I would love to title this: "Currently on My Shelf" but in the spirit of transparency- none of the books I love spend a ton of time on my bookshelf. Instead, they can be found dog-eared on my dining room table, tucked into the cushions of my couch, and (more often than I care to admit) on the floor after tumbling off my bed when I finally fall asleep. But organization "doesn't really matter" if YOU always know where to find them, right?


Well, my system of randomly placed literature works for me, anyway.

It's obvious from these photos that in addition to not shelving them, I regularly destroy my books. I highlight them. Scribble in them. Lose jackets and them replace them after using them as drink coasters. This has nothing to do with how much I love the writing or how much I respect the writers, however. If anything, it's the opposite- I'm constantly hauling them around, soaking in every word and writing things I never want to forget in the margins because hey... brilliant revelations need blank space!

As someone who worked in a bookstore for several years, I am fully aware that I should be ashamed but you're not here to read about my lamentable lack of book storage skills, are you?

Without further ado, the books that are giving me LIFE right now:

"Samantha Irby is my favorite living writer. Actually, I'll throw in the dead ones too. Screw you, Herman Melville." -Lindy West

I'm just gonna to add: SAME.

I often tote this book along with me when I know I'm going to be waiting in a painfully boring place because there is nothing more hilarious or enjoyable than We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. It makes the most intolerable experiences a blast. Note: bringing this book with you when you're waiting in traffic court because you parked two inches too far away from the curb in front of your house is guaranteed to make the experience more bearable. (I still can't believe that absurd ticket actually happened. Fuck you ParkWise.)

This is a literary combination of Xanax and Red Bull. In other words, the world seems like a more tolerable and conquerable place after reading. None of this makes a ton of sense, but to be fair some of Irby's writing doesn't either which is inarguably part of its charm.

The only problem with reading this book in public is that it often leads to side eye from strangers because it is nearly impossible to read Samantha Irby and not snort with laughter. Everything this human writes is pure gold. Some people call it side-splitting humor, I call it current beverage shooting out your nose humor.

I've sent several copies to friends; it's that much of a necessary read.

(I also recommend reading her monthly column on Elle, ideally in the morning so you can start your day off right. And by right, I mean with a guffaw so loud that it sends your pets scattering.)

Hunger by Roxane Gay

This book, thus far, is the highlight of 2017 for me.

Though it's been a personal game changer, it's been (frustratingly) criticized by some in the body image community for "using the tired old framework that fat is a distancing mechanism that women undertake purposefully (if not subconsciously)" and other similar public postings of disapproval around Gay's straightforward "fat trope" self-loathing. I could not disagree more. I personally feel that all narratives written by fat women need to be heard and supported, even if they don't fit the preferred "I love my fat body just the way it is no matter what!" feel good story line.

In fact, because we have so many body image sheros touting "total invincibility" (and a flood of Lisa Frank BoPo messaging), I feel like a book about the realities of being super fat (combined with other intersecting marginalized identities) is needed more than ever.

I talked about this complex and messy controversy with Christy on this Food Psych podcast and I also highly recommend reading this article by Allison McCarthy if you want a little more conversation around why Roxane's dialogue is necessary.

It made me want to clutch my heart in solidarity. It made me want to vomit when reading the chapter detailing her rape. It made me want to cry at some of the intimate confessions. It made me want to hug every fat person who can relate to this book in any way.

It's tragic. It's raw. It's honest. It's really hard to read. And it's important.

salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

I've been reading more poetry, which is a sign that my heart currently has the room to feel, explore and sit in a vulnerable place. It's a wonderful thing.

Salt isn't new to the world, but it's a new (and needed) discovery for me.

i am a brutally soft woman

It's currently hitting me with all the "I feel seen" feels.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen

FUN FACT THAT IS ONLY FUN TO ME BUT WHATEVER: This was my first experience with a digital book. Unwilling to wait for delivery (I am the impatient millennial people write disparaging articles about), I ordered the Kindle version of this and holy shit. Reading will never be the same.

Unrelated to the book's content but things that changed my life from downloading this:

  1. You can SCROLL. I don't know why this feels so amazing, but... when you can manually race through the words, it makes you feel unnecessarily important.
  2. You can highlight with your fingers. Yellow for inspirational things, blue for things you want to research, orange for "I have no idea why this is important but I might want to come back to this later" things. 
  3. You don't need a nightlight to read this in bed. 


