• Elspeth Robertson

2021 Book Club Picks

In the latter months of 2020, I contemplated how I wanted to move forward into 2021. The word that consistently called out to me was balance. This is what I felt was missing in 2020 - from abruptly halting my practicum placements without the opportunity to say goodbye to clients, to sheltering in place alone during lockdowns, then graduating and starting a new business within a pandemic, the whole world felt out of balance.

And here's the thing: there will always be external factors that throw us a little off-balance, those things that we might spend countless hours worrying about, but ultimately can't control. So how can we move forward with the intention of balance in mind? I think the word intention is key here. When you are able to approach these situations with the intention of remaining balanced, mindful decisions become a little easier.

With those intentions in mind, I have curated a book list that I hope helps to promote balance. These books explore how stress and burnout impact our lives, and how vulnerability, self-compassion and boundaries are useful in counteracting these effects. Included in this list are books that share wisdom on counselling, nature, creativity and happiness.


Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb.

I read this memoir at the beginning of 2020 as I began my practicum and thought that it would be great to revisit this year as a registered therapist. If you have ever considered going to therapy but don't know if it is for you, this is a captivating memoir which explores the intimate process of therapy.


Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff.

February often focuses on outward romantic love, but what about love for ourselves? Self-compassion is a practice that has fully enriched my life since I was introduced to Neff's work back in 2019. This book is sure to be informative and transformational.


How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell.

Honestly, this book just has the prettiest cover and I was drawn to it right away. That being said, "doing nothing" is a concept that can seem quite alien and even scary, especially with how prevalent anxiety and perfectionism are in our culture. This book is sure to explore how to regain some work-life balance and confront burnout through the practice of "resisting the attention economy".


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

April is Earth month! What better way to celebrate than reading a book that expands the scope of anthropocentrism to acknowledge and celebrate our interconnectedness with the rest of the living world. This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while unread (but not unloved) and I am excited to dive in!


When the Body Says No: The Hidden Cost of Stress by Gabor Maté.

In May, I am beginning somatic experiencing training which is a therapeutic technique for unlocking trauma, stress and anxiety that gets "stuck" in the body. This book seems fitting to accompany this training in an accessible format. Gabor Maté is a local Vancouver psychologist who has contributed greatly to research and conversations on trauma, addiction, stress, child development and parenting.


Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Peterson.

This book explores the cultural shift (in technology, parenting, schooling etc) that has contributed to the rise of anxiety in younger generations. As a millennial, I am often offended by how we are portrayed by previous generations. While it is true that there are many advantages to life today than there were 30 years ago, there are also much different expectations and challenges. Burnout is a feeling that I know well and an inciting reason for exploring more balance in my personal and professional lives.


The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal.

In the interest of balance, I thought I would include a title on this list that explores a different side of stress: how stress can be motivating and invigorating if harnessed correctly. There is no escaping stress, so developing resilience through embracing the stress response seems like an interesting (and scientific!) solution.


Two Minute Mornings: a Journal to Win your Day, Every Day by Neil Pasricha.

Two minute mornings is a practice that I already use to introduce some more balance into my day, beginning straight away in the morning. I'm interested in how this journal could be helpful in strengthing this daily ritual.


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

This book is for anyone who has ever said the words "I can't do that, I'm not an artist". Elizabeth Gilbert goes beyond the cultural expectations of what it means to be an artist to present creativity as the gift that keeps on giving - whether you are "an artist" or not. She examines how fear and internal criticism often hold us back from fully embracing creativity and offers solutions to remedy this cycle.


Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown.

Brené Brown is a legend. Her TED talk on shame has millions of views and her shame resilience theory is widely regarded as groundbreaking - and life-changing. In her seminal research, she presents that the antidote to shame is empathy - and for empathy to be experienced, we must embrace vulnerability.


Boundaries: How to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud.

Yes, vulnerability is good. But there is a key difference between allowing yourself to be vulnerable and allowing yourself to be walked all over. Exploring boundaries seems fitting for NO-vember.


Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

What a better way to end off the year but with a book about winter and rest? This book came up in my Goodreads suggested reads this past winter and I felt such a pull towards the power of rest and retreat. Cosying up with a book is my favourite form of rest and retreat!

What do you think of this list?

Personally, I am excited to read these books. I have already read some on this list, but I find with each re-read messages become more poignant and there is always something new that I may have missed the first time.

Have you read any on this list? Will you be reading along with me? Have suggestions for next year's list?Let me know! I always love connecting with other readers. Send me a message at elspeth.intrinsictherapy@gmail.com or follow along on Instagram @intrinsic.therapy