Calm the F*ck Down by Sarah Knight

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Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: Tackling anxiety’s penchant for overthinking and spiraling by focusing on what you can control.

What made me pick it up: I’ve tried in the past to get into these books and not managed it but turns out the key was the audio! This came up on OverDrive and I checked it right out.

My favorite parts: The author as narrator, honestly. Her brand of humor is just my style and I appreciate her advice to use logic to organize and tackle the parts of whatever problem you have that are within your control. She understands the struggles of those with overactive minds or diagnosed general anxiety disorder and genuinely wants to give you some big sisterly advice that will maybe help. If you also need drugs or want to try mindfulness, good on you. Mostly, I think the more books we have openly discussing mental health issues, the more normalized they can be – and that can sometimes be half the battle. If you don’t know many others are struggling the same way you are it can really compound your suffering. We’re all in this together, so let’s learn some tools to help us through.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who struggles with anxiety and rumination and wants some effective solutions.

Erica’s rating: four shells

How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir is Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

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Originally published in: 2018

What’s it about: A memoir told through reflections on life-shaping relationships and interactions with animals.

What made me pick it up:  This book is SO CUTE!

My favorite things: I was pleasantly surprised by how effortlessly readable this was. Montgomery’s anecdotes vary between heartwarming and heartbreaking, but always highlight the importance of connection and family – even when your family doesn’t fit the traditional mold. I also found Rebecca Green’s illustrations to be absolutely charming.

Who it’s great for: Fan’s of Sy Montgomery’s other work. Readers interested in memoirs with unusual structures.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

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Originally published in: 2015

What’s it about:  The author recounting the horribly debilitating deep depression he unexpectedly sank into in his mid-twenties and the ways he learned to cope with it and eventually, mostly, got better.

What made me pick it up: It was recommended by a blogger on her Instagram.

My favorite things: Haig somehow manages to describe what it feels like inside your head and your body when you are struggling through the heavy darkness that is depression. As someone who has also been nearly lost in the fog before I really appreciated how well articulated this depiction was and the twenty years of distance he needed to be able to write it down. If you’ve never been depressed and have difficulty truly understanding how it could be “that bad”, please pick up this book. He tells what he found helpful for him while emphasizing that mental illness is as individual as we each are, so all treatments should be on the table.

Who it’s great for:  Everyone.

Erica’s rating: four shells


For those who regularly dip into deep depression or are only recently out of one reading this book may be a bit of a trigger. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or other mental health concerns please seek help. The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. It can sometimes be hard to believe, but the darkness will not last. It does get better.


 

Gmorning Gnight by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jonny Sun

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Originally published in: 2018

What’s it about: 100 bits of encouragement from Lin-Manuel Miranda in the form of pairs of morning and evening tweets with illustrations by Jonny Sun.

What made me pick it up: A better question is what took me so long to pick it up?

My favorite things: I love that you can flip to any page in this book and find something inspiring to lift your mood and affirm your self-confidence.

Who it’s great for: Fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda and/or Jonny Sun. Anyone in need of a little pick-me-up.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

American Hate: Survivors Speak Out Edited by Arjin Singh Sethi

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Originally published in: 2018

What’s it about:  Sethi met with a variety of survivors of hate crimes and those that lost family members to hate crimes, drawing an explicit link between the rise in hate-inspired violence with the rhetoric of the current administration.

What made me pick it up: I saw this arrive at our library and said: “I do not need to read that.” So a colleague promptly put it on hold for me and I couldn’t resist when it appeared on my desk.

My favorite things: Sethi clearly lets the survivors drive their own narratives rather than shaping the interviews with leading questions. He is completely invisible in each interview. I also appreciated the recognition of the variety of people impacted by hate crimes. Sethi includes the voices of people marginalized based on religions (Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish identities), race and ethnicity, gender, and ability.

Who it’s great for:  Readers interested in learning more about the realities of violence based in hate in the United States as told by those who have survived it.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The neighborhood oak and all the stories she has witnessed and watched over in her 200 plus years.

What made me pick it up: I’d seen it recommended on Twitter.

