing mistakes made by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in his role as leader, etc., it was nice to see many of those same topics in the book.

The chapter discussing a Walker Stalker convention in Charlotte, North Carolina was especially fun to read, because it gives the reader a peak into the sincere appreciation the cast members—such as Michael Cudlitz (Abraham Ford) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene Porter), who were there that day—have for fans of the show, and how much they enjoy the time they spend talking to them. (And, likewise, the regard the fans have for the cast members.) Reading about (or better still, experiencing for yourself, if you’re fortunate enough to do so) such genuine warmth and appreciation just makes you feel good as a fan.

There is SO much more to the book than the few things I’ve touched on in this review. Suffice to say that in this reader’s opinion, GUTS: THE ANATOMY OF THE WALKING DEAD would make for a fine addition to your TWD collection. It’s a must have for fans!

So now there are two things to look forward to in October. This book, and the long-awaited start to season eight!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Dey Street Books and Edelweiss.


Author: Paul Vigna

Title: Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead

Genre: Performing Arts, Television

Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017 by Dey Street Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Book

In this first and only guide to AMC’s exceptional hit series The Walking Dead, the Wall Street Journal’s Walking Dead columnist celebrates the show, its storylines, characters, and development, and examines its popularity and cultural resonance.

From its first episode, The Walking Dead took fans in the United States and across the world by storm, becoming the highest-rated series in the history of cable television. After each episode airs, Paul Vigna writes a widely read column in which he breaks down the stories and considers what works and what doesn’t, and tries to discern the small details that will become larger plot points.

So how did a basic cable television show based on a graphic comic series, set in an apocalyptic dog-eat-dog world filled with flesh-eating zombies and even scarier human beings, become a ratings juggernaut and cultural phenomenon? Why is the show such a massive hit? In this playful yet comprehensive guide, Vigna dissect every aspect of The Walking Dead to assess its extraordinary success.

Vigna digs into the show’s guts, exploring its roots, storyline, relevance for fans and the wider popular culture, and more. He explores how the changing nature of television and media have contributed to the show’s success, and goes deep into the zombie genre, delineating why it’s different from vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. He considers why people have found in zombies a mirror for their own fears, and explains how this connection is important to the show’s popularity. He interviews the cast and crew, who share behind-the-scenes tales, and introduces a cross-section of its diverse and rabid viewership, from fantasy nerds to NFL stars. Guts is a must have for every Walking Dead fan.

About the Author

Author Paul Vigna
Author Paul Vigna

Paul Vigna is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and also contributes to the popular MoneyBeat blog. He is the author of two books (with Michael J. Casey), the critically acclaimed The Age of Cryptocurrency and The Blockchain. He lives in Verona, New Jersey, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son.