Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2017
A glance of some of the best reads of the year.
Posted Jan 29, 2018
For the last few years, my annual “New Year’s resolution” has included a simple intention: to read more books. After years of slaving over textbooks and exam materials, reading for leisure had gone quickly out the door. This, despite being in a field where we regularly recommend books to clients and encourage self-growth. So I knew it had to be done. All of those clinical books and other non-fiction titles which I’d intended to get to piled up. Over the last few years I’ve worked my way through many of them. Naturally, as newer titles came across my radar, those also got added, and needless to say this resolution will be around to stay at least for a few more years!
Reviews of some of these books have appeared on this blog, others were intended to be written about, but as with time and tasks also fell by the wayside. Hence, this new format of writing an article such as this (perhaps annually) to at least highlight and acknowledge their many merits. A hearty recommendation of ten of the best books non-fiction books related to growth and self-help that I stumbled upon follows. Some of these titles have been around for decades, others just came out this year. And of course these are listed in no particular order—in fact, to make it fair, I just listed them in the chronological order in which they were read starting last January. So without further ado…
1) Younger Next Year For Women by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, M.D.
I’ll be the first to admit this was an impulse purchase in a tourist town bookstore. I was drawn in by the hot pink cover and intrigued that the book was written for a retiree crowd. As a lifelong planner, I thought to myself, why not read a book I should be reading in my 60s in my 30s instead? Turns out this was a critical read on health and fitness geared toward women, adapted from their first book which was not tailored to women’s unique needs. While the authors are two men, they do an excellent job inspiring and motivating with science and easy to implement strategies. To be honest, they got me to start monitoring my heart rate with a chest strap and then a wrist-based watch. And I actually joined a gym. Coincidence? I think not.
2) Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Having started out with her Daring Greatly and Rising Strong books, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for more inspiration by Brown. One of her shortest reads from the trio, I actually convinced my husband to read this one which was a huge win in and of itself. So now I hear an earful on vulnerability from him on the regular which I am most definitely not complaining about! On a more serious note though, I am always in appreciation of Brown’s reminders of being gentler and kinder with ourselves while also sharing the research behind emotions and what’s really going on inside.
3) Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
While I’d read Eat, Pray, Love years ago, this was another impulse purchase. Basically, I was at a vegan breakfast place in an ultra hipster part of Portland and saw a picturesque hipster girl sitting with a plate of delicious pancakes and thoroughly absorbed in this title. She looked like she was completely acing self-care 101. To be fair, given its colorful exterior cover art, I did keep seeing it all over town which made me curious enough to pick it up. Coincidentally I was reading it as I was getting ready to submit my second book proposal to a publisher. The book was a perfect boost of confidence and urgency to get the book out before it popped into someone’s else’s head and slipped out of my hands (you’ll have to read the book to get that reference!).
4) WomanCode by Alissa Vitti
Along with Younger Next Year for Women, this was the second book to have a major life-altering type of impact on my life. As a clinician who works heavily with women and teens, I was amazed and embarrassed at how little I really know about women’s hormones and phases. Vitti’s 5-step protocol for stabilizing hormones is simple but remarkable. She’s the reason I actually take the time to consider protein content in my breakfast as well as adequate fiber. While we live in a culture that shames women’s bodies in so many ways, Vitti empowers women to really examine what is happening not only once a month, but all month long. She encourages us to reverse the social conditioning that says it’s weird to pay attention to our bowel movements and really pay attention to what’s going on. Overall, if there is a women in your life, this book can be priceless.
5) A Disease Called Childhood by Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D.
This book was on my list of clinical reads that I knew I needed to get to and am so grateful that I did! As the issue of ADHD and medicating comes up frequently in the teens in my practice, the opportunity to sit and focus on the research was invaluable. Learning about other developed countries and how they deal with ADHD was also fascinating. This book is one that fortunately I was able to write about in this blog. You can find the article here.
6) The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, Ph.D.
The idea of the highly sensitive person is one many therapists have heard about and possibly fewer still have any training on. We learn about the big-5 personality traits and temperament, but the idea of high sensitivity is one that we only hear of in passing. Learning from the pioneer herself, Aron writes a thought-provoking and critical read for parents, educators, and consumers at large. After having taken her quiz and reading her book I realized I do in fact fall into her category of sensitive persons. While this certainly does not mean I fall apart at the drop of a hat (as is often the untrue stereotype), it allows me to not feel apologetic for needing more alone time than the average person. It empowers me to choose films and movies that are not highly intense and to avoid cinemas altogether if needed. Our world is an ever loud and chaotic place and learning there is absolutely nothing wrong with marching to the beat of a very soft drum is quite relieving.
