Culture + Community

Bibliotherapy | Bedside Book Stacks

by | Sep 20, 2017

Lucidity has many advantages. It frees up space in your bank account, it frees up space in your social calendar for more engaged conversations, and it frees up your time for more inspiring things like reading and writing. Since pulling my sad, politically-frustrated soul out of a swimming pool of wine every night, I have found I have a lot more free time, ability, and desire to read books without immediately falling asleep on the couch. As you can see, I might have a slight problem finishing a book before I pick up another one, but I tend to prefer it this way! It allows me to select the mood I’m in for the evening’s reading – sometimes historical, sometimes scientific, sometimes escapism – there’s always a book for every mood. Below is my current nightstand book stack:

1. Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit: If you like going to bed angry, well then, do I have the book for you! Solnit’s short collection of powerful essays exploring the roles of gender in society will leave you with plenty of problems to solve in your dream space.  It’s a short read peppered with potent zingers throughout its few pages. I could have read it in one quick sitting, but I didn’t want it to end. Her book engendered the issues she so deftly describes, which are so outdated and in desperate need of change.

In her comic, scathing essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.

This updated edition with two new essays of this national bestseller book features that now-classic essay as well as “#YesAllWomen,” an essay written in response to 2014 Isla Vista killings and the grassroots movement that arose with it to end violence against women and misogyny, and the essay “Cassandra Syndrome.” (Amazon summary)

2. Into The Magic Shop, James R. Doty, M.D.: Magical thinking backed up by the science of a neurosurgeon? Yep! I often find when I’m asking for things from the universe, I’m the thing that stands between the ask and receiving with my own negative thoughts surrounding the ask… “You don’t deserve that”, “You can’t handle that”, “You’re not good enough to____”, and the list goes on and on. I’ve only just begun tearing into the pages of this book, but one thing is already clear to me – we have to get our powerful minds back in sync with our forgotten hearts. Doty explores this disconnect within us and gives us tangible practices for allowing them to talk to one another again.

“Growing up in the high desert of California, Jim Doty was poor, with an alcoholic father and a mother chronically depressed and paralyzed by a stroke. Today he is the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University, of which the Dalai Lama is a founding benefactor. But back then his life was at a dead end until at twelve he wandered into a magic shop looking for a plastic thumb. Instead he met Ruth, a woman who taught him a series of exercises to ease his own suffering and manifest his greatest desires. Her final mandate was that he keep his heart open and teach these techniques to others. She gave him his first glimpse of the unique relationship between the brain and the heart. Doty would go on to put Ruth’s practices to work with extraordinary results—power and wealth that he could only imagine as a twelve-year-old, riding his orange Sting-Ray bike. But he neglects Ruth’s most important lesson, to keep his heart open, with disastrous results—until he has the opportunity to make a spectacular charitable contribution that will virtually ruin him. Part memoir, part science, part inspiration, and part practical instruction, Into the Magic Shop shows us how we can fundamentally change our lives by first changing our brains and our hearts.” (Amazon summary)

3. People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn: We can’t know where we are going unless we know where we have been. In this current world, where every day feels designed to make your head spin off, it’s important to know the historical forces at play that have led us to this tumultuous moment in time. Know your history, your full history, not just the select history of the text books you were fed in high school that fit the given curriculum of wherever you grew up. Learn the under-discussed issues and the stories of all of people – the Native Americans, the impoverished, the immigrants and the women – whose voices have been selectively written out of the history books.

“Since its original landmark publication in 1980, ‘A People’s History of the United States’ has been chronicling American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools—with its emphasis on great men in high places—to focus on the street, the home, and the, workplace.

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research,  “A People’s History of the United States” is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of—and in the words of—America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country’s greatest battles—the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women’s rights, racial equality—were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance.

Covering Christopher Columbus’s arrival through President Clinton’s first term,  ‘A People’s History of the United States,’ which was nominated for the American Book Award in 1981, features insightful analysis of the most important events in our history. “

4. Goddesses, Joseph Campbell: Campbell is by far one of my favorite writers when it comes to mythological and archeotypical writings. The way he breaks down religions and rituals across cultures is so intriguing. His book, “The Hero’s Journey”, is often used as a way of tracking narratives in modern day screenplays and in age-old myths throughout many cultures. So when my husband gave me this book years ago as a birthday present, I was really excited to see what Campbell had to say specifically about women and goddesses in storytelling. I return to it often for inspiration on my own journey!

“Joseph Campbell brought mythology to a mass audience. His bestselling books, including “The Power of Myth” and “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” are the rare blockbusters that are also scholarly classics. While Campbell’s work reached wide and deep as he covered the world’s great mythological traditions, he never wrote a book on goddesses in world mythology. He did, however, have much to say on the subject. Between 1972 and 1986 he gave over twenty lectures and workshops on goddesses, exploring the figures, functions, symbols, and themes of the feminine divine, following them through their transformations across cultures and epochs.  In this provocative volume, editor Safron Rossi—a goddess studies scholar, professor of mythology, and curator of collections at Opus Archives, which holds the Joseph Campbell archival manuscript collection and personal library—collects these lectures for the first time. In them, Campbell traces the evolution of the feminine divine from one Great Goddess to many, from Neolithic Old Europe to the Renaissance. He sheds new light on classical motifs and reveals how the feminine divine symbolizes the archetypal energies of transformation, initiation, and inspiration.” (Amazon summary)

5. Come As You Are, Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.: Let’s take the shame out of sex shall we? Shame doesn’t help anyone, it only leaves you feeling isolated and alone and burying the voices that are welling up inside of you. You are normal. Your body is normal. You are not alone. You are not weird. There’s no better way to get familiar with your own body and its needs and wants than in the comforts of your own bed at night cozied up with Nagoski’s book. This book is comparable to a visit to the Korean Spa, where women of all shapes and sizes run around naked, normalizing any body shame around different shapes and sizes and boobs and pubic hair. While it definitely feels like a book written for women, I think men could absolutely benefit from a read as well.

“An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy. Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never be the answer—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all. The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal. Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm. Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible. And Emily Nagoski can prove it.” (Amazon summary)

6. The Nature Fix, Florence Williams: Our sprawling cities and suburbs, our computers and cars and the boundless distractions with which we keep ourselves occupied have all contributed to our disconnect with the natural world and our own wild natures.  Nature would probably be better off without humans, but humans depend on nature. Williams goes deep into the forest and trails (and simulators!) to prove the calculable effects that nature has on our body, mind and soul.

“For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. In this informative and entertaining account, Williams investigates cutting-edge research as she travels to fragrant cypress forests in Korea to meet the rangers who administer “forest healing programs,” to the green hills of Scotland and its “ecotherapeutic” approach to caring for the mentally ill, to a river trip in Idaho with Iraqi vets suffering from PTSD, to the West Virginia mountains where she discovers how being outside helps children with ADHD. The Nature Fix demonstrates that our connection to nature is much more important to our cognition than we think and that even small amounts of exposure to the living world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. In prose that is incisive, witty, and urgent, Williams shows how time in nature is not a luxury but is in fact essential to our humanity. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas―and the answers they yield―are more urgent than ever.” (Amazon summary)