Life without a good book is like life without chocolate. Tragic.
I'm delighted to share with you the most influential books I read last year. Here's hoping there's at least one you can add to your list...
HOW WE LIVE IS HOW WE DIE by Pema Chodron
Another earth-shattering book by Pema Chodron that brings your gaze from narrow to wide in an instant. This is a book about endings, and, as the title suggests, the final ending. Using the wisdom of the Tibetan Buddhist bardos, Chodron takes us through what happens as we come close to death and even, what happens directly after. It's a book about how to flow with life, how to live with grace, and what death, our greatest teacher of all, can unveil about how to live well. This is a must read, no matter your belief-system.
NIGHTBITCH by Rachel Yoder
A pee-your-pants funny work of staggering genius by Yoder that, yes, is fiction, but also serves as a social commentary on contemporary motherhood. The protag is a stay-at-home mom with a two-year-old who fears she is loosing her mind. She notices herself growing fangs, back hair, and the like, despite what her husband says, until she turns fully into NIGHTBITCH (at night when the kid's asleep). This book is brilliant. Ridiculously original and heart-breakingly resonant at the same damn time. A must read for any woman who's been mom'ing recently.
MOTHER HUNGER by Kelly McDaniel
Whether you had (have) a healthy relationship with your mother or not, this is a book every adult woman should read. Trauma counselor Kelly McDaniel unpacks what lies behind many women's unhealthy behaviors in adulthood, and reinstates the importance of the irreplaceable role of the mother in a culture that tells women anyone can serve as substitute. It's profoundly impacted my work with clients as a coach and teacher, and offered precepts for thinking about how to re-parent if, by no fault of your own, you did not receive adequate maternal care. It's meant to be read as a daughter, not so much a parenting book (though you can't help but consider your parenting if you are one...). Absolutely fundamental reading.
HAGITUDE by Sharon Blackie
Sharon Blackie has quickly become one of my very favorite thought-leaders/writers. Author of the incredible book, If Women Rose Rooted, in this book, Blackie skillfully weaves myth, psychology, and memoir to unearth how the second half of a woman's life can be our most meaningful (despite typical fetishizing of feminine youth). She shares stories of ancient European elders, and posits the hag as the one who will save our ailing communities, hearts, and lands. Embedded in research, inspiring, and true, I believe this woman is one of the most important literary and feminine voices of our time.
GIRLHOOD by Melissa Febos
Uncut, uncensored, and raw, Febos shares a gripping set of personal stories that point to what it means to be female in the world today. Tackling body issues, gender, shame and power, this former dominatrix turned professor is dark, whip smart, and makes you think about all the ways you (we all) have been acculturated based on the vagina we were born with. Another one all women should read.
HIDDEN VALLEY ROAD by Robert Kolker
At once horrifying and compassionate, Hidden Valley Road tells the true story of one Colorado family, who had 12 children among them, 6 of whom come to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. It unpacks both the science and history of the illness, along with heart-wrenching story of a couple and a family trying to survive such devastating odds. The Galvin Family became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health, and the DNA samples they shared offer insight into treatment and causes, today (takes place 1946-1965). Inspiring, tragic, shocking and self-reflective, this is one that kept me up many late nights.
There you have it! Here's to the good books you'll pick up this year. Get your read on. Readers are leaders, y'all!