At a time when we are surrounded by so many negative news stories and many of us are feeling disconnected (both from ourselves and each other), this Book Week, we wanted to celebrate and share books that aim to nourish you.
If the saying ‘you are what you eat’ is true, then it’s time to check the content that you’re consuming (and sharing for that matter) and make sure you’re fuelling yourself with things that make you feel good, that challenge you, that support you and that bring you joy.
Here we share some of the most powerful and transformative books, as recommended by us and some of our pals.
Alisha Williams, founder Rosewell recommends:
FOR SMALL CREATURES SUCH AS WE, by Sasha Sagan
Like many, I’ve been searching for meaning and connection this year. The book is a part memoir, part examination into life and our rituals - both in the everyday and to mark milestones. Written from both a scientific and religious approach made it easy to blend in your own experiences. Observations about how we process and rationalise our emotions through grief, change and challenges are made to help us to understand the incredible nature and fortunate of just being alive. I was moved throughout and found myself in awe of what has happened, what will eventually come and the beauty of it all with a new kind of curious wonder, rather than fear. Would recommend it especially for those who have lost someone, or are preparing for such a time.
Image credit: Sasha Sagan Instagram
Ash Hipwood, co-founder of Scarlet recommends:
PERIOD POWER, by Maisie Hill
If you have a vagina, or know someone who does, then you NEED this book. It’s fun, practical, informative and will leave a lasting impact. If every young girl read this, periods and hormones would become a whole lot more empowering and a whole less taboo. This book taught me how to be more clued up and in control of my cycle. Something that every menstruating human deserves to feel. My only regret is I wish I read it sooner. Pass it on to your friends, daughters and partners.
Image credit: Maisie Hill Instagram
ON BODY IMAGE
Phoebe Simmonds, founder The Blow and The Memo recommends:
BEAUTY, by Bri Lee
When I was 21, I had a hectic accident on my vespa, which I used to scoot around Melbourne on. I was T-boned by a car on the corner of Punt and Commercial Rd and it was all a bit frightening. After three weeks in hospital, a broken leg, arm and lower back, and a pretty intense recovery, I was back moving again. But everything had to be taken slowly. In the aftermath of the shock, I realised I had a clean slate and all the motivation to take the opportunity to pursue my dream of living and working in London. So six months later I left behind my entry level PR job in Prahran, got on a plane to London, started a really exciting new role, got my first boyfriend and started to carve out my own independence, adventures and career on the other side of the world.
The only downside? My relationship with my body. When I went to get a pill prescription in the UK, the NHS doctor took my BMI and told me I was morbidly obese. He refused to give me the pill because ‘it would make me gain even more weight’. Reader, I was a size 12. I was having fun, experiencing everything a European adventure had to offer. But those words haunted me for the next decade. I spent my twenties sucking in my belly when it was touched, covering up my ‘bad’ angles in photos, doing the wrong kind of exercise, thinking about every single meal, and using the word ‘shouldn’t'. I don’t know if I had an eating disorder, but I had major body confidence issues that consumed my self-esteem, and it hurt. And it held me back.
We all have these stories. And what a waste of our time. But also, why us?
It was with this context, that I opened and read in two sittings Beauty by Bri Lee. A journalist and activist, Lee has documented her experiences with abuse and eating disorders most notably in her first book Eggshell Skull. In Beauty, she explores our obsession with thinness and asks how an intrinsically unattainable standard of physical 'perfection' has become so crucial to so many.
Lee explores how body issues manifest from the patriarchy, calling on work Naomi Wolf has done and relating it to our context of 2020. ‘What does a woman look like when she fulfils all the new pressures that have replaced that straight-backed, smiling domesticity? It used to be that keeping the home nice was a huge part of a woman’s identity, with motherhood and wifedom the other huge slices of her sense-of-self pie. Now certainly, career is a bigger aspiration that ever before, but undeniably, the rigours of appearance have grown to unprecedented levels. Girls can aspire to be prime minister but are also existing in a state of what Wolf described as ‘semistarvation’ in order to feel successful- to fit the only image of successful women they’re sold. ‘Keeping women hungry,’ she wrote, is a ‘preemptive stroke’ in keeping them subjugated. A hungry, self loathing woman cannot wield the same power as a well-fed, confident man either at home or in the bedroom’.
