The best books for healing your heart

Why am I passionate about this?

Between my upbringing and my personal flavors of mental health, I spent a good portion of my adult life trying to perfect myself, whether by suppressing my queerness or by going to extremes with the facets of my personality that others liked best. The last five or six years have been devoted to unpacking those thought processes, and reclaiming a life guided by kindness towards myself and others. I believe books are crucial to the introspection, expansion, and connection we all crave so much; I know they’ve been indispensable to me in rediscovering my own heart.

I wrote...

The Story of the Hundred Promises

By Neil Cochrane,

Book cover of The Story of the Hundred Promises

What is my book about?

The Story of the Hundred Promises is “a deconstructed fairy tale in which the pieces have been taken apart, examined, and put back together in surprising and healing ways.” Trans sailor Darragh Thorn has made a comfortable life for himself among people who love and accept him. Ten years after his exile from home, though, his sister asks him to reconcile with their ailing father. Determined to resolve his feelings rather than just survive them, Darragh sets off on a quest to find the one person who can heal a half-dead man: the mysterious enchanter who once gave him the magic he needed to become his true self.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Humankind: A Hopeful History

Neil Cochrane Why did I love this book?

I read Humankind in the summer of 2021, a year into the pandemic and at a point when I wasn’t sure what the future looked like—all I knew was that the present seemed pretty bleak. Rutger Bregman’s book provided a counterweight to my fears and weariness, revitalizing my commitment to my fellow humans. It reminded me of my personal motto, a quote from the Roman writer Terence: “I am human; no human thing is alien to me.” If we try, there’s almost no human experience we can’t find a way to relate to.

By Rutger Bregman, Erica Moore (translator), Elizabeth Manton (translator)

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Humankind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Guardian, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman and Daily Express Book of the Year

'Hugely, highly and happily recommended' Stephen Fry
'You should read Humankind. You'll learn a lot (I did) and you'll have good reason to feel better about the human race' Tim Harford
'Made me see humanity from a fresh perspective' Yuval Noah Harari

It's a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, the roots of this belief have…

Book cover of The Boy with a Bird in His Chest

Neil Cochrane Why did I love this book?

This beautiful trans allegory features some of the most honest, subtle handling of heartbreak I’ve ever read, presented in a way that feels like commiseration with a friend. The narrative voice exudes love. I saw myself in Owen and ached for both him and my younger self; the ending brought both catharsis and joy. This book captures the journey to being vulnerable and compassionate with yourself perfectly.

By Emme Lund,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Boy with a Bird in His Chest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for The Center for Fiction 2022 First Novel Prize

"A modern coming-of-age full of love, desperation, heartache, and magic" (Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author) about "the ways in which family, grief, love, queerness, and vulnerability all intersect" (Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author). Perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Thirty Names of Night.

Though Owen Tanner has never met anyone else who has a chatty bird in their chest, medical forums would call him a Terror. From the moment Gail emerged between Owen's ribs, his mother knew that she had to…

Book cover of Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Neil Cochrane Why did I love this book?

This book became an instant favorite for the way it zeroes in on each of the four titular cities—only one of which I’d ever heard of—and sifts its layers in a way that makes it feel alive from top to bottom. Reading through it was a beautiful reminder of how little we know about the past, and yet, how similar our ancestors are to us in the things that are important to them. The gift of this book is its curiosity and tenderness towards its subjects, and it inspires the same open-mindedness. 

By Annalee Newitz,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Four Lost Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the centre of a sophisticated civilisation: the Neolithic site of Catalhoeyuk in Central Turkey, the Roman town of Pompeii on Italy's southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia and the indigenous American metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today.

Newitz travels to all four sites and investigates the…

Book cover of The City in the Middle of the Night

Neil Cochrane Why did I love this book?

This was the second book I read by Charlie Jane Anders, who is one of my living literary idols. This book is a feat of world-building, but what I find most compelling about it is its examination of what it means to be alien, what it means to belong. The story is unexpected in many ways, but it was deeply comforting for me. Even if it’s frightening, letting yourself be vulnerable can lead to magical and enlightening experiences.

By Charlie Jane Anders,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The City in the Middle of the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams... And from there, it's easy to control our entire lives."

From the brilliant mind of Charlie Jane Anders ("A master absurdist"-New York Times; "Virtuoso"-NPR) comes a new novel of Kafkaesque futurism. Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace-though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.

But in a world where time means only what the ruling…

Book cover of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Neil Cochrane Why did I love this book?

I picked this book up as research for a manuscript, and it had a profound effect on me even beyond the information I needed. It taught me that nature’s cycles are more complex than I ever imagined, and that it’s practically impossible to look at anything in an ecosystem—a biological one, or even our human social and technological ones—isolated from everything else. The interdependencies and relationships just run too deep. It’s a good reminder to remember what might be unseen. 

By Merlin Sheldrake,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Entangled Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “brilliant [and] entrancing” (The Guardian) journey into the hidden lives of fungi—the great connectors of the living world—and their astonishing and intimate roles in human life, with the power to heal our bodies, expand our minds, and help us address our most urgent environmental problems.

“Grand and dizzying in how thoroughly it recalibrates our understanding of the natural world.”—Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—Time, BBC Science Focus, The Daily Mail, Geographical, The Times, The Telegraph, New Statesman, London Evening Standard, Science Friday

When we think…

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American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

Book cover of American Flygirl

Susan Tate Ankeny Author Of The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Susan Tate Ankeny left a career in teaching to write the story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France. In 2011, after being led on his path through France by the same Resistance fighters who guided him in 1944, she felt inspired to tell the story of these brave French patriots, especially the 17-year-old- girl who risked her own life to save her father’s. Susan is a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés. 

Susan's book list on women during WW2

What is my book about?

The first and only full-length biography of Hazel Ying Lee, an unrecognized pioneer and unsung World War II hero who fought for a country that actively discriminated against her gender, race, and ambition.

This unique hidden figure defied countless stereotypes to become the first Asian American woman in United States history to earn a pilot's license, and the first female Asian American pilot to fly for the military.

Her achievements, passionate drive, and resistance in the face of oppression as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and a female aviator changed the course of history. Now the remarkable story of a fearless underdog finally surfaces to inspire anyone to reach toward the sky.

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

What is this book about?

One of WWII’s most uniquely hidden figures, Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, join the WASPs, and fly for the United States military amid widespread anti-Asian sentiment and policies.

Her singular story of patriotism, barrier breaking, and fearless sacrifice is told for the first time in full for readers of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown and all Asian American, women’s and WWII history books.…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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