2019 has been the year of nonfiction. From the extremely informative parenting bible The Books You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry to the literary treat, Mitchell S Jackson’s Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family here’s our roundup of some of the best books for 2019 to date.
(There’s a few more on our reading list which are worth a mention here including The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. The reviews of these and other books will be included in our final best of 2019 nonfiction list.)
After a fabulous career as a literary essayist comes this wonderful debut memoir from T Kira Madden about growing up in Florida as a young girl with a mother who was involved with another man. Madden grew up in extreme privilege, attending an elite private school and competing successfully in equestrian sports. However beneath this seemingly desirable life, was a volatile reckoning. A biracial teenager, coming to terms with her homosexuality and parents drug and alcohol addictions, Madden felt increasing alone, only meeting solace and comfort in the friendships of other fatherless girls.
Honest, raw, this account starts in the 1960s and tells the story of a young woman who grieves for the loss of her father whilst trying to make sense of her life. The book itself works as a tribute to her father, whilst Madden comes to terms with those who brought her trauma and grief, who gave her no alternative but to live with shame and secrets, and reconciles the pains of life with hope and forgiveness. A deeply moving read for memoir-lovers.
This is the book that you should read if you’re considering therapy and need something to convince you of its power then I would highly, highly, highly recommend Lori Gottlieb’s book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” — engaging with real life case studies, it reaffirms our belief in the power of psychoanalysis and conventional therapy to release us from our own suffering, leading the path to truly understanding ourselves better, self-acceptance and being kinder to ourselves.
A wonderful book that was a long-time coming! Written by a well-known British psychotherapist, it’s a to-the-point parenting guide about how your relationship with your child sets them up for future relationships. This can surmount to huge pressure in getting the relationship right but with the madness and unpredictability of life how do you ensure that these relationships don’t go wrong?
Strong, loving bonds are key to building secure attachments with your children that give them the best chance to positive mental health that will serve them for life.
She alerts us to how our upbringing influences our own parenting style and how to rectify it, even if it wasn’t the most ideal. How validating our children’s feelings rather than batting them down or introducing distraction is one of the best ways to raise their self-esteem and allow them to feel understood and heard. Best of all, she shows us to forgive ourselves for the parenting mistakes we make and how these too can be resolved.
A refreshingly reassuring and eye-opening book, that makes you feel confident about being a parent, no matter what your upbringing or experiences.
From the happiest country in this world, comes this strikingly honest, authentic and comforting book on parenting. With to-the-point anecdotes and lessons, Danish parenting teaches us that the goal of parenting is to teach children emotional honesty not perfection — to practise empathy and be role model parents who make empathy a practice. Children mirror the behaviour of their caregivers, often adopting these for life. The Danes also coach their children to skillfully manage and overcome stress rather than avoiding it. This sort of resilience-building coupled with effectively regulating emotions means that your children are set for life. The book also drives home the importance of community and togetherness. After all life’s not about money, social status or a job title — it’s about connection, character and how we treat other human beings.
A powerful contribution to the heated debate about race in America. Survival Math takes its name from the calculations Jackson made to ensure he could survive life in his black community in Portland.
Uniquely written prose, the book delves into what it means to be born into a black culture of gangs and drugs. The book demonstrates the stark effects of a community that cannot navigate themselves out of the black hole of despair that they find themselves in.
Poetry, prose and narrative, this is a wonderfully refreshing style to memoir in which Jackson complements poems with historical national pieces and survivor files, featuring many of Jackson’s male relatives across three generations.
He calls it notes an all-American family to challenge the term African American — three generations of the Jackson family were all born in America — so why not call themselves all-American. Highly recommended, if only for its incredible writing.
Hotly anticipated, this dynamic book explores what we don’t discuss within our most intimate of relationships — the relationship with our mother.
Michele Filgate, whilst still an undergraduate at university, began an essay about her stepfather’s abuse but only finished it a decade later — needing the time to work out what she actually wanted to talk about — the effect of the abuse on the relationship with her mother. Upon publication it went viral and was shared by notable authors including Rebecca Solnit. There was a clear need for this type of conversation to be had — and the appetite of writers to share their stories was not exactly limited. An anthology was born showcasing a collection of essays and stories that looked at a starkly exposed view of our relationships with our mothers.
A portrayal of both super close and irreparably estranged relationships with our mothers, André Aciman writes about having a deaf mother, whilst Cathi Hanauer talks about trying to have a conversation with her mother in the presence of her dominating and controlling father. Then there are the mothers on the opposite end of the spectrum — ones who need to share everything with their daughters to the ones to those that are seemingly perfect.
Beautifully written Filgate writes, “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.” Our relationships with our mothers are often the relationships that we replicate with others, particularly close ones and in working this relationship out do we work out the other ones, bringing hope, relief and healing.
Contributors include Cathi Hanauer, Melissa Febos, Alexander Chee, Dylan Landis, Bernice L. McFadden, Julianna Baggott, Lynn Steger Strong, Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, André Aciman, Sari Botton, Nayomi Munaweera, Brandon Taylor, and Leslie Jamison
From the woman who has kept perhaps the lowest public profile of all despite her very visible humanitarian work come some important truths that need to be addressed if we are to create equality for everyone, and particularly for women. For the majority of women true equality is still a dream and the consequences for society are underrated.
Key issues rooted in cultures that hold women back are passed on by one generation to the next, resulting in women often being stuck in narratives that no longer serve them. Although the world has become a better place for women compared to two generations ago, more needs to be done. Listening to the poor, holding people accountable for both the donations they receive and the donations that they give are crucial and whilst the book’s focus is on women, the underlying message is about equality: equality for both men and women and overcoming our need to create outsiders — to punish those who stir up our most feared emotions and feelings. We need to stop participating in creating privilege and contributing to division and elitism. Addressing this can lead to greater changes for society as a whole. A call for action for all of us.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also one for children, Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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