I didn’t know if I’d get around to making this list, but here it is! My favorite books that I read in 2021.
In order for a book to make it on this list, it has to have had at least a 5/5 rating on my bookstagram and left a lasting and significant impact on my life. Simply put, these are the books I won’t forget.
The Body Keeps The Score
I now live a life that was Before “The Body Keeps The Score” and After “The Body Keeps The Score”. It’s a must-read for all time.
This book is basically the primer (for us non-therapist folks) on how trauma is stored in our bodies as well as in our memories.
“Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”
“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.”
“It takes enormous trust and courage to allow yourself to remember.”
“After trauma, the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their lives. These attempts to maintain control over unbearable physiological reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases. This explains why it is critical for trauma treatment to engage the entire organism, body, mind, and brain.”
After reading this book I found so much more compassion for myself. I highly recommend reading this book!
The Mountain Is You
Every single page of this book gave me something I didn’t know I needed. Brianna Wiest is one of the most talented writers of her time and this book is an incredible tomb of wisdom about why we self-sabotage and how to move away from that pattern.
“Self-sabotage is simply the presence of an unconscious need that is being fulfilled by the self-sabotaging behavior.
“Self-sabotage is what happens when we refuse to consciously meet our innermost needs, often because we do not believe we are capable of handling them.”
“We’re programmed to see what we’ve known. Even though we think we’re after happiness, we’re actually trying to find whatever we’re most used to.”
“What you believe about your life is what you will make true about your life.”
“One of the bigger reasons that people avoid doing important internal work is that they recognize if they heal themselves, their lives will change – sometimes drastically. If they come to terms with how unhappy they are, it means that they will have to temporarily be more uncomfortable, ashamed, or scared while they start over.”
“You don’t change in breakthroughs. You change in microshifts. Breakthroughs do not happen spontaneously. They are tipping points. Revelations occur when ideas that were sitting in the margins of your mind finally get enough attention to dominate your thoughts. Breakthroughs are what happen after hours, days, and years of the same mundane monotonous work.”
Yall, I need to stop there, otherwise, I will quote the entire book. RUN, not walk, to your local bookstore to pick this up.
This book is one that I’ll never get rid of and constantly re-read. This is hands down the best work Glennon Doyle has ever published. It’s the book I needed the most in 2021.
“Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that’s what they’re for. Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even the hard ones. The secret is that you’re doing it right, and that doing it right hurts sometimes,”
“I didn’t know I was supposed to feel everything. I thought I was supposed to feel happy.”
“Having such little faith in myself that I numb or hide or consume my way out of my fiery feelings again and again. So my goal is to stop abandoning myself – and stay.”
“I understand now that no one else in the world knows what I should do. The experts don’t know, the ministers, the therapists, the magazines, the authors, my parents, my friends, they don’t know. Not eve the folks who love me the most. Because no one has ever lived or will ever live this life I am attempting to live, with my gifts and challenges and past and people. Every life is an unprecedented experiment. This life is mine alone. So I have to stop asking people for directions to places they’ve never been. There is no map. We are all pioneers.”
“I was responsible for telling the turth but not for anyon’es reaction to it.”
“They did not have to understand me to love me.”
“You think your body is bad, but it is not. It’s wise. Your body will tell you thinkgs your mind will talk you out of.”
“For me, sobriety is not about just stopping something; it’s about beginning a particular way of life. This way of life requires living in integrity: ensuring that my inner self and outer self are integrated.”
“I do not adjust myself to please the world. I am myself wherever I am, and I let the world adjust.”
“When I began recovery, I thought that my problem was that I ate, drank, and drugged too much. I learned that overating, drinking, and drugging were actually not my problems; they were my inneffective solutions. My actual problems are clinical depression and anxiety.”
Again, I’ll need to stop quoting this book otherwise I’ll just reprint the entire thing here haha. Do yourself a favor and get this book ASAP.
No Cure For Being Human
I’ve read a few of Kate’s other books, but this one hit differently. There’s something about serious illness or having to face one’s own mortality that brings up the most interesting dynamics and conversations one has with themselves. This book is an absolute gift. We will all have to go through an experience like this at some point, and to invite us into an incredibly vulnerable time of her life is brave and a blessing to all who read it.
“After all, what do I know about dying? I’ve never done it before.”
“It takes great courage to live. Period. There are fears and disappointments and failures every day, and, in the end, the hero dies.”
