2020 Book List / Monthly Resource Collection January 2021

Every year one of my goals is to read more.

In 2020 my objective was to read one book a week. As part of my daily ritual I schedule in thirty minutes of reading per day, early in the morning. I simultaneously listen to audiobooks during workouts and the in-between moments where my mind isn’t otherwise occupied: cleaning, doing my makeup, driving. This allows me the time to read two books at once, and strangely enough, the two mediums of delivery allow my brain to compartmentalize the story lines so they don’t overlap. I highly recommend.

This routine is perfect for me, and yet, in 2020 I still missed my goal by a lot. It was a complicated year. My book club has been put on hold as I struggle to run my business through this pandemic, and I’m learning to let certain things go. Not forever, but for now.

As long as I’m learning, that’s all that matters.

I hope you enjoy this post and pick up a few of my recommendations. I would also encourage you to do three things if reading more is a goal you share.

-First: schedule it in. Even if it’s only a few minutes a day or one block a week, it’s progress.

-Second: take an honest inventory of the materials you read and challenge yourself to expand the diversity of voices in your collection. Are you reading female-identified authors as often as male-identified? What about Black authors as often as white? Are you reading books written by authors from countries other than the one you live in? Throw some non-fiction in there if you typically shy away from it. I think that to truly use reading (or podcast listening, or movie watching… or any media consumption) as a path to learning it is necessary to expand our perspectives and expose ourselves to lived realities that are different from our own. This takes effort, but is important.

-Lastly, make a list of small, locally owned, and/or Black, Indigenous, Latinx-owned, etc. bookstores and support them! Where you purchase books also matters. And, if you are shopping from a variety of stores, it will be easier to find a diversity of voices. I have a list in my phone and rotate between them. I actually use Amazon as a wish list and organizational tool and then order my books elsewhere. It’s easy to do!

Five of the books I’ve read have an asterisk next to their number, indicating they were my favorites. I hope you’ll let me know what you think if you read them!

And for anyone wondering – Yes, The Stand is about a global pandemic. Ironically I did not know that until I picked it up. I simply was interested because I had never read anything by Stephen King and wanted to escape into some fiction (haha; joke’s on me). I’m now hooked (even though I’m not a big fiction reader), and have The Shining cued up next on Audible.

1) The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence, Gavin de Becker

*2) Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson

3) The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People / Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People, Judith Orloff

*4) Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi

5) Are Prisons Obsolete?, Angela Davis

6) The Color Purple, Alice Walker

7) The Undocumented Americans, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

8) Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, Monique W. Morris

9) When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, Asha Bandele and Patrisse Cullors

10) Becoming, Michelle Obama

11) Life Will be the Death of Me… and You Too!, Chelsea Handler

12) The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Barack Obama

13) Burden: A Preacher, A Klansman, And a True Story of Redemption in the Modern South, Courtney Hargrave

14) How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

15) Idiot: Life Stories from the Creator of Help Helen Smash, Laura Clery

16) Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World, Michael Pollan

17) What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

*18) Columbine, Dave Cullen

19) Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, Russell Brand

20) White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin Diangelo

21) The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein

22) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander

23) Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot, Mikki Kendall

*24) Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah

*25) Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

26) Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, Holly Whitaker

27) So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo

28) Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey

29) We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates

30) The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae

31) The Stand, Stephen King

This year I read ten more than last, so I’m taking it as a win. Only about twenty more than that and with any luck, I’ll meet my 2021 goal of 52.

Monthly Resource Collection: September 2020

This month I found myself listening to music (the new Katy Perry album Smile, and the In the Heights soundtrack) and true crime podcasts (see: Weird on the Rocks and My Favorite Murder) during my morning workouts and makeup sessions. I don’t believe this was an attempt to distract myself from our current reality, but somehow it does feel nostalgic to listen to things as if we were pre-pandemic. To rest your mind as you prepare for another day. Fall reminds me of true crime podcasts and training for half marathons; running through the leaves and rain. It reminds me of wrapping up my wedding season at work just in time for a big vacation. This year is obviously different.

However, in between my distractions, mental “breaks,” or privileged lapses from reality I did go back to my morning ritual, complete with coffee, a lit candle, and a book, followed by fifteen minutes of meditation to absorb what I’d read. And this month I dove into Ta-Nehisi Coates, requiring extra time for absorption.

This month’s resource guide focuses highly on Coates’ work because I am fascinated by it. His writing reads more beautifully than anything I’ve picked up in a decade, like poetry with poignant edges. I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to sit with it and I hope you’ll join me.

