Since it’s Read Across America Week, I decided to write about my favorite books from this past year and why #ReadingIsMyXanax.
I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. When you are an introverted child with some social anxiety, a love of books comes in your “life on earth” toolkit. Add to that the fact that my parents worked in K-12 and higher education my entire life and at one point my dad worked as an administrator at the Denver Public Library and you have a recipe for a bookworm.
Let’s just say, Take Your Daughter To Work any day was my jam as I was allowed to explore this newly expansive library in downtown Denver all by myself as long as I eventually found my way back to my father’s office.
One of the benefits of the world shutting down last year for me was I had more time to read, and it continued to be the hobby that really got this overthinking human out of her head. #ReadingIsMyXanax
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In no order, here are my top picks for books I’ve read within the past 12 months that prove #ReadingIsMyXanax:
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
I’m currently reading this one and let me just say you must sit back and let some of the concepts she brings up seep into your bones. So glad we have female writers like this who question the status quo and beg the question, “What’s the worst that could happened if I…?” Very powerful and personal storytelling.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
I have an long list of “To Read” books and I also purchase actual physical books so I usually buy in the order I’m going to read. This was certainly the case with this memoir from our first Black president. I believe I stopped another book to start this one the week it came out which was of course strategically around the time of the last presidential election. Thankful I did. It reminded me what I believe most people in this country stand for and that there is good and hope. It’s lengthy, but gives great insights into the most challenging moments of his presidency and personal life.
Note that it’s part one of two with the second release TBD.
Educated by Tara Westover
I’m guilty of reading things that usually validate my worldview and I’m honest about that. Like my desire to read The Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance one year to understand that worldview and lifestyle, came my desire to read this book by Tara Westover. It’s one of the most intriguing and inspiring stories of a person rejecting their position in life and what they have been taught to believe since birth and finding their own path. It also gives great insight into a way of life that is opposite of how I was raised, and I think we all could use more perspective to better understand and accept our differences.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Back when I worked for the UCI Libraries, we did an event with Mr. Whitehead and I was fortunate to meet him and have my copy of this book signed. With extra time on my hands, I finally sat down and started to dive into this one. I knew it would be emotionally taxing, so I was putting it off given the state of current affairs. Whitehead is a brilliant writer, and when you meet writers in person who are reserved and humble, it usually means the better they are at expressing themselves on paper in my experience. This story is important for understanding of Black culture, history, racism, and casteism in this country. I recommend anyone with an open heart and mind to open it up and let the injustice seep in.
Make Change by Shaun King
Similar to my comment above about opening your heart and mind to understanding, Make Change will do just that. Shaun King is one of the most powerful activists of my lifetime in my humble opinion, and the work he does – and danger he puts himself and his family in – to right wrongs is inspiring and sadly so needed. In this book, he recounts some of the human rights infringements he has stood behind. He also provides actionable items for everyday people who are also enraged by things happening in our communities nationwide to innocent people. #ReadingIsMyXanax but it’s also sometimes my inspiration too.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
I’m a big fan of British culture, especially how the modern culture co-exists with some the carryovers from the past and the British monarchy. I studied abroad in Cambridge in college and as a Black woman this book about Black women from different socio-economic classes was intriguing, delightful, thought-provoking, entertaining, and so much more. Evaristo writes about intersectionality in a way that is so relatable to anyone who finds themselves with feet in various lifestyles, identities, and societies throughout their life.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This was one where I knew I would love the show—the cast alone had me sold. I also had heard about the author back when I was working in higher education. I’m one of those people who can’t watch a movie or show I’m interested in without reading the book. The order doesn’t matter, but ideally I like to read the book first as was the case with this one. You may be able to tell I don’t read a lot of fiction, but this was a great and easy read about two interconnected families, race, parenting, privilege, love, and community.
Heart Talk by Cleo Wade
Remember those Chicken Soup For The Soul books? This is a more modern version of that using poetry and brevity which I appreciate. It’s one of those books you can pick up as needed or read in only a few sittings. Wade has a gift for prose and uses it to share her life lessons and inspirations. I also enjoyed the mixed typeface and handwritten elements. It made me feel closer to her work and like it was a personal journal and manual on being good to yourself. #ReadingIsMyXanax and most especially in the case of this book.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
This one should be required reading in my opinion. I was a good student. I got good grades, listened to my teachers, read all the required reading etc. However, in my adult life never has a book really filled in the historical gaps as remarkably as this book about how in the United States, like India, we were founded on a caste system that still is alive and well today. Politics aside, understanding our history is imperative to improving our collective futures so I highly recommend this one.
Go forth and read and if you want to see more of what I read, follow me on Twitter and the hashtag #ReadingIsMyXanax!