Our Reading Lives

The Books I’m Reading to Ease Into the New Year

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Ashlie Swicker


Ashlie (she/her) is an educator, librarian, and writer. She is committed to diversifying the reading lives of her students and supporting fat acceptance as it intersects with other women’s issues. She's also perpetually striving to learn more about how she can use her many privileges to support marginalized groups. Interests include learning how to roller skate with her local roller derby team, buying more books than she'll ever read, hiking with her husband and sons, and making lists to avoid real work. You can find her on Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth), Twitter (@mygirlsimple) or at her website, www.ashlieswicker.com.

I have always been entranced by the idea of a fresh start in the new year. New weeks, new months, and even Monday mornings have always held potential in my mind. I’ve heard the advice to “start now” and not wait for arbitrary dates to try and make changes. I know the statistics about January resolutions failing by February. But I can’t help but find power in those fresh start dates. There is something magical about the idea that you are standing right on the precipice of everything about to change.

That might be some of the problem. It’s too tempting to want to change everything. In the past, I’ve spent hours detailing big plans for how I will be different in the upcoming year, with very little thought put into actually figuring out how to do the work. (As a side note, if you’re interested in support around realistic goal setting, might I suggest Dani Brufolt’s work on her site Thyme is Honey? She offers everything from simple templates to entire courses, and I would be lost without what I’ve learned from her.) As I age, I’m working on a more pragmatic approach that still allows me to revel in that thrilling New Year feeling. One of the tenets of that change? Books!

Supporting My Physical Body in the New Year

Even typing this sentence gives me the icks. Born in 1985 in a body predisposed to being short and round, I have suffered through decades of trying to change the way I looked. I have done every diet and exercise program under the sun. My weight has shifted by hundreds of pounds through different life stages. Eventually, I learned about the evils of diet culture and truly mourned the way this system affected me growing up. However, naming the shittiness of diet culture doesn’t undo the damage, and my relationships with nutrition and movement have heavy scars.

Despite knowing simple facts like “diets do not work” and “weight does not determine health,” I struggle to trust any of my thoughts about nutrition and movement because I was conditioned for so long to believe those things were only useful if they led to a shrinking body. Once I allowed myself to stop shrinking, I threw nutrition and movement out the window. And I need them. It’s such a mess.

cover of The Fastest Way To Fall Denise Williams

One of the books that helped me identify this dissonance is The Fastest Way To Fall by Denise Williams. I’ve written about it before, but it was a game-changer for me. To have a fiction story include wanting to support your body while avoiding discussions about weight loss, all while having a larger woman being fawned over by a traditionally hot love interest — it was so revolutionary for me. This book was one of the first times I read about someone going after fitness goals unrelated to getting smaller, and it was all a subplot for a juicy romance. Williams also addresses triggers related to disordered eating and warns readers before going in so there are no surprises. It’s thoughtfully done and deeply enjoyable. I will be rereading it in the new year.

the body is not an apology cover

In the nonfiction corner, I have a couple of other titles I’m looking forward to. I’m working through The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor. I’m hoping the concept of radical self-love will help with some of my body trust issues and, frankly, trusting that others could love this meat sack I’m in.

I’ve also been interested in the physical effects of trauma, and Laura Khoudari’s Lifting Heavy Things is about trauma-informed fitness training. I would love to be stronger. I would also love to understand how past events are holding me back. These books are going to get me started.

Supporting My Family Connections in the New Year

Another thing I’d like to improve is my connections with my family. I’ve been a wife for 16 years, and a mother for 12, and these relationships completely rewire you as a person. At this point, my kids, aged 11 and 12, are moving into a new stage of their lives, which catapults me into a new stage of motherhood. I’m an elementary educator, and watching my children grow out of the demographic I know is, at best, unsteady and at times, terrifying. My memories of this stage of life are not fond, and I’m determined to support my children as best I can.

I’ve found a few books that I’m trusting to guide me along this new path. The first is Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond — and How Parents Can Help by Phyllis L. Fagell. This book defines middle school as a distinct developmental stage and gives suggestions on ways to use this as a launching pad for success as children move into their teenage years. It’s helpful that this is written in a conversational tone with lots of anecdotes to bring the concepts to life. I’ve already dipped my toe in this book, and I know it’s going to be enormously helpful.

Book Cover for Fat Talk Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture

Continuing on a theme, pervasive diet culture has damaged more than just my own psyche. The varied bodies and responses to societal pressure within my family have brought up a ton of fraught conversations. Speaking theoretically about how to respond to body shaming and food policing is one thing, but when real-life situations with real-life feelings rear their heads, it’s not as simple. That is why I’m excited to read Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture by Virgina Sole-Smith. I have a grasp on the basics and know how to advocate for my kids, but I’m hoping for more scripts to support dealing with being fat and dealing with being afraid to become fat. Whew, parenting is a blast!

Supporting My Joy in the New Year

Bouts of depression have hit me hard this year, and I still have lingering discontent left over from isolating during the pandemic. This isn’t an unusual story, and it doesn’t have an unusual outcome: I’m disconnected from my joy. In the past, I have found enormous pleasure in my hobbies, be it blogging, rollerskating, fiction writing, or gushing about books on my social media pages. However, I haven’t partaken in these pursuits for a while; for some, it’s been months. For some, it’s been years.

Cover of Kiss the Girl by Zoraida Córdova

I’m looking to a few books to kick myself back into action — the action of chasing joy. A few years ago, I was working on a story about a girl who gets a job as a tour manager for a band led by her himbo megacrush but then slowly falls for the grumpy bass player instead. One of the things I knew the least about was bands being on tour, and the way I learn things is to read about them. In hopes of kickstarting my itch to write, I’m adding Daisy Jones and the Six to my TBR, as well as Kiss the Girl by Zoraida Córdova. Hopefully, if I read about bands and road trips and kisses, I’ll want to write about them, too.

I hope that I follow through on this plan. I hope that I can absorb some of this wisdom instead of demanding huge, immediate changes. I hope you found something that can help you, too.

You might also find these posts helpful: 10 Books to Help You Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution and 8 Bookish New Year’s Resolution Ideas to Improve Your Reading Life.