9 Books You Should Read This Year

September 5, 2021

Two years ago we did a book-shelf review to see what people are we learning from and who we get to inspire us through their writing? We were lucky to interview women and gender diverse folks who blessed us all by writing about radical self love, immigrant life, coming out and so much more! So here Elina & Kayla compiled a perfect book list for this year (and the year after and after) ✨ Perfect gift to yourself or your loved one!

1. The Girl From Revolution Road by Ghazaleh Golbakhsh

Oh, this book hit me hard… Ghaz and I are both immigrants from so-called “developing” countries; she is from Iran and I am from Kazakhstan. Countries that are both patriarchal, religious, corrupt and yet rich in beautiful culture. She writes about her childhood in war-torn Iran, her experiences as a migrant in Aotearoa, her work as a filmmaker. Our paths are different and yet I couldn’t hold back tears of deep sadness and of loud laughter at the relatedness of her experiences to mine. It transported me to Iran and simultaneously to Kazakhstan: to parties with parents and their friends, to the mistrust in the government and oppressive regime, to warm food, singing, and all the wonders and sorrows that being an immigrant entails. It’s humorous and hits close to home. 

We interviewed Ghaz in 2019 about her journey as a PhD student and as a filmmaker. To quote her: I had grandiose dreams of becoming an actor and I always loved to write because I watched so many films from a young age. In my 20s I got frustrated at the lack of roles being written for women, particularly women of colour and so I thought that if I wanted to see this change, I would write them myself. 

And well... She sure did!

2. Note To Self: The Secrets of Calm by Rebekah Ballagh

Have you ever had someone tell you to “Just relax”? You think to yourself sarcastically, “OMG Thank YEW sooo much, why didn’t I think of that?!” Well, this book is NOT that. It’s actually helpful. Yay! People with anxiety and/or depression need REAL tools and practical small steps they can implement into their unique and individual lives. Rebekah’s illustrations and words are so sweet, diverse, heartwarming, and full of useful information! You can pick it up and read one segment super quickly and carry on feeling just a little bit more relaxed than you were before. It’s one of those gems that keeps on giving and you can always come back to it again and again. Read her Storyo interview here.

3. Not That I’d Kiss A Girl by Lil O’Brien

Lez be honest - we NEED more coming out stories. Lil O’Brien delivers her experience of coming out with punchy wit, self-deprecating humour, and a whole lot of insight. Reading it feels like you’re actually just hanging out with Lil at the pub and you’re sharing stories, having a laugh and then maybe a cry, and then another laugh before walking out together with a mutual understanding and relatability. Every time a queer person is brave enough to share their story; it has the potential to save another’s life. Vulnerability! We love it.

Arts and crafts style image of Ghaz, Lil and Rebekah with their books

4. The 52 Week Project by Lauren Keenan

Lauren was feeling like her script in life had just suddenly run out, and ended. Sort of a crappy feeling no matter what age or stage you’re at in life. She asked 27 people to hang out in a single night and they all said no; those rejections were the beginning of her book, and also her new script on the life of trying one new thing every single week, for an entire year. Lauren brilliantly understands the nuances of this beautiful messy thing we call being alive and takes you on a journey of self re-discovery. 52 Week Project is the realisation that there are great rewards awaiting those that leave their comfort zone. This book is inspiring, honest and will definitely make you want to try something new! Read Lauren's Storyo interview here.

5. The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

I got my hands (or actually ears - it was an audiobook) on The Body Is Not An Apology only after I got a chance to interview Sonya for Storyo. I’ve been following Sonya on Instagram for years and needed more of her bold, honest, raw & vulnerable touch in my life. Sonya is an activist and a poet; she began a movement of radical self-love centred around loving your body and ending body terrorism when it comes to racism, sexism, ableism. 

In December last year, I was going to order a hard copy of the book so I can re-read and highlight my favourite parts; I thought of 3 other wāhine that I would love to be blessed with a force that is Sonya, and ended up buying 5 books. 

Just so you get a feel for what this book is, here is a snippet from Sonya’s poetry mentioned in the book: 

The undulating of my mother's belly was not 
a shame she hid from her children.
She knew we came from this. 
Her belly was a gift 
we kept passing between us.
It was both hers, of her body
and ours for having made it new, different.  
Her belly was a altar of flesh 
built in remembrance of us by us.
What remains of my mother's belly 
resides in a container of ashes I keep in a closet. 
Every once and again, I open the box, 
sift through the fine crystals with palms
that were once eight. Feel the grooves and ridges 
that no longer summit but rill through fingers. 
Granules so much more salt 
than sweet today. And yet, 
still I marvel at her once body. 
Even in this form say, 
"I came from this."

6. Her Say: Survivors of Domestic Abuse Tell Their Own Stories by Jackie Clark

There is power in telling your own story; there is strength and courage in surviving - and that’s exactly what Her Say is all about. Jackie Clark started The Aunties back in 2013. It is a grassroots charity that helps to safeguard and empower women that have survived domestic abuse. In our interview, she calls them her ‘shiny fuckers’ because they're extraordinary human beings. They're extraordinary mothers but more importantly, they're really fuckin’ resilient, they're determined, they're smart, they're articulate. They've chosen to stick around; because they are ready to love themselves, look after themselves, care about themselves.” 

This book features the journeys of many New Zealand women - it’s damn powerful and illuminating. All proceeds from the book will go to the Aunties to support their work.

Arts and crafts style image of Lauren, Jackie  Rose and Sonya with their books

7. All Who Live On Islands by Rose Lu

Home means many things and can look many different ways; it’s culture, food, language, and the way you live your life. In ‘All Who Live On Islands’ through a series of essays, Rose Lu tackles race, gender, class, and heritage with effortless ease. To belong and the feeling of belonging can be lost and found again and again throughout life and we think this book is an invitation to take a look at your surroundings and see how you define what home means to you. Read Rose's interview here

8. Dwelling In The Margins by Katie Kerr 

GLORIA Books being one to always push the boundaries of design - that’s exactly what this new collection of stories and artistry does with Dwelling In The Margins. An ode to art publishing and the true love of print; this book is many hearts poured out into images and words by hardworking creatives doing what they’re most passionate about. You can sense the community in the pages and dive into a world that to the naked eye, is often- unseen. But the art is there, waiting for you to see it. Check out Katie's interview here.

9. In My Chair or In Yours? by Juliana Carvalho

Juliana is one bad-ass fighter, comedian, speaker, advocate and friend. She was one of our first video interviewees on Storyo and one of the speakers at our first event earlier this year - where she had the entire room in laughter and admiration. When Juliana was 19, a mysterious illness put her in a wheelchair. This book is her autobiography made up of humour and hope, tragedy and comedy. I can’t recommend this enough! 

BONUS: The Caker by Jordan Rondel

Chocolate on her elbows and Doc Martens on her feet; Jordan AKA The Caker has been a fierce force in the baking world with her business for 10 years now. With three cookbooks under her belt, her style and individuality shine through her simplistic yet well designed and crafted recipes. A minimalist approach, her cakes are definitely Instagram worthy and she’s now setting up shop in L.A. to give the west coast of America a frosted slice of Auckland. Check out her awesome Storyo interview here

Arts and crafts style image of Katir, Juliana and Jorda with their books