The 9 Books That Defined My 2019

Part of being a good writer is being a good reader

After what can only be described as voracious reading of fiction and fantasy as a child, I lost reading for pleasure as an adult and switched only to “productive” reading. Self help. Motivation. Business building. Personal development.

After several years, I let myself read fiction again. I read Outlander for a book club and consumed the rest of the series, my childhood appetite for fantasy rushing back.

I switch back and forth now in a relatively 50/50 split between stuff to make my brain smarter and stuff to make my brain relax and have fun.

They’re both necessary for me to be the best writer I can.

These are the books that defined my 2019

  1. The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner 

This book was the single most important book of the year for me, and honestly for every single person in the world. Go read this book. Caroline’s work changed me. I finally stopped hurting myself in the name of weight loss and thinness. I understood fatphobia and diet culture in a way I never had before. This book may have literally saved my life.

The F*ck It Diet provided the paradigm shift I needed to see the truth about my body and the fact that it’s okay to exist in it.

2. Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, Ph.D.

Before and after TFID arrived at my doorstep, I decided to read up on other body positive books. Health at Every Size helped solidify what Caroline Dooner had already begun to teach me: my body isn’t inherently unhealthy because it’s fat. I remember calling my sister in a rage while I was listening to it, angry at the lies that had been told to me as fact about my body for 30 years. Everyone should read this book.

3. Dietland by Sarai Walker

I heard about Dietland on the Unladylike podcast and felt compelled to read it right away. This fiction novel follows the life of Plum, a lifelong dieter who is saving up for weight loss surgery. She goes on a whirlwind adventure and makes a bunch of new feminist friends, while the narrative weaves back and forth between Plum and a series of murders that appear to implicate a new friend. It was a delightful read (even with the murdery bits) that has stuck with me all year. Highly recommend.

4. Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.

Like TFID helped me see the ways I was stuck in diet culture self-talk, Getting Past Your Past helped me see the ways my trauma manifests in repeated patterns linked through a lifetime of unprocessed memories. Francine Shapiro, who died in June this year, developed the EMDR method of trauma processing therapy. Just reading the book helped me start viewing my trauma in a new light, and entering EMDR therapy has helped me process my eating disorder, my abusive marriage, and traumatic memories from childhood emotional abuse.

5. The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation by Caitlin Fisher 

In 2016, I wrote a blog post about an idea I couldn’t get out of my head: The idea that millennials as a whole were being systematically gaslit by older generations and the capitalist systems at play in our country. In 2019, I published my debut book of the same title. Each chapter highlights an aspect of society that our generation has supposedly undermined and destroyed, with advice on how to keep killin’ it on a regular basis.

Maybe some parts of society suck and deserve to be dismantled.

6. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk 

Shockingly, this book is also about trauma processing. In The Body Keeps the Score, the author discusses the physical ways that trauma manifests in the body as chronic pain and illness. It turns out that neglect, emotional abuse, and other traumas can have lasting effects not only on the brain but on the entire human body. It was eye opening to learn about and helped me get a diagnosis for my fibromyalgia this year when I acknowledged the physical pain I had been ignoring in my body.

7. Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey 

When I was married, I read the first three books of a great sci-fi series, The Expanse. And then I didn’t read any books or watch any television that I had ever associated with him for eighteen months. No Expanse. No superhero shows. Not even the shows I had enjoyed by myself when I was with him. I was on media lockdown.

But in 2019 I met a friend who also loved The Expanse and he encouraged me to get back into the series. Reading Cibola Burn, the fourth novel in the series, was my first contact with husband-related media in a year and a half, and despite my fears it felt safe. I’ve continued to work through the rest of the books in the series this year and I’m all caught up on the TV adaptation as well.

8. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I have a list of things I’m going to do with my life, and they are: foster kids, rescue dogs, buy a house, and hug Brené Brown. Her work on vulnerability and shame helped me realize that I’m worthy of love and belonging right now. Brené Brown also taught me to play and have fun (which helps me read fiction and schedule socializing with friends). Whatever way you can get your hands on any of her content, you should do so immediately.

