Before I get into the actual review, I owe Dr. Sheff a major apology. She sent me an early copy of her manuscript before it was published and asked for my input, and I promised to get back to her as quickly as possible. I never did. Part of that way just life exploding on me, but mostly I forgot how god damn long it takes me to read this kind of book. I’ve used tearing through fiction and history books, but popular science books routinely take me a year or more to read. So, over a year later, I am finally getting back to Dr. Sheff, and everyone else, with my thoughts on this amazing book.
A Polyamory Book for Monogamists
There is a lot of fascinating information in The Polyamorists Next Door, and many polyamorists will enjoy reading it to see the results of Dr. Sheff’s studies of polyamory. Poly parents will find interesting (and useful!) information in the sections on children raised in poly families.
However at the end of the day, this book isn’t written for us. Instead, it is the book polyamory has needed for decades. A book written not for people who want to be polyamorous, but for monogamists who want to understand polyamory. You know the question that pops up in every poly forum eventually “What book can I get for my (parents/friends/siblings/friends) to help them understand polyamory?”
The answer is:
Brace for Science-Speak
This is not a coffee table book. This is not light reading. This is a book written by a professional researcher. And it shows. Books like this take me so long to read because academics and researchers are really good at writing for other academics and researchers. Unfortunately, the writing style used in academics and research is not what the rest of us are used to. Complex sentences are the norm in this book. Reading it, there were many times when I had to stop and re-read a seemly simple sentence. “I know every word in this sentence, it is perfectly grammatical. Why can I not understand what she is saying?!”
I did, eventually, figure it out.
Let me clear say: this is not a criticism of Dr. Sheff’s writing. This is the norm for popular sciences books (as well as philosophy, and several other fascinating subjects). Some professions just seem to lead to a very complicated writing style. (Bill Bryson has written the only popular science book I could easily read–because he isn’t a scientist, he’s a journalist writing about science. See the difference?)
If you enjoy popular science books written by actual researchers you’ll find The Polyamorists Next Door right up your alley. If this style of writing is new to you, it may take you some time to adjust. Take it slow, and you’ll get through.
Well Worth the Read
This isn’t a book review blog, so I’m not going to give The Polyamorists Next Door any kind of star rating. I will say that it is a very valuable book that the poly community has needed for a long time. I think it is well worth picking up a copy. Read it, then add The Polyamorists Next Door to your personal lending library. Share with friends, family, and anyone else who is willing to learn more about polyamory.
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