I’ve been wanting to do a post about some of my favorite books for a while, but have always felt like I had other more pressing things to write about. Well, no more of that. I’m finally taking the time to share some of the books that changed my life in the last year.
The books I list below are all various types of nonfiction, ranging from self-help to rape culture. Each one is incredibly different, but all influenced me in very meaningful ways. The reviews include quick synopsis’s about the books, but I’m also sharing how the books impacted me on this current self-love and “own my own shit” journey.
These books motivated me to change for the better, and the impacts they had on me? That’s what I remember more than the actual books themselves.
I also realized I messed up in this post by not including ANY authors of color, and in order to remedy that, I wrote this post:
#1. “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brené Brown
My friend, who also nerds out on all things psychology, introduced me to Brené Brown. I’m glad she did. I relate so damn hard to everything Brené Brown talked about in her book “The Power of Vulnerability”. In the book, she discusses:
- Being vulnerable in order to connect.
- Deciding to be goddamn authentic even if it’s terrifying.
- Putting yourself first in order to be able to be a better person to the people you love.
- Empathizing without trying to save someone or fix someone.
- Letting go of who you think you should be in order to embrace who you are.
- Giving up on numbing all the things we don’t want to feel so that we can stop consequently numbing all the good things we do want to feel.
- Understanding that the things that make us feel vulnerable are the things that we feel the most shame towards.
“You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.”Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage
Shame & Vulnerability
Brené, previously a shame researcher, talks a LOT about shame and how shame prevents us from being vulnerable. Vulnerability is necessary for connections. By association, shame prevents us from connecting with other people on the deepest levels.
And it makes a lot of sense.
I read this book immediately after returning from Italy. In a way, it solidified some the things I realized while traveling alone:
- People and your connections with them are the most important thing.
- You cannot connect if you are not first vulnerable enough to try.
- It’s easier to be, know and accept yourself and then choose to come to the table as you are.
Anxiety & Vulnerability
“No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.”
Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage
I’m not very good at being something I’m not, but certain triggers push me there. Stress or anxiety often make me close off, and go into survival mode. In anxious states, tiny stressors can shut me down. But acting hard, cool, and impenetrable– that’s not me. It’s a defense. Anytime I go into that mode, it’s because I feel shame towards something.
Shame leads us to our hurt.
When I close off and shut down into introvert land, I feel shame and believe I’m not good enough. I believe people don’t enjoy hanging out with me, and I should make up for it by being somehow more. When I pretend not to care when I do, it’s because I’m afraid that I might actually be unlovable. Showing that I care sets myself up for rejection.
This book made me realize that often me shutting down is a sign that something else is going on, and that something is often shame or fear of being vulnerable.
For a book written by a researcher, it is one hell of a read. I listened to it on an app called Hoopla, and the audio book is literally a series of her lectures on vulnerability.
If you like Clo Bare, you will like this book.
Even if you don’t like Clo Bare, this book will probably teach you something.
If you want to learn about vulnerability and shame from an expert, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Prepare yourself for intermittent explosions of tears and laughter. It cut me open so many times in the best way possible.
#2. “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation” by Rebecca Traister
This book kind of made me want to be single forever, not going to lie.
“I think some men love the idea of a strong independent woman but they don’t want to marry a strong independent woman,”Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
“Marriage, it seemed to me, walled my favorite fictional women off from the worlds in which they had once run free, or, if not free, then at least forward, with currents of narrative possibility at their backs. It was often at just the moment that their educations were complete and their childhood ambitions coming into focus that these troublesome, funny girls were suddenly contained, subsumed, and reduced by domesticity.”Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
“Always choose yourself first. Women are very socialized to choose other people. If you put yourself first, it’s this incredible path you can forge for yourself.”Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
“When people call single women selfish for the act of tending to themselves, it’s important to remember that the very acknowledgement that women have selves that exist independently of others, and especially independent of husbands and children, is revolutionary. A true age of female selfishness, in which women recognized and prioritized their own drives to the same degree to which they have always been trained to tend to the needs of all others, might, in fact, be an enlightened corrective to centuries of self-sacrifice.”Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
So MANY QUOTES FROM THIS BOOK THAT I LOVE SO MUCH.
