Emily's 2018 Reading List and Book Review

Hi everyone. I’m back with my book review for the year! I read a whole lot of books this year so I am making my thoughts brief. Enjoy!

The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

by Sonya Renee Taylor

I read this book basically in one sitting. It’s short and packs a powerful punch. I absolutely LOVE her writing, I felt like I wanted to underline every other sentence. She jumps right into the work. So if self-love and body positivity is brand new to you, this might be a lot to take in. But I still recommend it for anyone on this journey. I also love that she talks about body liberation on all levels, not just size and weight stigma, but also race, gender, dis/ability, chronic illness, etc. She is brilliant. I will read it multiple times.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

by Rebecca Traister

I loved this book so much. I read it quickly - it was engaging, smart, and informative. I learned a ton about women's history and appreciated her fresh perspective. I also found myself resonating with her anger and the many sentiments she articulated regarding the current state of our world and the way our culture approaches the topic of women's anger, women's power, and women's rights. I felt myself wanting to underline almost everything - it felt like she was speaking my mind, and validating the anger I feel in myself and have not yet figured out how to embrace or express on my own.

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

This young adult novel is relevant and powerfully written from the perspective of a young black woman who witnesses one of her best friends brutally murdered by police. The novel takes you on her journey in navigating the aftermath with her family, friends, school, and the justice system. There are other nuances including her leaving her neighborhood to go to an affluent, mostly white school every day, and having a cop as a family member. I really appreciated this book; the more writing from voices of BIPOC right now, the better.

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions to Adulthood

by Lisa Damour, Ph.D

I found this book helpful for a handful of reasons, but I want to give a disclaimer first. While I very much respect Dr. Damour’s perspective and research, it became clear to me quickly in this book that she is centering her ideas around the assumption of a white, middle-class teen girl. She does not often take into account other cultural differences including SES, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. So I read this book with a critical eye, but still found the concepts helpful. Anyone who is raising or working closely with white, middle class female identified teens might really benefit from this. However, I would also warn that this book focuses on understanding and working with a teen on a practical level and aids in emotional support/connection. It does not provide background or understanding about the deeper issues going on for teens.

I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women’s Lives

by F. Diane Barth

What I loved most about this book is that it addresses a topic that has very little research or attention. I had high hopes for it, and ultimately felt only partially satisfied, but that might be because I reflect on the depths and nuances of friendship a lot in my life and wanted/needed more at the time that I read it. I think this book would be extremely normalizing and validating for any female identified person who has felt invested in their friendships with other women, struggled in them in various ways, and been curious about the experiences of others. We don’t talk about how hard it can be to navigate friendships - how to communicate with friends effectively, how to end or change a friendship that isn’t healthy, how to grieve the loss of a friendship, how to stay secure in ourselves when our friendships are unstable or confusing. It is wonderful to know that people are thinking about this topic. I hope more books like this come out. Maybe I’ll write one someday...

Whipping Girl: a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of feminism

by Julia Serano

I have been meaning to read this book for years so I am glad I finally did. Julia Serano is a pioneer when it comes to research and writing about gender bias and systems of oppression from the perspective of a trans woman. This book is dense and heady, full of information, but also very engaging. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in expanding and deepening their feminist perspective and their education around the experience of trans women.

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give

by Ada Calhoun

This book is funny, honest, and personal. It’s not really about marriage advice, but it is anecdotal and vulnerable, in a way that really normalizes the bumpy road of a long term committed partnership. Anyone looking for another voice that they might relate to about the challenges of marriage would probably really enjoy this short, engaging read.


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Wow. I absolutely loved this novel. First of all, I love the way she writes - it is precise and exquisite. This story seems to be semi-autobiographical, the life story of an African woman, who is also observing and living in America. With racism and racial justice at the forefront of our social and political climate right now (and, well, forever), it was enlightening to take in a perspective from a non-American person of color. Beyond that, I just loved her feminist, intelligent, gripping writing and storytelling. I will read all of her other novels.


by Michelle Obama

This speaks for itself I think...

I actually listened to this on audio because Michelle herself reads it. It was amazing and moving.

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions

by Johann Hari

This might be one of the best books I have ever read about depression, specifically. I appreciated that it was not a mental health expert who took this on, but a journalist who was personally impacted by depression and who could see the global, pervasive impacts of depression and wanted to get to the root of it. His research and perspective - focused on the healing powers of human connection - is cutting edge, refreshing, and very important. I think for anyone interested in this topic, whether you are a mental health professional, experience depression yourself, have a loved one who struggles with this, or is burdened by the general suffering of the world - there is a lot to gain from reading this.

First We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety

by Sarah Wilson

I read this book because a client of mine told me she discovered it and it changed her life. I can totally see why. This is a funny and brutally honest account of one woman's experience with severe anxiety. It is so relatable in so many ways, which is inherently helpful on its own. But beyond that, she has tons of wisdom that she inserts throughout each chapter. It feels totally unstructured and can be pretty scattered or aimless, but her insight is poignant and powerful. It is in no way a resource for tons of factual information or treatment - she is not a mental health professional - but it does offer a very effective sense of shared humanity that we all could benefit from.

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity

by Nadine Burke Harris

Being in the mental health field for 13 years now, I have learned a lot about the ACES study and the impact of childhood trauma and childhood adversity on our mental and physical health. This is one of the most important concepts in modern medicine and mental health treatment. However, this is the first time I have learned any real details about the beginnings of this movement and the pioneers who brought it to us. Nadine walks us through her discovery of this concept and how she began studying it, researching it, and developing programs to help those most at risk before it was ever accepted or embraced by her community. I have a deep appreciation for Nadine Burke Harris and what she fought for and what she has given us - she changed the course of the mental health field.

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

Trigger warning. This book is stunningly written and feels like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t put it down, but it is also completely devastating and at times, to me, felt like too much. It contains some graphic descriptions of abuse and self-harm (which might be an understatement). So that is important to know before you get into it. This is a (fictional) story of what it means to live with severe childhood and intimate partner trauma, and how it impacts friendships, partnerships, and family relationships. Rarely has a novel given me such an emotional response or made me feel so invested in its characters.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Reslience, Finding Joy

by Sheryl Sandberg

I have mixed feelings about this book. It is a short read so I wanted to finish it, in spite of some of the feelings it brought up in me. The idea behind this book is wonderful - the idea that a traumatic experience or loss is not just a major obstacle to overcome, but that it can also be transformative and promote something she refers to as “post-traumatic growth.” I love this concept, but I also think it can be reductive and disrespectful to the nuanced experiences of a wide variety of people. Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and rarely in the book did she acknowledge the privilege she has, having financial resources and a positive relationship with her boss who gave her the leeway to struggle through her grieving process, falling asleep in meetings and missing work, without getting fired. Many people cannot overcome the trauma of a loss not just because of the emotional pain that comes with it, but because of the ways that life can start to fall apart due to the impact of this loss. This book is incomplete, which is unfortunate. I can see how it would be helpful for people who are in a similar position to Sandberg, and whose loss is not particularly recent.

What's next on my list???

  • The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron (reading this off and on already)

  • Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

  • It's Not Always Depression by Hilary Jacobs Hendel

  • I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

  • Motherhood by Sheila Heti

  • Parenting from the Inside Out by Dan Siegel

  • Eastern Body Western Mind by Anodea Judith

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Did you read some books you loved this year? Send them my way!