There’s not much I like more than curling up with a good book and being swept away into a story or deep into a new set of ideas. This year, I’m tracking everything I read on my reading list, and making sure that half the list is made up of books by women. Now, midway through the year, I thought I’d share some book highlights and recommendations from my reading list.
Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A series of letters from a father to his young son. Simply outstanding.
Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti. Heartbreaking memoir. At times distinctly uncomfortable but important to read. I wish these stories women told weren’t true. I wish more of my men friends read these books and understood.
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. A talented neurosurgeon who studies language, mortality, and brain science is suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer. This is the book he writes in the final year of his life. I started sobbing at several points in the book—moving.
Poser: My Life in 23 Poses, by Clare Dederer. A memoir inspired by a woman who takes to yoga and documents how her journey into learning more about yoga (fastidiously and then, obsessively) transforms her own life. Now, my one major beef with this book is that it was actually 28 chapters long, not 23, as billed. Because she did Child’s Pose four different times. I suppose… that makes sense.
Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. Another brilliant memoir of what it’s like to grow up in the poverty-stricken hills of Appalachia. Reminded me of the plight of so many in America, and how many perspectives there are throughout this country.
Roots: The Saga of An American Family, by Alex Haley. Incredible, long read about the ancestry and history of a family ripped from his homeland and brought into the markets of the new world slavery.
Fiction + Fun Recommendations
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Now turned into a television series inspired by the book, I had to read the book first. A creepy, dystopian novel where birth rates plummet and women are forced out of work, and then into service in a strange, big-brother-is-watching-you world. It left a pit in my stomach, and I’m still thinking about it (as well as Station 11, another fiction book that won’t leave my mind).
Bleaker House, by Nell Stevens. Strangely slow, yet still a page-turner. Debut novel from an MFA graduate who wins a travel fellowship to go anywhere in the world and write. She chooses Bleaker Island, and holes herself away for several weeks to attempt to write her novel on the coldest, darkest, loneliest place on earth. Parts of the writing moved quickly (the “Twosies,” as it were), and the introspective bits were slower and less captivating. Overall, enjoyed the book as a pleasant fiction read.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. Full disclosure: this book was hilarious, and I devoured it. Mindy’s sense of comedic timing and wit comes through in every page of her writing, and I love her ability to be real while also self-deprecating (in the best way). Fully enjoyed this one. Easy to read.
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. A graphic novel with twists and turns about dreams, psychoanalysis, therapy, and the relationship we have with our parents.
Connected Community + Living a Great Life Recommendations
The New Better Off, by Courtney Martin. What does it mean to live a good life? And why are we still all blindly chasing after “The American Dream”? In her examination of what really matters to most of us, she uncovers how ritual, community, and meaning can be formed in ways both unexpected and everyday. This book puts words to so much that I too have been thinking about.
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, by Katha Pollitt. This incredible book is about how the word “abortion” has been used to shame and silence women, and how the right to choose when (and if) to have children is one of the most important choices a woman can make in her decisions about her life. If the word makes you uncomfortable, it might be worth examining why—and where, exactly, that shame has come from. Abortions have been around for as long as 5,000 years, they’ve been legal in many countries for 40+ years, and they only recently have been given a stigma and shame—for what purpose? To what end? Fascinating read.
Playing Big, Leveling Up Recommendations
Playing Big, by Tara Sophia Mohr. This month is all about re-reading a few classics, for me. The books that you buy on kindle and on paperback, and sometimes buy an additional paper copy of because you highlight it and use it so frequently. Every time I level up in my business and my work, and expand into the edges of my comfort zones, I re-read Tara’s notes on the different ways we feel fear, and remind myself that “playing big” comes with it a special, delicious, different kind of fear. The good one.
Body of Work, by Pamela Slim. In a world of work that can feel disjointed and disconnected, how do you find the thread that connects your story together? Pam was one of my first business coaches and taught me to see my multiple threads of employment as “projects” within a larger portfolio of work.
The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks. If you’ve heard of the idea of “Upper Limit Problems,” or the concept of transcending from working in your Zone of Excellence to your Zone of Genius, this is the book those ideas are from. Reading this again opened my eyes to a lot of ways in which I’m staying stuck in my “good” areas of working and not shifting into the areas where I’m truly phenomenal.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, by Mark Manson. Filled with profanity in a somewhat delightful way, Mark Manson takes some of his best writing and puts it together in a book to talk about deeper philosophical and psychological necessities for building a great life. Ironically, it’s not the aspirations of greatness that make us the most satisfied, but the simpler elements: connecting to each other, showing up for the daily routine, and putting in the work. In a subtle paradox, he shows how letting go actually creates greater freedom and happiness.
Captivate. I found out about the nerd of nerds, Vanessa Van Edwards, by listening to Jenny Blake’s podcast, Pivot, and devoured the entire episode. It’s behavior science meets research meets interpersonal psychology, and I’m loving it.
The Coaching Habit, by Michael Bungay Stanier. The book outlines seven key questions we can use to insert coaching strategies into our work as managers and leaders, in less than ten minutes a day. The art of asking great questions is such a critical skill, and I’ve noticed that we don’t seem to take enough time to dive deeply into the asking of questions to find the shape of the puzzle. Often, we leap headfirst into advice mode and leave the listener feeling steamrolled, rather than helped. I’d buy a copy of this book for everyone.—
Also published on Medium.