What I’m Reading | Winter 2015-16 Reviews

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars4-stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

This is good solid writing and, like Eat Pray Love, it lacks something essential in heart. Gilbert’s takes more risks in this book than in her previous work, and I respect that – I respect her as a writer. I respect her like I respect Sue Monk Kidd. Writers don’t need to peel their skin off for the world. But, when they don’t, I generally want my time back. Don’t get me wrong: this is GOOD fiction. But I closed the cover half way through because it felt like good literature, not gold.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the WorldFour Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars5-stars-smallbest-of-favorite

Genre: Autobiography, Memoir, Travel

Don’t let the hokey premise fool you, Doerr’s prose is magical. I challenge you to read this and not empty your savings account on a plane ticket to Rome. The tension between the palpable history of this ancient city and Doerr’s screaming, insomniac twins is evocative and hilarious at once. Every detail is rich, but not in a tedious way. I loved every second of this book and will definitely read it again.

The Shell CollectorThe Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars5-stars-small

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

It seems unfair to all other writers than anyone could possess as much talent as Anthony Doerr. Every story in this collection is an unfathomable work of art. I cannot remember the specifics of the stories so much as their colors, textures, and scents. I tried hard to find something to criticize about this book and failed, obviously.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of LessEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars4-stars

Genre: Non-fiction, Productivity, Self-help

An essential (heh) book for anyone trying to sort out their priorities in life. Not prescriptive, but great on the conceptual end. A call to action for anyone struggling with the social pressures of Should and Must; validating for those of us that say no to All The Things. The plethora of storyesque examples were a slog that I mostly skipped.

Managing OneselfManaging Oneself by Peter F. Drucker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars5-stars-small

Genre: Non-fiction, Business, Self-help

I treasure this tiny handbook on personal [and therefore professional] development. Drucker’s down-to-earth style and his attunement learning differences were empowering when I first read them and remain validating reminders that to be my best self I must own what makes me tick. I highly recommend this book (also available in audio and ebook) to anyone who is trying to figure out how to be more productive in ways that matter most.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A GUIDE AND MAP FOR RECOVERING FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMAComplex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A GUIDE AND MAP FOR RECOVERING FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA by Pete Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5-stars-small

Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology, Self-help

Despite its hideous cover, this is one of the best books on C-PTSD I have ever read. Walker writes with deep compassion and the wisdom of navigating his on condition, as well as many years working as a counselor. This book is packed with information and useful tools for people struggling trauma-related mental illnesses. I highly recommend this book to anyone diagnosed with C-PTSD, PTSD, BPD, or a history of emotional, verbal, sexual, or physical abuse. Read it with highlighter in hand.

Memory WallMemory Wall by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5-stars-smallbest-of-favorite

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Like The Shell Collector, Memory Wall is an intricate work of art. I don’t usually love short stories, but I will lap up anything Doerr writes like a kitten starving for milk. Doerr’s prose is masterful. He catches the subtlest movements of human interaction. His characters move together, even though each story is its own, so that this book feels more cohesive than most short story collections. I came away from this book feeling like his art had worked itself inside of me, like the tapestry of my own life was richer because I couldn’t help but imagine it in Doerr’s words.

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook--What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and HealingThe Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5-stars-smallmust-read-35

Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology, Parenting

This is an incredible book. Perry’s down-to-earth observations of traumatized children is the antidote to the pathologization of trauma-related disorders. A child psychiatrist with years of clinical and field experience, he tells the stories of the children and teens he has worked with, interlacing their stories with emerging trauma research, neuroscience, and his own deep belief that what humans need to heal and grow is love, acceptance and care. I wish I had discovered this book much earlier in my life, when psychiatrists were slinging meds at me like candy and their eager diagnoses hung like nooses around my neck. Read this is you work with traumatized people, read this if you have experienced trauma, read this is you love someone who is traumatized. Read this to undo the damage the American Psychiatric Association has done by drenching the field in harmful, behavior-based diagnostic criteria, further alienating those desperate for help by labeling them deviant and delinquent and missing the humanity and ingenuity of those traumatized individuals.

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