I’ve always–always–been a voracious reader. It’s a comfort thing, sure, harkening back to the nostalgia of bundling up in my bunk bed at night and reading Little House on the Prairie. But these days, it’s more than that. It’s a way to confront my fears, to find a little escape route when I’m particularly stressed, and to, let’s be honest, procrastinate. But above all, reading is one of the most important tools I have to help me develop new perspectives–not only about myself but also about the world around me. So, in the interest of being the early bird, here are five books to read right now (or this summer!) that may help you change your perspective.
The word “feminist” gets a lot of flack. It carries a heck of a lot of baggage, and, to many, conveys a long list of expectations that can’t all be met harmoniously. As women in America are becoming more outspoken about their choices in regards to their careers, their families, and the ways they respond to the idea of “having it all,” Bad Feminist is an awesome look at how we identify with, adhere to, and break away from the expectations Feminism sets before us. Plus, Roxane Gay is an awesome writer, a Scrabble champion, and an all-around great role model for people. At the very least, this book of essays will get you thinking about how you choose your choices – and how to be proud of them.
This is a book of poetry. I know, I know. You might wonder, exasperatedly, why I would include a book like this–because, well, poetry isn’t everybody’s bag! And that’s okay…but Lynn Emanuel’s work is awesome. Her poetry explores noir, addressing the stark, tense feeling of the genre, and is influenced by her relationship with death–something near and dear to us all. Of all the books I’ve read that claim to deal with the inevitable plunge into who-knows-what–and I’ve read a lot–this is the one that has made a difference in how I approach my own understanding of mortality. Maybe it’s because poetry makes it feel like a pretty thing…or maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for neat language. Either way, it’ll give you something to talk about over coffee.
A lack of empathy is on my short list of relationship deal-breakers. If a person cannot express empathy for another human being (or animal, because…well, dogs are amazing), I cannot be friends with them, let alone date them! Maybe that means I need more empathy for people without it…oh well! Point is, as a society we’ve sort of lost that loving feeling, and it seems as though we’ve got a serious tendency toward public outrage and disdain. Ronson’s book considers our tendency to jump at the first sign of weakness, ignorance, or any of the bad –isms (racism, sexism, etc.), among other things, and wonders why we aren’t able to put ourselves in the place of the offending Tweeter (or whatever you’d like to call them…), raising issues of Internet anonymity and the real-life implications of web-based social faux-pas. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed puts a new spin on the concept of Internet bullying, and might get you to consider turning the other cheek instead of fueling the fallout fire.
I think it’s fair to say that many of us are not comfortable with failure. That’s one reason why I take yoga…it helps me deal with the possibility (er, plausibility–my center of gravity is wonky) of tipping over and falling on my butt. Obviously, a fear of failure can extend in any number of directions. It can impact relationships, education, and self-esteem, among other things. The Queer Art of Failure is an interesting way of approaching the concept of embracing failure in any number of realms, with a particular bent toward the avant-garde, performance, and queer art. Fair warning: this is a theory-heavy book that might make you feel frustrated and a little impatient. Still, if you can parse it out into manageable pieces and approach it with a grain of salt and an open mind, you might find that you’re a little more patient with yourself (and the people around you).
Let me preface this by saying that I like all the books I put on this list, but this one is my FAVORITE. It Chooses You is an incredible work of procrastination: written as July was tying up loose ends on her second film (The Future), the book follows her interactions and budding relationships with people selling goods through The PennySaver. Not only is it an incredible, quirky, awkward look into the lives of strangers, it’s an endearing approach to living a more compassionate and–you guessed it–empathetic life.
Here’s to a well-read summer!
What’s on your summer reading list?
Also by Kristin: 5 Ways to Embrace a Lo-Fi Lifestyle
More in The Book List: 5 Food Books to Feed Your Mind
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Photos: Kristin Kaz, Amazon