Shelf Cultivation: A Self-Care Reading List

April 11, 2018

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25 Comments
  • Cheryl Strayed’s _Tiny Beautiful Things_ is heartfelt, wise, and empathetic (also with lots of swears).

    • Good add – thank you!

  • Thank you so much for this list! I appreciate it more than you know.

    • <3

  • Yes, please to the Torchio mods! I love Sunday Suppers. I’m big on comedic novels for self care. Cold Comfort Farm never fails to heal–and anything by PG Wodehouse (Aunts aren’t Gentlemen, for starters).

    • Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen: what a magnetic title! Thank you.

      Torchio mods: here’s what I do when the craving hits but it’s a Monday or a Thursday supper: Heat up some oil in a large skillet and add a couple anchovies, the thyme and crumbled chile. Throw in all the kale you want and start fry-braising it. When it’s good and black, add some sliced garlic and get it golden. Add oil as necessary as you go.

      Cook the torchio (I’m using Sfoglini brand these days) and drain and then throw it in the skillet and MY BIG SECRET >>> don’t put pasta water in there to “stop it sticking,” as Suzanne suggests. No! You want to let it CRISP! Get some of that pasta crispy and golden. Aka fried. It is SO DELICIOUS, Ms S! Tell me if you try it.

    • PS if it STICKS, just viciously scrape with a spatula.

      • Thanks for this… I was just revising this cookbook earlier this week. I love that some of her recipes (including the carbonara) are, in fact, weeknight friendly!

  • I enjoyed this list – Eat, Pray, Love was the only one I had read so I will be prowling my library for some of the others shortly! My read again and again’s are: Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, and Moore’s Care of the Soul. Among more recent publications, rereading bits of Cain’s Quiet can be very comforting when one is feeling like a bit like square peg in a round holed world (and not in a good way).

    • Indeed, ANYTHING Lamott 🙂

  • Brené Brown!! (Daring Greatly), who helped me make the connection between everyday courage (to say when I’m wrong, to try something new) and the courage to be vulnerable and authentic with other people (who can be kind of scary to a self-reliant introvert).

    And ditto Susan Cain (Quiet: The Power of Introverts), who confirmed that hating group work and enjoying my alone-time are just fine, and may even be signs of competence and ability. I AM NOT DEFECTIVE!!

    Both have been life changing (in a super awesome good way).

    • Okay, I simply cannot let another year go by without reading Brené Brown. Thank you for this add 🙂

  • Wow!!! Did I ever need this list today, this month, these past two years! As I’m sitting in the midst of chaos, moving boxes waiting to be packed, things to be donated, overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, now, as I wind down my old life, post divorce, and trying to remember what a sane, normal daily routine looks like, this wonderful list made me sit down with my coffee and anticipate all the possibilities for my new life!

    This list is now bookmarked and saved for my apres move enjoyment, and two titles on the list have been sent to a Sister Goddess in need of a serious self care intervention. Thanks for another great article, Max!

    • Good luck with your move – and EVERYTHING.

    • Emma,
      I’m sorry you’re going through so much. I got hit with the news that he filed on Monday; we have kids aged 13, 11, & 7. I have a huge complication in that I am only very recently returned home from residential treatment for severe, complex PTSD; gee, I wonder how that will get used against me. Thank goodness you’re almost to the end.

      I agree with anything Brenè Brown writes, and Glennon Doyle Melton’s first book is also great.

      • Oh Erin, good luck and sending love through cyberspace!

  • Love The Year of Yes!

    • So full of heart! I need to re-read soon 🙂

  • My husband borrowed the Life Changing Magic book over the Christmas holidays and I managed a sneaky read as well. It’s genius – I’ve got a photocopy of the decision flowchart from the book on my office wall. Very handy!

    PS – Max, do you have any suggestions for self-help, dealing with grief type books? Things are getting very serious health-wise for my father, so I’d really appreciate any suggestions you could give me.

    • Sarah, I hear from a friend who’s a grief counselor that Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B is actually quite useful. It’s about her husband, of course, but probably has a wider view as well. Let me know if you pick it up. <3

  • Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

    I also like Tara Brach’s books and talks (available as a podcast).

    • Thank you for this list. It is just what I needed. I just listened to “Year of yes” and loved it. I would add Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic Creative Living beyond Fear.”

      Lots to think about and it challenges the stereotype of a creative life being a tortured one.

  • “Return it Love”, Marianne Williamson. I’ve read and re-read this time and time again. When I have friends in need of self love, they get a copy!

  • Thank you thank you for a great list. Timely for me as I am in that hole of self pity, needing and wanting to climb out and need many resources for the self care toolbox…

  • While I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’, I actually find her ‘Big Magic’ to be better for my self-care library. That’s where to go to re-discover the permission to be creative.