7) The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees
This title oddly enough was an Amazon recommendation that wound up catching my eye. This book also wound up being reviewed on the blog here. My fascination with the read is its emphasis on simplicity, minimalism and sustainability. Rees advocates for buying few and high quality clothing knowing that at the end of the day we all end up reaching for the same staple closet items day after day. This principle lends itself beyond the cloth however. After years of debating the purchase of a pricey but well reviewed and beloved dutch oven (in some very random cooking circles, I know), I realized a lifetime guarantee for a safe and healthy pot I could use for decades and pass down was an investment worth making. In Rees’ world, we can have less, and live happier simpler lives in all facets of our homes.
8) Super Woman Rx by Tasneem Bhatia, M.D.
Two words: Instagram find. I came across this book after seeing a yogi I follow talking about reading it. In her book, Bhatia comes up with a highly clever set of personality constellations and accompanying prescriptions. Fascinatingly, I learned I am the only type strictly forbidden from even touching a smart phone before having had a grounding beverage and breakfast. Apparently technology first thing is more bothersome to my personality type than others. She also makes recommendations of types of exercise, supplements, dietary and lifestyle changes based on Ayurvedic principles. Overall, a great fast read on wellness using an alternative medicine approach.
9) The Other Side of Beauty by Leah Darrow
I came across this title as I was getting ready to vote on the national reads for the Notre Dame Women Connect book club. It’s a national book club with local alumni chapters, and I’ve been leading our local ones in my community. I was intrigued by a number of the books that we could vote on and I wound up purchasing a few extra books including this one (which was not one we voted on but again, recommended by Amazon). Although commonsensical to anyone who has been exposed to women’s studies, feminist coursework and the like, Darrow brings a fresh perspective to women and beauty.
As a former contestant on America’s Top Model, she is highly relatable author for young women. While her approach is a highly spiritual one, I was impressed by her openness to sharing her own struggles and what happened when she allowed herself to be objectified by not only the industry, but herself included. This is a book I would most definitely recommend to young teen girls who may be starting to experiment with lifestyles that may lead to less than desirable path. Darrow discusses losing her virginity at 15, feeling ashamed, and the reckless path it led her down for nearly a decade. While everyone has a unique story, Darrow’s is well told, easy to understand and highly relatable.
10) Loving What Is by Byron Katie
Ah, Byron Katie. The woman who magically keeps appearing in my life who I’ve successfully avoided for a good amount of time. It probably started with my mother. She heard about her from Oprah, then kept raving about her book and doing “the Work.” It was a little annoying to be honest. Every time I got frustrated, my mom would respond with, “but is it really true?” Needless to say, I had no interest in hearing any further; as we know from basic psychology, anything pushed on us is likely to be rejected. But as I went for a walk in our new neighborhood a year or so ago, I saw what looked to be a pretty nice hard cover copy of Loving What Is just sitting there, daring to be picked up. My husband, a germophobe, was completely weirded out by me just plucking the book out of the free library and insisted we couldn’t take it home because a) it could be dirty, and b) we didn’t have books to replace it with. I convinced him that a) germs spontaneously die within 48-72 hours (isn’t that what they say about the flu?) and that b) I had a ton of books to donate to more than make up for this one title.
Long story short, I took it home and it sat there for a year on my bookshelf until the time came. And to be completely 100% honest, I still have about two chapters left to complete of it. The “Work” is not easy, and I’ve not been as astute a student as I could be. But it’s a journey. The book teaches self-reflection and in the end freedom from all the worries that we hold onto. It’s a heaven-sent in many ways if we are willing to listen and if we are willing to do the work.
Over the last year, the books above (which are truthfully only a fraction of what I managed to get through across twelve months) challenged me to change my thinking, my ways of being, and impacted nearly every facet of my life. I’ve altered what I put into my body, how I exercise, and how I treat others, but also myself. I am incredibly grateful for the gift of such books and those which stand on my shelf for the year ahead. I am also grateful to you if you’ve made it this far into the article! I hope you consider picking up a few titles in the year to come. Maybe you’ve held onto them and pondered looking inside. Maybe it feels like it’s time to make some changes. At the end of the day, it’s about turning a new leaf, and for our purposes, a new page.