2021 Reading List
Every year I track the books I read and analyze what I’m reading from a macro perspective—are the authors women, men, cis-gendered, heterosexual, white, BIPOC? More broadly—whose voices am I listening to, and which ones are dominating my literature conversations? In addition, I also write short summaries of the books. Here’s this year’s list.
Read more books than any year before (53 books in 2017, 54 books in 2018, 43 books in 2019, 53 books in 2020).
Read at least two challenging, hard books—books that might take months to finish. (Aka, don’t inflate the number of books above by picking only short books!)
Read at least 30%+ by Black people, Indigenous people, and People of color.
Read at least 50%+ by women, womxn or non-binary folks.
Total number of books: 0
Total number of authors: 0
Women authors: –
Cis-het male authors: –
BIPOC authors: –
When I link to books below, they are affiliate links, meaning I make a few cents if you decide to click the link and purchase the book yourself. I use affiliate links to help support my reading habit, but if you’d like to purchase from Bookshop.org instead, please do.
The Book List: All the books I read in 2021
It is the start of a new year. We begin.
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. There’s a reason this book is being shared so widely. It’s a story about the fight for justice and compassion inside of unjust, awful systems. If you’re new to the American prison and legal systems, it’s worth looking more closely at the ways our laws and rules break people’s hearts and lives, and how troubled and racist our purported justice systems are. Highly recommend.
Laziness Does Not Exist, by Devon Price. I stumbled across Price’s work on Twitter, where they speak about autism, neurodiversity, gender diversity, and the myth of laziness (what they describe as “The Laziness Lie” in their book. What if our cultural idea of laziness is a mythology designed to make us miserable and keep specific power structures in place? And, moreover, what if your “laziness” is actually you reading the signs about your tiredness, burnout, commitments, and need for rest in a more honest and accurate way? This book asked me to rethink my assumptions about work, “hard work,” and an unyielding “work ethic” that often contributes to people being sick, tired, and overworked.
You & I, As Mothers.
Healing Trauma, by Peter Levine.
Burnout, by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski. I found out about this book from dozens of friends who shared Brene Brown’s episode all about burnout. The idea of completing stress cycles, and getting stress out of your body (through crying, hugging, creativity, nature, and movement) all felt so right to me. YES. Also, unpacking years of stress and burnout may take longer. DARN. Highly recommend this book, and I was blown away because each chapter could have been it’s own book. Well researched, easy to read, and I need to re-read multiple times. There were several occasions I found myself calling friends and reading pages out loud to them to start conversations about burnout. Some key takeaways: our cultural obsession with thinness is way more messed up than I even knew (like: being overweight and a steady weight is way better than trying to lose weight and going back and forth between weights—dangerously so); the diet industrial complex preys on making us feel insecure and selling us crap so they can make money; sleep is even more important than we give it credit for in repairing and healing so much; and our connected knowing that comes from being in relationship to each other is essential for our well-being and our growth. I will read this book and my highlights multiple times.
The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd.
White Feminism, by Koa Beck.
This book stunned me: it connected the dots between hustle culture, patriarchal power structures, exploitation of the lowest-wage workers and those in poverty, and the ideas we call “feminism.” If feminism is about individual self-actualization, about achieving business success, or about personal power, it’s not feminism, it’s White Feminism. So argues Koa Beck, the former editor-in-chief of Jezebel and co-host of “The #MeTooMemos” on WNYC’s The Takeaway. Beck writes about gender, LGBTQ rights, culture, and race and was awarded the Joan Shorenstein Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2019. In short: feminism that does not address poverty, racism, and intersectionality is not truly pro-woman, it is white women clawing at power, white supremacy, and capitalistic power in ways that have always been practiced. The pervasiveness of this ethos, however, comes down to the mundane: the idea that “all you need is a better morning routine, this email hack, that woman’s pencil skirt, this conference, that newsletter.” Each of these drips a steady diet of consumption of individualistic ascendancy and personal power that absconds responsibility for and to other people. It also erases (quite purposefully, you might imagine) the ability to gather in collective power, because if we can sell feminism as an individual solution, who needs community after all?
My takeaway: the power of revolution will not lie in individual action, and to suggest so is to undermine the movement.