“This is what happens to all of us. We fall ill. We get old. We can’t have that baby or keep that relationship. We missed our chance to go to the school or take that job. Our parents die before we know them, and our kids forget our love. We lose people before we can learn to live without them.”
“I look around me and I think, these are the choices I’ve made. The people I’ve loved. No matter how fleeting this was, I need them to believe: everything mattered. This life was enough. But it’s not true, of course. Nothing will add up to enough. I wish someone had told me that the end of life is a complex equation. Years dwindle into months, months into days, and you must begin to count them. All my dreams and ambitions, friendships and petty fights, vacations and bedtimes with a boy and dinosaur pajamas must be squeezed into hours, minutes, seconds. How should I spend them?”
“I want to be alive until I’m not.”
“Are we mourning or youth?” I asked Chelsea finally. “I’m constantly confused because aging isn’t the enemy. I am really hoping to age.”
“We try to outsmart our limitations and our bad, bad luck, but here we are, shouting the truth into the abyss. There is no cure for being human.”
“We all live like this, without assurances, without formulas, desperate for the secret to carrying on.”
This book felt like a salve to my soul. I flew through it and am so glad I picked it up. This memoir is about being diagnosed with cancer in your 30s and grappling with what it means to live and die.
This book takes a look at the social, economical, environmental, psychological and political web of addiction, drugs, treatment and prevention in America. I highly recommend it if you are wanting to understand more about this topic.
“Addiction isn’t a criminal problem, but a health problem – a health crisis.”
“I’ve never heard of any disease that responds to censure, blame, or denial of treatment.”
“There’s another essential reason why we must understand that addiction is an illness and not just bad behavior: we punish bad behavior. We treat illness.”
“One symptom of the disease of addiction is relapse. Kicking an addict out of treatment for relapsing is like kicking a cancer patient out of treatment when a tumor metastasizes
“Addiction is the only disease whose patients are refused treatment for showing their symptoms.”
Think Like A Monk
I don’t really have a fascination with monks or the monk lifestyle. My goal isn’t really to “think like a monk”. But I picked up this book on a recommendation and I’m glad I did!
After living like a monk for three years Jay Shetty realized he could do more good leaving the ashram and taking what he learned to help the masses. So he moved back to London.
This book really starts from the foundations and builds from there touching on topics like letting go, using your fear, routines, relationships, service, and more.
I love soaking up how other people approach challenges in life and Jay sure has a lot of wisdom to share. It’s not like a “religious” book but really focuses more on the monk mindset.
“When we tune out the opinions, expectations, and obligations of the world around us, we begin to hear ourselves.”
“Fear motivates us. Sometimes it motivates us toward what we want, but sometimes, if we aren’t careful, it limits us with what we think will keep us safe.”
“Satisfaction comes from believing in the value of what you do.”
On routines: “Location has energy; time has memory. If you do something at the same time every day, it becomes easier and natural. If you do something in the same space every day, it becomes easier and natural.”
“If you’ve lost yourself in the relationship, find yourself in the heartbreak.”
Please Don’t See On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes
This is a must-read for 2021! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Phoebe wrote on really deep and sometimes tough topics but with humor laced throughout so you couldn’t help but laugh along the way. There are SO many great quotes I pulled from this book, but here is one on motherhood:
“Seriously, the notion that women are destined to be moms and if they don’t fulfill that destiny, something is wrong with them is reinforced everywhere. I’m talking about the friends who warn women that they will regret not being a mother, family members to pressure women into carrying on the family legacy, acquaintances, strangers, you name it.
But it’s not just about making sure soon-to-be mothers are making informed decisions. It’s about guaranteeing that no matter what a woman chooses, everyone will refrain from judgment because choosing to be a mother and choosing to be childfree or both decisions worth celebrating because the celebration is in the fact that a woman shows the trajectory of her own life.
While the process is uniquely different for each person, what I can say with absolute certainty is that, across-the-board, not being a mother is one of the most internally scrutinized choices of a woman’s life, even if the woman has known since she was a child that she doesn’t want children. Society will do its best to sow the seeds of doubt about that decision within her and it may take some time for her to uproot them.
A woman can be achieving her goals, which people swear is one of the tenants of feminism, but if these goals are not in line with what the world at large has deemed as the ultimate objective – settling down and becoming a mother – she might conclude that she’s completely missed the point of being an adult.
To not have kids in the face of a world that chastises those who make that decision is to know oneself deeply. To trust my decision making skills in a society that is trained me to doubt any choice I make that is not in service of the patriarchy is profound.”