Books:

Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed With Alcohol takes a close look at the normalized relationship most of us have with alcohol, it’s effects on our mental and physical health, and how the constructed “alcoholic / non-alcoholic” binary created and enforced mostly through Alcoholics Anonymous-style programs designed by white men, and for men is harmful for women looking to quit. Whitaker examines the ways alcohol is marketed specifically toward females, why women choose to drink in the first place, and why teaching women to give up their power, intuition, and control over their own lives in order to become sober is a damaging and patriarchal idea.
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this book as a open letter to his teenage son, explaining the complexities and dual realities of navigating this world, and specifically this country, as a Black man, in a Black body. Coates explains that there is a separation between lived realities, or worlds. There is what is true, and there is the “dream” – an illusion of democracy built on stolen land using labor stolen from Black bodies. The dreamers continue living this comfortable illusion, given the truth but in denial or refusal of it, the reality that our very democracy and every institution therein exists only because of current and historical violence against the Black body. Are we capable and willing of awakening?
We Were Eight Years in Power is a collection of powerful essays written by Ta-Nehisi Coates meant to chronicle the years President Barack Obama was in office and the dangerous white supremacist backlash that followed. Fear of a Black President, The Case For Reparations, and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration are some of the works included. Each essay is prefaced with context and personal memoir making the collection even more compelling.

Notable Podcast Episodes:

The Rich Roll Podcast Episode 547: We are Water: Erin Brokovich on Pollutants, Politics & People Power https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-rich-roll-podcast/id582272991?i=1000491955278
In this episode Rich Roll and Erin Brokovich talk about her new book Superman’s Not Coming and discuss the roles corporations and government really play in protecting our environment and the water we think is safe.

Bookstores to support: https://www.semicolonchi.com https://eurekabookshop.com https://keybookstore.com

Monthly Resource Collection: August 2020

Hello Readers!

This month flew by. Between going camping for my husband’s birthday (a nice break with absolutely no cell phone reception) and what seems like an endless list of work responsibilities since resuming operations, I simply haven’t consumed as much information. I found myself reading more as a quiet method of active meditation, and watching less. Sometimes the noise of the world becomes too much for me, and I just need extensive periods of quiet time or immersive time in a good book. I’m learning to be okay with that.

I also hosted my first unlearning.is.rad book club meeting, through Zoom of course. Because I redirected my book club to social justice themes, I will include our selections in monthly resource blogs.

I hope you will continue to find these posts useful, and inspiring.

-Liz, The Real Life Vegan Wife

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Books:

  • Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood, Trevor Noah

Born A Crime is without question one of my favorite books ever. This wonderfully written memoir chronicles the early life of Trevor Noah – now the host of The Daily Show – during the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Noah tells much of the story through his mother’s experiences, which forms a more intersectional and personal narrative around topics of racial segregation, poverty, colorism, and sexism. “The personal is political” is woven throughout each chapter as systems clearly help to shape personal outcomes. I haven’t laughed or cried harder reading a book, probably ever, and I think everyone should read this.

  • So you want to talk about race, Ijeoma Oluo

*Book Club Pick

So you want to talk about race is an accessible introduction to topics like privilege, intersectionality, cultural appropriation, microaggressions, police brutality, and the school to prison pipeline. Oluo outlines effective ways to engage in difficult conversations about these topics, while also emphasizing the importance of presenting facts and explaining the real-world implications of incidents that many would consider isolated personal events, but are in fact symptoms of a greater and more complex racist system.

  • The Undocumented Americans, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Cornejo Villavicencio beautifully wrote this book to tell stories about people. People who have immigrated to the United States, people who are undocumented, people who cannot be simply defined as one dimensional “workers,” or “dreamers.” People who’s worth should not be tied to the word “workers” to make their existence more palatable, or to justify their existence as a human being. They are complex and emotional and flawed; they experience joy and sadness, grief and happiness. They live their lives, sometimes exciting, sometimes mundane, but these people are defined by more than what they can produce for a country that renders them invisible.

Bookstores to Support:

https://keybookstore.com

https://www.semicolonchi.com

https://eurekabookshop.com

https://bookshop.org/shop/Elizabeths

Notable Podcast Episodes:

  • America Did What?! W/ Blair Imani & Kate Robards, “Episode 1: Redlining and the GI Bill.” 7/3/20

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/america-did-what/id1519365900?i=1000485381107

This episode explains exactly what the GI Bill entailed and why many Black Americans were excluded from it’s benefits because of practices like “redlining,” and the far reaching implications of this systematic denial of government provided services.

  • The Robcast, “We Hung Our Harps.” 7/21/20

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-robcast/id956742638?i=1000485667858

This sermon-style talk helps name the feelings of grief and disillusionment many Americans are currently feeling as we strive for a better way of being and let go of what we thought we had.

*For an in-depth analysis of my feelings around this topic, see my post The Word of the Day is Lament: https://thereallifeveganwife.com/2020/08/08/the-word-of-the-day-is-lament/

Must Read Articles:

“Anthropologist Wade Davis on how COVID-19 signals the end of the American era.”