It’s a memoir, a manifesto, and a revelation. Having been through it, and out the other side, Lee comes to the conclusion, as I have, of defining the perfect body for herself as ‘one that talks and loves and runs, eating what I want to fuel my relationships and adventures.’ That to me is the real triumph. And she reminds us that ‘as soon as you start fighting for yourself you’re automatically winning. In a system stacked against you, survival is success’.
Beauty is a powerful piece of work that reminds us, despite what the beauty industry, media and certain governments say, that the mind is stronger than the body. I think about this every day, and as someone who’s worked in the beauty industry my entire adult life, I know we can do better.
Reading books like Beauty can challenge and inspire action. If you have the time, I would highly recommend it, there is so much to recognise in our environment and behaviour. But essentially, what I want all young women to know is this: please please do not exhaust your mind hating your body, or yourself. It will hold you back from feeling and achieving things that actually matter. If you can and want to move your body, lucky you. But more importantly, move your mind to a place that celebrates a lot more than a number on a scale.
Image credit: Phoebe Simmonds
Marisa Jayne, host of Selfish Sesh podcast recommends:
LOVE! by Zoë Foster Blake
As someone who falls in love at the drop of a hat, I adored reading all of Zoë's life lessons on love, dating and break-ups. It's one of those books that you can read a specific page at the perfect time or devour cover to cover like I initially did. This one will definitely be handed onto my future children!
Image credit: Zoe Foster Blake Instagram
Sophie Hopkins, co-founder of BITS recommends:
FIRST, WE MAKE THE BEAST BEAUTIFUL, by Sarah Wilson
I read this book at a time when I was feeling out of control and completely burnt out. At the time, I blamed different external factors around me for the burn out (things like work being crazy busy). I didn’t really understand then, that the burn out I had experienced actually had little to do with the things that were happening around me, and almost everything to do with how I was responding to those same things instead.
Up until this point, I had always considered myself to be someone who had ‘high energy’ and ‘high motivation’, and whilst I continued to drive myself to the point of exhaustion and burn out at regular intervals, I still saw this drive and energy ‘to do better’ and ‘to do more’ as a positive thing. And up until this point, for the most part, it had served me pretty well - particularly in my career.
It was only as I started to read this book, and identified so strongly with so many of the experiences and feelings that Sarah articulates so well, that I started to think about the damaging effects. This booked helped me not only understand my anxiety, but also helped me rethink it, and in doing so regain a bit of control.
I’ve seen reviews on this book that criticise how Sarah talks about a range of different mental health issues under the guise of anxiety, and therefore misinterprets the disorder. However, I think the book is best digested in the way I believe it was intended - a journal of a Sarah’s personal journey that you might connect with through shared experience. Sarah is not a psychologist or a medical expert, and whilst she does site several references throughout the book, it should be mentioned that if you are looking for expert advice it’s always best to see your GP or get in touch with support services such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline.
Image credit: Sarah Wilson Instagram
THE SEX ED YOU NEVER HAD, by Chantelle Otten
Due to launch in September, we’re yet to read this one by Chantelle Otten, but it’s next up on our BITS read list. If your sex ed was anything like ours, chances are you’re great at putting condoms on bananas. And it when it comes to literally anything else about sex and pleasure, you’ve had to stumble your way through it all. Pitched as being a “fun, empowering and shame-free guide to sex and your body” this book, by award-winning Psychosexologist Chantelle Otten, aims to open-up and normalise the conversation around sex.
Image credit: Chantelle Otten Instagram
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