by Taylor Vogel
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I know that Steinbeck isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. East of Eden, though, is my annual re-read, in the same way that Pride in Prejudice is for many. And yes, it’s completely devastating at times in the way that Steinbeck so rawly connects to the extremes of human experience. The character structures, though, are so perfect as a lens into who we give ourselves permission to be. Oh, and I should say that this is my favorite book of all time.
Burnout: the Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle by Dr. Amelia Nagoski and Dr. Emily Nagoski
The Nagoski sisters present literal life saving data in approachable ways as they provide actionable steps for improving our relationship with our emotions. They helped me identify the causes of burnout (hello, trauma and never ending stress) and empowered me to find ways to breaking out of spiraling physical manifestations of burnout.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Most of us were required to read To Kill a Mockingbird in our high school years. And while Go Set a Watchman, the sequel that takes place years after To Kill a Mockingbird, was highly controversial after its release, I thought its focus on the parent’s fall from perfection in the eyes of the child was incredible. This is an extraordinary experience in many people’s twenties, and it’s important to know that it’s universal.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
Frank, straightforward, and pragmatic, Dear Ijeawele brought me to tears as I read words reflecting a culture so different from mine that still rang so true in my life. Though the roots of origin for the need to empower our daughters might not be a universal experience, this short book holds the keys to breaking the cycles of disenfranchising young women and instead creating a culture that draws on everyone’s strengths.
1984 by George Orwell
While a lot of the themes of 1984 have become trite (“Big Brother is always watching”) the consideration of language, the power of love, and the role of shame in our lives are approachable considerations in Orwell’s dystopian warning. It will take the reader through different pockets of introspection as we follow Winston through his rebellion against his oppressive state in every way possible.
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
Ah, the messaging that those of us who were raised on TV learned: if they aren’t perfect, they aren’t good enough for you. Instead, Melody Beattie guides us through focus on our actions as a means of improving relationships. Codependent No More is not only a book for those of us who are codependent, but for everyone who wants to have a successful relationship with friends, family, and partners.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Bel Canto manages to make a time of being trapped, when things are supposed to be standing still, one of the most riveting examinations of human spirit. By telling the fictional stories of terrorists and hostages, Patchett touches on motivation for her characters from all walks of life as they all simply want to survive.
I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth Silvers
Civic participation is important. But it can be difficult to participate in an informed way when everyone is screaming at each other. Sarah & Beth, hosts of the podcast Pantsuit Politics, break down how issues aren’t as black and white as they seem to be and encourage us to meet in the messy gray of it all.
The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle
Don’t let the title fool you. This thing is dense and fine print. I still highly recommend this read about investing--especially before you turn 30. I want to be financially independent, and one of the best ways I’ve been able to do that is by starting to save for retirement from an early age. My investments weren’t particularly informed, so I wasn’t maximizing my earnings. But I’m still glad I started young! This book can help anyone understand how to maximize your retirement savings. The earlier you learn it? The more money you’ll have to purchase that property in Montana.
The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi
This is a resource book for the ages. The Lazy Genius Way gives us all a process for examining our to-do list--and not just the one we write on paper, but also the one that is all tied up in unspoken expectations and self-judgement. Kendra’s voice is one of a friend--straightforward, no bs, but overwhelmingly supportive.
Is this list comprehensive? No. But these voices have shaped my perspective on the world in ways for which I am grateful.
What books do you think everyone should read? Let me know in the comments below.
Taylor Vogel was a public school teacher, and isn't any more. She is the creator and host of the podcast, Now That I'm Not Your Teacher.