Despite being 2019, for some reason single women get bad rep after a certain age. Either we’re too selfish for a relationship, or too crazy for coupledom or too into our cats to be sexy for our men.
Whatever it may be, the general consensus in society is there’s something wrong with single women in their late twenties/early thirties and beyond. The “unmarried” or “never married.” Just look at those words to describe single women– lacking something. Lacking that marriage. Lacking that partnership.
The Slow Shift
This way of thinking is slowly shifting, but we still experience the odd stigma that we haven’t become someone else’s property on a daily basis. It’s there when my co-worker asks me why there’s no one taking me out on Valentine’s Day. I feel it when my solo attendance at the Christmas party surprises people. I see it on the looks on people’s faces when they find out I went to Italy alone.
Slowly but surely, our society is starting to recognize there is life outside of what we culturally identify as the ultimate and only version of happiness– two kids, husband, house, etc. But more often than not, I find myself having to reassure someone that indeed, my life as a single women, is not sad.
According to a lifetime of gendered societal messages, women’s fulfillment comes after marriage and children. Being single and a woman? It’s sad, lonely, and any woman who is single should be consumed with trying to become not single.
It’s 2019 and yet we still have this strange belief that a woman without a man is like an unused, unsought plot of land just waiting for someone to buy it so he can plow and seed it. (That’s how farming works, right?)
Rebecca Traister doesn’t think single women are sad.
In fact, she knows single women hold more power than we realize.
In “All the Single Ladies”, Rebecca combines history, statistics, and modern day stories from women at all different stages in life and from completely different backgrounds. The entire book is EMPOWERING even if at times it’s overwhelming with the amount of mind-blowing information she provides.
What I really like about this book too is that it’s not telling anyone that the right choice is to stay single or the right choice is to go get married– she revels in the power of the choice and highlights all the ways women choose to live their lives, single or not.
One of the ways that this book really impacted me was the following quotes:
“In work, it is possible to find commitment, attachment, chemistry, and connection. In fact, it’s high time that more people acknowledged the electric pull that women can feel for their profession, the exciting heat of ambition and frisson of success.”Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
This is the quote that made me realize that the Bare, as crazy as it sounds, is the most rewarding relationship I’ve ever had. I get all the commitment and attachment and chemistry and connection and warm fuzzies from the Bare and the subsequent interactions with people because of it.
And that’s totally fucking okay.
The Bare is my newest LTR, and you know what? The Bare gives back what I put in. Realizing that and being okay with it feels so powerful. It motivates me to keep doing what I want to without feeling bad about it. Nothing makes me feel more fulfilled or like I have a purpose in this world quite like this blog does. That’s pretty damn cool to me.
In a way, this book gave me permission to put myself first and to pursue my dreams even harder than I already was. And for that, I’m forever grateful. Plus, anytime I can learn about feminism theory and the history of badass women, I’m game.
#3. “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero
If you’ve been a long-time reader of the Bare, you’re probably tired of me talking about Jen Sincero’s book, “You Are a Badass.” But that book is the book that made me start this blog so I can’t NOT mention it in a book review post and in a post where I’m talking about books that have changed my life.
I started this blog a year and a half ago, and I’ve read Jen’s book probably three times since then.
It revs up my engine with really simple pieces of advice to get my head out of my ass and into what I love.
One of my all-time favorite quotes from her book is:
“When we’re happy and all in love with ourselves, we can’t be bothered by the bullshit (our own or other people’s).”Jen Sincero, “You Are a Badass”
I LOVE THAT STATEMENT because it is so true.
People who get pissed off about everyday nuisances, aren’t exactly flaming examples of self-love and happiness.
“If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.”Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
My temper is the shortest and my patience is nonexistent when I am exhausted, stressed, or unhappy. That statement is an awesome reminder that when I’m getting upset and annoyed easily, usually there’s something going on. And that person that’s pissing me off? Probably a sign that something internally is going on and I need to figure that shit out.
Pretty basic, but easy to forget.
And that’s what I love about Jen’s book.
In her book, she gives real, actionable advice for self-improvement. It’s stuff that’s kind of a no-brainer but she’s good at smacking me in the face with a reality check.
It’s not abstract as in “love yourself” or “think more positively” or “envision your best self”. She has concrete ways of accomplishing those ideas.
