My Favorite Books of 2020…and Books for 2021
Last year I kicked off 2020 with a review of my favorite books from 2019.
And I have been waiting in excitement to continue the tradition as we usher in 2021. For me, books are for learning, for escape, for adventure, and for FUN! And I can say that I needed all of those things this past year. So below is a mashup of both professional and personal “favorites” from 2020. I couldn’t include all of the books, so for a full listing, join me on Goodreads!
Books I’ve Recently Read and Loved
“The Witches Are Coming” by Lindy West
If you haven’t read any of Lindy’s work you need to stop reading this newsletter and get your priorities straight. Lindy’s capacity to make me think deeply on issues, particularly related to women’s bodies, is unparalleled. And she situates these complex problems within a larger social context WHILE MAKING ME LAUGH OUT LOUD. Thank you Lindy, my world is better with you in it.
“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed
It is safe to say that I am obsessed with the words, wisdom, and heart of Cheryl Strayed. I listened to every one of her podcast episodes so it was no surprise that I loved this collection from her advice column “Dear Sugar.” Strayed is not only a brilliant writer but she speaks to the pains and dilemmas we humans face with so much candor and wisdom that makes one feel less alone in their own suffering. While I may not agree with every word she offers, I love what she brings into the world.
“Trauma Informed Approaches to Eating Disorders” by Andrew Seubert (Editor)
This is an incredibly solid foundational text for anyone in the eating disorders field who is looking to both broaden and deepen their understanding of how to integrate treatment for EDs and trauma. I liked that the text is a collection of chapters for various specialists in the field and is a great springboard for further training in specific modalities that are of interest to you. The authors did not address trauma related to sizeism and weight stigma which is a glaring omission given its relevance to ED work.
“The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes
This book wins the award of my favorite novel in 2020. It has everything – strong female characters, a central plotline related to books and reading, romance, murder, and some twists and turns. I didn’t want to put this book down and counted the hours until I could pick it up again. If you need a “suck you right in” kind of story – this one is for you!
“The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation” by Deborah Dana
I’m in a bit of a geek-out phase with all things nervous system regulation and this book did not disappoint. Deb Dana is a legend when it comes to translating trauma and neurobiology into clinical practice and this text is a great place to delve a little deeper. I ended up listening to this book rather than reading it which was a mistake. I didn’t care for the narrator and Dana uses some imagery that is critical to understanding the application of key concepts. If you want to learn more about Polyvagal Theory, I do recommend this book but strongly suggest you read rather than listen to it.
“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for Whte People to Talk About Race” by Robin DiAngelo
Personally, I found this book to be utterly essential in understanding white supremacy and my experience of and relationship to it. DiAngelo is a clear and accessible writer and creates space for self-reflection without losing readers to a pool of shame. I have a deep wish for every white American to read this book with curiosity and openness. I feel sturdier and more capable to engage in conversations related to race after having read this book.
“Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia” by Sabrina Strings
Ok, if you are a person who works with the physical and emotional health of other people, you must read this book. I’m not saying it will be easy, Strings is an academic afterall. Some of the chapters are a bit, ahem, effortful. But it is imperative that each of us has a deep understanding of the roots that undergird that work we do and interventions we apply. Strings’ work is essential.
“The Nickel Boys” by Colston Whitehead
I loved (LOVED) this excruciatingly painful book. That sentence sounds so odd but is the truth. Expertly woven plot, characters developed so specifically I could see them in my mind’s eye, and all rooted in a part of American history that I deeply wished was fiction. There is a reason this novel won the Pulitzer in 2020. This devastating narrative ought to be considered essential reading.
“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett
You know when you read a book and it sticks inside of you for months and years to come? “The Vanishing Half” is one of those books for me. Set from the 1950’s-1990’s, it’s a story of twin sisters – one who lives as white and one who lives as black. Bennett draws readers in with captivating prose while leaving us with so very much to think about.
“Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present” by Harriet Washington
This was a formidable read – dense, challenging, at times deeply (deeply) upsetting content. But it should be required reading for all clinicians working in the medical field. We must learn from the worst parts of our history to create a just and equitable future. This book can help us do that.
“How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
So I have to admit, this book was more effortful to get through than I anticipated. Perhaps it’s because I do most of my reading at night and by the time last Fall rolled around, I was TIRED. But boy was this book worth every minute. Kendi’s work has helped me transform my own relationship to racism so that I can be less defensive in examining the way racism shows up in and through me. I feel more clearly directed and empowered to align my actions and values with antiracism and equity – and that’s a pretty cool feeling.
“An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Ok, if I hadn’t listened to this book, I would still be working my way through it. This is a hefty historical text but one that has helped me develop a more robust understanding of American’s history. As a science major in undergraduate and graduate school, my knowledge of historical events isn’t’ where I’d like it to be. So this book helped expand my knowledge and took me out of my comfort zone.
“Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon
Speaking of being taken from my comfort zone…holy smokes, Kieser Laymon’s writing and voice rocked my world. This book is not for the faint of heart. But if you do any work with bodies and body image, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Laymon’s life story just may expand your perspective on body narratives in a very necessary way. At least that’s one of the many things this book did for me.
“Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall
Kendall is a sharpshooter and her book helped deepen my understanding of what it means to truly consider all female identified individuals in the fight towards a more equitable world. I processed this book in a mini book club which was a smart move because there is just so much to analyze and integrate. Strongly recommend.
“One to Watch” by Kate Stayman-London
If you need some brain candy that still has some teeth – this one’s for you! Stayman-London creates a Bachelorette spin off featuring a plus-size fashion blogger, Bea Schumacher. While there is romance, comedy, and drama, Stayman-London doesn’t avoid the very real issues stemming from fat phobia in our culture. Happily, I couldn’t put this book down – the perfect escapist romcom. And who doesn’t need a little escape right now?
“Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing” by Joy DeGruy
I read this book as part of an online course with Dr. DeGruy and I can highly recommend both. While her book could use some polishing and editing, she brings so much wisdom and heart through both her theory and narrative. DeGruy’s work has helped me better appreciate the ripple effect slavery has had on society both individually and collectively.
“What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat” by Aubrey Gordon
Gordon is an incredibly compelling writer and I have greedily followed her work online for the past couple of years. The real gift of this book is Gordon’s ability to remind us of humanity – the humanity of individuals living in very high weight bodies and the humanity of those of us who do not. She reminds of us of the costs when we dehumanize fat people and why reconnecting with our hearts is so essential. Gordon’s book is an essential addition to the study of fat acceptance.
“My Body, My Home: A Radical Guide to Resilience and Belonging” by Victoria Emanuela & Caitlin Metz
This must be the most gorgeous book on embodiment ever created. I couldn’t love it more. When I read this book I wanted to buy it for every client, colleague, friend, and family member I know. If you struggle with your body image, buy this book and use it to inspire your own reflections, writing, and art. This book has the power to help you heal.
“The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor
Wow, this book was waaaaay overdue for me. I have heard Sonya speak many times so this book was a delicious way to bring me back to her words and her heart. Sonya is a powerhouse whose message is so desperately needed. I can’t recommend her book more…and at the very least check out her interview on Brene Brown’s podcast.
Ok, those were some of my very favorite books from 2020. Here is a list of some of the books I’m dying to read this year.
- More Than a Body by Lindsay and Lexie Kite
- Radical Belonging by Lindo Bacon
- Radical Compassion by Tara Brach
- Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
- Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness by David Treleaven
- Nurturing Resilience by Kain & Terrell
- Disability Visibility by Alice Wong
- Journeys of Embodiment at the Intersection of Body and Culture by Niva Piran
- A Clinician’s Guide to Gender Affirming Care by Chang, Singh, and Dickey
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism
- Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
- Love & Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger by Lama Rod Owens
And soooo many more!!