Five Books You Should Read This Winter
By: Erich Otten, Arts & Culture Editor
As students we do a fair amount of reading in our time, with the majority being academic and for our courses. When we are not reading, we are logging an exorbitant amount of screen time. Whether that is from writing, research, or social media, we spend much of our days in front of screens. Victoria L. Dunckley M.D., author of “Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain,” published by Psychology Today speaks about how our screen time and social media habits might be negatively impacting our mental health. The blue light from screens keeps us up later at night, more exhausted during the day, and causes an overall slower response time. Thankfully, even as students, there are ways we can reduce our screen time and social media use in the evenings, with therapeutic reading being one.
Reading can be fun. When we think about reading as students, we often groan and attest to how much course readings we have left. I think that this is something almost all students can relate to; however, we don’t often think about reading creative non-fiction, fantasy, or poetry for its therapeutic benefits. Bibliotherapists are counsellors and therapists who advocate for the use of therapeutic reading along with other interventions to help treat mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. They argue that reading for fun increased dopamine and oxytocin production (our feel-good hormones) and decreases cortisol levels (stress hormones).
Reading in the evening after studying can reduce the amount of screen time you are logging each day (of course, only if you are reading a physical book and not an ebook). Reading at night is especially helpful because physical books do not produce blue light which can keep your brain alert by reducing melatonin production. Reading at night before bed can easily be incorporated into your self-care routine, providing you with decompression space to wind down from the stresses of student life during the day. Christopher Bergland, in “Reading Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function,” published by Psychology Today, speaks on how some recent findings in neuroscience research suggest that reading for fun is good for your overall mental health. Feel like finding out for yourself? Pick up one of the following books and see if therapeutic reading is a benefit for you:
- Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
Heart Berries is a beautiful poetic memoir, a wound bursting with the weight of memories, loss, mental health, motherhood and love. This is a powerfully vulnerable coming of age narrative on Seabird Island Indian Reservation.
- A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-Nee Chacaby
Ma-Nee’s account of her life is painful at times, but can also be lighthearted, loving, and joyful. Ma-Nee’s memoir highlights the social pathologies that Canada’s imperialist, capitalist, white-supremacist, heteropatriarchy subjects Indigenous people to on a daily basis. It is a testimony of how she has overcome sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, alcoholism, raised her children, come out as a lesbian and how her path has led to the immensely important work she now does as a two-spirit Elder. In 2013, Ma-Nee led the first 2SLGBTQ*+ pride parade in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
- Po Man’s Child by Marci Blackman
An intense and engaging novel, Blackman writes on the character Po Childs, who after sustaining an injury during a S/M session with their lover, seeks healing in the psychiatric industrial complex. While there, Po reflects on their family’s legacy, trauma, substance dependencies, mental health, and their shared relationships.
- There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker
This is a stunning collection of poetry, Parker utilizes pop culture, contemporary American politics and cultural references to navigate the nuances of Black American womanhood. In doing so, this collection explores femininity, depression, racism, and feminist thought.
- I Am Woman by Lee Maracle
This book about linking sociology, feminism, and Indigenous knowledge is a must read for any aspiring academic in today’s world. A powerful book on colonization and decoloniality, it is intense, needed and written in beautiful prose.