By Angie Richard (Davis)
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted books for Christmas. Vouchers are always welcomed, but I cringe at standing in line amongst post-Christmas shopping crowds or waiting for online book orders to come in the post after the fact. We’re talking serious reading time over the festive season and that means books in my hands on Christmas day so I can start turning the pages that evening after the last drops of champagne have been sipped and the pudding bowl licked. Yes, self-confessed book nerd here.
For this year’s list, I’ve crafted a broad selection including recent releases and a few older must-reads. There is a recurring theme here: centering women and/or women’s voices, except for Tyson Yunkaporta’s new book, Right Story, Wrong Story: Adventures in Indigenous Thinking, which explores disinformation from an indigenous knowledge systems lens. Angela Saini’s The Patriachs: How Men Came to Rule, is THE book of the year in my opinion, whilst Cat Bohannon’s EVE: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution will knock your socks off; we’re talking readable science that will blow you off your sun lounger and challenge everything you thought you knew about human evolution as you laugh the whole way through.
Captain Liz Clark’s Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening is the perfect summer adventure heroine read infused with salt spray, love and heartbreak; Dr. Denis Mukwege’s The Power of Women: A Doctor’s Journey of Hope and Healing is as confronting as it gets but a book we must all pay attention to and lean into action from; and, finally, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, is the giant, warm hug of grace you didn’t know you needed – a pathway to peace for these trying human times.
EVE: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon.
“How did wet nurses drive cilivisation? Are women always the weaker sex? Is sexism useful for evolution? And are our bodies at war with our babies?”
No kidding, these questions are on the inner cover of Cat Bohannon’s hilarious and incredibly digestible science book about the female body that drew me straight in.
“With boundless curiosity and sharp wit, she covers the past 200 million years to explain the specific science behind the development of the female sex.”
You will not believe the ancient critters – ‘Eves’ – that our female bodies evolved from and impact on human evolution. Frankly, this book is mind boggling and damn funny.
“Bohannon’s findings – including everything from the way C-sections in the industrialized world are rearranging women’s pelvic shape to the surprising similarities between pus and breast milk – will completely change what you think you know about evolution.”
Right Story, Wrong Story: Adventures in Indigenous Thinking, by Tyson Yunkaporta.
Tyson’s debut best-seller, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, was THE book of the pandemic in my view, a seminal text that taught us how to use indigenous systems thinking to approach the multitude of challenges that face human society today.
In his latest release and follow up, Right Story, Wrong Story, the adventures continue, this time in the form of a bumpy “journey by canoe across nine circles of developmental hell,” (and I recommend you don’t step aboard without buckling up your life jacket tightly!), exploring how our relationship with the land is inseparable from how we relate to each other.
Tyson is at his cheekiest here, and if you’ve listened to his podcast, The Other Others, you just might have a hint at the tone of the book. Story is at the heart of everything, but how do we decipher what is right or wrong story?
Rather than deliver us with a monologue essay of lower case ‘g’ guru wisdom, Tyson confronts his own biases through adventurous yarns with a range of thinkers who don’t all agree with him, big lessons to help us through the current age disinformation crisis.
The Power of Women: A Doctor’s Journey of Hope and Healing, by Dr. Denis Mukwege.
Dr. Mukwege is one of my heroes. A Nobel Laureate accoladed for his tireless work as a gynecological surgeon repairing rape injuries in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he is a champion of women’s rights, and, as V (Formerly Eve Ensler) puts it, “a beacon calling men everywhere to a new consciousness.”
From humble beginnings to becoming a world-renowned doctor and human rights advocate, Dr. Mukwege’s autobiography centers women’s suffering alongside his dedication to healing it, not only through his compelling words but by also by his ‘walk’ – his is the rare story of a man who gave up a tempting life of western success in France to dedicated his life’s work – and risking his own life time and again – to improving the plight of women in Congo and the world.
This is a triggering book but one we all must sit with, women and men alike, if we want to step forth into better futures for women the world around.
Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening, by Captain Liz Clark.
A personal favorite, Liz Clark’s brave voyage from Santa Barbara, California, to French Polynesia – solo – aboard her small sailboat Swell, is a testament to female courage, endurance, and chasing one’s dream. Soon, I too will be stepping aboard a sailboat (with my family, I’d go crazy alone!) to slowly tack around through life’s multitude of experiences, and Swell will no doubt be an important crew member on our own journey. It’s got the sweet innocence of youth, surf stoke along distant coastlines, love, despair, and of course, the trials and tribulations of facing frightening storms on the high seas alone in a fiberglass cubby house. Not to mention the feline first mate Clark picks up along the way. This is a story to inspire anyone seeking more adventure in life, reinforcing the transformative power of being brave and following our dreams.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Braiding Sweetgrass is, as Elizabeth Gilbert perfectly sums up, “A hymn of love to the world.” As a member of the indigenous Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers, and through poetic and nurturing prose, brings these two ways of knowledge together.
Her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, enables Kimmerer to share her perspective of the world in kinship relations with other-than-human beings – asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass – offering a rich tapestry of gifts, lessons, and wisdom that – if we lean into – can spark our own listening and practice.
If we are to be a truly regenerative species and take seriously our roles as custodians of Planet Earth, Braiding Sweetgrass is contributes to carving a pathway of remembering to help get each of us there.
About Angie Richard
Angie Richard is an award-winning multidisciplinary storyteller and independent regenerative futures researcher. She is currently creating a Floating Stories Lab with her family, a research and storytelling sailboat studio that will voyage the world discovering how humans can live more regeneratively. Born in Adelaide, becoming a mother in Japan and living semi-nomadically for the past two decades, Angie is now based in southwest France where she has been learning to sail with her husband Remy whilst raising three children, a sooky Border Collie, and failing to cull her bookshelf ahead of their salty sea adventures.