Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp

I binge read this book sitting in a pub one night, alternately reassured and repulsed by how clearly this stranger was able to articulate my own ambivalence and uncertainty about desire in all its stripes. Appetites is a reflection on Knapp’s tortured relation with food but it is goes beyond simply a memoir of anorexia.  Although possibly asking more questions than she answers, Knapp explores the dark and murky world of female desire, looking at what it is we are longing for when we use food or any other substance as a substitute or metaphor for our emotions. 

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

Knapp picks up similar themes in her earlier memoir exploration piece.  I quickly moved on to this once I’d devoured Appetites, and again found myself both enthralled and terrified by the extent to which she expressed how I felt about my troubled relationship with alcohol.

I find myself repeatedly returning to their pages for wisdom and insight into my own condition.  I don’t believe you necessarily have to share Knapp’s particular brand of struggles in order to find her words resonate; instead she speaks to anyone who has ever wrestled with figuring out what they are really striving for in life, let alone had trouble in asking for those needs to be met.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

When I embarked upon my current romantic relationship, I kept the words ‘daring greatly’ at the front and centre of my mind as I strove to negotiate the testing emotions of shame and vulnerability – not perfectly, but enough to encourage the blossoming of a happy and health partnership that continues today.  ‘Daring greatly’ has taken on another twist as I now find myself navigating the new world of freelance writing.  Repeatedly showing up and putting myself ‘out there’ doesn’t get easier but remembering, as Brown emphasises, that it’s the man in the arena that counts (not the one shouting criticism from the stands), is a solace.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin 

Author Gretchen Rubin decided to embark on a twelve month ‘happiness project’ when she realised she had been sleepwalking through her life. She followed this with a similar 'happier at home' experiment, which resulted in another book: Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life. These books provide interesting accounts of mindful living as well as innumerable practical suggestions that readers can utilise in their own lives.  Any attempt to calculate what aspects of my everyday behaviour were directly influenced by Rubin would be truly terrifying! I’ve found Rubin to be a great writer to return to, not necessarily when things are bad, but I would just like them to be a bit better.