In my second installment of “Books I Read”, I’m going to talk about the most impactful books I read in 2020.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
This is probably my new favorite (fiction) book, even surpassing Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse. Drive Your Plow is written by Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Man Booker International Prize. It is dark, fixated on the intersection of the mundane and the fantastical, and holds a message about the widespread abuses and disrespect towards our fellow animals. Drive Your Plow tells the story of an older woman, an unreliable crone archetype who swaps people’s names for descriptors and lives in a remote village with harsh winters and pleasant vacation-worthy summers.
She and a neighbor discover the murder of another neighbor, who appears to have been trampled inside him house by deer. The story teeters from there between eccentric narratives, pulling you into a fantasy land, discoursing with fascinating villagers with wits and uncommon specializations, sitting at the woman’s table for drinks and a meal, all before landing you back down to earth with a heavy realization that slowly creeps on you (and the villagers) as you near the final pages.
The Highly Sensitive Person
This non-fiction self-help book is validating to those who literally are more sensitive – to light, sound, taste, all of it. I easily qualified as a highly-sensitive person (HSP) given the results of the quiz that starts off this informative and kind book about what it means when the world is louder and more abrasive than you’re able to easily navigate through. Where “sensitive” is an insult in our culture, the author details how some (including me) just interact with the world in a different way. And there are plenty of benefits to being sensitive – it shows in my writing for one.
We’re quickly outgrowing last generation’s “tough as nails” brainwashing and bringing in a new era of acknowledgment of the simple fact that the world is incredibly diverse and all the more interesting and rich for it.
Author Elaine N. Aron says,
“We are the writers, historians, philosophers, judges, artists, researchers, theologians, therapists, teachers, parents, and plain conscientious citizens. What we bring to any of these roles is a tendency to think about all the possible effects of an idea. Often we have to make ourselves unpopular by stopping the majority from rushing ahead. Thus, to perform our role well, we have to feel very good about ourselves. We have to ignore all the messages from the warriors that we are not as good as they are. The warriors have their bold style, which has its value. But we, too, have our style and our own important contribution to make.”
Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions
Paganism is a non-fiction introduction to Paganism. Though I already knew a bit about it, this book did an outstanding job of overtly discussing the critical aspects of Paganism – from morals and ethics, to the convergence of religion (or spirituality) and science. I thoroughly enjoyed journaling to the prompts at the end of each chapter.
This book enabled me to refine my practical approach to relating to the earth. It doesn’t require leaps in logic or reaching to unfounded and irresponsible (and destructive) ideologies based in shame and punishments (if you catch my drift).
Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language
Wordslut is a pop take on gender linguistics by Amanda Montell. As a writer, it’s affirming to be reminded that criticism of women’s speech and writing is in aims to uphold a false idea of the “right” (white male) way to speak.
This book gave me some fresh takes on the state of language right now and got me thinking a lot about women in the workplace. With all the articles coming out about women needing to drop the “ums” and “likes”, I’ll proudly keep speaking in a way that’s connection-focused and community-oriented.
We’re also living in a time when we find respected media outlets and public figures circulating criticisms of women’s voices – like that they speak too much vocal fry, overuse the words like and literally, and apologize in excess. They brand judgments like these as pseudo-feminist advice aimed at helping women talk with “more authority” so that they can be “taken more seriously.” What they don’t seem to realize is that they’re actually keeping women in a state of self-questioning – keeping them quiet – for no objectively logical reason other than that they don’t sound like middle-aged white men.