9. The Animorphs Series by K. A. Applegate 

Re-reading this series that I adored as a child is doing some kind of healing in me that I don’t fully understand. I am amazed that I still remember major plot points and even lines of dialogue decades after reading them once or twice each in elementary school between fourth and sixth grade.

As an added bonus, reading them has strengthened my resolve to start a young adult science fiction series. I’ve allowed myself to return to the parts of YA sci-fi that I loved as a kid, and my brain just tossed a fully formed idea at me in the shower, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

My 2020 reading list

Looking over my 2019 list, I realize that I need to start branching out. Last year was about survival, this year was about laying the groundwork to heal, and next year is about becoming an improved version of myself. This will mean some of the same type of reading (and writing!) as 2019, but I also feel a deep need to read from more diverse authors.

I want to help all people, not just people who look like me and have similar experiences. And I am aware that I haven’t always examined my privilege closely and critically. In 2020 I want to open myself up to listen to the experiences of others so that I can be more aware.

Simply put: It’s time for me to stop focusing on reading work from white people.

Rather than continue to ask people of color to educate us about how we can better understand their experiences and be allies, we have to do our own work. Here are some excellent titles I’ve started researching that are on my 2020 reading list for a start:

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

How do you measure a year?

In books, in words, in reconnecting with characters you thought you left behind a long time ago.

REVIEW & PROMO: Healthier, Non-Toxic Skin Care with Akamai

I am so excited to tell you about my new skin care regime, and this is coming from somebody who used a single tube of Mary Kay moisturizer for most of undergrad. I finally feel like I’m taking better care of my skin, and it’s not even hard. As a constantly-rushing person who needs a low maintenance beauty routine (there’s a reason my head is mostly shaved and I don’t wear makeup), I am super pumped about these new products. Best of all, I didn’t have to spend hours googling the ingredients to figure out if they pass muster with my non-toxic demands.

PLUS – I’ve got an awesome coupon code to share with you at the end of this post. Read on!

Full disclosure: I received an Akamai Essentials Kit in exchange for my honest review. And it will be honest. The toothpaste is a little weird (but worth sticking with – more on that later). 

The Current State of Beauty

The thing about beauty products these days is that companies (at least companies in the United States) can put basically anything they want in a tube and call it cosmetics and it’s A-OK to sell and encourage people to slap on their faces. Even if it’s full of chemicals and ingredients banned elsewhere in the world.

For instance, the European Union bans over one thousand (1,000!) ingredients from being used in cosmetics. The United States bans eight. Not eight thousand. Just eight.

Something doesn’t add up here.

The mindful, healthful, and minimalist among us want to avoid exposure to toxins wherever we can, especially our face and body. The skin is one of the largest body systems we have, and it absorbs everything. The general rule is that if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin.

Since the FDA doesn’t have our back when it comes to cosmetics, those of us who care to do the digging ourselves have to endlessly google and research to discover what’s really in our favorite products and whether we really want to use them. This problem doubles if you’re vegan or otherwise want to avoid cosmetic products tested on animals or made with animal ingredients. Cruelty free is easy. Chemical free is easy. Cruelty and chemical free? Yeesh. This is the reason I barely have a skin care regimen. UNTIL NOW.

Akamai

Akamai Basics is “Personal Care Radically Simplified.” Their goal is to deliver quality performance for healthier hair, skin, and teeth – without the long ingredient lists or funky chemicals in conventional products.

How many times have you heard “Lather, rinse, repeat” and thought about what brilliant marketing that really is? You don’t actually need to wash your hair twice in the same shower, but some people take the advice to heart and before you know it, you’re buying a new bottle of shampoo (or conditioner – that ALWAYS runs out first, even if you are stingy with the portions). Smart shampoo company. Akamai is different. They design their products to be long lasting and you don’t need to use them in excess to reap the rewards.

