Blog, Book Reviews

Spring Cleaning For Your Brain

photo of woman in a yoga pose outside with her eyes closed, against pink background with yellow sparkles reminiscent of spring cleaning your body

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The season of Spring Cleaning is upon us! And thank goodness for that, because I tend to spend my long Minnesota winters hunkered down in a perpetual nose-to-the-grindstone work mode that leaves me feeling a bit dazed by the time the weather warms up. You know that feeling when you accidentally nap for too long at a weird time of day and when you wake up you’re like, “Who am I?” For me, spring feels like that.

There are many books that have, at one point or another, helped me get back into my body and back on track in my head (oh, the power of reading!). If you, too, need to spend some time clearing out the negativity from your brain, re-connecting with the world around you, and/or remembering who you are in the first place, these are seven titles I highly recommend exploring for a spring reset.

How to Break Up with Your Phone

by Catherine Price

Despite its drastic title, the goal of How to Break Up with Your Phone is not to get us to never look at our phones again, but rather to help us gain control over the relationship. As Price writes in the introduction, “Smartphones are amazing tools. But something about smartphones also makes us act like tools.”

I revisit this little book every time I need a jolt of motivation to re-consider my mindless scrolling and practice being more in tune with what I actually want to do in any given moment. And if you want to really get down to phone-breakup business, the book is full of practical exercises to help you develop the phone habits you actually want.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life

by Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp is one of the greatest dance choreographers of all-time, and that’s because she knows how to be creative as a lifestyle. You don’t have to be an Artist with a capital A to get something out of this book; The Creative Habit is for everyone. Each chapter focuses on a different element of the creative habit and ends with reflection exercises to crack open your own creativity.

This is another book I return to again and again, because every time I read even some of it I feel rejuvenated. Sometimes, just reading about Tharp’s own ritual of waking up at 5:30 every morning and going to the gym is enough to make me feel like I could get my morning act together, too (although, perhaps with a later start). It’s also full of motivating gems, like: “Odd as it may sound, personality is a skill. You can choose and develop aspects of it that will draw people to you and make them want to help you learn and improve.”

The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

by Sonya Renee Taylor

I’m so grateful I read this book thanks to it being a Feminist Book Club book of the month in 2021. The Body is Not an Apology is about the power of radical self-love as a tool for social change. This is the kind of important reflection we can all benefit from. As Taylor writes in the Prologue, “No matter how ‘enlightened’ our ideas, none of us is immune to the social, political, and cultural indoctrinations of body shame.”

Throughout the book, Taylor includes moments of “Radical Reflection” and “Unapologetic Inquiries,” which encourage readers to pause and think. And if you want to take this a step further, I highly recommend picking up the accompanying Your Body Is Not an Apology Workbook, a practical workbook centered around Taylor’s four pillars of practice: “Taking out the toxic,” “Mind matters,” “Unapologetic action,” and “Collective compassion.” (Don’t you already feel more empowered just reading those phrases?) Just to whet your appetite a bit more, you can always listen to the FBC Podcast episode between Renee and Taylor, I promise you she’s worth it.

The Mindful Vegan

by Lani Muelrath

I will forever cherish The Mindful Vegan as the first book I ever read that actually got me to establish a consistent meditation practice. This guide is more about mindfulness than anything else (i.e., you can totally benefit from it even if you’re not vegan). The first part is an introduction to the topic, in which Muelrath establishes the core idea that, “You don’t seek peace of mind; you create the conditions in which peace of mind can take place.” The second part of the book is a 30-day journey, in which each section corresponds with one day.

In the 30-day part, each short section includes a mindfulness lesson, an inspiring quote, and a meditation practice (which can be done with the accompanying audio guide). Starting with a simple one-minute meditation on day one, each subsequent day’s meditation practice is a little longer than the last, making this book the perfect introduction to meditation for those who need some hand-holding to get situated in the present (a.k.a., me!).

Rest is Resistance

by Tricia Hersey

I knew I had to read Rest is Resistance when I first learned about Tricia Hersey and her work of “curating collective nap experiences.” If nobody else has managed to convince you of the importance of resting your body – both for your sake and everyone else’s – Tricia Hersey will.

As she writes at the opening of the Introduction: “I wish you rest today. I wish you a deep knowing that exhaustion is not a normal way of living. You are enough. You can rest. You must resist anything that doesn’t center your divinity as a human being. You are worthy of care.” (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

Braiding Sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass was a Feminist Book Club book of the month in 2020, and I’ll never forget reading it while I was sick with covid in the pre-covid-vaccine era. Kimmerer’s words felt healing for me to read, and I think I would have experienced them this way even if I hadn’t been physically ill at the time.

Kimmerer’s beautiful writing will make you feel all the right feelings with regards to connection with nature, gratitude for the generosity around us, and mindfully being in the world. The very first line of the book is: “Hold out your hands and let me lay upon them a sheaf of freshly picked sweetgrass, loose and flowing, like newly washed hair.” Don’t you already feel a little calmer?

Slow Pleasure

by Euphemia Russell

A recent 2023 book of the month for Feminist Book Club, Slow Pleasure is all about how to feel good. Euphemia Russell is a pleasure coach and educator, and they slowly guide the reader through chapters about pleasure-related concepts like embodiment, presence, desire and more.

Even just holding this soft, beautiful book in your hands is a pleasurable experience. Russell includes reflection questions and exercises throughout the book to help you get more in touch with your own pleasure, and to invite it into every moment. (I mean, did you even know this was possible?)

Spring Clean Away

These books can help all of us find a sense of grounded-ness, peace, clarity and inspiration. Spring is a great time to get re-organized, re-oriented and rejuvenated for the more energetic months ahead. So, in the midst of packing away the winter coats and washing the windows, don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Happy reading!

Lillie Gardner is a writer of prose and screenplays in St. Paul, Minnesota. She loves literary fiction and memoir—both to read and to write—and is particularly excited about quirky Midwestern stories and women's history. When she's not writing or reading, she's usually teaching piano, taking her cat Ava Gardner for a stroll or chasing after the newest vegan eats in the Twin Cities.

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