Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women
by Susan Faludi
I read this in college and it completely changed my worldview. A feminist is a person who believes in equality between the sexes — so it turns out I am a feminist. This came as a surprise to me at the time. Also, it looks like there’s some seriously, concretely unfair shit going down for women, even in the U.S. I had no idea.
The Gift of Fear
by Gavin De Becker
It’s a waste of time to be afraid all the time. Trust your instincts to tell you when something is genuinely amok, and when they do, take immediate action.
The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
by Thomas Lynch
This book by a poet who is also an undertaker helps me remember that being happy, or at least aware, is the best use of my time. It also gave me perspective on assisted suicide, and the ways individual anguish can eclipse you, needlessly.
Years later, this passage still sticks with me:
“Here was a young man who had killed himself, remarkably, to deliver a message to a woman he wanted to remember him. No doubt she does. I certainly do. But the message itself seemed inconsequential, purposefully vague. Did he want to be dead forever, or only absent from the pain? ‘I wanted to die,’ is all it seemed to say clearly. ‘Oh,’ is what the rest of us say.”
The Four Agreements
by Don Miguel Ruiz
I’ve mentioned this book before, and if you’re feeling adrift, it’s a good little system to help get you grounded again. I wrote more about it here.
It’s not a work of literary genius, but it’s clear, it’s a quick read, and it fills you in on all the financial stuff your parents didn’t teach you.
Learning to Love You More
by Harrell Fletcher, Miranda July, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Laura Lark
I like how Miranda July seems to have always tackled the next most interesting thing, and she’s built a pretty inspiring life that way. This book of projects reminds me that it’s always a good decision to let your interests guide you.
Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior
by Judith Martin
An anthropology book on my own culture, and the reasons behind the societal contracts we’ve made. Now when I’ve pissed someone off, I usually know why.
Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
by Jane Kenyon
Jane Kenyon’s poems make me feel keener, like I can smell better and hear things more clearly. I read them when I’m feeling muddled to help me re-focus.
Now! Tell me which books changed things for you, because I think it will be interesting.