Akamai realizes that the current beauty market says you need a special soap for each body part, different face products for different days of the week, and fourteen hair products to achieve that effortless “I woke up like this” glam. And then they give you the complete opposite, with three simple products that do basically everything.

The Akamai Essentials Kit

Akamai-Essential-Kit-2 (1).jpg

In the Essentials Kit, you get:

  • Two 3 in 1 Bars
  • Skin Fuel
  • Mineral Toothpaste

The 3 in 1 Bar

The bars are shampoo bars as well as being great for general washing and shaving (I didn’t use it for shaving and my man-beast uses an electric beard trimmer, so I cannot attest to its shaving prowess, but it lathers GREAT). The folks at Akamai told me it can take up to three weeks for your hair to adjust to using a shampoo bar, but I didn’t have the greasy breaking in period you typically expect from switching to a non-toxic, non-chemically shampoo. Probably because I’ve done the baking soda (no-poo) thing in the past and was already using a “cleaner” shampoo product. My hair took to it right away and while I felt it left my hair without its usual softness after a shampoo & condition, using the Skin Fuel as a hair moisturizer immediately took care of my concerns.

I also love that their use instructions for the bar consist of “Wash the stinky bits.” They don’t recommend using this soap all over your whole body. Water actually takes care of most of that without affecting the microbiome of all our little bacterial friends. Wash just the gnarly parts (armpits mostly) and the bar will last you at least a month.

An added bonus: I found that I only needed to wash my hair twice a week with this bar. On my old shampoo I could maybe get three days out of a wash but had best luck and cleanest feeling hair with an every-other-day wash. My hair feels clean and healthy being washed with this bar (and conditioned with Skin Fuel) only twice a week. So I can take a maintenance shower to wash my body more often, but I don’t need to wash my hair as much. (Believe it or not, this is better for your hair).

I also use the 3 in 1 Bar on my face, and it’s actually clearing up my acne, which I thought would be delivering my eulogy someday as my eternal companion.

Final verdict on the 3 in 1 Bar: I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

The Skin Fuel

I had previously been using an Argan Oil hair conditioning oil after a shower, so I know the drill with this. Put a couple of pumps in your hand and run your oily fingers through your hair to moisturize. My hair feels stronger and healthier using Skin Fuel, and I use two pumps on my hair and one pump on my face. Using the moisturizer after washing my face in the shower is new for me, as I typically avoid buying moisturizer because I am cheap and hate having eight hundred bottles of product in the bathroom. Seriously, my husband has more hair and face stuff than I do. (Lots of it for his beard, which I fully support. Long live beards).

With only six ingredients, Skin Fuel is efficient and effective. Coconut Oil, Jojoba Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Argan Oil, Trace Mineral/Fulvic Acid Concentrate, and Rosemary Essential Oil. Have you tried Argan oil before? It makes your hair soft and amazing like little woodland creatures came and washed it for you while you sang a happy song.

My only – ONLY – complaint about Skin Fuel is that the rosemary in it makes me think of food, and I feel like I’m marinating myself. It smells delicious! In a weird way, like rubbing something delicious on your face. Hard to explain, but it’s just a little cognitive dissonance.

Skin Fuel is also a great aftershave, according to Akamai, which I am inclined to believe as it leaves my face feeling moisturized, healthy, and NOT AT ALL OILY. Rub oil on your face so you don’t feel oily. I know, right?

I’ve tried the “Oil cleansing method” in the past, which is where you mix up olive oil and castor oil and jojoba or sweet almond oil if you’re fancy, and rub it all over your face to clean and moisturize. But once again, I have issues with time and having to put together a recipe for my bathroom routine. Skin Fuel delivers everything I need in one tiny bottle, and it’s clear for travel since the bottle is two ounces. You can’t take my soft, healthy skin, TSA!

