The first appendix I ever fell in love with was the one at the back of Carol Queen’s Exhibitionism for the Shy. At the time, I was an intern at an alternative weekly, creating content for an adult personals site owned by the company. Appendix 1 of Queen’s book, dedicated to dirty words and phrases, proved indispensable. But the resource list for the “recovering shy”—filled with workshops and mental health organizations and handbooks—was even more fascinating. It opened up a curiosity about sexuality and feminism that continues to this day.
Since then, whenever I’ve been deep into a book that makes me want more, I’ve flipped to the back, hoping against hope that there might be an appendix there. I’ve dog-eared back pages in various writing books, like Adair Lara’s Naked, Drunk, and Writing, which contains reading lists, writing exercises, and computer tricks. I’ve worked my way through book lists like the one at the back of the Jennifer Baker–edited Everyday People, which has THIRTY-SIX PAGES of contemporary works by women, nonbinary, and transgender writers of color and indigenous writers. Even in preparing my own book for publication, I knew a meaty appendix was essential, and I filled mine with books, sexual health organizations, and other resources.
On the other hand, one of my greatest reading disappointments is when an amazing book ends with, well, the end. When an appendix has the potential to bring you deeper into the world of a book or deeper into the subject matter, why wouldn’t you include one?*
Here are just a few books I’ve loved lately that could stand to add an appendix to their next editions.
Buzz by Hallie Lieberman
Hey. The entirety of my career has been spent focused on female sexuality, so of course I wanted an appendix for this book. After reading this in-depth history of the sex toy, I would have loved to see an explainer on the various types of sex toys available, and a list of the best places to buy toys both online and in-person. Luckily, shortly after reading Buzz, I stumbled upon JoEllen Notte’s list of Superhero Sex Shops.
Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay
This collection of essays is a rough read. Contributors give written testimony about the ways in which they’ve been affected by rape culture. It’s a book I’ve referenced often in recent months, as it ably opens up a conversation about how we experience sexual violence. The perfect complement to a book like this? A list of hotlines, support resources, trauma-informed therapies, and more. Some great lists actually do exist here and here.
Beyond Birds & Bees by Bonnie J. Rough
If you’ll allow me just one more sex-related entry…Rough’s book is about the Dutch approach to sex ed, and about cultural attitudes toward sex overseas compare to those in the United States. Throughout the book, Rough mentions several sex ed programs in the U.S. that push back against our usual cultural conditioning around sexuality. I would have loved an entire list, organized by geography, because lord knows I need all the help I can get in educating my own daughter.
And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell
This is the book I wish I had back when I was a new mom and realized that motherhood would not be a utopian idyll in which I lazed about on hammocks made of rainbows doing brilliant work while my daughter gurgled adorably in the background. In it, O’Connell perfectly describes my every difficult moment, proving either that we are the same person or that motherhood is hard (I think it’s the latter). What could have made this book even better? Multiple appendices containing resources for ambivalent mothers: Books like Eat, Sleep, Poop that tell you not to worry so much. Recipes for meals you can whip up in 10 minutes despite being only semi-conscious. Hacks for entertaining your child without actually moving from a reclined position. Mantras you can tell yourself every time your heart leaps into your throat because you think your child is about to injure themselves.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
This lyrical middle-grade novel about six students in a special class who are encouraged to spend every afternoon opening up to each other gave me all the feels. But more than the beauty and the emotion, I think I connected so strongly with this book because of my interest in self-directed learning. It might seem weird to want an appendix at the end of a work of fiction, but how cool would it be to see a resource list of more intentional self-directed learning programs that exist around the world?
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Speaking of fiction that sneak-attack grounds me in real-world issues while simultaneously blowing me away with beautiful language and tears, Yoon’s YA novel tackles the immigrant experience, albeit wrapped up in romcom packaging. After crying about the impossibility of her protagonists’ love, I would have loved to see a list of organizations to which I could give my support, perhaps alongside a list of resources for those who are themselves grappling with their immigration status.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Okay. Fine. This book isn’t even out yet, but reading about this high school senior with big dreams of someday becoming a professional chef made me want to stay in her world just a little bit longer. Sure, she has a lot on her plate. She’s a single mother who feels pulled between her dreams and her responsibilities. But the things she makes in the kitchen make people feel things, and is it selfish to want some of those recipes for myself? At the moment, I cook regularly for a husband and a 4-year-old. The former drowns everything in hot sauce. The latter only wants mac and cheese, and tells me that “not everything you make is good, mommy.”
Which of your favorite books would be made even awesomer with an appendix?
*A note that all of the above books are already perfection, and it’s obviously not the author’s job to continue my education. In most cases, they’ve inspired me to do so on my own. But I really love a good appendix.