I’ve pulled together a list of favourite childhood reads as well as adult fiction and non-fiction recommendations from readers and listeners.
Without a doubt, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, L. M. Montgomery, Louise Fitzhugh, Beatrix Potter and J. K. Rowling have had a profound influence on Reclaimers, with Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret, Forever, Blubber, The Twits, The BFG, Matilda, Anne of Green Gables, The Famous Five, Mallory Towers (although a number flagged up the love of Enid but how they was a lot of sexism in her tales), and Harriet the Spy to name but a few being repeatedly mentioned. I’ve shared a selection of the recommendations below:
@thesalmashah “I’ve recently read Roald Dahl again – so funny and clever. I loved Danny the Champion of The World and Matilda.”
@esperances04 “The Outsiders. Because it’s about crucial values, friendship and family. And so well written”
@emilysarahbruce “Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging. Hilarious and embracing being a bit weird as also very confused by boys.”
@rachaellucas “I wanted to write YA (young adult) because Judy Blume was the glue that held me together as I grew up. I still have my old copies and just yesterday I was looking at …Margaret thinking about the words and how they are part of me. I think teenage literature and the books we read at that age form us and the people we become, and that’s why it’s so important that we see ourselves in the books we read.”
@julbetla “The Anne of Green Gables books were my favourite because Anne Shirley was so imaginative and passionate.”
@femkezeeman “I had some Dutch favourite authors of course, but my absolute favourite was English: Roald Dahl. I loved all of his books. But I think the first one I ever read was The BFG, so I guess that one still got a special place inside my heart.”
@emilygwilcox “Harriet the Spy, and the sequel, The Long Secret. The protagonist’s spunk, curiosity, and perceptiveness of the adults around her and her humanness in learning to deal with her own emotions and navigate relationships with others.”
@lucycdavies All the Blume, obviously. I also loved a bit of Blyton, particularly Famous Five, even though I do pull her up on some of the gender stereotyping when I read with the kids now. Also Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes, Anne of Green Gables, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Anne Frank’s Diary, Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Goodnight Mr Tom, I could go on.
@twogirlsandmamma “Omg Blubber (Judy Blume)!”
@anotherbrittany “Anything by Roald Dahl. And Glim the Glorious. I loved magical worlds where anything was possible…”
@ljaneway “Loved the Judy Blume books and the Ramona series.”
@kerriganmercer “Anne of Green Gables. Reading it now, again. I’m 35. I love it because it shaped my moral compass —read it again in my twenties and was spun out by how much I still believed as the right way to deal with things or look at things.”
@stepfordreject Love and Other Indoor Sports
“The Little Prince is just beautiful and very much about the importance of not taking people for granted and the silliness of adults. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes is a good laugh and very much female empowerment (Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood particularly). The Northern Lights trilogy and The Snow Queen are also focused on female empowerment and strength of the underdog.” –Sonali, UK
“It might be mad but I read the whole Harry Potter series which was a wonderful distraction to get me through. If Voldemort dated, he’d have a boatload in common with Mr Unavailables! He’s a narcissist who doesn’t understand love. The whole series is about embracing love and simplicity in life. Also, because it takes time to read them and they’re engaging, they filled up the time that otherwise I might have been dwelling.”–Also Sonali, UK
“Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere & I’ll Give You the Sun are both smoothly written, uplifting and comforting”. –Yasmin, UK
“The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix was so helpful to me. The first book is called Among the Hidden. Population laws are enforced, forcing any third child (or more) and expecting mothers into hiding to avoid execution. Exciting things happen in the seventh and last book, Among the Free!”–Nina
Sleepy Toes is authored by fellow Reclaimer, Kelli McNeil, and is a bedtime story full of soothing rhymes inspired by her grandmother’s special mindful storytelling technique for calming down rowdy children at bedtime.
Cindy in Australia is an avid reader of children’s books and here are a few of her favourites from her recommendations:
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole. “My neighbour introduced me to these funny books about a headstrong Princess who doesn’t want to get married, so she sets impossible tasks for all the princes who come to offer her their hand. She just likes hanging out with her pets.”
Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess by Janet Hill. “I love this because I adore dogs, and even without the lessons, I would love this book because the illustrations are exquisite. But the lessons are lovely too. Love, love this book.”
