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Title: Cheaper by the Dozen

Author(s): Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Length: 269 pages

Format: Kindle eBook

Rating: 7/10

I never thought I would have any use for a tablet. I had my laptop and phone, I preferred hard copies of books. What use could I possibly have for one? Then my husband got me a Kindle for Christmas 2013, and I was hooked. It was so portable, so much faster to navigate than using my laptop, took up so much less space for books when packing for vacation. Since then, I’ve mainly read via Kindle eBooks, though I do still occasionally borrow hard copies from the library when the book I want is too expensive or not available for download. I mainly shop through the daily deals section of the bookstore, and therefore often end up choosing things I wouldn’t ordinarily stumble across. This book was one of them.

Of course I’ve seen the Steve Martin movie, and I believe even the sequel, both which are almost completely different from the book. I’m normally pretty meh on memoirs, but I do love a good historical lifestyle novel, so I gave it a try. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit, although I doubt it would ever merit a reread.

The book itself is the story of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and their twelve children, born in the early 1900’s. The two were pioneers of motion study, which involved them studying various activities both at home and in the professional world in order to make them more efficient. At home, this included things like Frank buttoning his shirt from the bottom up (which saved him a few seconds), and playing foreign language records during the bathroom routines in order to use the idle time washing as a chance to learn a new language.

Even though the book is written by two of the elder children, it is from a third person point of view, rather than theirs. Each chapter essentially describes an incident or period of time in family life, and the circumstances surrounding it. For instance, in one chapter Lillian takes the children to California to visit relatives, in another Frank teaches the children to crew a boat at their summer home. Frank himself is always up to some kind of antics, either with his motion study or teasing the children, and I found his character very amusing. I think the book had great potential as a movie, and find it disappointing that the Steve Martin version is almost unrecognizable as the same story.

While I probably wouldn’t read it again, I’d recommend the book to anyone who enjoys memoirs, or narrations of life from the early 20th century.