Want to make a change? These books will educate and inspire.
2020 has not gone to plan. On every level, all of us have been adapting to unexpected changes and, it’s safe to say, we’ve all struggled. This is because lockdown and Covid-19 has had an impact on almost every area of our lives: our time at home, our social circles, job security and plans, close relationships, family dynamics, health, holidays… the list goes on and on.
Also, as humans, we’re not great at adapting to change – our brains are hardwired towards familiarity and finding paths that work for us and protect us from harm. All of that has been totally blown out of the water.
So how do we adapt and learn to roll with the punches? Well, whatever part of life you’re struggling with, we’ve found the best 6 books to help you cope with change.
Read on to discover the books you need – from break-ups and activism to job losses via new lifecycles and working from home.
The best book for coping with trauma: Curveballs: How To Keep It Together When Life Tries To Tear You A New One by Emma Markezic
Aussie comedian and journalist Emma Markezic was drunk at a wedding when she felt a lump in her breast; unfazed she carried on getting happily tipsy and kissing one of the band. Returning to Australia, it soon became clear she had an aggressive tumour and found herself living on her own “bald and broke” after surgery and chemo. So what do you do when “you step on one of the great Lego pieces of life” – a curveball that could mean losing someone you love? A miscarriage? A redundancy from a career you want? Divorce? Depression?
Well, in this brilliant, very funny and bold book that’s out 9 August, Markezic explores what trauma is (crucially, according to PTSD counsellor Paul Joseph Stevenson it’s not about what happens to you but how you’re wired to respond to it – someone can walk away from a terrible accident unscathed while another person can be left traumatised by a simple social situation) and how to find the resilience to navigate it using 18 techniques (you don’t have to put them all into practice) that can come in handy when the chips are down.
From understanding how happiness works (50% determined by birth, 10% by external circumstances and the rest is something we can work on) to training your brain, Markezic has created an incredible how-to manual that’ll help us all.
The best book for coping with change: Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers
Susan Jeffers is probably best known for her 1987 book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, but Embracing Uncertainty is exactly the title you need to read right now. Even though it was written nearly two decades ago (she mentions finishing the book just as 9/11 happened – a good reminder that worrying times aren’t a new invention), Jeffers observes that the only way to navigate the future is to let go of blind certainty and embrace the adventure of life.
Sure, it would be nice to know what’s in store for us but wouldn’t that take the fun out of it? She argues that opening ourselves up to the skills and wisdom we will learn from heartbreaks, disappointments and setbacks is what makes us us and that having a curious disposition about the world is exactly what the planet needs (after all, it’s the people who stick rigidly to their beliefs who are polarising discourse).
Jeffers also believes that once we stop trying to control everything, we’ll also be able to spend more time listening to our natural intuition – which is where the fun starts… While she does touch on a lot of the grand design of things (not the minimalist box kind) and higher power chat, ultimately what this book brings is a sense of relief that we can’t control things – so don’t try to.
The best book for WFH: Flex by Annie Auerbach
When Flex was released last year, it was a manifesto for lasting change in the workplace: to throw off the shackles of a 9 to 5 designed for the industrial revolution and instead find ways of working that could be adapted to us as individuals. Man, what a difference 12 months makes… But, actually working from home – while it’s got us out of the horrible commute – comes with its own pitfalls: from lack of separation between work and home to stifling our creativity.
But that’s what Flex is great at: exploring ways to avoid burnout and ensure you’re giving yourself the chance to become ‘T’ shaped (ie having a depth of experience but also a wide view of the world so your inspiration comes from lots of different sources – not just staring at a computer screen or becoming stuck in the algorithms of online stores which sell us ‘original’ ideas based on our previous clicking).
Flex is also about giving your brain a chance to think differently (go for walks to new places), to listen to your body (actually pay attention to your hormonal cycle and work around it) and to find equality in the home (British women who are also mothers are doing an additional 31 hours of housework per week). Read it and Flex.
The best book for creating political change: When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & asha bandele
“We – me, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi – the three women who founded Black Lives Matter, are called terrorists. We, the people. We are not terrorists. I am not a terrorist. I am Patrisse Marie Khan-Cullors Brignac. I am a survivor. I am stardust.”
Activist Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ book is a lyrical demand for justice that has become increasingly resonant since its release last year. Revealing a childhood in which her mother worked job-after-job for 16 hours a day, Patrisse and her brothers faced police harassment (“like hungry hyenas”) for simply hanging out in their Van Nuys neighbourhood with her brother later unjustly imprisoned. Throughout this incredible memoir, Patrisse unflinchingly shows how the world labels, demeans, impoverishes, criminalises and murders Black people via systemic racism; and how the roots of this iniquity led to the vital rise of Black Lives Matter.
Tackling racism, economics, freedom, sexuality, mental health, familial love, sisterhood and beyond, this book is proof that change can come through the individual.
The book for when you’re truly unhappy with where you’re at: Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon
Bryony Gordon is the successful author behind Eat, Drink, Run and Mad Girl, journalist and happily married mother of one. She also kicks off this brutal and incredibly honest memoir recounting how two weeks before the end of summer she wakes up hungover on a patch of damp grass with a stranger’s head between her legs at a friend’s 40th birthday; it isn’t the first time it’s happened.
Finally accepting that her drinking and drug-taking is affecting her family, relationship and own sense of self (lauded as a mental health campaigner, she feels like an utter fraud), Gordon takes on the slow and painful road of recovery – the causes for her abuse of drink and drugs and also what it means to give them up in the search for a healthy, happier place. This very readable book is a crucial reminder that change – of any kind – isn’t going to happen with a quick fix but that sometimes it can truly hurt and undo us but that there is a way out of the darkest places.
The toolkit book to order now: Inner Spark: Finding Calm In A Stressful World by Kristin Vikjord
Norwegian writer Kristin Vikjord is a clinical psychologist who teaches healthcare providers about the complementary benefits of yoga and meditation alongside conventional therapy. Her new book, Inner Spark (due out 17 September), is a practical but comforting book that explores how the pathways of our brains actually work – and how to use these pathways to actively create change in our habits and understand ourselves in the process.
With three sections entitled: normalisation, clarification and agency, it’s where psychological insight meets day-to-day wellbeing and is something that will make you think about where you’re at right now – and where you’d really like to be.
Images: Unsplash; courtesy of publishers
Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown