Published by HarperCollins on November 15, 2016
Genres/Lists: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Political
Length: 10 hrs, 7 mins
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Megyn Kelly – how much do you know about her? If you’re like me, the answer is not much except for the fact that she hosts her own show on Fox News and that Donald Trump released his rage on her during the presidential election. The attacks she was subjected to leaves many of us extending our sympathies to her, but before you feel too bad for her, know that she doesn’t play the victim card. Instead, she is choosing to use the experience to lift her upward and onward, and the lessons within her memoir, Settle for More are ones that all of us need to hear.
Contrary to popular opinion, Kelly did not grow up with money. She came from humble beginnings in upstate New York and had a very happy childhood. There were no trophies for participating, which served her well later in life, but her parents were loving and taught her that the most important thing she can be in life is herself, even if that meant she wasn’t extraordinary. In fact, her own mother never expected her to be so successful, which she knows because her family has always subscribed to the “radical honesty program” and told her so. Nonetheless, her mother now brags about her in her own hilarious ways and its clear they have a great relationship, made even stronger by the early death of her father, whom Kelly was very close to.
Picking up on her mother’s self-deprecating humor, Settle for More is Kelly’s life story, from her childhood to her first job to her marriages and, of course, Donald Trump. She shares how she was bullied in middle school and how that impacted her path forward in life, as did her father’s death, even reading from her journal entries throughout her childhood and adulthood. Threaded within the story are the lessons she has learned, many of which are applicable to every single woman in the workplace, from handling men in power to persevering in the face of incredible obstacles. From stalkers to sexual harassment, Kelly has fought through the pain and found herself on the other side every single time and while the wounds Trump inflicted are still raw, she knows she will come out okay. Because at the end of the day, what matters most is that she knows who she is and has family and friends to support her – the rest doesn’t matter.
What’s most telling in this book is that Kelly came up short many times in life but chose to find another way (not to mention sometimes suffers from imposter syndrome). When she didn’t make it into journalism school, she chose another major that still landed her in journalism. When she didn’t make the law review, she wrote herself in. When the internship she had didn’t offer her a job, she found a better one. Over and over, she stumbled but she got back up and kept moving forward. There’s a valuable lesson for all of us in this, especially because getting up again can be so difficult, but Kelly reminds us that there’s always another way.
It’s also clear that Kelly is kindhearted. She speaks fondly of her college boyfriend and the impact he had on her confidence in herself, and the same goes for her stepfather and, yes, even Donald Trump and Roger Ailes. Despite all of the hate and rhetoric, she chooses to see the good in others, as well as the positive influence even the most horrendous experiences can have on a person. She condemns our obsession with public shamings, acknowledging that there is a difference between professional and personal failings and we shouldn’t assume to know anything about someone’s person life.
But the most important thing in Kelly’s life, more so than her career, is her children. She is a devoted mother who wants her children to thrive in a world where they are free to be themselves. For her, life is divided into before and after by her step into motherhood and she discusses the difficulties of being a working mother. She does, however, believe that there are biological differences between men and women with regard to parenting, and while I don’t have strong feelings on this particular subject, I did take issue with the section in which she details why she is decidedly not a feminist.
Kelly doesn’t think of herself as a feminist because she believes men play an important role in women’s lives. She believes you get opportunities through “performance not persistence” and while there’s a truth to this, sexism is a live and well. What’s interesting about her claim is that her actions prove otherwise. She pushed for better wages for herself, advocates for paid maternity leave, and fights against sexism in her own ways. She condemns our culture of victim blaming and sexism. She even discusses the pressures of women doing it all, arguing that women have more guilt leaving their children to go to work but ignores the fact that this could be socially constructed (but does recognize that sexism, itself, is). So while her actions scream feminist, her words suggest otherwise.Think you know @MegynKelly? #SettleforMore will challenge everything you think you know. Click To Tweet
Throughout the book, Kelly maintains that she is apolitical, and while she works for Fox, she has no problem arguing for paid maternity leave and calling out poor behavior on both sides of the aisle. She even discusses a conversation she had with Jon Stewart, where she called him to task for a piece he did on her that read much more into her comments than was perhaps warranted. She clearly enjoys and appreciates her time at Fox but recognizes that her status grants her more freedom and flexibility than others, which became apparent when she came forward about Ailes’ sexual harassment – something lower level women have done anonymously because they don’t have the status to keep their jobs.
As for Trump, there’s a long section about him and rightfully so. She shares her early experiences with him (positive) and their final conversation before he stopped his relentless attacks, but also the toll it took on both her and her family. She describes how she knew when she hit rock bottom and, once again, decided to get up and move forward, anyway. She gives her husband a lot of credit for getting her through it, and it’s clear that she loves him dearly and found her perfect match (which is no easy feat considering their first kiss was seen by armed guards because she was being stalked by an ex-felon).
Her “Year of Trump” is clearly the most harrowing for her and she doesn’t hold back on her opinions of him and his actions, asserting that he went after her because she had power. She also calls out the media, alleging that there were many anchors that either prepped Trump for tough questions on their shows or accepted what can only amount to bribes for him. She outlines how much free media coverage he received. She describes her final meeting with him like a hostage meeting her taker, where the perpetrator finally sees his victim as a human. That said, she is uncomfortable with the attention she is paid and role she played in the election and refuses to see herself as a victim. But through all of it, it was the “Gut her” tweet that got to her the most – it was so pointed and vitriolic.
By the end of the book, what is abundantly clear is that Kelly is human. She has feelings, she has failed, and she has triumphed in the face of adversity. She laughs at people when they trip, she gets sick, and she worries about her looks. But more importantly, she is a survivor. She survived watching her dreams almost slipping away from her. She survived Roger Ailes. She survived Trump. Part of this is because of her upbringing, but also because she reminds herself that bad times are temporary and others have it worse off. And more importantly, she knows who she is and will always Settle for More.