Emily's 2019 Reading List and Book Review

Hello again! It's officially a new decade. Wild.

One thing I really leveled up in this past decade was my reading, especially in 2019. This is now my FOURTH annual book review post! I don't write a lot of blog entries but this is one I look forward to doing every year. So let's get to it. Here are my favorites from this year:

Educated: A Memoir

by Tara Westover

This was the first book I read in 2019 so it is not fresh in my memory, however, it definitely stuck with me. As children, the environment in which we are raised is a) not our choice and b) the only thing we really know. We inherently trust our parents/caregivers to accurately reflect the reality of the world and show us what is healthy and best for us. We think, this is what the world is. This is what life should look like. And we go with it, until we are old enough to have access to new information, to self-reflect, to examine our surroundings critically, and to advocate for ourselves. Tara's story is exceptional and her description of her family is fascinating, despite the dysfunction and tragic nature of their dynamic. Her memoir is a testament to human resilience as well as the power and currency of an education in this world. I don't want to share details because the story itself is gripping. We will never be finished hearing unique stories of humanity. Every story helps us learn more about the human condition. Highly recommend.

So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo

I wholeheartedly appreciated this book. Oluo writes with assertiveness and it makes you want to listen hard. I've been doing a lot of work around anti-racism over the last year or two and part of what I realized is that I will never take in too much information, and I (and all white people) will never be finished learning. This also means that we need to learn how to have conversations with other white people about race. Oluo breaks down singular issues around racism and racial justice in our country and world - current and historical (albeit these issues are all connected) to explain them in detail. She empathically holds the reader accountable while offering direct and clear language for how to bring these topics into conversation.

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

by Kristin Neff

I have studied and preached self-compassion for so long, and yet I still had not read this book. Kristin Neff is the pioneer for the self-compassion movement in the mental health field. She has a lovely ted talk and some quizzes and information on her website (www.self-compassion.org). While most of this book was a refresher for me, it is the best one out there to learn about the ways that self-compassion can change the way we relate to ourselves and the world. It helps with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and relationships. At the end of the day, our society teaches us to be really hard on ourselves. When you pay attention to your inner voice-how you talk to yourself- are you kind? Are you gentle and loving? Are you patient? Do you allow yourself to be human and make mistakes and forgive yourself? Do you remind yourself that everyone suffers and everyone struggles and you're not alone? Most people will answer no to these questions. Many people believe that being harsh with ourselves will actually promote self-improvement. However, it is clear that if we have a negative, punitive relationship with ourselves, we are not growing or becoming healthier. When we are softer with ourselves, we give ourselves space to learn from our struggles and keep moving forward with a clearer mind and a calm heart. This book has all the info you need to start a self-compassion practice. Grab a copy and go.

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love

by Jonathan Van Ness

HOPEFULLY you know who JVN is by now. They are one of the fab 5 on the Netflix remake of Queer Eye and they are a deeply inspiring figure in current pop culture. JVN recently came out as non-binary, one of many celebrities to do so recently (including Sam Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine) which is HUGE for today's youth. I can't imagine what would be different in my life now if I had had examples of gender non-conformity so available to me as a young person. The landscape of gender and sexuality is changing (well, it's always been this way, it's just more visible now) and it is really special as an adult to witness today's youth with so much freedom to challenge normatively and be exactly who they are. Anyway, back to JVN. They tell their story with grace, vulnerability, and humor. They are a trailblazer in public discussions about HIV and AIDS, as those conversations have dropped off in the last 2 decades. JVN was diagnosed with HIV in their early 20's (I think?) and chose to come out about it in this memoir. Since then, they have been honestly sharing about their experience as positive on talk shows, social media, comedy specials, etc. in an effort to help educate and destigmatize. It's beautiful and important.

How To Be Anti-Racist

by Ibram X. Kendi

As I said earlier, white people can never read too much about anti-racism. I picked up this book after a recommendation from a friend who follows Kendi's work. I learned so much from these essays because he speaks from the perspective of internalized racism in a person of color, specifically a Black man. In many ways, this book seems to be addressing Black people specifically and offering insight into how BIPOC might be racist against themselves or other POC due to internalizing white supremacist ideas. Of course, I understood this concept already, but never heard it described with so much detail and honesty this way. This book is a reckoning for him, and it was powerful to witness. I really appreciated what I learned from him. And again, white people are never done. So if you're white and want to keep learning, this is a good one that offers something a little different.


by Tegan and Sara

I actually listened to this book on audio since many people told me it was a really special audiobook experience, and they were right. I'm including this book because it was THAT good. I have loved Tegan and Sara since I was 15, and hearing them share stories of how they came to make music together, how they realized they were gay, and how they came out to the world as teenagers was so heart-filling. They were pioneers and icons during a time that being gay or queer in this world was still really taboo and scary. We aren't close to where we need to be yet, but it's definitely better than it was in the 90's and early 2000's. Hearing their experience brought me back to my own in a way that felt so validating and I felt a renewed sense of compassion for my teenage self. I welled up with tears throughout. They share many old clips of themselves talking about their lives on video, and old recordings of their music. I don't know what else to say about it right now. It's just special and if you are a fan of T&S, you should listen to it.

The Witches Are Coming

by Lindy West

How does Lindy West do it? She is one of the most articulate, intelligent feminist commentators who still manages to be funny and approachable. Her writing blows me away because she puts words to things that I cannot, and yet it still always feels like she is speaking my mind. But then takes it to new levels I hadn't thought of yet. I love her. I've loved all of her pieces - books and articles and tv shows alike - and this book did not disappoint. It is current and relevant and important and FUNNY.

*Honorable mentions:

- Heavy by Kiese Laymon

- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

- Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit

- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

- On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers

- The Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham

*Next up for 2020:

- We've Been Too Patient: Voices from Radical Mental Health - Stories and Research Challenging the Biomedical Model by L.D. Green

- Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Marie Brown

- Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

- For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity by Liz Plank

- Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

- Know My Name by Chanel Miller

- Thick and other Essays by Tressie Mcmillan Cottom

- Untamed by Glennon Doyle

- Anti Diet by Christy Harrison

- The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates

- Little Weirds by Jenny Slate

- Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay

- Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski

- Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Dan Siegal

Til next year!