I was excited about contributing to this list until I remembered that I mostly read celebrity memoirs and self-help books this year.
But Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach really did help me — to be kinder to myself, and to better manage stress.
I finally read A Confederacy of Dunces. I wanted to know if it was as good as everyone says, and I think it’s better. I can’t remember the last time I was so entertained by a book. I demand that the stage production with Nick Offerman come to New York.
I got really into audiobooks this year. I listened to The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills on the way to do an event with her at the Boston Book Festival, and I loved it. It’s such a smart investigation of sex in our culture, and of the significance and shame we assign to sex. Hills uses research and interviews to examine and comment on the assumptions we make about sex, and the differences between those assumptions and reality. Takeaway: your sex life, or lack thereof, is more normal than you think.
Like millions of others, I feel that I am friends with Amy Poehler. I had very high expectations for her book, and worried that I was setting myself up for disappointment. But Yes Please was everything I dreamed of — it’s so smart, so funny, and it was a pleasure to listen to Poehler (and her guests) read.
I listened to Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, which is comforting about dating in the same way The Sex Myth is about sex. Daters will be glad to hear that dating really is harder than it was for past generations, so it’s (probably) not you. The upside is that our willingness to search for a soul mate (as opposed to settling for a “good enough” mate) makes it more likely that we’ll find one. It’s fascinating to learn about the very different dating scenes in other countries, and Ansari and co-author Eric Klinenberg give some good advice, including: stop sending lame messages (“Hey”), be strategic about where you look for dates (Ansari writes, “I was staying out like a lunatic and complaining that I only met lunatics. I realized if I was going to try to find someone to settle down with, I had to change the way I was going about my search. Instead of bars and clubs, I’d do things that I’d want a theoretical girlfriend to be into.”), and give your dates a chance — go on more second dates.
I listened to Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things while I cleaned my house, and it put a little extra pep in my step. But ultimately it was calming — the hoarding case studies made me feel great about the “creative” state of my house. Obviously I also read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and spent the year going through all of my things to see if they sparked joy (which resulted in the mess I am now “tidying up”).
And last but the opposite of least, I listened to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, and cried.
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