If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably clued in to the fact that I love to read. I always have a book on the go and when I’m not reading I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time browsing bookstores and obsessing over what I’m going to read next. A couple of you have asked me for book recommendations recently, so I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favourite reads.
Ever since I wrote a post called 12 Books About Love, Life and Being a Woman last spring, I’ve been dying to write a sequel. Here are 15 more books about love, life and being a woman. Some of these titles are things I have read & enjoyed over the past year, while others are long time favourites.
If you enjoy this blog, you might enjoy these books too.
1. Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple – Part adventure & mystery, part hilarious satire, this was one of my favourite books I read in 2013. I love the character of Bernadette – she’s smart, witty, totally eccentric and utterly original. Set in Seattle, the book really captures (in the most hilarious way possible) the organic- granola-crunching-designer-rubber-boot-wearing-overly-PC atmosphere of life on the West Coast and what it’s like to feel like an outsider in this milieu (hmm, sound familiar?)
2. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – “Hi, I”m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ” When Lincoln, a mild-mannered, slightly nerdy IT guy is put in charge of monitoring office emails he never expects to become captivated by the entertaining emails exchanged between best-friends and co-workers Beth and Jennifer. By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s too late to introduce himself – after all, he doesn’t even know what she looks like. What should be the creepiest story ever, turns into one of the sweetest, non-sucky love stories I’ve come across in a long time. I also loved the witty exchanges between Beth & Jennifer because their characters remind me so much of my best friend and I. Whenever someone asks for the perfect “feel good book” I tell them, “THIS. Read this.”
3. Monkey Mind: a Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith – Although this book isn’t really about love and wasn’t written by a woman, as someone with an anxiety disorder, I could really relate to this memoir. As Smith describes the various layers of anxiety and how he experiences his day to day life, I kept finding myself saying, “Yes. yes. yes. I know what that’s like.” I feel like this book put into words a lot of thoughts and feelings I’ve had, but haven’t been able to express. The book is also full of witty humour as Smith describes the self-destructive absurdity that is living with anxiety. A good one to read if you or are a loved one are anxious.
4. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta – Ever since I started blogging, I’ve become completely obsessed with reading memoirs of other 30-something women writers. This is a fantastic memoir and one of my favourite books from 2013. Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving town north of Boston, in a trash-filled house, with her drug addicted mother Kathi – a notorious local figure, whose life swung between welfare and riches, and whose highbrow taste was at odds with her hardscrabble life. With or Without You is a gritty coming of age tale about loving, leaving and healing your personal demons. I couldn’t put it down.
5. And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould – Unlike Ruta, Emily Gould grew up in relative privilege and following college, landed a job in NYC working at Gawker. I resisted reading this book for a long time because I’d heard it described as “narcissistic, angsty hipster drivel” however, I’m glad I picked this book. Gould’s memoir is written in stark, clear prose and seems to perfectly capture the numbness that a lot of us feel in our post-college mid-twenties. I rarely ever cry over a book, but when I read the passage where Gould breaks up with her boyfriend (in a scene so eerily similar to my own breakup), it brought me to tears. Gould grew on me throughout the book, to the point where I didn’t really want to let her go when it was over.
6. A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown – There are tons of memoirs about overcoming childhood abuse, rape, drug addiction, miscarriage, alcoholism, gangbanging, near-death injuries, drug dealing, prostitution, or homelessness (I’ve read several of them). Cupcake Brown survived all of these things before the age of 20 and through a miraculous twist of fate, went on to become an attorney at one North America’s leading law firms. What could have been a really grim story is told with a gut-punch sense of humour, making this book addictively readable. When you see how much Brown went through and how far she’s come, it almost makes you feel lazy. This memoir is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and how anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
7. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – At age 22, Cheryl Strayed hiked more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—alone. I initially shied away from this book because I thought it was just about hiking, however it’s about so, so, much more. Strayed’s harrowing trek through the wilderness acts as a backdrop to a journey of healing. If you’ve ever lost someone or felt lost (or all of the above), this book is for you. I’m also pretty sure that Cheryl Strayed is my spirit animal.
8. Tiny, Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed – “Be brave enough to break your own heart” “Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here” – these are just a few of my favourite lines from this collection of essays. I don’t know if I can express how much I love this book, just that since reading it a year ago, I find myself going back and re-reading parts of it on a daily basis. Strayed’s advice is wise and heartbreaking and beautiful. I want to buy a copy of Tiny Beautiful Things for everyone in my life.
9. How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson & Neill Strauss – When I brought this book home my boyfriend at the time was disappointed to find out that it wasn’t an instructional manual, but a memoir that acts as a cautionary tale. Although mainstream porn really isn’t my thing, I am fascinated by the stories of people involved in the industry and how they got there. This books is many things: a shocking history of rape and abuse; an insider’s guide to the secret workings of the billion-dollar adult-film industry; and a gripping thriller that probes deep into Jameson’s dark past. This book begs the question: how much do our life experiences dictate who we become?
10. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block – This book is pure magic. Although it’s a Young Adult title, I think it’s best described as “A Fairytale for Adults.” I read this book for the first time when I was 12 and have probably re-read it every year since. I’ve even read excerpts of it to lovers while spending a lazy day in bed. It’s that good.
11. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison by Piper Kerman – I love the show Orange is the New Black which is what motivated me to pick up this book when I was on vacation in Seattle this past summer. Whether you’ve watched the show or not, this memoir is really moving and says a lot about the bond of female friendships, compassion and the enraging injustices of the US justice system.
12. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc – LeBlanc, a journalist, captures the tiniest aspects of the lives of two teenage Puerto Rican girls as they grow up in the South Bronx, fall in love, have kids young, and one ends up in prison, in this engrossing non-fiction book. The book follows the two extraordinary women – CoCo and Jessica – up until their late twenties & early 30’s (LeBlanc spent 10 years basically living with their families.) I actually grabbed this book after reading about it in an interview with Piper Kerman (Orange is the New Black) when she mentioned she’d read Random Family in prison. This is must read for anyone interested in social justice or the experience of poverty in urban America. The stories and the people from this book have stuck with me long after I turned the last page.
13. My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler – I don’t think Jennifer Weiner could have described this book any better when she said “Chelsea Handler writes like Judy Blume, if Judy Blume were into vodka, Ecstasy, and sleeping with midgets and nineteen year olds.” If you love hilarious, over the top, ridiculous stories about sex and dating (with just enough wisdom thrown in), this collection of one night stand tales is for you.
14. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy – Meet the Female Chauvinist Pig—the new brand of “empowered woman” who wears the Playboy bunny as a talisman, bares all for Girls Gone Wild, pursues casual sex as if it were a sport, and embraces “raunch culture” wherever she finds it. This book explores how the women’s movement has evolved to Girls Gone Wild, and how “levelling the playing field” by “doing what the guys do”, doesn’t necessarily lead to equality. Although I sometimes disagree with Levy’s one sided views (she seems to have only interviewed people who exhibit the most extreme examples of female chauvinism), this is still a very worthy read.
15. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable with the word “feminism” or wondered whether you are in fact, a feminist; you need to pick up this book. Although this book isn’t perfect and I don’t always agree with everything Moran says, I thoroughly enjoyed reading these laugh out loud essays about her coming of age and the state of modern womanhood. At the end of the book I had a huge smile on my face and wanted to jump up on a chair and say, “YES. I AM A FEMINIST!” Also, her anecdote about her wedding gone hilariously wrong made me snort-laugh out loud.
What are some of your favourite books about love, life & being a woman?