Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I purchased Lean In as an audiobook a few years after its release, but I hesitated to listen to it. In true imposter syndrome form, I convinced myself that whatever the all-powerful Sheryl Sandberg had to say, it couldn’t possibly apply to me. After all, I was not on track to be a high-powered executive, and I was definitely not an Ivy League grad. It wasn’t until 2021, 5 years later in life and career, that I felt ready to revisit this title. 

This photo shows a paper pad, a pink notebook, a pen, a headset, and a Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle Paperwhite has the book cover for Lean In on the screen.

While perusing my local library’s available selection on Libby, I came across Lean In, and I decided that was my sign to lean right into this book. After all, in the near-decade since its release, Lean In has become the de facto piece of recommended reading for women in business— particularly women in the business of tech. It was time to get this working mom manifesto checked off my list.

I switched between my copy of the audiobook and the borrowed Libby ebook on my Kindle. While the narrator does a fantastic job, being a serial highlighter, I preferred the ebook, which allowed me to highlight quotables (damn near entire sections, really), to my heart’s delight. While at times, the running narrative behind the message meandered, Sandberg liberally peppered her book with shareable factoids and compelling bits of wisdom— super highlight-able, IMO. She prefaces her writing by asserting that it “is not a memoir,” and while that’s true, I felt the most impact of her message and intent when she couched it in the specifics of her particular experience.

I enjoyed and received a lot of value from Lean In, and I was disappointed to see it end, wanting to hear more from Sandberg. But still, I struggled a bit with deciding on my rating. Ultimately, the half-star deduction (which I rounded up to 5 on Goodreads) is because instead of rallying women toward progress together, this book may do the opposite. For those whose socio-economic statuses preclude the privileges Sandberg sometimes blithely glosses over, a consequence of this book is potentially that of alienation and further highlighting class divide. And the further unintentional outcome is a resistance to the ideas she speaks of so eloquently and passionately. For many in the intended audience, a number of the shared anecdotes are unrelatable to the point diluting the core message of this book.

In Lean In, Sandberg shared her truth, and it is an impressive, inspiring, and unexpectedly universal truth. If you’re on the fence, I urge you to pick it up and approach reading it as you would a memoir. That puts you in a more empathetic state of mind, I think— and so the purpose and message behind this book will resonate more clearly. Oh— and don’t wait as long as I did to start reading it, either!

Where to find Lean In