The best books if you want to read the messy, brutal, glorious truth of women’s bodies and their lives

Christie Tate Author Of Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life
By Christie Tate

Who am I?

I’ve been reading almost exclusively memoirs and personal essays for over a decade. The women who generously wrote about their bodies—the bowels, the breasts, the bad sex—lit up the path for me when I was drowning in my own body shame and body confusion. Every year I read at least 50 memoirs, and the ones on this list are the ones I revisit over and over. I also study writing with Lidia Yuknavitch at Corporeal Writing, where I first heard six years ago that “the body has a point of view.” I love this as a writer and a reader. So much of women’s bodies and experiences has been hidden away or unstoried, but those days are coming to a close, and these writers are leading the way.

I wrote...

Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life

By Christie Tate,

Book cover of Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life

What is my book about?

Christie Tate has just been named the top student in her law school class and seems to finally have got her eating disorder under control. So why is she driving through Chicago fantasising about her own death?

Desperate, she joins Dr. Rosen’s psychotherapy group, and through his unconventional methods, he challenges everything she thought she knew, about herself and others. In group, secrets are not allowed. This means telling a group of strangers everything – about her struggle with bulimia, her failed sex life, her overwhelming sense of loneliness, and acute longing for a relationship. And as she keeps sharing her thoughts and feelings and listens to the others doing the same, her life slowly begins to change.

The books I picked & why

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The Chronology of Water: A Memoir

By Lidia Yuknavitch,

Book cover of The Chronology of Water: A Memoir

Why this book?

Yuknavitch’s memoir is a gloves-off gut-punch of stories about her life as a competitive swimmer, a daughter of a tyrannical father, and an artist-in-the-making. Best of all: The sex scenes are like nothing I’ve ever read. DO NOT MISS THIS ONE.

The Crying Book

By Heather Christle,

Book cover of The Crying Book

Why this book?

I’m a huge crier—when the birds over the Lake look beautiful, when my kids sing on key, when I imagine the passing of my favorite musician, Willie Nelson—so this meditation on tears and crying spoke straight to my soul. Christle expertly weaves her own struggles with the science, art, and cultural history of crying. This book is strangely perfect.


By Melissa Febos,

Book cover of Girlhood

Why this book?

Our culture treats girlhood as a time when young females are frivolous, catty, and obsessed with selfies. Not Febos. She takes seriously the formation of self that happens in girlhood as sexuality, cultural messages, desire, ambition, and abuse press on our bodies and psyches. Her exploration of her own girlhood helped me look back at my own and respect my scrappy self.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.

By Samantha Irby,

Book cover of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.

Why this book?

Irby’s writing is hilarious and full of heart whether she’s talking about her twisted bowels or her difficult childhood. Her jokes always land, and they never feel cheap or hollow because she’s an expert storyteller who is not afraid of the truth about her awkward social skills or her body. Her essays are the BOMB!

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning

By Claire Dederer,

Book cover of Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning

Why this book?

Dederer’s book explores her sudden, mid-life yearning for carnal pleasure and compares them to her promiscuous youth. We see her sleeping with enough people in college to earn a recommendation on a park bench (“for a good time call Clare Dederer"), and also as a married mother and artist who longs for something more, but she’s not sure what it is. Punctuated with hilarious entries from her childhood journal, this book delivers on every level.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in life satisfaction, adolescence, and swimming?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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