The most underrated book? Most underrated? That’s a tall order. I’m not at all sure that I’ve read the most underrated book in the world, that I haven’t seems likely given how underrated it must be.
…a day later
Okay, so this one had me good and stumped but I think I finally came up with a book that I think is a bit underrated. The book is pop-sociology, heavily panned by members of its subject for lack of research, and panned by others for its methodology which is not spreadsheets-and-graphs based.
Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins
The author went undercover at a large southern state university to get an inside look at sororities and Greek campus culture. While the title makes the book seem a bit seedy, and the book holds its fair share of shock value, it also does a very good job of looking at why women join sororities. What they hope to gain versus what they do gain, and what it costs them overall. The book is written as a narrative rather than a research report, which helps the reader sympathize with the four subjects even when they are making mistakes. Her personal relationship with the subjects allows Robbins to really take a look at what women are seeking when they pledge, and whether or not Greek life meets those needs. She provides an overview of how sororities began, including their original purpose, and looks into how they got where they are today. Robbins interviews many people beyond the four core women: adults involved in sorority administration, members of other all-female organizations, and alumnae who can reflect on their sisterhood with the benefit of life experience. The author looks into various traditions and rituals, comparing their stated purpose with their reality. In the final chapter she summarizes what she’s learned, listing the things women hope a sorority will provide, and provides ideas and examples as to how Greek life could be adjusted to provide them. It’s not a seedy exposé bent on slamming Greeks, nor is it caught up in the “glamour” of rich kids with no responsibilities and parties every night. This book deserves more of a chance than most people give it.