Ways you can use Skin Fuel:

  • Moisturizer
  • Aftershave
  • Hair Conditioner
  • Beard Oil
  • Scalp Massage
  • Salve
  • Facial Cleanser (like the oil cleansing method I described above, with NO recipe needed)
  • Makeup remover

Final verdict on Skin Fuel: 5 out of 5 stars.

The Toothpaste

Okay, this is where it gets weird. I’ve used clay based toothpastes before. I’ve been interested in trying one again so I was 100% excited to try the Akamai toothpaste. While I love how it makes my teeth and gums feel, I am still not sold on the flavor after trying it for a solid month.

The pros: My teeth and gums feel healthier, there is no more bleeding when I brush, and my teeth are whiter.

The cons: This flavor is so weird. It’s got several essential oils in the ingredient list: peppermint, cinnamon, clove, anise, and tea tree. The result is a very overwhelming flavor profile that kicks your ass the first few times you brush.

HOWEVER: These essential oils are not random choices, they are specifically selected to reduce plaque, freshen your breath, and prevent cavities. They work, and you can tell they work.

The amount of thought that went into designing this toothpaste is amazing. It contains raw coconut oil, which is a natural anti-bacterial agent, along with sea salt that stimulates saliva to help clean the mouth and improve circulation for healthier gums. Trace minerals help remineralize teeth. Natural clays (bentonite clay and kaolin clay) are rich in minerals and are slightly abrasive to help clean and whiten teeth. Liposomal CoQ10 penetrates the gums to help prevent gum disease.

I can’t even be mad at this toothpaste, it is so full of science and health-focused technology. You can also use it as a blemish treatment or on cold sores. Akamai designs everything to be multi-purpose and useful for all your needs.

Final verdict on toothpaste: 3.5 out of 5 stars, because I am going to keep using it and my mouth feels amazing but that flavor is still an acquired taste.

Don’t let me scare you – when you try it out, give the toothpaste a solid 2-4 week trial period. My husband did a 1 day trial and then promptly quit, but I BELIEVE IN YOU!

What I Love About Akamai

What I truly love about this company is their commitment not only to healthier, non-toxic skin and beauty products, but to a versatile multi-functional approach. As a minimalist who tries to keep a small footprint, Akamai’s natural products help me do that. I don’t have to buy several different products to keep up with a beauty regimen, and these products are easy to use and are travel-friendly so I can use them anywhere.

Did I mention that you can subscribe to Akamai’s products so you never run out of your favorite products? That’s right – they’ll send your Essentials Kit (or separate items) right to your door at a schedule that works for you. Typically, one 3 in 1 Bar lasts about a month, a tube of toothpaste lasts about two months, and the Skin Fuel lasts about two months. So one Essentials Kit is designed to last two months.

The Million Dollar Question

I disclosed above that I received this kit in exchange for my honest review, so now I need to honestly answer the question: Am I going to continue with Akamai as a paying customer? The answer is a resounding “hell yes!”

  • Healthier ingredients I can trust? Check.
  • Low maintenance beauty routine I actually follow? Check.
  • SMELLS SO GOOD? Check.
  • Whiter teeth without bleaching? Check.
  • Only have to wash my hair twice a week and it looks amazing? Check.

I’m totally sold.

Your Turn to Try!

It’s your turn to try the Akamai Essentials Kit, and I have an awesome promotion that the folks at Akamai put together just for you! The Essentials Kit is usually $38.00 – but when you use this coupon code you’ll get $20 off. Sign up quickly because the offer is only good from 5/9/17 to 5/16/17.

  1. Use this link to sign up for your Akamai Essentials Kit: http://akamaibasics.refr.cc/caitlinherron
  2. Use code MINIMALIST20 for your $20 off – HURRY, this code expires 5/16/17

Limit 1 per customer, valid only on the first order. Subscriptions can be modified or cancelled at any time – no risk or obligation.