Please note: I have intentionally decided not to include Amazon links (unless something is available exclusively on Amazon). Instead, if you are interested in reading any of the books I mention, I encourage you to check out your local library or independent bookstore. These places (and the communities around them) need your support, and they are generally quite willing to order any book if they don’t currently have it in stock. However, if Amazon is still the more practical choice for you, it is easy enough to search and find any of the titles that I mention.
The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald
I am really in love with the writing of George MacDonald right now, and this book is easily the equal of any of the Narnia books or other classics of that ilk. Princess Irene is as sweet and earnest as Lucy Pevensie, and Curdie is better than any other boy I’ve come across in literature. They are both wonderful examples of young virtue, and I feel strongly that more children these days need to be exposed and shown such virtues. There is a lot of emphasis on honesty and telling the truth, as well as an emphasis on goodness in general, which I don’t think we see enough of in other other children’s stories. This story does not have the obvious allegories of the Narnia books, but still does have the wonderful morality of what “goodness” means; but MacDonald never comes across as “preachy”. It really is a delightful story, and I recommend it for children of any age.
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
This is a fairly classic recommendation for writers, but I remember that when I first read it as a young writer in my teens I did not care for it at all. Now, over a decade later, I’m glad that I gave it another chance but also understand why I was so frustrated by it when I was younger. When I first read it so many years ago, I was looking for hard and fast rules and guidance about how to be a writer; I was interested in instruction on story structure, character development, etc. However, Goldberg is primarily a poet; she seems more interested in writing as self-exploration and therapy. Now that I am more mature and experienced in my own writing, I appreciate what her book has to offer in terms of reminding one to relax, to let the words flow, to not be so self-critical. I truly did feel more motivated and inspired in my writing while I was reading this book, but I also sympathize with the frustrations of my young self who just wanted some clear rules to follow.
The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity, by Carrie Gress
For the last several years, I’ve felt an increasing discontent with Feminist party lines. I consider myself a confident and empowered woman, but there are many dogmas of Feminist culture that don’t sit well with me, and Gress was able to articulate and unmask the many lies that we have all been told for decades now. There are many Feminist talking points that have been promulgated for so long now that we don’t even think to question them, such as the hyper-sexualization of women that we are supposed to view as “empowerment”. Gress chronicles the early Feminist icons, such as Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, and Gloria Steinhem, and shows the perversions that they all participated in, as well as the psychological traumas that many of them suffered early in life and which shaped how they viewed the world. None of these women had positive or nurturing relationships with their own mothers, and they all seem to have lived fairly unhappy lives in terms of relationships. There are many modern Feminists whose hearts are in the right place and who have the best of intentions, but the actual tenets of the movement are extremely toxic to our society and harmful to the women that they are supposedly helping.
The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography, by Matt Fradd
This is an important book that I think everyone should read, because the porn industry and the culture that supports it is so prevalent everywhere in our society and is extremely toxic to our own well-being and relationships. Fradd does an excellent job of simply presenting the facts, shown by extensive research and testimonies, of the harmful effects of pornography. He makes it clear that even though he himself is Catholic, it is not the religious approach or viewpoint that he is emphasizing. Porn is harmful, regardless of what your other beliefs may be. Because of the hormones and brain chemicals that are released with sexual stimulation, porn truly is addictive and detrimental to our well-being; and because these chemicals are meant to bond with us with another human being, if we begin to associate them instead with an image on a screen, that’s what becomes destructive to our real life relationships. The book is disturbing at times, and rightly so, as he also addresses the “pedophilic drift” in our culture. We emphasize the importance of youth for women, while increasingly portraying children as “little adults”, blurring all of the generational lines. Go to any major clothing department, and you can barely tell the difference in styles between the “girls” and “women” departments. The general acceptance of movies and shows like 50 Shades of Gray and Game of Thrones is evidence of just how desensitized we have all become to pornography in general, which makes Matt Fradd’s book that much more important.
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, by Sherry Turkle
I have been so obsessed with this book and the topic in general, and I probably talked somewhat excessively about it the whole time I was reading this book. It supports a lot of my own observations and realizations about technology, which prompted me to delete most of my social media accounts in the last year. Reading this book has also reinforced some other thoughts that I have been slowly mulling, such as developing a preference for actual phone calls rather than texting, and the importance of individual and directed communication versus the blast messaging that technology has made possible. Some of these concepts I had started to pick up on in Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance, which is where I first heard of Turkle and her research. Turkle is a professor at MIT, the founder and director of the Initiative on Technology and Self, a licensed clinical psychologist, and has been researching our relationships with technology for nearly four decades now. The topics covered in this book encompass so many of the different concerns faced by our society today: the objectification of people, the deterioration of families and the consequences of that, the loss of empathy and communication skills in younger generations, the widespread depression and discontent that plagues everyone despite having every modern convenience available. I could write an entire dissertation based on the second half of the book, which deals with the reality of the “networked” life. If I had not already deleted my social media accounts, this book would have been enough to convince me to do so. Highly recommended.
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