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Must read books for this summer

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss

They say you lead by example and I think my mom is the epitome of that. I grew up watching her devour book after book that it was only natural that I too would develop a love of reading. I looked forward to birthdays and Christmases because it meant I would be getting anywhere from 5-10 books. I was addicted to the Baby Sitters club (I still have my books buried somewhere in my parent’s basement) and R.L. Stine.

This month I teamed up with two of my friends who share a love of self-growth and reading and who are completely invested in becoming the best versions of themselves. It was hard to keep this list short so we shared what we have read recently and what we think you should get into. Keep scrolling for the goods.

Unorthodox, Deborah Feldman (@dnizzler)

An unorthodox choice (see what I did there?), but I read this book as part of the book club that the man in my life and I have. He’s Jewish, and as a way for us to connect, we take turns picking books related to our cultures, heritages and history (I picked Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, naturally). And it was the best book I read in 2018, and I read a lot of amazing books last year. This is a memoir of a young Jewish woman – Deborah – who escaped from the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism and explores the tensions she experiences between her assigned responsibilities as a Satmar girl and her need and desire for freedom. While I’m not a Hasidic Jewish woman living in Williamsburg who longs to escape from her existence, I drew so many parallels to this story because of Deborah’s desire to be seen, understood and to be free. There are pockets of brilliant and poignant words nestled throughout this book, and it’s in those moments where I realized that wow, no matter who you are, you have a story to tell, and it’s important to tell it because vulnerability and openness transcends all race, religion, sexual orientation, geography and circumstance, always.

Knowledge  bomb from the book itself: “‘Everything in this world that you think you won is not really yours, Zeidy says. It can be taken from you at any moment. Small comfort, to think that my few possessions can be stolen in the night. A parent, a sibling, a house, a dress – all of those things are possessions; in the long run, they don’t matter. Zeidy says he knows this because he knows what it is like to lose everything. He says that the only thing of value one can achieve in this life is menuchas hanefesh, the deep, inner serenity that prevails even in the face of persecution… When you have faith, Zeidy says, you can grasp how meaningless life is, in terms of the bigger picture. From the perspective of heaven, our suffering is miniscule, but if your soul is so weighed down that you cannot see beyond what’s in front of you, then you can never be happy.” BOOM. Read it. 

The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer (@tianapollari)

Reading this book felt a lot like reading The Alchemist; you go deep into a spiritual journey and its almost too much to process the first read through (but in a good way).

The book is divided into five parts – each part a step in the journey into moving out of your thoughts and yourself and just being and experiencing life. I’m oversimplifying it a little but the book was loaded with gems and I had many ‘aha’ moments while reading it. I found myself re-reading and highlighting several passages because the message was that deep. You know when a message is so deep you find yourself saying ‘come again one more time?’ – that was me several times while reading this book.

I had a few favourite parts in the book but I will share two of them to spare you the long soliloquy. The first was the section on freeing yourself. As someone who tends to live in her head a little too much at times I felt like this section was speaking directly to me. It’s all about letting go; of your thoughts, your experiences and your inner turmoil. Letting go of all that doesn’t serve you but before you can let go you need to experience what is happening and any pain that comes with it and let it go. Easier said than done but he breaks it down for you in the most practical way which makes you believe that you can actually do it and experience more peace.

Another favourite part was the chapter on death. We should not fear death since it’s the only thing that is guaranteed in life and Michael asking the question of how differently you would live your life if you knew you only had a week or a month to live really has you reflecting and answering the question. The reality is that if we all knew that death was imminent we would all be living our lives incredibly different.

Daring Greatly, Brené Brown (@itschantyg)

Brené Brown, she takes us on a journey of introspective reflection on how we can have the courage to be truly vulnerable. Beginning with a famous Theodore Roosevelt quote, her ability to convey vulnerability in its true form throughout the entire book is both heart-warming and heart-stinging. She provides numerous stories from her decades of research, academia, and her personal life that will literally have you yelling at the pages “YES! Me too!” and could in fact bring you to ugly cry.

In a way that makes you trust her instantly, Brené helps us understand WHY we aren’t vulnerable (living in a culture of “never enough”) and debunks the myths of what it means to be vulnerable. She writes about understanding and combating shame, which for me was very personal as a ‘recovering perfectionist’ and someone going through a separation, and the various vulnerability armor we wear to ‘protect’ ourselves. After you’re done crying about why you aren’t vulnerable, Brené provides wisdom with HOW we can be vulnerable, reminding us of the courage we possess, and how courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand.

This is a must read in our culture today for anyone who wants to be a better spouse, partner, friend, sibling, employee or person. I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down. And once you have, you might as well go watch her Netflix original ‘The Call to Courage’.

Becoming, Michelle Obama (@tianapollari)

By now you would have to be living under a rock if you didn’t know that Michelle’s memoir is on track to becoming the bestselling memoir in history. And I will be the first to tell you that is it everything and then some.

The book is divided into three parts; Becoming Me, Becoming Us, Becoming More with each part exploring a specific period of time in her life. In Becoming Me, Michelle explores her very humble beginnings in south side Chicago being raised by a father with a disability and a mother who was devoted to being the steady anchor for the family. Its clear that from a very early age Michelle was determined to be the best she could and didn’t settle for anything less. She consistently strived for better, raising the bar for herself at each turn. Michelle writes beautifully about her father as he was slowly dying and that the biggest lesson that he taught her was how a man should show up for her which leads perfectly into the Becoming Us chapter – her story with Barack.

I loved this section of the book the most because Michelle was an accomplished attorney when she met Barack but was inspired by his community activism to do more. She quit her comfortable law firm job, took a pay cut and went into public service. She essentially took a major risk and a big leap of faith and it has paid off ever since. As her successes in the public sector started racking up so did Barack’s on the political front. She found herself in a situation that many women often do; having to put aside their careers and dreams to be the supportive partner. How Michelle navigated that journey while still maintaining her sense of self and identity are truly remarkable and inspiration for all women.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby (@dnizzler)

I first fell in love with Samantha Irby when I stumbled upon an essay she penned and shared on Facebook (do you guys remember Facebook?) back in 2012. It’s called you need to stop fucking dudes who don’t read, and it’s the funniest and most accurate piece of writing I think I’ve possible ever read. I often refer to it. Since then, Samantha has published two amazing books y’all, including We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, a collection of essays that represent what it means to be a black woman trying to make her way in the world. It is unapologetic, it is funny, it is quirky, it is sweet, it is heartbreaking, and more than anything else, it makes you feel less alone. Also read it.