This book club is dedicated to books that inspire us, help us grow as people, and create a positive impact on the way we live our lives. We meet once every 5-6 weeks and have brunch somewhere in LA. It's very relaxed and everyone is welcome, even if you only made it through the first five pages. If you don't live in LA or can't make it, feel free to read along, start your own group in your hometown, or contribute to the discussion online.
If you are looking for books to read specifically for expanding your yoga practice, I have compiled my favorites here on this reading list.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?
Our next book will be How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Email me if you'd like to join!
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander's unforgettable argument that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." As the Birmingham News proclaimed, it is "undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S."
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of―and paean to―the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours―vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
We chose this book before Covid was a thing and were shocked as we read that we had chosen a book about a virus that devastates the world. That being said, it was a very interesting and well-written book about the challenges of rebuilding a world after most of society has succumbed to a pandemic. The story goes back and forth between people's lives before the virus (a child actress and a famous Hollywood star, an emt, and business man) and a group a of traveling musicians and actors who tour the US in order to continue sharing the arts with the people who remain. There are connections between characters that could never be predicted, a "prophet" threatening their lives, and many beautiful and sad moments in this wonderful novel.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
After a string of serious books, we decided to pick a light book. This was a cute romance about a woman seeing the man of her dreams on the street from a bus and then watches him disappear forever... until her roommate and best friend ends up bringing home her new boyfriend and it's him. Our poor romantic lead goes through years of being in love with this guy and many ups and downs, but it's a sweet, easy read and will keep you wanting to know how the happy ending is going to turn out.
Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
Hillbilly Elegy should be required reading for every American. This book is an incredible portrait of the low-income people of the rust belt who have been essentially left behind in economic growth and education, and the struggles they face on a daily basis. Vance does not paint his family, friends, and neighbors as victims though. He thoroughly explores where the system has failed and where the people have failed themselves and each other. Hillbilly Elegy was widely loved by our group and people found it fascinating, enlightening, and a great way to understand people who live a very different life than many of us in the US.
Where the Crawdad's Sing by Delia Owens
This was an intriguing novel about a "marsh girl" named Kya who has been abandoned by her family and survived for years on her own in a small home in the marsh. When there is a possible murder in town, the locals immediately assume Kya was involved. Owens has filled this book with mystery, romance, and beautiful descriptions of nature of the North Carolina coast. We had some mixed reviews from the group on this one. Many of us loved it, but some people found the story a little cheesy and the members of the group who listened to it, did not like the voicing at all.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
We couldn't put down this book! Lori Gottlieb is a therapist in LA and Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a compilation of stories from her own practice and from her experience going to her own therapist during a particularly difficult period in her life. She perfectly captures her patients and her own journey to finding a healthier mental space in funny, ridiculous, and poignant ways. You become completely invested in everyone from the TV exec who's a total jerk to the woman dying of cancer. She has a way of seeing all her patient's humanity and drawing it out of them, as she is searching for what she wants and needs with her own wonderful therapist.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah is an incredible author who has lived an incredible life. We found Born a Crime to be moving, funny, inspiring, and an amazing portrait of life as a young mixed-race man living in South Africa during Apartheid. His stories range from horrible sad and angering to laugh out loud funny and we loved every bit of it. Noah's ability to tell a story with honesty, humor, and clarity made us all completely in love with the book and him as a person. This book is a fantastic way to understand the consequences of systematized oppression on a people and on a young boy as he attempts to find his way in the world.
Educated by Tara Westover
This book was jaw-dropping. We all could not believe the life this woman has led growing up in a Mormon survivalist home with a father who has a severe mental illness. It's hard to imagine this is a modern memoir, but Westover leads us honestly through her journey of escaping a household where she wasn't allowed to go to school, didn't have a license or birth certificate, and couldn't go to a doctor. We all found her descriptions of what it's like to be in abusive relationships or families incredibly moving. She never glosses over the challenges, the fear, and loneliness, and you're cheering her on through everything that comes her way.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
We loved this book... although, we agreed reading it is better than listening to it. Michelle Obama is an incredible person who has done so much in her life outside of being the first lady. She describes everything from her childhood to their last day in the white house with honesty and openness that you don't often get from people in politics. She is funny, committed to helping the country, sincere, and it's a quick read because of that. It's also a really nice way to learn about some of the ins and outs of life in the white house.
All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This was our first novel and collectively we loved it! Some of us had a hard time dropping into the timeline, as the story is told in a non-linear way, but the story was incredible and the way it was told was fascinating after you got used to the shifting time. We found this to be a heartening, beautiful book about people trying to survive in a war that neither of them fully understands. It demonstrated not only how many people get swept up in the tragedy of war, but also how good we can be to each other despite our differences. We highly recommend it!
You are a Badass by Jen Sincero
This book was a quick and easy read and you'll either love the light-hearted and funny tone or wish it was a little more in-depth. She has a lot of great ideas and ways that she describes things, although if you have read previous books on this list, none of it will be very new. A great introduction to how to take action to create a life that inspires you though.
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
Read everything this woman has written, but especially this book. If you are looking to find peace, inspiration, and courage in the trying times we are living in, read this book. It's short, easy to read, and one I'll be turning back to over and over again for inspiration.
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
This is a must read for those of you into spirituality and mastering the noise in your mind. Singer describes what happens in our minds beautifully and gives great advice on how to quiet ourselves so that we can really understand what is happening in our hearts and minds.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
A classic book in the field of spirituality and consciousness. Tolle is an amazing writer and thinker and has a wonderful way of explaining very profound concepts. It is a little more dense than some of the other books we have read, but very powerful and the group really enjoyed the book.
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
This is a wonderful book about how we get in the way of our own happiness without even realizing it. It has some wonderful insights and questions to ask yourself about what makes you happiest and how you can move towards that in your daily life.
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
This book is an incredible book about the portrayal of women in folk tails and throughout our storytelling history. There are so many beautiful discoveries to be made about the way women think and feel based on the stories we are told across cultures. It's a bit dense and a little tough to get into, but once you get into it, you will find it fascinating.
The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
I cannot say enough about the joy we found reading this incredible book. Not only is the content rich with inspiration but the friendship of these two men is beautiful to read about. It truly makes you feel that we can all come together and overcome any obstacle in front of us on our path to joy.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben
This is the one book so far that people did not enjoy. We found Gretchen to be fairly hard to connect to and a pretty unlikable person. She did a fantastic job researching what makes us all happy, but she seems fairly unhappy the whole time she's writing about it. Many people did not finish this book and this is the only one we've read that I would pass on.
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
This book is a magical as everything you've heard about it. There's a reason that millions of people are in love with it. The story is compelling, the message is inspiring, it's a short easy read, and we all adored it. This is one you could read 100 times.