books

Books Worth Reading – Early 2018

These are the books I’ve read and enjoyed in the first three months of 2018. The majority of these books were for my American History or German Literature course, but they were enjoyable enough to share with you all!

I’ve been involved in classes, student organizations, activism, tutoring, and research so I haven’t been able to read as much as I would like to! Hoping to have a longer list for the next few months.

 

Nonfiction

Courage to Soar by Simone Biles

simone bilesI was a gymnast for the majority of my life. It taught me so much from dedication to flexibility.

Simone Biles covers that and so much more. Her background is just as interesting as her experience in the Olympic Village!

Simone’s entrance into the gymnastics world started on a daycare field trip in her hometown of Spring, Texas, but no one could’ve known that 19 medals were in store for her. In this book, Simone takes you through the events, challenges, and trials that carried her from an early childhood in foster care to a coveted spot on the 2016 Olympic team. Her attitude along the way really inspired me to let negative comments roll off my back and put my dreams into action!

Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck

steinbeckReading this really humanized the people on all sides of WWII. War is not something I understand as I am nonviolent in nature, but through reading this book, I’ve come to understand how people can be swept up in war.

This book is a collection of articles written by John Steinbeck while he was a special war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune from June to December 1943. Steinbeck’s articles include descriptions of life on a troop transporter, a description of how homesick US soldiers tried and failed to grow their native vegetables in the English gardens, and so many other narratives that would have been lost without Steinbeck.

Despite being nonfiction, this book reveals Steinbeck’s way of storytelling. He did not focus on individuals, but I still felt connected to the characters people. This is one of his less well-known works, but not for good reason! I definitely recommend reading this!

Semicolon Project: Your Story Isn’t Over

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 9.43.30 AM

Project Semicolon began in 2013 to spread a message of hope: No one struggling with a mental illness is alone. In support of the project and its message, thousands of people all over the world have gotten semicolon tattoos and shared photos of them (you can see mine in the photo!).

Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over reveals dozens of new portraits and stories from people of all ages and all backgrounds talking about what they have survived. This book represents a new step in the movement and a new awareness around those who are affected by mental illness. The stories in the book break stereotypes while also not excluding those who fit into the stereotypes, which is unusual for a campaign to be able to combine those two aspects.

Learn more about the project at projectsemicolon.com!

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

woundedknee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is Dee Brown’s classic  account of the systematic destruction of the Native American during the second half of the nineteenth century. As pointed out in the book, it is rare to hear the other side of the story that did not make it into the history books of my childhood. The information comes from council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions. The point of view is not limited to one tribe, but instead covers quite a few in depth and dozens are mentioned in the book.

Just as with Once There Was a War and Project Semicolon, this book shines light on narratives that would otherwise be lost.

I was very glad this was required reading in my American history course this year and think anyone learning about or interested in the western frontier in American history should read this.

 

Fiction

I have been slacking on my fiction reading recently. Nonfiction is definitely what I am drawn to more, but I love fiction too!

The Physicists by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

physiker

The Physicists tells of the world’s greatest physicist, Johann Wilhelm Möbius, in a madhouse, haunted by recurring visions of King Solomon. He is kept company by two other equally deluded scientists: one who thinks he is Einstein, the other who believes he is Newton. The hunchbacked Doctor Mathilde von Zahnd is there psychiatrist, but she might be just as crazy as (if not more than) the rest of them.

This is one of the strangest things I’ve ever read, but it did effectively show me not to trust anything I read or hear. (Not that the current American government has not taught me that already.)

When you think you know what is about to happen, you don’t.


Did some reading over spring break with my friend Marissa as seen in the picture at the top! Check out her blog!


Let me know if you read or have read these books and what you think! Let me know if you guys have any books I should check out!

Healing Reads

As many of you know, I was in treatment from the end of October until about two weeks ago. I had a lot of learning to do. Some of it was in individual sessions, groups, and books I was given.  Today, I am going to focus on the last one: books!

Nonfiction

Life Without Ed by Jenni Shaefer

life-without-edOne thing I learned in treatment, is it is important to separate your “eating disorder” self from your “healthy” self.  This can sound kind of silly, but it is used in other ways too (Nic for nicotine for example).  In a similar vein, many people have a “negative voice,” a “procrastination voice” and many other “voices” that people can choose to identify as part of the normal human process of “internal self-dialogue.”

Once separated from a voice, it is easier to disagree and come to a solution than when I felt like I was arguing with myself.

I recommend this book to anyone who has not been able to separate their unhealthy voice from their healthy voice.

