Books and Writing

5 Great Books About Self Image

While in many ways self image (in my mind including both body image and identity) could fall under the umbrella of mental health, I think it deserves special attention since it is the root of so much doubt and pain, and also can be the key to confidence and joy.

The following books deal with identity tied to mind, as well as body image issues related to size, shape, disability, and sickness. A disclaimer: none of these books are solely about self image. These authors write with nuance about many things – self image is just one facet that can be found in these compelling novels and memoirs.

Holding Up the Universe by: Jennifer Niven

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Blurb: “Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl one dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game – which lands them in group counseling and community service – Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are – and seeing them right back.”

A Piece of the World by: Christina Baker Kline

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Blurb: “To Christina Olson, the entire world is her family farm in the small, coastal town of Cushing, Maine. The only daughter in a family of sons, Christina is tied to her home by health and circumstance, and seems destined for a small life. Instead, she becomes Andrew Wyeth’s first great inspiration, and the subject of one of the best known paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World. As she did in her beloved bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction to vividly reimagine a real moment in history. A Piece of the World is a powerful story of the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, her complicated relationship to her family and inheritance, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.”

Everything, Everything by: Nicola Yoon

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Blurb: “What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face…or kiss the boy next door? In Everything, Everything, Maddy is a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly is the boy who moves in next door…and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken. Everything, Everything will make you laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. It’s an innovative, inspiring, and heartbreakingly romantic debut novel that unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, illustrations, and more.”

Why Not Me? by: Mindy Kaling

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Blurb: “In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you. Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.”

Still Alice by: Lisa Genova

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Blurb: “Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life – and her relationship with her family and the world – forever. At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, a novel that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.

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