December 12, 2020

Willowjak’s Book Recommendations

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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When you’ve got writers, you’ve got readers and we usually love to share our finds. We’ve compiled a list of our favourites so you can get to know what inspires us, or maybe you’ll consider picking up your own copy to treat yourself or to gift to someone for the holidays.

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Tara – I do not often read novels since I generally fall asleep after 5 pages. Most reading done in our house these days is with the kids. Since the holidays are upon us, Christmas books are a staple and we read Pete the Cat’s 12 Groovy Days of Christmas multiple times a day (and by read I mean sing loudly).

Nic – Absolutely favourite book not only of 2020 but of my entire life is Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. It’s a self-help book that will get you out of bed ready to crush every single day. David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL, now ultramarathoner, who went from 300lbs to 180lbs in 3 months after setting the goal of trying out for SEALs.

StephAmerican Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, Brother by David Chariandy, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. 

Jake – One of my stand-out favourites is Rules by Cynthia Lord. When I was a pre-teen and couldn’t put words to how it felt to be the sibling of two brothers with autism, this book helped me to feel like my life wasn’t so strange after all. I recommend it, not only to other siblings like me, but to anyone who wants to understand how our unique experience of loving people with disabilities is really the most normal thing of all.

AllieEducated by Tara Westover. True story of overcoming unbelievable adversity in childhood and young adulthood due to untraditional upbringing. https://tarawestover.com/

Ms. Devine – I finally read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Most book readers have read this book. It is one that I started and restarted and started again and could never get through. This year was the perfect year to be drawn into this book of finding yourself and letting go of what you can’t control and connecting to what will be. It is also a super fast read once you’re drawn in. Another goodin’ was The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I loved the message of being your authentic self and letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be, something a lot of us struggle with!

Stacey – I can’t stop shouting my love for these books from the rooftops. I’m like the proud mom who can’t stop the bragging, though with these picks, I have zero claim to link myself to them, other than to say that both books feel like they are part of me, months after reading them. My heart rode a roller coaster of emotions with each of these reads, but the thread that ties them both together, in my opinion, is the fierce resiliency in the characters to not only survive their difficult circumstances, but to find the light and find their grit to overcome and inspire. I am beyond inspired and will likely re-read these books over and over and over again.

AmandaThe Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole – He lives here, in this wonderful city of Toronto, and his story is happening here. This is on my must read list. I am embarrassed that I haven’t yet done so.  

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman – A love story that had me wanting to be 17 again, spend a summer in Italy, and fall in love. Beautifully written and I will re-read before I read the sequel Find Me. (Reviews were not as kind so I am tempted to read Find Me and then re-read the original so I can remember why I loved it.) 

LizaThe Wonky Donky by Craig Smith. This book is hilarious. As a student, I don’t do much reading for pleasure, so I always enjoy sitting down with a man I support and laughing while we read this together. 

Deb – Hands down my fave is All Together Now by Alan Doyle (the guy from Great Big Sea). His way of telling stories creates so much community, home-town feeling that just in reading it you feel less alone. It is a series of short anecdotes from his very colorful life, that he weaves around various stories about pubs and how pub life has contributed to community over the years. If you don’t laugh out loud at least once, you must not have a pulse!

My second is a little heavier reading, but also a very redeeming story. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. (I believe it was also done on film). A fabulous first person account of indigenous life navigating the residential school system…but not what you think it is going to be. It’s full of hockey and a whole lot more that than just a story of oppression. It may be triggering for some, but the overall story is an incredible tale of resilience and refusal to be pigeon-holed.

LaurenPeace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is my go-to when life starts to overwhelm or when I want to maintain peace or inspiration. It is a beautiful and refreshing read with practical tools for turning the pressures of the world into gifts we can use. It softens the edges and I feel refreshed every time I turn to it.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. This is another book I turn to regularly. It is essential reading. Baldwin’s writing penetrates the essence of humanity and the consequences of racial injustice. He is a brilliant and passionate story and truth teller. Glorious, painful and full of love.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Because Charlotte and Wilbur offer us hope in the most unbearable of moments.

Michelle S-B – The best read of the year for me hands down as been Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. That book is a reclamation of humanity, a tearing down of our codependent world and an invitation to deeper love for yourself. What’s not to love about that???

I’m just finishing my I-don’t-know-what-number reading of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. I discovered this book when I was 18 and falling out of love with my Catholic upbringing. I loved my relationship with my idea of God, and was losing faith in the systems of the Church that deemed me as less worthy. Since that first reading I have read it at least once every year. It’s like my bible of sorts, helping me to understand my connection to the earth, to energy and the value of innate wisdom.

FancyBraving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.  She wrote it in 2016 but it feels like she wrote it for 2020.  She talks about the importance of standing up for what we believe in and how scary it is to do so.  She tells us we need “strong backs, soft fronts, and wild hearts.”  Its great on audiobook as she narrates it herself.  I went ahead and bought the book after listening to it multiple times so I could make notes.

Stacey aka WillowjakMama

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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