When You Can’t Snap Out of It by Louis J. Bevilacqua, Psy. D.

snapoutofitIf you or someone you love is affected by depression or anxiety, you are likely familiar with the fact that we can’t just snap out of it – as much as we would like to. If I could just get out of bed and be happy, I sure would.

Frankly, minimizing comments are condescending and frustrating because I wish it were that simple.

I recommend this book to anyone who is starting to seek mental health treatment or is hoping to in the future. It lists symptoms of depression, along with coping skills and strategies to deal with each symptom.

If you are familiar with the many coping skills that work for you with your current symptoms, this book may not be as helpful.

8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Shubert Grabb

8keystoed

This book was great to read after Life Without Ed because I finally understood how and why I simultaneously understood that I was slowly killing myself yet did not want to stop. My healthy self was ready to recover from my eating disorder.

Each of the 8 Keys were so necessary for me. Each one had multiple writing assignments, which were mentally and emotionally difficult. I learned so much through this book and I am grateful for that.

I recommend anyone who has admitted to themself that they have an eating disorder reads this book, whether or not treatment is an option at this time.

It is best to wait to start this book until the denial phase is over.

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.

gifts-of-imperfectionjust-me

Brené Brown, a leading expert on shame, vulnerability, authenticity, courage, and belonging gives readers a peek into her research. As many of us know, our imperfections are what make us human; this is how we relate to one another. Feelings of loneliness and shame somehow exist in all of us and can bring us together in the end.

My opinion on both of these books I read is that it was fairly repetitive and wasn’t in depth enough for my preferences.

If you want to learn from her, I think her TED talks are the way to go. She talks about vulnerability and shame.

The Mindful Way through Depression by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn
mindful-depression

Mindfulness, the simple idea of paying attention to your emotions and life experiences, is more powerful than I ever thought.

This is not a substitute for a therapist in any way, but it is a nice book to read between sessions. This book helped me understand why my past attempts to figure out why I was unhappy and ungrateful commonly lead me to spiral out of control. The book pulls from both Eastern meditative traditions and cognitive therapy. I found this combination both interesting and useful.

I recommend this book to anyone who is currently involved in therapy for depression or has been in the past.

Fiction

Fiction is not always considered to be healing, but it is just as important in my opinion. Escaping to another world nightly before bed really helped me be able to sleep instead of replaying the day on repeat until my alarm went off.

The Shining by Stephen King

Shiningnovel

Leaving school for treatment and turning my life upside down was pretty damn scary. But this was nothing compared to Jack, Wendy, and Danny Torrance going to spend the winter in the Overlook Hotel.

I have always been a big Stephen King fan so of course I needed to bring one with me to distract from my fear of change.

I recommend this book to anyone who has seen the movie and wants to see more of the inside of Danny’s or Halloran’s mind.

After this book, I think Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is a must read. It follows Danny’s life after the Overlook Hotel winter.

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

pilots-wife

This book was an interesting look into the fact that you really never know a person. You only know what they show you, tell you, or you assume.

Kathryn Lyon’s husband is a pilot who has died in a recent crash. Needing answers, she leaves her fifteen-year-old daughter with her mother and goes to investigate what happened on the flight and why.

The ending was very anti-climactic, which does seem more realistic. Many people praise Shreve for this, but I am just not so sure.

I recommend reading this book if you happen to stumble upon it, but the ending really left a bad taste in my mouth.

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrandbarefoot

In Nantucket for the summer, three women seek peace and serenity as they cope with the hurdles in their lives, including unfaithful marriages, unplanned pregnancies, unlikely affairs, and terminal illnesses. Then a fourth person, a 22-year-old young man whose own life was just as discouraging as the rest, joins the crew.

The characters are so real, it is hard to focus on my own life’s plot twists when I spent my nights reading about this dinged-up bunch.

I recommend this book to anyone who is finding themself asking questions such as “Why me?” and just generally feeling overwhelmed with everything life has thrown at them. I was tired of hearing that everything happens for a reason, but as these people’s stories are woven together, it is clear to see that each of their difficulties gave them the ability to help each other. As the characters gained hope from unlikely people in unexpected ways, so did I.

I learn from everyone. Some I knew were coming when I signed up for treatment. A few, like Elin Hilderbrand, spoke to me through their published words. Others, stumbled into my life right under my nose. Most of those who inspire me may not even know how much they truly affected me, but I am thankful for all that I have learned.


If you would like to check out any of these books, here is the list. Let me know if you would like me to post more about books in the future, because I really enjoyed reflecting on all of these books and making this post.