In my book selections, I’ve tried to focus on non-fiction, motivational books that aligned with the reasons for my break from my usual, politics-heavy listening; I wanted time to re-organize, re-focus, and re-group. And, I believe these books were integral to the immense value I found in this time of intentional quiet.

Lean In – Cheryl Sandburg

This is a book I have been meaning to read since it came out in 2013. Sandburg’s writing is full of statistics and studies as well as personal anecdotes that explore the reason why women are not occupying the same share of c-suite positions that men do.

In summary, she concludes that a large majority of women do not lean into their careers and are inhibited by many different social and self-inflicted barriers. While I don’t agree with everything she argues, and my biggest critique is the fact that she is a highly educated, rich, white, cis-gendered woman, and it felt like that was her book’s audience even though any women deserve to be in a c-suite… her message still empowered me to see the areas in my career where I was in fact “leaning out.”

I hear the book in the back of my mind every time I fail to promote myself, my work, and my ideas in a way that give me and my position the credit deserved.

Girl, Wash your Face – Rachel Hollis

I didn’t know of Rachel Hollis before this. And, I’m so glad I was introduced to her work and her message. Her book was like a “Lean In” for my soul and my faith.

Hollis tells hones, transparent stories from her life through a formula of “lies I told myself” and “how I fixed it.” To me, her overall message was “you have control over your happiness” and “you have control over how you move through the world.”

As a new wife, young career woman, writer, future mother, someone with anxiety, someone struggling with weight, and as a christian white woman who wants to build a community with less “lines in the sand,” this book was like holding a mirror (compassionately) to my inner demons.  She addressed a lot of what I have been struggling with including fighting off negative thoughts, becoming too comfortable with mediocrity, feeling helpless, and a perceived lack of control.

However, I read this book as a straight, white, middle class, cis-gendered woman. And while for the most part her book was helpful (I think because of her honesty), there were some parts where her message highlighted her identities and possibly some areas for growth.

Because of my identities and life experience, I appreciated her chapter on the importance of diversity, and what she’s learned since growing up in a small, white town. And, I appreciate how she shared her experience with her friend who is a woman of color. But, in today’s world I also realize this can be a trope — “I’m not (insert -ism here) I have a (friend who identifies with a different identity.” I did like her idea of encouraging white Christians to join a church that reflects the diversity of God’s kingdom. But, I think this chapter can also be problematic.

Another issue I found was how she reflected on her journey with the foster care system. I think her experience made her jaded, and that is understandable with what she went through. But, it seemed as though the grace and understanding she affords to herself and her “tribe” were not extended to birth mothers/families.

This book was beneficial for me, especially in my current season of life. It was helpful to hear someone else’s experience and how they overcame struggles that echo some of the ones I have faced. Hollis’ experience is a process, and her transparency is admirable, but (as with all of us) there is work to be done.