Now back to the book.

This is a collection of chapters about individual (openly acknowledged by the author as largely white) women in pop culture and how they challenge different social constructs forced upon them by our world. I enjoy how each chapter is its own essay and allows you to choose the topic you're most interested in and skip around in whatever order you choose.

I, of course, read the "Too Fat" chapter about Melissa McCarthy first and it was fucking fascinating. FUCKING. FASCINATING. I've read a third of this book and plan on finishing it piece by piece.

As always, I keep waiting to shout THAT'S PROBLEMATIC AF! (that's just who I am now after working on the internet for five years) but I plan on reading every page and at the very least, using Anne's thoughts and research to dig deeper into these interesting conversations.

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

Another older poetry book that is walking me through real life in an unexpectedly stunning way. Broken into four chapters, the first three are gut wrenching yet still profound and beautiful.

It ends with a chapter titled "the healing" and the wraparound perfection is inspiring. Even the page after the dedication speaks to me as I spend my days editing the hardest thing I've ever written:

my heart woke me crying last night / how can i help i begged / my heart said / write the book 

This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

This is the book waiting for my attention, but I'm already enamored by the simple fact that it exists. Gabby has single-handedly broken down so many walls and I will always remember the day I was scrolling through my feed and saw her image covering half of a building in Times Square.

She is and always will be a goddamn powerhouse to me.

I've also enjoyed watching those who are "new" to body image and intersectionality read and love this book. An apparently approachable read, written by a well-known actress/author/director, Gabourey manages to effortlessly reach many who may not "be ready" for something that starts in the deep end of body image discussions... yet. When I see the awe expressed by those who have read this book and are craving more, I can't help but feel excited about the possibility of their journey leading them into the exploration of other difficult and necessary topics.

Flipping through there seems to be some hardcore subjects discussed in a "unique" way. Have you read it? If so, what are your thoughts?

Side note: I have been working on a "Becky from Empire" style icon post (some rad ones are here for inspiration!) for months that I promise to finish at some point. Because color-blocked dresses on fat bodies will always be perfection in my world.

BREAD& by Teré Fowler-Chapman

Just printed and released in anticipation of Teré's panel about "Poetry and Spoken Word in Social Justice" in D.C., BREAD& is something near and dear to my heart. Not only because it's a book of some of the most powerful poetry ever published (in my humble opinion), but it is also written by a close friend I love and have had the honor of hearing perform multiple times. Teré recently debuted this book over tea with close friends and I can't tell you how powerful it was to hear them read it aloud.

Teré uses compassion, prose and love to effectively break even the hardest of hearts wide open. Every time I hear them perform, I leave a little softer, usually with tears welling up in my eyes. This is not an exaggeration.

Teré is one of my favorite poets, followed closely only by Isaac Kirkman who also leaves me covered in goosebumps and close to bawling every time he performs.

If you'd like to purchase this book, email Teré directly at terefowlerc@gmail.com and they'll send you over a copy!

Big Gal Yoga by Valerie Sagun

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessamyn Stanley when her inclusive yoga book "Every Body Yoga" came out and I wondered how Valerie's (which is similar in messaging) would compare.

I was amazed at how beautifully different Valerie's book was from Jessamyn's. It's thorough in it's demonstration of poses for all bodies, wonderfully approachable and in color which just adds to its enjoyable consumption. I love it. Which, truthfully, is odd, because while yoga was a large part of my life a decade ago- it's not something I participate in anymore as I struggle to heal my relationship with movement.

Much like Jessamyn, Valerie is challenging my current distrust of body oriented practice and causing me to contemplate incorporating yoga into my life again as a way to reconnect with my physical self.

Well done Valerie!

Other books you may like that I've written about in the past: Curvy Girl Sex (five positions included *wink wink*) and these three body memoirs.

Additionally, there is a long list of body image books in my resource list that I highly recommend you browse.

Have you read any of these? If so, I'm curious to hear your reviews.

Any other recommendations for when I finish these gems? I'm always open to new reads, especially as I continue to write my own manuscript!

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