Book Review: How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

You sit down on a big, comfy couch with your best friend, grab a cup of coffee and start to talk about your day. Your friend shares advice about life, love and work. It’s friendly and fun, because it’s familiar and you trust your friend’s advice but don’t take it too seriously. This is exactly what it was like to read “How to be a Bawse” by Lilly Singh. The anecdotal examples and beyond ordinary situations that lend themselves to the advice contained within are simultaneously the book’s biggest assets and greatest weaknesses.

We’ll start with the bad news: Lilly doesn’t know her audience, or maybe she knows too well, but either way, the book comes across as being written for a much much younger reader. Filled with advice that someone in their late 20s (like myself) would hopefully have figured out by now, I can see how it might be helpful to someone just starting their career or entering high school. Also, at times Lilly speaks directly to the reader and sometimes addresses them as a parent, while other times addressing an elderly person (see pages 114 and 120). To say the least, it appeared as though the author did not have a good grasp on who her audience is, and while I can see she’s trying to appeal to the wide range of people who might pick up her book, I personally found these asides to be very distracting and sometimes disrespectful (ageism much?).

The second thing I found to detract from the overall experience is how much anecdotal evidence Lilly includes when trying to prove her points. I really can’t say enough about how far a little research goes and speak very highly of the well investigated Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. Many times throughout Bawse I felt like I was listening to a self important girl, talk about how lucky they got that one time, and that’s why you, the reader, should follow this advice. I would have liked to have seen her back up some of her points with statistics or journal articles. One example can be found in the first chapter called “Play Nitendo” in which Lilly talks about how viewing life as a video game can actually help you be a better strategist and let go of the things you can’t control. I’m certain that this could have easily been supported by some study about the benefits of video games, yet there’s no mention. I mean, I know it’s a lot of work to include research, but that’s what this entire book is supposed to be about; working hard!

Thirdly, I began to notice that most of the real gems of good advice that were included in the book often came from other people. About 90% of the “Ah-ha” moments I had when reading this came from the words of someone other than Miss Singh. One example is what Kate Winslet said in chapter 18; Trent Shelton in chapter 19; and even words from Snoop Dogg were more revelatory than anything written by the original author of this book.

I never really followed Lilly Singh’s YouTube career and now I know why. At least in this book, she comes across as being a bit self-important. Putting pictures of herself on every  page, proclaiming herself to be a “bawse” (I mean what even is that? Why not just say boss? She thinks she can make up new spellings to words and change the meaning?); and including examples of times she had to overcome a problem from when her assistant forgot to do something. I can’t even get my mom to switch my laundry over and Lilly has an assistant? It was all just a little to much for me to believe or want to take advice from her.

The good news is that I think this book would be pretty good for her fans and the younger audience that might benefit from some of this advice without having to go through the lived experience of getting it, like I did. It was a bit repetitive near the end, what with 50 chapters being filled (I think there were three chapters including climbing some type of stair or ladder), but all in all I didn’t hate this book. I just wouldn’t recommend it to anyone over the age of 20. I hope you found this review helpful. If you did (or didn’t) please let me know and tell me what book you want me to review next.

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