“I don’t think individuals who are in pain are broken. I think the world we’re supposed to live in is broken, and that brokenness is too often reflected in our bodies. But we might be the ones who can help the world to heal. We have the skill set since we’ve been to the edges. We are the ones who are able to see more than one story at a time.”
100% all about that quote ☝🏼
This memoir really challenges the stereotypical view of what addiction looks like.
Everything Is Horrible And Wonderful
“I think about the day a person dies, how the morning is just a morning, a meal is just a meal, the song is just a song. It’s not the last morning, or the last meal, or the last song. It’s all very ordinary, and then it’s all very over. The space between life and death is a moment.”
“Your absence will always be palpable but so will your spirit, your presence, your memory.”
I first heard about Stephanie Wittels Wachs from a podcast interview she once did, and then became an avid listener to her podcast Last Day. The first season explored the opioid crisis and addiction and the second season explored suicide.
She’s the sister to Harris Wittels, a comedian and writer/performer most know for his work on Parks and Recreation.
This book is a memoir of the moments leading up to, the moments after, and the moment when Harris died of a heroin overdose at 30 years old.
This book is achingly vulnerable and witty and sarcastic. I loved every moment of it.
This memoir is a powerful read. Qian Julie was born in China and came to America with her parents where they struggled to make a living and lived in extreme poverty. The daily racism and fear of the government isolated her family and Qian Julie found refuge in books.
This book is a 2021 must-read for me. It’s a memoir from a Dreamer, a raw and unsweetened look at immigration, human rights, education, access, freedom, racism, and poverty.
“From then on, there was no saving me. I lived and breathed books. Where else could I find such a steady supply of friends, comforts, and worlds, all free for the taking? And so portable, too – everywhere I went, there they were: on the subway, at recess, on the steps just outside Ba Ba’s office. Unlike my teachers and classmates, they were reliable.”
“I am tired. I am so very tired of running and hiding, but I’ve done it for so long, I don’t know how to stop. I don’t know how to do anything else. It’s all I am: defining myself against illegality while stitching it into my veins.”
This book came out in 2018 but it’s a must-read for me in 2021.
Summary: “Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon.”
“Eloquent rage isn’t always loud, but it is always effective.”
“Black women turn to sass when rage is too risky – because we have jobs to keep, families to feed, and bills to pay.”
“My mother was the first to teach me that we don’t have to accept nonsense simply because it is common.”
“The good behavior has its place, it’s the disruptive girls, the loud, rowdy, attitudinal Black girls, and the defiant, quiet, insolent Black girls who expose every day exactly what this system is made of.”
“There is something clarifying about Black women’s rage, something essential about the way it drills down to the core truth. The truth is that Black woman’s anger is not the problem.”
“The lie we were told is that white rage and white fear are honest emotions that preserve the integrity of American democracy. White rage and white fear are reactions to perceptions among white people that their power might be slipping away. Black rage and Black fear are fundamentally more honest, because they are reactions to the violence of white supremacy.”
“The anti-Blackness at the heart of white fear is predicated on misrecognition of the humanity of black people. Whether the misrecognition is willful were unwitting matters less than its harmful outcomes. Impact matters more than intent.”
“To be Black is to grow up in a world where white feelings can become dangerous weapons. If you’re Black, white fear is frequently lethal.”
“Rage is great at helping us to destroy things. That’s why people are so afraid of it. But part of what I’ve been trying to say is that rage can help us build things to. The clarity that comes from rage should also tell us what kind of world we want to see, not just what kind of things we want to get rid of. I’m not interested in a feminist project that only works to tear things down. Black women know that justice is rarely found in the rubble.”
“What you build is infinitely more important than what you tear down.”
Tarana Burke is an activist and community leader who founded the ‘me too’ Movement. This memoir shares her story, her resiliency, her vision, and her work. It is nothing short of awe-inspiring and incredibly powerful.
“I felt powerful. I had set out to reinvent myself, but it turned out that I didn’t have to start from scratch. I just had to dust myself off, because the best parts were already there.”
“When it comes to sexual violence in the black community, the culture of secrecy and silence is more complex than just wanting to protect the predator. The history of false accusations of sexual violence against Black men along with our tumultuous relative with law enforcement is a factor. The pain of watching folks twist themselves out of shape finding new ways to blame like Black girls for their own abuse plays a part.”
“I believe that our legacy of living under the oppressive reach of white supremacy has trained us to take on shame that is not it’s to carry.”