5 Favorite Non-Fiction Books

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I’ve loved books even before I could read them myself and that love has only grown throughout my life. I used to go to the library every Saturday with my family while I was growing up. While I mostly read fiction when I was younger, in college I discovered a love for non-fiction books as well. Now that I’m a college graduate, I’ve been reaching mostly for non-fiction books, perhaps to fill a longing for the kind of intellectual engagement my class readings provided when I was a college student. While fictional books can be equally intellectually engaging, and my love of literature hasn’t wavered, I’ve found an appreciation and enjoyment for non-fiction books that discuss the intricacies of human experience and contemporary cultural phenomena, to aide me in my processing of the world I’m entering as a post-grad. This post features five of my favorite non-fiction books that have helped me grow in my understanding of myself, others, and contemporary culture, and were just as engaging as some of my favorite novels.

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I read this book in high school and it really helped me understand and appreciate my introversion, despite mainstream American society’s preference towards extroversion.

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Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

Appropriately, my mom read this book before recommending it to me. I love the way Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor each tell the story of their trip to Greece from their different perspectives, one as a mother turning 50 and the other as a new college graduate trying to find her path. I relate a lot to Ann, as a shy young adult learning to come out of her shell, and grappling with some setbacks.

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Ways of Seeing by John Berger

If I had to credit my decision to major in Art History to any one specific thing, it would be this book. I read Ways of Seeing for an Art History course during the spring of my sophomore year, the time when I had to declare a major, and this book helped me realize that Art History and visual analysis can have such wide and poignant uses for social critique. Berger writes about subjects such as portrayals of women in art and the visual devises used in advertising. The book is chockfull of insightful passages and brilliantly written lines (and lots of pictures). It’s a quick read and a good way to get an idea of what Art History is about.

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On Photography by Susan Sontag

This is another book I read for a class, Visually Anthropology. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in photography. Sontag provides an in depth analysis of photography as a medium and tool, that I can’t help but think about now when I take photos. Though written in the 70s, Sontag’s critique is just as relevant today even with the significant changes in technology.

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Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I read this book a few months ago and I’ve already deemed it one of my favorites. I heard Roxane Gay speak at my college campus last fall, before knowing much about her, but after hearing her speak, I was eager to read Bad Feminist. In it, she explores various topics personal to her, on popular culture, and politics, with a lens on issues of gender, race, body image, and more. She analyzes and critiques sources such as the movie The Help and Sheryl Sanberg’s popular book Lean In. 

A Simple Fix for Greasy Hair (it’s not dry shampoo)

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I first noticed greasiness in my hair about five years ago. It felt like buildup in one section of my hair that was there even after washing it. I did some research and decided that switching to sulfate free shampoo, might be the fix I needed. This launched me into years of trying various sulfate-free shampoos, experimenting with clarifying shampoos, apple cider vinegar rinses, dry shampoos, all without much luck. When I started college, things seemed to get better but was still inconsistent. Every time I got a hair cut, my hair would be rid of the greasy buildup, but it would gradually build up again. I asked the hairdresser I used in college and the one at home, and both suggested different things like washing my hair less frequently combined with dry shampoo or using a clarifying shampoo once a week, but nothing really solved my problem. My hair would only get worse when I was home from college, but it also seemed to magically get better when I was on vacation and washing my hair with hotel shampoos. I though maybe the hotel shampoos would work for me at home, but my hair still felt weighed down again when I was using them at home. After years of this, it finally dawned on me that my problem might not be with the shampoo I was using, but the water! Or more specifically, the water pressure. And sure enough, when I started showering in the guest bathroom in my house which has stronger pressure than my shower, my hair didn’t have buildup or greasiness after washing it.

I figured that the pressure in my shower was being slowed due to mineral buildup in the shower head over the years, so I unscrewed it and put it in a bowl of vinegar with a little water to dilute it and let it sit overnight. I also gave it a scrub with an old toothbrush. I put it back on the shower nozzle and it seems like I’ve finally solved my problem, five years later! I can’t believe it took me so long to figure this out and the fix was so simple and inexpensive all along.

Full Moon Friday

I’m drawn toward moon iconography, much the same way that the ocean tides are pulled to the moon. (I’m not entirely sure if that’s an accurate analogy; physics was not a subject I excelled in). The moon and womanhood have a long history of association, mostly due to the cyclical nature of the lunar phases and menstruation. While men were associated with the sun for much of history (think Apollo and King Louis XIV), and it’s no denying the sun’s importance, I’m partial to the more understated aura of the moon, that doesn’t need everything to revolve around it to be important. Here are a few moon items that make me happy for this full moon Friday.

I made this DIY moon wall hanging last summer and hung it from the wall in my senior year dorm room.

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This moon phases scarf.

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I just bought these sterling silver ear climbers on Etsy that I’d had in my shopping cart for over a year and I’m so glad I finally did!

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This Moon is Feminist Art tank from this Etsy seller.

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3 Favorite Natural Beauty Products

While I don’t exclusively use natural beauty products, I try to use natural products as much as possible without sacrificing quality or straining my budget. These are three of my favorite affordable and high-quality natural products that I’ve repurchased and will continue to repurchase because they’re that good. I can usually find them all for under $10! They’re also all cruelty-free. Instead of taking photos of them, I decided to take out my watercolors and paint them.

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Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater – super refreshing to spritz on between cleansing and moisturizing, after applying makeup to get rid of any powdery-ness, and throughout the day to freshen up makeup or cool off on a warm day. The only ingredients are water and rose oil and it smells so good. The spray nozzle gives an even light spritz- sounds silly, but actually very key!

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Acure Moroccan Argan Oil – an affordable 100% pure USDA organic argan oil. I use it at night and I really think it keeps my skin soft and supple. Argan oil contains vitamin E, which is supposed to help fade scarring. It gets bonus points for being sustainably harvested from a woman’s cooperative in Morocco!

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Schmidt’s Deodorant Bergamot + Lime – I guess this is more of a “personal care” product rather than “beauty” but, regardless, it’s a fabulous product that I started using a year ago and haven’t looked back. It comes in a solid form in a little glass pot with a tiny spatula to scoop it out. It’s a bit strange to use- after scooping out a bit, I rub it between my fingers a little to warm it up and then apply under my arms. But I don’t mind the weird application, because it really works even in hot weather, and I don’t have to worry about putting aluminum or other icky ingredients that antiperspirant deodorants contain on my body. The bergamot and lime scent is by far my favorite of all the scents it comes in.

What the World Needs More of

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Having graduated from college just four months ago and possessing the idealism and energetic desire to help make the world better that often accompanies that stage of life, yet also being confronted with all the terrible things that happened in the news this summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about what is needed to improve our world. I’ve come to realize how essential empathy is too that. The good in our world often comes from people empathizing with others, and much of the bad in our world comes from people failing to do so. Too often people get to positions of power by climbing over others, meaning they care only about themselves and their success. Once they are in power, these people tend to continue not to care about those less fortunate than themselves. People in power have a tendency to ignore or refuse to believe or care about the needs of others in positions of less power. These tendencies confound and perpetuate the stratification of society. However, when people in power do empathize with people in positions of less power, whether because they came from a similar position or simply care about and listen to the experiences of others, they can help create change.

I was talking to a good friend yesterday who I’ve known since childhood and the topic of feminism came up. She said that she doesn’t feel very strongly about feminism because she hasn’t experienced much in the way of sexism. Both of us are white women, from fairly wealthy upbringings, heterosexual, and able bodied. I responded to her comment by saying that while I have not experienced much sexism either, I know that many women who have fewer privileges than myself do experience a lot of hardship because of their gender and that’s why I care so much about feminism. After hearing my response, my friend said that I was a much better person than herself. While I don’t agree with her on that, I do think that her statement about feminism was a narrow and self-centered view. I don’t blame her for it, but I also think such a seemingly harmless way of thinking actually hints at a much larger problem in our society and a mindset that is far more common than it should be and can be very damaging, particularly when held by people in positions of power. It shows a lack of consideration of the needs and conditions of others, particularly those who experience more oppression and marginalization in society. It is important that we seek to listen to and learn from people whose experiences are different from our own.

During my senior year in college, with the uprising of students of color at schools across the country, I heard many people in response to the students of color say things like, “they’re being too sensitive.” Of course the people usually saying these things were privileged white people. My response to them was “How can you say that when you don’t experience what they experience? You can’t truly understand what it’s like to be a student of color, so it’s not your place to discredit what students of color are saying they experience.” It’s about empathizing, not ignoring or criticizing what others say, but listening and caring about their experiences, and then trying to help.

While I’ve read many stories this summer that threaten my hopeful attitude, I have also heard many stories that strengthen my belief that empathy is key in solving the major problems in our society. One of my favorites was an episode of the NPR podcast Invisibilia “Flip the Script”which tells stories that show that the most effective way to confront hostility is not with a return of hostility, but instead with compassion and kindness.

It seems so simple- consider others, listen to others, care about others, do what you can to help others- yet it can be a radical and powerful act.

What’s in my School Bag

Although I’m sadly not currently a student, I made this post when I was still in college, but didn’t post it. I thought I would post it now that the new school year is starting.

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My everyday school bag is a Madewell Transport tote (you can get a student discount if you buy it in store with a student ID). It’s a big bag made of thick leather that holds its shape well, so it makes a great school bag. It has one small pocket on the inside where I can fit my phone and a few other things for quick access. Here’s what I always keep inside it.

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The essentials: sunglasses in a kantha pouch, my phone with a Rifle Paper Co. case, a small Madewell wallet, hand cream, headphones, a hair tie, my favorite everyday lip products: Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Hibiscus, Burt’s Bees Pomegranate lip balm, and Revlon Just Kissable balm stain in Honey (having all three is not essential), and my key and student ID card on a wrist strap from Everlane. I keep the small things in the pocket of the bag.

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School things: My Moleskin planner and a pen, a pencil pouch with lots of pens, pencils, and highlighters. I didn’t take a photo of my notebooks and folders because I don’t always carry them with me, but when I’m going to class I bring a notebook and any books or printed readings I need for the class. I also sometimes bring my laptop with me and it fits in the bag.

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The “just in case” things (which I keep in the little pouch): An Ecotools concealer brush and a sample of concealer in case I want to touch up, a pill box with Aleve and Advil Cold & Sinus, Peter Thomas Roth Brush on Sunscreen (great for reapplying SPF when I’m wearing makeup), a mini hairbrush/mirror, a  pantyliner, EO spray hand sanitizer in peppermint, a travel size LaVanilla The Healthy Deodorant, gum.

 

 

College Tips for Introverted or Shy Students