I like that. Because if it were as easy as “thinking more positively”, wouldn’t we all be on cloud nine with our lives?
Being your best self and loving yourself takes work. And her book doesn’t let you off easy. We have to own our own lives and that’s the message she pushes home.
“You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it.”Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
I like it. And I read it when I need those reminders.
#4. “Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do About It” by Kate Harding
I thought I knew a lot about gender inequality before I read this book.
But turns out, I only know a little bit.
This book blew my mind, opened my eyes and pissed me off.
If you believe that gender inequality doesn’t exist anymore…
Well, you’re probably not reading this blog.
But, if you happen to be unsure of where you stand on issues regarding gender equality… Read this book. But be prepared. Because the hard truths this book hit me with over and over and over again made me ill with disgust.
The Sexist Things I Never Realized
This book made me realize all the ways that I have been and still am biased sometimes. It made me realize the ways that I perpetuate the problem. I, a flaming feminist who fucking LIVES to empower other women, unknowingly, was part of the problem.
“Women are no more important than any other potential victims, but we are the primary targets of the messages and myths that sustain rape culture. We’re the ones asked to change our behavior, limit our movements, and take full responsibility for the prevention of sexual violence in society.”― Kate Harding, Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It
Women are always the first to be blamed for their own assault. We are taught on a wide-scale to change our behaviors to avoid being sexually assaulted by a man. Men aren’t being taught on, a wide-scale, all over the goddamn world, how NOT TO ASSAULT WOMEN.
I never realized…
It sickens me to admit I used to question what a women did to “get herself into” a bad situation. My first thought would be– how’d she let that happen? What was she doing? How did she invite that behavior?
We’ve been conditioned to blame women.
We blame women for their behaviors such as drinking too much. Not watching your own drink. Going out alone. Wearing something sexy. Being flirtatious. These all put the responsibility of rape on victims.
We expect women to prevent their own rapes instead of holding rapist accountable for their CHOICE to rape someone. Why don’t we prevent the actual rape instead of teaching women that rape is their responsibility, from a young age?
This book woke me up.
We are so deeply brainwashed that even I didn’t realize all the ways I unwittingly put responsibility on other women. And I am sorry and disgusted.
“Similarly, he forgot – or never really understood – that we live in a culture where men, as a group, have more power than women.
This isn’t a controversial statement, despite the protestations of guys who funnel their frustration that not all extremely young, conventionally attractive women want to sleep with them into and argument that women, as a group, have “all the power.” (Bill Maher, repping for his fan base, famously jokes that men have to do all sorts of shit to get laid, but women only have to do “their hair.”)
The really great thing about this argument is how the patently nonsensical premise – that some young women’s ability to manipulate certain men equals a greater degree of gendered power than say, owning the presidency for 220-odd years – obscures the most chilling part: in this mindset, “all the power” means, simply, the power to withhold consent.
Let that sink in for a minute. If one believes women are more powerful that men because we own practically all of the vaginas, then women’s power to withhold consent to sex is the greatest power there is.
Which means the guy who can take away a woman’s right to consent is basically a superhero. Right?”― Kate Harding, Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It
Women should not have to fear all the violent behaviors we have normalized.
All women SHOULD be able to drink as much as they want without fear of getting raped or assaulted or worse.
They SHOULD be able to go out alone at night without fearing their own safety.
Women SHOULD be able to wear whatever the FUCK they want without worry that they’ll be inviting unwanted attention.
They SHOULD have to NOT worry about watching their drinks out of fear that someone will slip something into it.
But our society and culture warps reality. We do not focus on preventing attackers from becoming attackers.
Instead we accept this as the norm and expect women to do more in order to enjoy the basic fucking privilege of living assault free. And if assaulted, we blame the women and remind them of all the ways their attack was preventable.
I could rant on about the life changing power of this book. But perhaps I’ll save that for another post.
“Making women the sexual gatekeepers and telling men they just can’t help themselves not only drives home the point that women’s sexuality is unnatural, but also sets up a disturbing dynamic in which women are expected to be responsible for men’s sexual behavior.”Kate Harding, Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It
Just read it.
And come back and let me know what you thought.
