December 17, 2018
10 books I loved and learned from in 2018 — all written by women
While a few big books hogged the limelight this year (Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” Bob Woodward’s “Fear”), a handful of others went about their business helping us live more present, more deliberate, more empathetic, more purpose-driven lives.
Here are 10. They’re all written by women.
“How To Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute,” by KJ Dell’Antonia: The former Motherlode blogger for The New York Times offers permission and encouragement for parents to prioritize their own joy and fulfillment, even (especially?) when their children’s lives aren’t picture-perfect. Get more sleep, she urges. Settle fewer sibling fights. Dive headfirst into your own hobbies. “I’m raising future adults, not perfect children,” she writes. And future adults ought to prioritize the happiness of others as well as their own.
“Interracial Relationships Between Black Women and White Men,” by Cheryl Judice: Northwestern University sociology professor Judice tells the stories of black women dating, married to or divorced from white men — the highs, the lows, whether and when race factored into those highs and lows, what led them to date outside their race, how their families received their partners, how they were received by their partners’ families. “It is my hope,” Judice writes, “that presenting their stories will cause more black women to intentionally seek to broaden their idea of suitable dating and marriage partners.” It’s a fascinating read and an invitation to question a lot of the stories we tell ourselves about love.
“Beyond Birds and Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids about Sex, Love, and Equality,” by Bonnie J. Rough: After living in the Netherlands with her husband and young daughters, Rough had an epiphany. “Not every society treats bodies as shameful and sex as offensive,” she writes. “I saw that many of my international friends were raising kids far more likely to have optimal sexual health and self-esteem, better sex lives and more advantages of gender equality than their average American peers. I’d gone to see how they accomplished this, and most of all, while my kids were still little, to find out if I could reinvent my own philosophy about sex, clarify my guiding principles and discover approaches more practical and more effective than the old-fashioned birds-and-bees checklist.” Her book is the result.
“In Pieces,” by Sally Field: In a searing memoir, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress opens her wounds and explores their permanence and their staying power. She reveals the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her stepfather and the way her off-screen life was shaped by her on-screen roles. She gives us her life in pieces, even the devastating ones.
“Enough as She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives,” by Rachel Simmons: “Yes, this is the most promising moment for girls in history,” Simmons told me in an interview. “At the same time, girls have more expectations and obligations than any time in history. That’s not an easy responsibility to bear.” Be a STEM star, but with perfect makeup. Be class president, but with plenty of time for your friends. Be an athlete, but not too muscle-y. Her book offers a road map for parents and educators guiding young women toward balance.
“Dark Chapter,” by Winnie M. Li: a harrowing, courageous novel based on Li’s experience of being attacked and raped in a Belfast park when she was 29. The book explores the lives of both Vivian, the victim, and Johnny, the perpetrator, and Li infuses each character with equal humanity. I’ve never read anything like it.
“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama: a front-row seat to a remarkable woman’s life as first lady of the United States, but also as a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend and citizen trying to juggle and honor every role with the care and weight it deserves. “There’s a lot I still don’t know about America, about life, about what the future might bring,” she writes. “But I do know myself.” And that’s what she shares in this book.
“Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing Our First Woman President,” by Rebecca Sive: a weaving together of bold, barrier-busting women — Shirley Chisholm (the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives), Ida B. Wells (journalist, anti-lynching activist, co-founder of the NAACP) and, yes, Hillary Clinton (first female nominee of a major U.S. political party), and a call for us to build upon their stories. Enough “year of the woman,” Sive writes. “It’s time for a century of women. And then another. And another.”
“Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Listen,” by Wendy Mogel: Genius strategies for communicating with our sons and daughters at various developmental stages. One of my favorite tips is for sons, but I’ve used it with my daughter as well. “Some boys prefer to write down a big thought, confession or heartfelt sentiment and slip a note under your door rather than say it in person,” Mogel writes. “If you leave little notes every so often on his desk, night table or pillow, you’ve opened up an avenue of communication he hadn’t realized was available and he’ll be more likely to do the same.”
“What If This Were Enough?” by Heather Havrilesky: a book of essays that tap into the underlying sense of malaise and disconnection that colors so much of our day-to-day interactions. “Face-to-face, real-time connection to others feels fraught and awkward compared to the safe distance of digital communication,” she writes. “Our worlds exist on our phones, which feels like a very isolating experience even though you’re connecting with other people and can see other people are outraged with the world and what’s happening in their lives. … You’re like this strange, isolated spectator surrounded by all these strange, isolated spectators. It breeds a certain level of madness.”
December 16, 2018