Monday, December 19, 2016

Hidden Figures - a review

knitting to an audio book of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

While knitting on large projects I usually listen to audio books. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly was my most recent "read." It's a non-fiction book about the black female mathematicians who worked as human computers for the U.S. military during World War II and into the 1960s. The work they did was highly technical and helped in the development of many aircraft designs and then into the Space Age. 

I'll be honest: I was very disappointed in this book, not in the subject matter which was interesting but in the actual writing. The author did a great job of gathering information but didn't do a very good job of determining what needed to be included in the book. Her editors did a great disservice to the story by not cutting a LOT of the irrelevant material that takes the readers down many unnecessary rabbit holes. Frankly, I grew weary of the story by Chapter 15, and by the time I got to Chapter 22, I had had enough and skipped the entire final chapter.

The book follows the lives of four woman computers: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden. The author tells the reader about their personal lives as well as their careers and contributions to NASA. Instead of simply telling the story of these four women's contribution to NASA and their struggles dealing with stereotyping and prejudice, the author gets sidetracked with other events in history that blacks were dealing with at the time. By spinning off, the intriguing story of the women and their accomplishments is lost.

This story is too good to miss, so my advice is to skip the book and see the movie. I'm sure the movie will focus more on the Hidden Figures than the book that brought the story to light and will be much easier to follow and appreciate.  

If you've read Hidden Figures, would you recommend it?


  1. I had not heard of this book or movie. I'll have to look for the movie (wonder if it is on Netflix??). Sounds really interesting...too bad the book wasn't that good.

  2. The movie really does look good and I plan to see it when it arrives in the theater here. January I think. Usually I like to read a book first but this sure sounds like a book to skip.

  3. I've never heard of his book or movie. I usually prefer the book over movies, but this one doesn't sound promising.

  4. IM waiting to see the movie. SUch a star studded cast. These were extraordinary women in our history. Always glad for an honest review Nancy. I"ll skip the book

  5. Haven't heard of the book...or the movie!!... But such a good idea to listen to books while you knit!!

  6. Hidden Figures is one I will read rather than listen to. Audio books often put me to sleep. I have been sewing while listening to The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. It is lively enough to keep me awake.

  7. I think I saw a preview of a movie or maybe one similar. It is a interesting subject! :)

  8. It's a shame the author didn't give those amazing women a better story.

  9. Yes, I have heard of the movie and assumed there must have been a book. I definitely want to see the movie but we just don't seem to go to movies very often. And, not that interested in tv. So, quick question on your book on an iPad? Do you borrow them through your library? (Overdrive?) Last time I borrowed an audio book it didn't play the way it should. On the other hand, my iPad is an original version. It's about dead anyway.


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