Welcome to SHAPE's monthly book club, where we round up this month's must-reads across wellness, nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness.
Recovery is the name of the game in February, as the country has officially established new leadership and so many scramble to sign up for their dose of COVID-19 vaccine. And while the coronavirus pandemic is still, very unfortunately, continuing to unfold, it feels as if a lot of people are taking a collective deep breath. And so, there's never been a better time to educate yourself on how to make society more compassionate and understanding, one book at a time.
This month, four new nonfiction books offer insight and strategies for living with chronic illness, keeping an open mind, dismantling and healing from white supremacy, and expressing sexuality in new and different ways. Add them to your to-be-read list, devour, then pass to a friend. These are new perspectives everyone could use. (Can't wait for the release dates? These hot new January reads are already out.)
A woman asks her reluctant husband to take her to a sex dungeon. A gay man has an unexpected and passionate encounter on his birthday. An older white couple pays a young Black man to act as an escort. These are the fictional stories — and much more — that you'll find in Kink — all of which are miles away from your average rom-com and, for the faint of heart, potentially difficult to read. But that's exactly why the literary community is talking about them.
Co-edited by novelists R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell, this collection of literary erotica aims to reframe the meaning of "kink." Kink is often seen as "weird" or turned into a joke in pop culture, and the editors of this desire-driven collection want to change that. "By taking kink seriously," they write, "these stories recognize how the questions raised in intimate, kinky encounters — questions of power, agency, identity — can help us to interrogate and begin to re-script the larger cultural narratives that surround us." (Related: Women Are Using BDSM As a Form of Therapy)
Featuring work by award-winning authors, such as Alexander Chee, Melissa Febos, Carmen Maria Machado, Brandon Taylor, and Chris Kraus, this collection is a provocative and poignant read for anyone looking to broaden their sexual horizons and/or who wants to read outside their comfort zones. (And, if kinky bedroom activities are your alley, this read can very well get you in the ~mood~ too. Talk about a bonus.)
Almost a decade ago, Tessa Miller was a bright-eyed journalist in New York City when she suddenly fell ill with debilitating stomach cramps and a mouth full of painful sores. At first, she pushed through the pain but, upon returning home to Illinois for the holidays, she acquiesced to familial pressures and sought out medical attention. Several procedure-ridden months later, Miller was (finally) diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an incurable form of inflammatory bowel disease and, soon after, tested positive for Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a life-threatening bacterium that causes inflammation of the colon.
Over her nearly 10 years of living with chronic illness, Miller's received a crash course on the ins and outs of American healthcare and navigating her relationships and career with heightened stakes. And now, in her first book, she's putting her experiences to paper, detailing the many ways her life changed after her diagnosis, from the countless hours spent in doctors' offices to the life-saving fecal transplant from her then 9-year-old niece. Over the course of Miller's debut memoir, you'll learn how to find a good doctor, how to talk about chronic illness with your partner, and how to navigate relationships when you start to rely on your family for care — all in a digestible, authentic manner. Currently, three out of five Americans live with a form of chronic illness — a number that's expected to rise in a post-COVID-19 world, as some coronavirus patients report chronic conditions long after recovery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meaning: Miller's service-driven memoir is as applicable and important of a read as ever. (Related: The Potential Mental Health Effects of COVID-19 You Need to Know About)
A no-nonsense guide to living with chronic illness, Miller describes What Doesn't Kill You as "what I wish I knew before I got sick forever," covering the nitty-gritty of the healthcare system and more abstract lessons about family and self-love.
If there's one thing seemingly every American can agree on, it's that these are divisive times where people on both sides of the aisle feel passionately that they are right. As a result, it's more important than ever to keep an open mind, understand when to take another look at the fact, and be willing to reevaluate your assumptions.
Enter: Adam Grant, Ph.D., a professor of organizational psychology at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and New York Times best-selling author who's not afraid to be wrong. Case in point? His latest book, Think Again, in which he uses case studies and real-life examples to makes a strong case for becoming a more flexible thinker. The first step: Identifying as an open-minded person who's always interested in new ideas. "If you can master the art of rethinking, I believe you'll be better positioned for success at work and happiness in life," he writes. (Related: Your Guide to Developing Mental, Emotional, and Physical Toughness)
Think Again is organized into three sections: The first shows you how to keep an open mind and avoid getting stuck in the past with outdated (or factually wrong) ideas; the second is about how you can persuade other people to reconsider the ideas and reexamine the ideologies that shape their worldview (citing examples such as a Black musician who de-radicalizes white supremacists); and the third talks about building communities of lifelong learners, and the benefits of living in a world where everyone approaches ideas with a healthy degree of skepticism and nuance.
Together, the three parts of the book — individual rethinking, interpersonal rethinking, and collective rethinking — work to help you learn how to embrace being wrong, master the art of rethinking, and train yourself to approach the world like a scientist. (Plus, if you want the TL;DR, Grant sums up his top 30 takeaways in the last pages.)
You might know Rachel Ricketts from Instagram, where her account devoted to racial justice and spiritual activism has over 230,000 followers. Or maybe you've heard about her incredibly effective (and essential) anti-racism trainings at brands such as Google, WeWork, and Lululemon. Whether you've been following Ricketts for years or are just now learning her name, her debut book, Do Better, deserves a top spot on your shelf. (And, FWIW, fans Emma Watson, Mandy Moore, and Elizabeth Gilbert all agree.)
Do Better is a spiritually-inflected guidebook to antiracism, focused on helping white women understand how they've been perpetuating white supremacy while also giving Black, Indigenous, and people of color the tools to heal from the damage inflicted by it. Ricketts builds her powerful publication around mindfulness exercises so readers can understand their own behaviors (i.e. reflecting on a time you inadvertently caused harm to BIPOC and questioning, what was the intention behind your action?). There are journaling prompts, reminders to set on your phone, guided meditations, and breathwork — all of which are geared towards helping the white woman unpack their privilege and develop sustainable steps for fighting against injustice. (Related: Tools to Help You Uncover Implicit Bias — and Why You Need to)
A necessary, compassionate handbook on the ways you can, yes, do better (but seriously!) and learn about yourself in the process.