Books to be better people: Lindy West’s “Shrill”

This year, I’ve decided to add an occasional “Books to be better people” segment to my blog. As in, books that have made me better, that you should also read because there’s a good chance they might make you better, too.  I am always reading something therapy or self-improvement related, and if and when I come across something really fantastic, I like to pass it along.

And so, to begin: I recommended Shrill by Lindy West to my clients more than any other book this year. In fact, chances are, if you worked with me in 2018, I recommended this book to you. So it makes sense that Shrill is my first choice.

If you’re familiar with her work in The Guardian, or have heard her interviewed (my favorite is the spot she did on This American Life), you are aware that Ms. West is direct, unapologetic, and hilarious in her delivery of pearls of wisdom via her (sometimes harrowing) life stories. Her book covers some incredibly difficult topics (like abortion, rape culture, and fatphobia) with ease, intelligence, bravery, and ferocity.

As a therapist, I love her because she embodies what it means to truly accept oneself, and to assert the notion that an individual alone has the right to choose how much room they take up (physically, emotionally, socially, etc.) at any given time. She spreads her thoughts and opinions out as widely and loudly as she pleases, and is brilliantly able to quantify her choices whenever she is challenged.

What I love most about her stories (besides that they make me literally laugh out loud) is the evidence of her courageous decision to consistently choose herself – as she is at any moment – and dismiss common conceptions that she should be or look or act any differently. She encourages her audience to ask “Who says so?” about areas in their lives in which they are feeling pressure to live up to some fabricated ideal. From a therapeutic standpoint, this makes Shrill one of the best (non-self-help) self-help books I’ve read to date.

Most importantly, West is able to convey through her writing that how we treat ourselves matters. The choices we make about how we love and nurture ourselves (or not) have implications not only for us, but for others as well. When we carry shame and insecurity around who we are, we leave the door open for others to be shamed and rejected. Shrill effortlessly connects concepts of self-love with social justice, which infuses significant purpose to the notion of living out loud.

If you are looking to start off 2019 with inspiration, humor, and confidence, read this book. If you’ve already read it, read it again. Read it, love it, share it with everybody.

You can buy Shrill on Amazon here.

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