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Updated: Apr 5, 2023

This list is for people who wish to dive deeply into exploring their emotions and experiences through vulnerability and allowing themselves to feel. These books are not limited by genre, length, or topic and all invite the reader on different emotional journeys large and small. Some of the books on this list contain difficult material. Lucy recommends looking up content warnings to ensure the best reading experience for you!

Consider this book a travelers guide to connection that highlights the specific language to communicate some 87 emotions and experiences that illustrate what it means to be human. If you have ever struggled with expressing or understanding any of your emotions or still do, this book will allow you to find a sense of place.

2. Becoming by Renaada Williams

This debut collection is recommended for those who are looking for a gentle introduction into an emotional endeavor that is both personal to the author while also relatable. Through succinct, sincere, personal poems Renaada Williams reflects on the difficulties and the joys of living.

3. Be Not Afraid of Love by Mimi Zhu

This collection of essays follows Mimi Zhu’s own journey in finding themselves after experiencing and recovering from intimate-partner abuse. Central to this was their struggle with re-learning love and how despite trauma and oppression people are resilient and able to adapt and heal. This book while discussing traumatic events and pain can guide you on your own path toward discovering all love has to offer.

4. Psalm For the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

In this cozy sci-fi novel the reader is invited to ponder timeless concepts about what people need and how to find fulfillment. Readers can expect a plot filled with lightness and wonder despite the heaviness that one might expect from some existential ideas. A very good book to start with if you need a gentle introduction to considering how to find your place in the world and connect deeply with others.

5. On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

A sci-fi graphic novel with gorgeous art and a beautiful tale about love, traversed over interwoven timelines and creative world-building. Tillie Walden reminds us the of delight and heartbreak in first loves as well as the importance of found-family.

6. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

A novel full of both fantasy and realism, where a grieving couple must face hard truths about their own relationship as well as their relationship to others in order to survive homesteading in 1920’s Alaska. Readers should expect to be brought on a turbulent emotional journey with each of the main characters that makes one think about the relationships in their own life.

7. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This novel takes the reader on a deliciously descriptive cross-country odyssey, inspired by Mexican folklore, through 1920’s Mexico where a young woman who is forced to help a Mayan god reclaim his throne. She must reconcile with her feelings of obligation to her callous family versus her longing to live her own life on her own. For anyone who has ever struggled with the frustration of trying to find compassion and forgiveness for cruel people in order to not be lost in anger, this tale is for you.

8. In The Pockets of Small Gods by Anis Mojgani

From the heaviness of grief that has long been carried to new found joy this collection of poems uses vulnerability to traverse the expanse of the human experience. While loss is the main overarching subject, the different emotions and possibilities that can arise from it are given light.

9. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

The writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is a DACA recipient who has crafted an exquisite collection of essays from her own experiences meeting undocumented immigrants whose carefully guarded stories are not well known. Her own thoughts and feelings are an important part to the interviews she has conducted as she formed a connection with each person she met, unlike most journalists. In this book you will find heartbreak, anger, loss, joy, nostalgia, resilience, and what really being an American entails from the lives of people deemed expendable by the US.

10. A Responsibility to Awe by Rebecca Elson, edited by Anne Berkely, Angelo di Cintio,

and Bernard O’Donaghue

This collection of poetry is unique because these poems were gathered and published by people close to the author after she died of cancer. An astronomer, Rebecca Elson used poetry as a way to try to understand the universe and through combining scientific concepts with her limitless imagination she provides the reader with refreshing insights while she reflects on her place in the world and oncoming death.

Race, Gender, Sexualities, and Culture by Bryant Keith Alexander, Mary E. Weems,

Dominique C. Hill, Durell M. Callier

This collaboration is a stunning combination of different forms of writing and disciplines created by four incredible Black academics. Each author dives into their own vulnerability separately and in conversation with one another telling stories on loss, mourning, resistance, strife, legacy and so much more infused with deep emotion. A simultaneous call to action and an invocation to acknowledge one another in the present in order to collectively create a better future.

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