“Less publicly, women call each other “sluts” and “whores,” doubt each other’s stories, and help perpetuate the myth that if we always dress modestly, drink responsibly, and avoid dark alleys and dangerous-looking men, we’ll be effectively rape-proofed. We are part of the problem.”Kate Harding, Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It
5. “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation” by Daniel Siegel
Mindsight was such an interesting book to me because it helped me to understand why my brain has such a hard time of letting go of things that logically I know I want to let go of.
Like liking the wrong person.
Or doing things that I know aren’t good for me.
And always going back to the same coping mechanisms even if I know they don’t work.
Rewiring your brain takes work, and patience. But looking inward to figure that out and taking notice when you’re doing the things that don’t serve you anymore?
Mindsight is the ability to perceive the mind of our self and others.
The book is packed with information on how the brain works and why we do what we do on a deeper level than recognizing patterns of behavior.
One of the most interesting parts of the book to me was about how children with insecure attachment issues often develop because someone in their life who is supposed to be their protector is also viewed as their abuser.
It could be a parent or a teacher or an older sibling, but there’s a confusion because often the person that they go to for comfort and safety and security can sometimes be the cause of their pain, insecurity and fear.
“Loss of someone we love cannot be adequately expressed with words. Grappling with loss, struggling with disconnection and despair, fills us with a sense of anguish and actual pain. Indeed, the parts of our brain that process physical pain overlap with the neural centers that record social ruptures and rejection. Loss rips us apart.”Daniel J. Siegel, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
Example of Insecure Attachment
Let’s do a hypothetical scenario to paint the picture.
Imagine you’re a kid and you have a parent, let’s say a dad, who fluctuates between extremes, sometimes hyper kind and loving but easily triggered into angry, mean, and emotionally neglectful. As a kid, you have no idea which version of your parent you’re going to get but you’re always hopeful that you’ll get the kind and loving version.
“One of the key practical lessons of modern neuroscience is that the power to direct our attention has within it the power to shape our brain’s firing patterns, as well as the power to shape the architecture of the brain itself.”Daniel J. Siegel, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
One day, you come home from school and start talking to your Dad about your day. You got an A+ on the test you were worried about and your dad tells you affirming things, like how smart you are and how proud he is of you, etc. While talking to him, you decide to make a snack, and accidentally spill a glass of milk on the floor. Your dad, who just moments before was smiling and cheerful, flips a switch and suddenly starts screaming at you, telling you how stupid you are and how he wishes you would just be a little bit more careful, pay attention and stop being so ignorant and disrespectful of other people’s property.
As a kid, you’re confused because the person who is causing you pain is also the person you want to comfort you. You want your dad to come protect and save you from the man that is screaming at you, but the man that is screaming at you is your dad.
This type of child is susceptible to developing an anxious ambivalent attachment, just one of three different types of insecure attachments.
A Therapy Guide
This book made me realize that I often display two of the three different types of insecure attachments. This article gives a great overview of what those different attachments are, but if you’re looking for a more in depth explanation and a case studies, “Mindsight” is a very interesting dive into the topic and many more.
“Writing in a journal activates the narrator function of our minds. Studies have suggested that simply writing down our account of a challenging experience can lower physiological reactivity and increase our sense of well-being, even if we never show what we’ve written to anyone else.”Daniel J. Siegel, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
Mindsight helped guide me to what I wanted to talk to my therapist about, and about a year ago I brought this realization that I struggle with insecure attachment in both my romantic and platonic relationships. Since bringing that to her, we’ve worked leaps and bounds to understand where it’s coming from and what I can do to manage it.
This book is comforting to me for two reasons.
- It takes the blame off of me.
- It also puts responsibility back in my hands.
It’s not my fault that my brain is wired to do things that aren’t necessarily good for me, especially after trauma, but it is my responsibility to take a look at those things and fix them myself.
I highly recommend this book even for a new perspective on how to identify and get over your own issues.
This was my first book review post! Let me know what you think. If it’s something you enjoy, I’ll try to do it more regularly.
I read or listen to about 52 books a year, and have honestly relied on books more and more as catalysts for self-growth, realizations and motivation to do the work. If it’s helpful, drop some comments down below and share some of your favorite books for personal growth while you’re at it!