In response to me mentioning that “reading lots of books helps me fake being far more wise than I am,”  #bgg2wlarmy member Carly asked me, “What books do you suggest? This battle against self and the world requires a whole heap of weapons.”

Honestly, I suggest lots. But I think I can whittle it down to five good ones worth checking out at the library, or investing in the download, or–my personal favorite–copping the hard copy.

So much of the successes of my journey can be attributed to my willingness to dig deep into the reading. It’s not just all cardio and weights [and 808s], it’s a shift in how you look at yourself, your priorities, and the way you think about the world around you and your relationship to it. Good books that take you forever to read because you spend so much time re-reading passages and highlighting pages and writing on post-it notes to stick to pages are a treasure to behold.

Here’s hoping I can share a bit of my treasure with you. <3

(As always, if you use my links here on this post to purchase any of these books, I’ll get a few coins from your purchase–literally, like a nickel or something– and it doesn’t add a single penny to the cost of your purchase.)

1) Daring Greatly, Brene Brown–I love this book. Like, I’d lovingly print out each page by hand, just so I could lovingly caress it as it exited the printer, lovingly collect each one in a binder, and then wrap my arms around it forever.

Somewhere around 2013, I had a minor breakdown when I was in Los Angeles shooting for Ladies’ Home Journal, and I was so sad. I’d been having issues with getting pregnant, and it was affecting my career – hell, it was affecting my ability to think clearly. I originally posted this, just because it made me feel better about doing the photo shoot despite the fact that I didn’t feel ready – you can’t become a better fighter if you’re never in the arena… and if you’re always in the arena, why let yourself be affected by those who aren’t?

This was the day I became acquainted with Brene Brown and her work.

Here’s an invaluable chunk from her best seller, Daring Greatly:

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection. When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be— a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation— with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

Brown, Brene (2012-09-11). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (p. 2). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Clearly, I came across this book at the right time.

Click here to check out Daring Greatly.

2) The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman– Confidence is a complicated thing. Lots of us have it, but why? And why are people so confident in some areas of their lives, and so insecure in others? Do people mistake confidence for overcompensation? When I wrote this, I was genuinely unsure about vanity, confidence, and what a healthy measure of either looks like.

The Confidence Code gave me a better understanding of either, and helped me to focus my confidence in a direction that makes me a better person, not just a person with a better grasp of how to put on a facade for others. (Protip: People always see through the facades and, when they call you out on it, it’s never pretty.)

Our complicated relationship with confidence is more pronounced in the workplace, in our public pursuits. But it can spill over to our home lives, undermining the very areas in which we have traditionally felt surer of ourselves. Think about it. You’d love to give a thoughtful toast at your best friend’s birthday party, but even the prospect of speaking in front of thirty people makes you start to sweat— so you mutter a few words, keep it very short, and nurse a dissatisfied feeling that you haven’t done her justice. You always wished you’d run for class president in college, but asking other people to vote for you, well, it just seemed so arrogant. Your brother-in-law is so annoying with his sexist views, but you’re worried that if you stand up to him in front of everyone you’ll come across as strident, and, anyway, he always seems so on top of his facts.

Imagine all the things over the years you wish you had said or done or tried— but didn’t because something held you back. Chances are, that something was a lack of confidence. Without it we are mired in unfulfilled desires, running excuses around in our heads, until we are paralyzed. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and depressing. Whether you work or you don’t, whether you want the top job or the part-time job— wouldn’t it just be great to slough off the anxiety and the fretting about all the things you’d love to try but don’t trust yourself to do?

In the most basic terms, what we need to do is start acting and risking and failing, and stop mumbling and apologizing and prevaricating. It isn’t that women don’t have the ability to succeed; it’s that we don’t seem to believe we can succeed, and that stops us from even trying. Women are so keen to get everything just right that we are terrified of getting something wrong. But, if we don’t take risks, we’ll never reach the next level. The thoroughly accomplished twenty-first-century woman should spend less time worrying about whether she’s competent enough and more time focused on self-belief and action. Competence, she has plenty of.

Kay, Katty; Shipman, Claire (2014-04-15). The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Click here to check out The Confidence Code.

3) In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan– Doesn’t seem to make sense to have a food book in this kind of list, does it?

It should.

One of the things I see often with people who embark upon weight loss journeys is that they turn food into The Enemy(TM). Everything is raw, there is no seasoning, no salt, no spices, everything is boiled, everything is baked, the plate is beige with chicken breast, everything looks like torture and punishment. This all makes life increasingly difficult – it makes it difficult to have a social life. For those of us who are partnered – or looking for a boo to partner with… this kind of makes life a little unpleasant.

This is why In Defense of Food is on this list.

In Defense of Food cuts straight away through the gaslighting involved with the food industry, food nutrition research, and general purpose nonsense that separates people from the social joy that food can be…minus the emotional eating, the anxiety, and the stress. Find yourself able to enjoy food and, thus, enjoy (and have) a social life, feeling more comfortable with eating, let alone eating in public.

There are in fact hundreds of foodish products in the su­permarket that your ancestors simply wouldn’t recognize as food: breakfast cereal bars transected by bright white veins representing, but in reality having nothing to do with, milk; “protein waters” and “nondairy creamer”; cheeselike food­ stuffs equally innocent of any bovine contribution; cakelike cylinders (with creamlike fillings) called Twinkies that never grow stale. Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting is another personal policy you might consider adopting.

There are many reasons to avoid eating such complicated food products beyond the various chemical additives and corn and soy derivatives they contain. One of the problems with the products of food science is that, as Joan Gussow has pointed out, they lie to your body; their artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the numbers, consulting labels rather than our senses.

It’s true that foods have long been processed in order to preserve them, as when we pickle or ferment or smoke, but industrial processing aims to do much more than extend shelf life. Today foods are processed in ways specifically designed to sell us more food by pushing our evolutionary buttons—our inborn preferences for sweetness and fat and salt.These quali­ ties are difficult to find in nature but cheap and easy for the food scientist to deploy, with the result that processing induces us to consume much more of these ecological rarities than is good for us. “Tastes great, less filling!” could be the motto for most processed foods, which are far more energy dense than most whole foods: They contain much less water, fiber, and micronutrients, and generally much more sugar and fat, mak­ ing them at the same time, to coin a marketing slogan, “More fattening, less nutritious!”

The great grandma rule will help keep many of these prod­ucts out of your cart. But not all of them. Because thanks to the FDA’s willingness, post-1973, to let food makers freely alter the identity of “traditional foods that everyone knows” with­out having to call them imitations, your great grandmother could easily be fooled into thinking that that loaf of bread or wedge of cheese is in fact a loaf of bread or a wedge of cheese.

Pollan, Michael (2018). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (pp. 148-150.) Penguin Books.

Click here to check out In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

These are only three of the many books I find valuable, but I chose these three specifically for a reason. The overarching message here is this: Be daring. Be confident. Be someone who values and actively seeks out pleasurable experiences.

Once you take the time out to truly understand what it means to be daring, or be confident, or be comfortable seeking out your own pleasure, you become more comfortable with the reality of what you deny yourself when you don’t. There’s value in realizing what it truly feels like to be confident, or be vulnerable – it doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it happens after a lot of soul searching, and there’s beauty in that process. There’s healing there. There’s freedom there.

I’m a book nerd. I started a library in my home about three or so years ago, and five bookshelves later… let’s just say we’re still trying to find ways to add bookshelves to our tiny apartment.

That being said, what books do you find valuable? What books have changed your life?