My Favourite Reads of 2014

happy-new-years-cat

As a new year approaches I like to take a look back on what books I’ve devoured over the last year. These are my top 3 favorite reads, for both fiction and non-fiction, that I read in 2014:

*Click on the links to see my reviews of each of these

Fiction Top 3

3) Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell: One of the mostly beautifully written modern stories I’ve ever read. The novel’s tone is dark and lurking but is balanced with the fierceness of  Ree, the female protagonist. A quick and awesome read.

2) All The Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr:  Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award 2014 for Best Historical Fiction! This novel is one of the most popular published books of 2014 and it’s worth all the attention. Following the lives of two young people who are on opposing sides of World War II, the novel explores humanity at one of its worst times in history. This book has all the feels! Worth the read.

1) Stupid Children by Lenore Zion: I can’t say enough good things about this book. I came across this small-time publication through The Next Best Book Club on Goodreads and I was lucky enough to be apart of a group discussion with the author (see my review for some insight into this discussion). This book has a strange but amazing concept. After Jane’s father attempts to commit suicide, he is institutionalized and she is sent to the foster care system. The family she is adopted by is apart of the Second Day Believers cult. The novel depicts Jane’s upbringing with this family and the ordeals of living within a cult. This book is funny, creepy and extremely thought provoking and is the kind of book I almost want to read again. Support small press and buy this book!

Non-Fiction Top 3

3) The Romanov Sisters by Helene Rappaport: This novel won the Goodreads Choice Award 2014 for Best History & Biography! Lucky for me, I was able to read this book through Netgalley.  For those that have never explored non-fiction or even a history piece, I’d recommend this one for you. This informative book reads so much like a fiction and it gives a massive insight to the lives and personalities of the Romanov family.

2) Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop by Annette PasternakThis book is a bit personal but it was so immensely helpful that I have to include it. For anyone suffering from a BFRB (body-focused repetitive behavior), please read this book! It’s informative and has real exercises and practices that will dramatically help you get a handle on your condition. Life changer!

1) Diet Cults by Matt FitzgeraldWe are constantly bombarded with information of what to eat and what not to eat. Tragically, all of this information often times contradicts itself depending on the source and whatever died fad is currently being endorsed making being healthy quite confusing. Matt Fitzgerald, a professional coach and athlete, makes food simple again with this book and breaks down the data that many diet cults perpetuate. He never bashes diet fads but explains why they appeal to people, why they work for a short time, why our bodies can adapt to eat anything and how to get back to the basics and stop stressing over food! This was a game changers for me with my approach to food.

Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop by Annette Pasternak

5/5 stars.
ebook, 148 pages.
Read from January 17 to March 07, 2014.

This book is by far the most comprehensive, supportive and positive guide out there right now for Dermatillomania. I can’t say enough good things about this book!

For those that don’t know, Dermatillomania, or Excoriation disorder, can be defined as:

…an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one’s own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused. Research has suggested that the urge to pick is similar to an obsessive compulsive disorder but others have argued that for some the condition is more akin to substance abuse disorder. The two main strategies for treating this condition are pharmacological and behavioral intervention.” – Wikipedia

This is a condition that I have personally struggled with deeply. I can safely say that through my own methods I was able to battle this condition for the most part and I am now an advocate for awareness and support. I wish that this book existed during my most troublesome times as I definitely would have battled the worst of the condition a lot sooner with this kind of help. This book has truly provided me with the final resources that I needed in order to say goodbye to this habit forever.

***Just some quick shameless self-promotion here: I’ve actually recently published my story in a collaborative book called Project Dermatillomania that’s available for purchase now. ***

I took a long time reading this book in order to go through all of the motions, guides, suggestions and exercises so that I could give it a good comprehensive review. I can honestly say that if you follow Annette’s methods, you WILL get results!

So many people find themselves completely controlled and at a loss with this disorder. It’s a helpless feeling. This book shows you how to get back that power, and more importantly, that you cannot define yourself as this disorder and cannot submit to its definition. It shows positive strategies to curb your urges and shows you that in order to fully tackle the habit you must determine the emotional reasons and routines for carrying out the vicious cycle of picking.

It is imperative to go beyond these labels and reveal how chronic skin picking plays a part in each individual’s life” p. 18

You may be genetically predisposed to a condition but that does not mean you are powerless over it.” p. 27

People start picking for so many reasons but it’s always to find relief. Often times it’s a matter of dealing with stress because we haven’t found other methods of doing so. One thing that Annette stresses is the readiness for a person to stop picking. It’s hard thing to admit and even harder to give up something that feels good and that you’ve relied on for so long. Her book not only provide methods with how to start this process but how to keep a long standing positive replacement to the picking.

Stopping skin picking is hard. Is that any reason to feel badly about yourself? NO.” p. 16

In summary, her programs focuses and takes the reader through these steps:

  1. How to stop victimizing and beating yourself out. Forgiveness and acceptance is crucial.
  2. You are not powerless to this condition and you can stop. In order to stop you need to accept this.
  3. Track your picking in a habit log. This is the one part that she stress the most. If you aren’t able to recognize the feelings associated with picking as well as when and where they occur you’re not going to able to stop it before it begins.
  4. Recognizing your negative thoughts and behaviours.  Retraining how you think is necessary for overcoming this as most of the time urges come from an unnecessary uncertainty or beliefs.
  5. Actual techniques to block and prevent urges. Gloves, toys, exercise, meditation etc, and just why they work.
  6. Long standing methods to deal with your stress and emotions in a healthy positive way. Annette takes a very holistic approach.
  7. Other things that could contribute and make your urges worse (sugar and alcohol etc).

Compassion oozes from this book. Annette herself used to struggle and live with this disorder herself so she completely understands what every sufferer goes through. Her writing is so gentle and soothing. She knows that we’re all going to mess up but that there is still progress and success in each mess up and mistake.

Practice makes better… Practice makes permanent” p. 137

What I believe makes this book the best resource out there is that it’s the first to really go into the emotional sides as to why people pick and tackles those issues directly as a step for overcoming this disorder. In my own struggles, that was the only thing that worked for me after countless other resources. Overcoming this disorder is truly a process of steps and Annette can take you through them. She provides so many additional resources in terms of supplements and other reading material as well. What makes it even better is that Annette is a life coach and personally deals with helping her clients combat this particular disorder. You can find more information about her services on her website.

For those that are affected by this disorder, please, PLEASE, read this book!