My favorite parts: I love that it’s from the point of view of a tree. This is such a sweet story of friendship and community and how things so simple, like friendship and acceptance, are so difficult for humans to attain sometimes. It also has a wonderful theme of environmental conservation and protection. Not only is the tree character great, but there is a whole menagerie of wild animals to meet as well including one very precocious crow. I also enjoyed that this book is fairly short and quick, being middle grade. An excellent reminder to all ages to build bridges and foster appreciation.

Who it’s great for: Middle grade readers on up, especially fans of The Giving Tree.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells

Thanks a Thousand by A.J. Jacobs

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Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: The author’s efforts to improve his mental health by practicing gratitude, which he does by attempting to personally thank everyone who had a role in providing his daily cup of coffee. All 1000+ of them.

What made me pick it up: Jacobs is one of my favorite authors. As an intermittent gratitude diarist, I was doubly curious.

My favorite parts: I’m a fan of experiential writing, especially if written with humor which Jacobs’ books always are. As much as I enjoyed his gratitude practice and the awkward and heartwarming moments of thanking it generated, the story of how coffee gets to you and all the humans involved in it was even more interesting. Jacobs tackles everything from the farmers who raise and harvest the crop to the barista who serves the cup. It really makes you pause and refocus on the great miracle any modern thing truly is. It may also make you want to take a trip to Colombia, but that’s completely understandable.

Who it’s great for: Everyone.

Erica’s rating: four shells

Dopesick by Beth Macy

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Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: The opioid crisis in America, how it started, and why it is only going to get worse.

What made me pick it up: I was having yet another bitch session with a friend about not-even-Appalachia-adjacent author J.D. Vance and how his only solution for the opioid crisis is an offhand “it’s the addict’s own fault” and they should “pull themselves up by the bootstraps”. Then my friend said if I want to read an actual good book about actual Appalachia, I should pick up Dopesick.

My favorite parts: This book is nothing but heartbreaking from start to finish. I cried a LOT. After everything that has been done to Appalachia by Big Coal to then have them taken advantage of by Big Pharma was too much. The reporting here is excellent. The unlayering of the onion is well done by the author and I couldn’t put it down. But what she’s describing is horrific and worsening and its epicenter is just a couple hours from where I live in my beloved adopted state. As someone who was employed in a public library for years as this epidemic built, and saw the adoption of library staff-administered Narcan treatment, I know something needs to change. I have humanities degrees. I should not be the front line against this drug problem. And addicts should not need me to be. What confounded me most was the stubborn adherence to abstinence-only addiction treatment that science says fails with this type of addiction. Other countries know it fails is why there are methadone clinics everywhere else but rarely here. The author doesn’t have a lot of suggestions for battling the drug’s presence, but does have recommendations to be made about treatment. And we should listen. If we do, maybe we can lose fewer lives. This book will leave you feeling grateful for all the recovering addicts you still have in your life and heartbroken for all those lives missing due to heroin. Because we all know at least one.

Who it’s great for: Everyone.

Erica’s rating: five shells

 

Swing by Kwame Alexander

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: A teen guy who loves his best female friend but can’t bring himself to tell her, so he makes her anonymous art collage love letters. And their other best friend, Swing.

What made me pick it up: I adore Kwame Alexander and read everything he puts out.

My favorite parts: My favorite thing is the thing I can’t tell you. It’s the thing that made me cry in the LAST TEN PAGES and which I never saw coming. But I guess, generally, I can say it was the friendship. This book is about an angsty, mixed up teen who needs the guidance of his bestie to help him get the girl. And his friend shows up every time for him. Giving him advice. Lending him money. Introducing him to older, wiser individuals and the all important jazz music that permeates the book. This book is sweet and then it’s unexpected and sad and hard. Alexander wrapped all his strings up so well at the end and right under my nose as a reader. In hind sight I should’ve added everything up and known what was coming, but I guess even readers get hopeful that maybe the world isn’t the way it ends up being. Or at least maybe books won’t reflect that sad world back to us.

Who it’s great for: Everyone middle grade and up.

Erica’s rating: five shells

Happy 2nd Blog Birthday!

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The start of November marks our anniversary as bloggers and we are so happy to still be sharing books with you. Thank you all for loving books as much as we do and letting us know it! May there be some celebratory treat in your day.

                                                                                                With much appreciation and joy,

                                                                                                        Abby & Erica