The ONE Book Every Woman Should Read This Year

by E. Ce Miller

There's nothing more difficult for true book-lovers than to pick the ONE book every woman should read in a given year. I got to know and love a lot of fabulous books this year. From Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic — which has basically become my bible for creativity; to Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life on the Road — which made me not only want to hit the road, but to change the world while I’m out there; to Tracy Daugherty’s The Last Love Song — the biography of Joan Didion that I had seriously been waiting for my whole life; and so many more. But it seems that every year, among all the great books (and the really great books) rises one title that becomes THE ONE.

You know the kind of book I’m talking about: the stop-whatever-you’re-doing-and-read-this-now book, in which every turn of phrase is tattoo-worthy, every sentence Tweet-able, every tidbit of wisdom too good not to share with every single one of your girlfriends. It’s the kind of book that makes your highlighters run out of ink, and your Post-Its run out of stick; the book you thank when practicing your Oscar or Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech (don’t pretend you don’t do this too.) Get ready to gimme a little drum roll here, because this year, that book is none other than Cheryl Strayed’s latest title, Brave Enough .

If you’ve already read Brave Enough, then you already know everything I’m going to gush about here — but relive all the bookish goodness with me anyway, will you? Here are eight reasons why Brave Enough is the one book every woman must read this year.

1. Cheryl Strayed Just Gets YOU

In the 100-plus quotes, thoughts, words of wisdom, and tidbits of beauty that Strayed has compiled in Brave Enough, you will recognize yourself over and over again, in the best and worst and most essential ways. Strayed’s words speak to the person you used to be, the person you’ll be in the future, and the ever-evolving you who you are today, all at the same time. Reading Brave Enough is like reading a letter that was written just for you, filled with all the things you need to hear, by the person who knows you best.

2. Everyone Deserves A Little “Book of Yes”

...Which is what Strayed calls Brave Enough. Especially this time of year, when there are only 20-something days left to complete that list of resolutions you wrote for yourself back in January and never followed through on, and it’s become unavoidably clear that your credit card bill still isn’t being paid in full, and you didn’t finish your novel/start your small business/get that promotion, and you gained 11 pounds instead of losing 25. This little 135-page gem reminds you that all of that is just fine, thank you very much. And then it will encourage you, breath by breath, unpaid bill by unpaid bill, bucket list goal by bucket list goal, all the way to the you who you want to be. However long it might take.

3. It Begins With A List Of Things You Don’t Have to Do

On a desk filled with to-do lists, it never occurred to me to make a don't-do list; even though more often than not, I feel trapped by the things I think I have to do and don’t want to, rather than by the things I want to do and am simply not doing. Strayed cheers for you to put an end to all of that from the very beginning, writing:

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards…

And so on. This is the point in the book (yup, page five) when you’ll probably start cheering back.

4. And Then She Covers Literally Everything Else

Empowerment and personal evolution; forgiving yourself and forgiving others; love, and romance and sex, and love versus romance versus sex; regret, and jealousy, and generosity, and compassion; fear and grief; hard work; walking uphill; asking the right questions versus asking questions at all; faith, and art, and hullabaloo. It’s all in there, and it’s gorgeous.

5. She Uses Words Like A Motherf**ker… Including The Word Motherf**ker

One of the things I love most about reading Strayed is that she can take readers from the church to the saloon in literally three words or less. She invites you to quietly marvel at the universe with her, and then promptly demands that you go out and participate in it, followed by a swift kick to the rear. She keeps it real, none of her words are wasted, and they are always the right ones — and if the exact right word is motherf**ker, she’s not afraid to use it.

6. Now You Can Stop Taking All Those Notes While Listening To The Dear Sugar Podcast

Because she’s done it here for you. (Except you’ll probably still want to keep taking notes, since she’s bound to say new brilliant things.)

7. This Book Is Purse-Sized Perfection

OK, I know, this reason might seem a little silly, but hear me out: I like to take my books with me, wherever I’m headed, and I read everywhere. I read at the car wash, and in bumper-to-bumper traffic, at the checkout line at the grocery store, and during movie previews. I read if my dinner date answers the phone mid-meal, and I’ve been known to sneak away to the guest bedroom during parties for a quick book fix. And as someone who is bound and determined to stick by hard copy books (no offense, Kindle) until they day they become artifacts, having a book that can not only fit into a purse, but even into a clutch, is kind of a big deal for me. When that book acts like my own personal guru for joy and acceptance and forgiveness and productivity and endurance and transformation — well, let’s just stay it doesn’t get any better than that.

8. And Finally, The Dancing Will Just Never Stop

Call me crazy, but I know I’m reading something truly amazing when the act of reading actually becomes a physical experience. Maybe I’ll pump one fist in the air, do a little shimmy, pull a Beyoncé in the bathroom mirror, throw open the front door, and reenact the Rocky victory lap down the hallway of my apartment building. It’s as though the words literally leapt off the pages of Brave Enough and generated a little cyclone of positive energy in my living room.

Now don’t you want your own little cyclone of positive energy? Go read this book. Seriously, go now.

Images: Giphy (8)