In the last few weeks of winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be hard to shake; the nights are long and the Vitamin D still in short supply, so it’s essential we take extra time for self loving. How you doing?
One form of self care (and skill) we too often forget about is reading. You’re reading these words now, but are you reading? What purpose is it serving?
You’re probably thinking, “I read all day! I don’t have the time or energy to read a book.” And yes, we’re still constantly consuming text via social media, click-bait listicles, and everyday communication.
But the distinction between this “light reading”—which is little more than the decoding of words—and “deep reading” is a slow, immersive emotional experience. When we immerse ourselves in stories rich in detail, allusion, and metaphor, our brains are stimulated in a variety of ways that can help you destress, improve your memory, expand your vocabulary, and learn something new.
Clear (and clean!) those sex toys and make some room on your nightstand for a new stack of reading material. We’ve rounded up a list of some of our favorite books (and novels, and poetry, and essays) that can help free your mind of the harness that might have been holding you back these past few months.*All summaries are provided by the publisher or bookseller, unless otherwise noted.
by Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of “autotheory” offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes the author’s account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, is an intimate portrayal of the complexities and joys of (queer) family making.
by Michiko Kakutani
How did truth become an endangered species in contemporary America? This decline began decades ago, and in The Death of Truth, former New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani takes a penetrating look at the cultural forces that contributed to this gathering storm. In social media and literature, television, academia, and politics, Kakutani identifies the trends—originating on both the right and the left—that have combined to elevate subjectivity over factuality, science, and common values. And she returns us to the words of the great critics of authoritarianism, writers like George Orwell and Hannah Arendt, whose work is newly and eerily relevant.
by Alison Bechdel
Yes, that Bechdel, known for conceiving the Bechdel test, which confronts the gender bias too often found in film. In this graphic tragicomedy, Bechdel explores family dysfunction and personal identity both at home and far away. Charting a fraught relationship with her distant and exacting father, Allison grapples with her own coming out journey after discovering that her father is also gay. Only a few weeks following this revelation, he unexpectedly dies, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.
—Maggie (She/Her), Momotaro Marketing Manager
by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both the body and the brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust.
He explores innovative treatments — from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga — that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal — and offers new hope for reclaiming your life after a traumatic experience.
by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker
This down-to-earth guide is for anybody who wants to know more about gender, from its biology, history and sociology, to how it plays a role in our relationships and interactions with family, friends, partners and strangers. It looks at practical ways people can express their own gender, and will help you to understand people whose gender might be different from your own. With activities and points for reflection throughout, this book will help people of all genders engage with gender diversity and explore the ideas in the book in relation to their own lived experiences.
by Monica McClure
TENDER DATA is a performative gender-making, class warfare on vexed relationships with oneself and others. Monica breaks down and breaks into various identities, each self hashtagged in the discourse of a specific time and space. She encapsulates dozens of personas under the titular “I” composed of infinite iterations and contradictions.
TENDER DATA is a self-exploratory yet disjointed epic of mercurial existence, each “character” confronted with the minutiae of everyday life: walking in the park, lying in bed, sex, sadness, arrogance, art openings, abortions, and Adderall. These cumulative experiences are self-similar and partly random, hinting at the pattern forming chaos we, as humans, can't seem to escape.
—Maggie (She/Her), Momotaro Marketing Manager
by Anna Burns
The experimental, first-person style of Milkman evokes the paranoia and discomfort that goes hand-in-hand with being constantly monitored, judged, and watched. This books comes out swinging and is unrelenting in how it interrogates what it means to be a girl in an environment where difference is punished by unwanted attention. Not a comfortable read but a significant one.
by Anne Boyer
A sharp critique of the "wellness" movement The Undying explores the experience of illness as mediated by digital screens, weaving in ancient Roman dream diarists, cancer hoaxers and fetishists, cancer vloggers, corporate lies, John Donne, pro-pain ”dolorists,” the ecological costs of chemotherapy, and the many little murders of capitalism. It excoriates the pharmaceutical industry and the bland hypocrisies of ”pink ribbon culture” while also diving into the long literary line of women writing about their own illnesses and ongoing deaths: Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, and others.
A genre-bending memoir in the tradition of The Argonauts, The Undying will break your heart, make you angry enough to spit, and show you contemporary America as a thing both desperately ill and occasionally, perversely glorious.