Reading is the Best Self-Care Activity

5 Must-Read Books to Kickstart 2021

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Many of us here on Medium have two common goals in 2021: reading more books and investing in self-care. Luckily, reading is one of the perfect ways to unplug, breathe, escape, and invest in ourselves as people, and as writers.

Did you know that reading books can put you into a state comparable to meditation? Reading helps people relax, sleep better, and reduces levels of stress. Consistent bookworms even have lower rates of depression and anxiety than those who don’t read. Overwhelming evidence shows that reading improves our mental health.

I began my old habit of reading every night when quarantine started. It worked wonders when it came to quieting the never-ending list of worries in my head.

Many people live in countries that are still significantly impacted by COVID-19 and still face frequent quarantines. Reading can help get us through these challenging times. We can delve into other worlds and forget about this one for a short while.

There is nothing more frustrating than scrolling through Goodreads, downloading previews, and not finding a page-turner. If a book isn’t interesting, it is not successful in getting my mind off the constant anxiety I experience before bed.

For those interested in reading more but can’t find a good book, I have done the hard work for you. Out of the eighty-plus books I read in 2020, these are some of my top picks. I’ve chosen something for everyone, including the romantics, the dystopian YA fiction addicts, the memoir lovers, and the self-help seekers.

Happy reading, friends!

  1. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Image from Goodreads

Untamed by Glennon Doyle is both a touching memoir and a call to action. Glennon is a mother who realizes that the best way to be a positive role model for her children is to show them how to live, not slowly die inside in an unhappy marriage.

One day, when Glennon attends a conference, she sees a woman entering the room and instantly thinks, “This is her.” It was love at first sight; the woman’s name is Abby.

Glennon divorces her husband and builds a beautiful modern family. She chooses joy and listens to her inner self, and lets go of society’s expectations of her.

This book is a memoir, but it also touches so many different genres, including self-help.

One theme that resonates with me is the importance of self-care and the fact that mothers are people too. Mothers need to be happy for their children to experience happiness. So many mothers, including myself, struggle with this internal battle every day.

Glennon examines how she’s parented her children, acknowledging that she’s actively raised her daughters to be feminists and resist patriarchal society but hasn’t intentionally raised her boy in the same way.

Glennon points out the importance of recognizing that boys are in cages too. It’s 2020, and society is still teaching boys to be powerful and strong. Why aren’t we intentionally teaching our boys to have feelings? And that it’s okay to cry? Glennon makes solid points on the long way we have to go in fighting the patriarchy.

Although the book can be repetitive and preachy, there are crucial messages in this epic memoir that you don’t want to miss.

2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age begins with a black nanny, Emira, receiving a late-night call from her employer, a white family, asking her if she can watch their child during an emergency. Even though the nanny was out with her friends and admittedly had a couple of drinks, the parents still begged her to come to watch their three-year-old, Briar, while they managed their crisis.

There aren’t many ideal places to take a young child late at night, so the nanny opts to take the toddler to a nearby bougie grocery store. While at the store, a security guard, you know the rent-a-cop type, accuses Emira of kidnapping the child.

Briar’s father has to come down to the grocery store and vouge for Emira. After the painful incident is over, Emira wants to and plans to forget the whole thing ever happened. But two people stand in the way of that, the mother, Alix, and a young man, Kelley, who films the entire thing.

The other protagonist in Such a Fun Age is the mother, Alix. Alix is a white, privileged woman who lives in a Philadelphia brownstone and runs a successful blogging business. Despite her success, Alix is insecure and acts immaturely, often obsessing over her nanny’s life.

Alix, and her other privileged friends, both black and white, seem to know what’s “best” for Emira regarding how to handle the unjust treatment of Emira in the grocery store. Although their intentions are good, they fail in their attempts to help Emira. They never bother to figure out what Emira wants; in fact, they never even ask.

Such a Fun Age is a timely novel about race and class, but it’s about so much more. There’s a complicated romance, as all juicy stories have. It also delves into the intricate dynamics of the relationship between a nanny and his or her employer.

But one of the best things about this novel is that almost everyone knows at least one person in real life who you can picture as either protagonist.

3. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel) by Suzanne Collins

Image from Goodreads

Wait…what? There’s a new Hunger Games trilogy? You better believe I felt the same way when all of a sudden, I was browsing through Goodreads and saw people reviewing a new Hunger Games novel. 2020 was an insane year, and many people may have missed that a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy was released in May.

There has been no better year than 2020 for a new book to come out that can transport us to a land far away from here. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes us back to the early days of Panem to give readers an in-depth look into the life of none other than the ruthless president in the Hunger Games novels, Coriolanus Snow.

Hunger Games fans, brace yourself to garner a little less hate for President Snow when you learn about where he came from and what he went through to get to his high-reaching position. He wasn’t rich, and he wasn’t privileged in the way one always assumes reading the other novels.

Collins proves her master of the dystopian novel when the trilogy’s villain becomes a sort of hero in the prequel.

Warning: Do not pick this up to read if you don’t have the time to devour it voraciously.

4. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Image from Goodreads

If you’re looking for a page-turner and don’t mind something dark, My Dark Vanessa should be your first read of 2021. This novel joins the others in the #MeToo movement to explore sexual abuse and the long-term damage it causes its victims.

My Dark Vanessa switches from the past and the present, examining the narrator’s life who had an affair in boarding school when she was 15, and her English teacher was 42. The novel follows her continued affair with her teacher throughout college. It brings the reader on the excruciatingly painful journey Vanessa takes to finally come to terms with the harm the relationship caused her.

One of the hardest things to read, yet perhaps the most interesting part of the book is how long the relationship continues. Vanessa continues to believe that her teacher loved her and still loves her and refuses to accept that he did anything wrong for a long time.

This book explores so many important parts of abuse, from blaming the victim to misplaced guilt. It’s an excellent read for anyone interested in books that emerged from the #MeToo movement, as well as an excellent book club choice guaranteed to spark a conversation.

5. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones and the Six is heart-wrenching, and the style is unlike anything you’ve ever read.

Written in the form of an oral history, this is a fictional account of a band and its lead singers during the iconic times of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Daisy Jones and the Six feels so real and so “rock and roll” you’ll find yourself believing that the band was real and wondering why you have never heard of them. When I first started reading, I wondered how on earth I hadn’t known this band existed until I realized it doesn’t.

Besides crafting a believable oral history about a fictional band, the author even wrote several songs by the band that you will find throughout the novel.

Daisy Jones and the Six is about Daisy, a young, breathtaking girl growing up in the late 1960s in LA. She’s wrapped up in everything you’d picture at the time; she’s sleeping with rock stars, drinking excessively, doing drugs, and staying out at clubs at all hours of the night.

But Daisy’s not just a beautiful groupie, she’s a talented songwriter, and her unique voice starts getting noticed. Daisy ends up performing with a popular band, The Six.

Daisy and the lead guitar player and singer, Billy Dunne, butt heads at first, but eventually develop a strong connection which turns into romantic feelings. However, as with all love and rock and roll stories, there are complications and consequences for all.

This New York Times bestselling novel feels so real; I promise you will end up searching for the band and the songs and will find yourself shocked that they never existed.

What are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to start reading. You may find that you’ll sleep better and get your mind off the day’s worries. There is no downside to giving it a try. We all deserve time for self-care.

I am hoping that 2021 will be filled with page-turners and peace for us all.

Freelance writer and mama to a wild one. I cover intriguing places, lifestyle, parenting, food, and feminism. “Writing is a form of personal freedom.”

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