My Two Blankets by I. Kobald & F. Blackwood. “About a child who moves to another country with her auntie (due to the war in their country), and she can’t speak the language. She thinks about her old life (which she feels is like a blanket against the scary new world). Then she meets a little girl in the park who writes some words down for her to learn. Each time they meet, the little girl gives her some more words – this is her new blanket. It’s so beautiful… ”
East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Jackie Morris. “This is a great adventure story for older children. I don’t even know how to describe this beautiful story – it’s so deeply moving, and is also about an inner journey of growth and healing.”
My favourite story book from my childhood is Max Velthuijs’ The Little Boy and the Big Fish. Despite it having a number of torn pages thanks to my little brothers, it’s one of my most prized possessions. At the heart of its message is that love is never about clinging and it’s fundamentally about wanting the best for a person even if it means letting them go.
Anything Judy Blume was my favourite young adult read but joint favourites are Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret and Forever. Both brilliantly capture the insecurities, anxieties, contradictions and downright awkwardness of growing up and it feels as if Judy lives in every child’s head, tackling what were often ‘taboo’ subjects but in a lighthearted and yet thoroughly compassionate manner that never left you feeling patronised but also didn’t impose upon you an idea of who you had to be or what childhood was about.
Most recommended non-fiction books by Reclaimers
I’ve noticed that there are certain books that are mentioned time and again.
Financial Recovery by Karen McCall. I’m currently reading this and it’s about understanding the roots of your current relationship with money (your habits of thinking and behaviour along with attitudes). If something about money has been a trigger for you or you just want to have a better relationship with money, this is very insightful, especially around the area of distinguishing between needs and wants. Not sure if you have a money issue? Read my advice to a reader about her money story and also check out the podcast episode, What’s Your Money Story?
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. This is a great introduction to understanding the relationship between our emotional and physical health, particularly about how specific illnesses are a reflection of where we need to heal our thoughts and attitude towards ourselves in a particular area. e.g. tinnitus, not listening to self or jaw pain, holding on to anger and frustration. Check out my post about how I learned to listen to myself as well as this podcast episode about listening to your body. I refer to this book every week when working with clients and students.
Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov
The Journey from Abandonment to Healing by Susan Anderson
Getting Past Your Breakup by Susan Elliot
Obsessive Love by Susan Forward
Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend
Codependent No More by Melody Beatty
You Are The One You’ve Been Waiting For by Richard Schwartz
The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists by Eleanor D. Payson
There are a few books that I find myself recommending every single week without fail.
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. Do you find that you experience a level of success only to sabotage yourself? This is the book for you. Offering up fascinating insights into why we do some pretty crappy things to ourselves when we are in ascendance including using Bill Clinton as an example…, learn about how we turn the temperature down on ourselves due to our past and about operating in our zone of genius as opposed to our comfort zone.
Playing Big by Tara Mohr. I recommend this to women who are at a crossroads with their career, struggling with self-doubt about pursuing a business idea or being more assertive at work, and who have basically struggled with their inner critic and Imposter Syndrome in their professional lives and want to stop playing it small.
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay (as above) and for a more in-depth look reference book, I can not recommend Messages from the Body by Michael J. Lincoln enough (I don’t think it’s available in print but I have it on iBooks so that I can quickly reference it). It has an incredibly extensive list of physical conditions with incredible insight into the thought patterns and life experiences, including family dynamics, behind them.
There are also a few fiction reads that I recommend to anyone who is stuck in the twilight zone with an abusive partner (verbal, emotional, physical) and who is still wondering where that ‘amazing’ person from the beginning is or why everything has gone so wrong and is blaming themselves.
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is a psychological thriller with a shocking, gasp out loud in your bed twist, but that’s not the only reason I love it. It is a brilliant portrayal of an abuser and how their mind works but also, how their shenanigans start from before you’ve even agreed to go on a date and that ultimately, they keep setting you up.
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. If you want to learn about how someone can be incredibly deceptive and play women off against each other, this is a great read. Also, I think that ‘drunk girl’ Rachel compels us to have compassion for that version of us that got lost after the end of a relationship and slid into a very difficult space. I would read the book before you watch the film.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I actually recommend this book, not just to people who have been involved with a narcissist or sociopath, but also to people who have a narcissistic parent or whose parents lived vicariously through them. I was open mouthed in parts and although, like The Girl On The Train, this book really divides people opinion wise, this book has stayed with me. I also think that Gone Girl is a frightening reminder about the perils of pretending to be something that you’re not. Like The Girl On The Train, I would read the book before you watch the film as the book is a genius head spin.