Business of Belonging, by David Spinks.
It is interesting to read book about the capitalist business case for community directly following a call for collective action outside of marketplace pressures, so I came into this book deeply skeptical. Are businesses going to co-opt the community space as well? But taking the lens of strategy on, it does make sense for businesses to start to think about how communities function and how to build them. From blogs and forums to private Facebook Groups and paid community spaces, people want to connect with each other, and creating spaces for customers and groups to gather can really bolster a business. Support teams can benefit from user-to-user information swapping, Product teams can benefit from listening to user needs, and Businesses can bolster evangelists by bringing them into their ecosystem. Communities are hard to build, but Spinks thinks they are the way of the future, and that most businesses will have a Chief Community Officer within the decade.
My take: Whether or not we should give all of our communities over to corporations is a different thesis to grapple with.
How To Be A Man, by James Breakwell.
How We Show Up, by Mia Birdsong.
This was the book of the month for our Wise Women’s Council book club and I will re-read this book multiple times.This is a call and an invitation to rethink how we’re separated and how we’re connected, starting with the nuclear family and the elevation of marriage as the primary relationship we must idolize. What I so deeply appreciate about this book is the call to examine love and relationship with a wide lens—to consider that the stories we are told about family and marriage are insufficient and incomplete. We need more people in our lives than a nuclear family, full stop. And a nuclear family is not the only model for all. This is a call to examine inter-dependence and relationship building. Her ideas about shared kitchens, asking for help, accepting help, and creating intra-family spaces for shared caretaking resonate deeply in my soul. Perhaps we are not so independent as the world wants us to pretend to be.
Birdsong writes: “In How We Show Up, I show that what separates us isn’t only the ever-present injustices built around race, class, gender, values, and beliefs, but also our denial of our interdependence and need for belonging. In response to the fear and discomfort we feel, we’ve built walls, and instead of leaning on each other, we find ourselves leaning on concrete.”
“We exist, not as wholly singular, autonomous beings, nor completely merged, but in a fluctuating space in between. This idea was expressed beautifully in Desmond Tutu’s explanation of the South African concept of Ubuntu. He said, “It is to say, my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours. We belong in a bundle of life. It is not I think therefore I am. It says rather: I am human because I belong, I participate, and I share.”
Friendship in the Age of Loneliness
Clearly I Didn’t Think This Through
It’s About Damn Time
The Vanishing Half
The Dance Of Anger
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing, by Lauren Hough
The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World, by Nilofer Merchant
The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, by Sonya Renee Taylor
Come as You Are (The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life), by Dr Emily Nagoski (haven’t read yet)
Breath, by James Nestor
The Knowing, by Hanna Noble
Wintering, by Katherine May
The Midnight Library
Mom & Me & Mom, by Maya Angelou
How To Stop Time, by Matt Haig
The Widest Net (skim)
I Hope This Finds You Well**: Poems, by Kate Baer.**
15 Traits of Conscious Leadership
The Price of Motherhood (HALF)
ain’t i a woman, by Bell Hooks.
No Bad Kids, by Janet Lansbury.
Boys & Sex, by Peggy Orenstein.
Healing Trauma, by Peter Levine.
Let Your Life Speak, by Parker J Palmer.
Currently on my shelf
Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski.
Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde.
Strangers In Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt.
Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
The Mommy Myth, by Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels.
Do Nothing, by Celeste Headlee.
The Zen of Social Media Marketing, by Shama Hyder.
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander.
About the Reading List
Every year I track all of the books I read and analyze what I’m reading from a macro perspective. In addition, I write short summaries of the books all on this page. This page gets updated every few months as the year progresses, and then at the end of the year, I tally the books and notes all together here as an archive.
I’ve been recording what I read every year for the past several years—here are the books lists from 2017, 2018, and 2019. Book tracking helps me pay attention to the quality and diversity of what I read. It has improved the quality, breadth and number of books I learn from, which inspires me to keep doing it.
If you’re curious, you can read more about why I track the books I read, how to decide what book to read next, and my notes on how to finish a book. Or you can read my book summaries, below, for new book ideas and recommendations. Please note—all links to books below are affiliate links, which means that if you click the link to buy the book, I’ll get a small amount of money for being an affiliate.
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