July Reading Recs: Self-Care

by Noah Deans-Gravlee

Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days. Pictures of rose-petal bubble baths and fancy face masks are posted all over Instagram, tagged with #SelfCare and #TreatYoSelf. And that’s awesome, if it helps!
But self-care can also mean cooking and eating a healthy meal even though you’d rather skip dinner and go to bed, or doing some difficult introspection even though it would be much more fun to binge-watch that new show.
Self-care is about taking care of your body and your mind; promoting healing and fostering healthy habits. And that can be damn hard work. 

If you’re like me, you need more structure than just “go take care of yourself.” With that in mind, I’ve picked out a few books and zines that can help you on your self-care quest:

a photo of the Self As Other zine, featuring a plain peach cover with a black swoosh of ink and the title in black.

Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care

by Corina Dross and CrimethInc

Because this is a zine, it’s the perfect bite-sized place to start in on some really important critique. Corina Dross complicates and decolonizes the concept of self-care in Self As Other, which might sound intimidating at first, but is incredibly necessary and ultimately empowering. 

If you feel like your version of self-care has devolved into a performance rather than an act of genuine care, this zine might be for you.

the self-compassion zine, the cover featuring a person helping another person climb a steep hill

Self-Compassion: Be Kind to Yourself Instead of Striving for Bullshit “Self-Esteem”

by Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN
[the next Dr. Faith book, Unf*ck Your Boundaries is on Kickstarter now]

I actually wrote a review of this zine for our blog already, but I’m posting it on here again because it deserves to be mentioned. The entire “five minute therapy” series is incredible, and honestly I could put almost all of those zines on this list if I had the space.

But Self-Compassion holds a special place in my heart for its no-nonsense look at how to hold space for, you guessed it, compassion. This is getting into some of that tough, introspective self-care I mentioned.

a photo of The Witch's Book of Self Care, with a dark blue cover featuring plant vines and fruit imagery

The Witch’s Book of Self-Care: Magical Ways to Pamper, Soothe, and Care for Your Body and Spirit 

by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

This book breaks down self-care into sections, focusing on magic, mental and emotional care, physical care, spiritual care, and household care. I love this model because it has a little bit of everything, and lets you tackle the difficult care while also indulging in some much-needed relaxation care. Need a recipe for a healthy dinner? A good bath soak? Want help releasing guilt associated with self-care? This book has got you covered. And if you want to incorporate magic and witchcraft into your care regimen, this is the perfect title for you.

a photo of the blue Mettanoia #1 zine

Mettanoia #1

by Shea Pederson 

I want to end with another bite-sized zine, because I think large titles can sometimes be intimidating when we’re struggling with mental health. Mettanoia #1 is the first in a series of zines revolving around mental health and self-care. Focusing on self-care when struggling with depression, this zine includes comics and poetry, and also talks about how to care for friends who are struggling as well.


And hey! While we’re talking about self care I might as well mention some cool apps that can go along with these. My personal favorite (and, really, a favorite in our office) is #SelfCare, which simulates staying in bed all day, watering plants, meditation, and journaling. As you do more care, the light in your bedroom brightens and you eventually get an item to put on your altar for that day. I also use Daylio, to track moods, Aloe Bud, to remember to move and eat lunch, and an app called Yoga, to, well, do yoga.


But when I’m really struggling with self-care, the bookworm in me always returns to something I can read. Self-care is different for everyone, and no one can tell you the “right” way to take care of yourself, but these titles are a great start if you need inspiration.


How do you practice self-care? Do you have other suggestions for good reads? Good apps? Let us know on twitter or instagram!

The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing with Samm Saxby

This week on the podcast we discuss everyone’s favorite (and least favorite) topic, the demographics of publishing—specifically race and racism. Why are things the way that they are? How is this holding back the industry and sales?

a photograph of the Self-Compassion zine

Self-Compassion: Not Self-Esteem!

A few weeks into my internship at Microcosm saw me standing at the checkout with an armful of books and zines, all by the same author. I had been assigned to proofread Faith G. Harper’s newest book, Unfuck Your Intimacy, the week before, and had come out of the project with a level of respect and new understanding that, I’ll be honest, I was not at all expecting. What can I say? I was a skeptic of the whole self-help genre. I tend to picture dusty hardbacks with cover photos of smiling middle aged people dressed in the latest 90s fashions; books for people with vastly different experiences than my own.

Photograph of Dr. Faith Harper's book Unfuck Your Intimacy and it's workbook
Check out a review of Unfuck Your Intimacy over here.

Dr. Harper’s work nothing like that. In a good way.

The first zine I read from my new haul was Self-Compassion: Be Kind to Yourself Instead of Striving for Bullshit “Self-Esteem”. This was partly because it was just on the top of the pile, but mostly because I had overheard my coworkers talking about how everyone should read it and thought, “Hey! That probably includes me!”

Self-Compassion is part of a series of “five minute therapy” zines and, while it took me more than five minutes to read, the 34 pages is a manageable chunk of information to process.

The zine, at its core, is about being kind to yourself. Sounds simple, right?
But what about when you fail that big test, or don’t get that project done on time at work? What about when you’re writing a book review for your publishing internship, and you keep rewriting the same sentence over and over? (I don’t know anything about that last one.) It might get a little harder to find kindness for yourself in those moments.
That’s where this zine comes barging in, kicking down your front door with its no-bullshit honesty and then sitting you down on the couch so you can work that shit out.

Right off the bat this zine tears into the concept of good self-esteem as the end-all goal.
In Dr. Faith’s own words, “Self-esteem has become the buzzword. And where we focus so much time, energy, and resources. And we fail at it. And then perceive ourselves as failures. Because it’s an unwinnable game.”
Does that sound harsh? Maybe. But as someone who gets frustrated if I’m not amazing at everything the first time I try it, the statement rings true. And it’s a refreshing truth in a sea of messages telling us to define our self-worth by our accomplishments.

The zine goes on to define self-compassion, and then breaks that concept down into a model. This is usually where I start to tune out in self-help books (there’s jargon and a graphic with arrows pointing at nothing), but Dr. Harper’s relatable writing actually managed to keep me engaged. Reading this zine feels like you’re sitting in Dr. Harper’s office, talking with her. It’s an accessible writing style, and makes a complicated topic a little less overwhelming.

a photograph of the Self-Compassion zine

Perhaps more importantly, Dr. Harper is not afraid to ask difficult questions, and I often found myself flipping through the zine to reread sections pertaining to questions asked later on. Questions like “How does your self-criticism impact your relationship with others?” show up in black activity boxes throughout the zine, and they are not pulling any punches. Yikes, right? There are some big questions for a 34 page zine, but damn if they didn’t get me thinking.

And that is my only real complaint with this title: it’s 34 pages. I’d like more content. I want a book, like Unfuck Your Intimacy or Unfuck Your Brain. I suppose that’s a good complaint to have–and one that might be expected with a typically short medium like a zine. There are references for further reading at the end, but I think I would miss Dr. Harper’s way of writing. Maybe that’s just my self-help bias shining through.

Self-Compassion is a no-nonsense zine, from an author who truly seems to want you to be the best you can be. This is highlighted on page 25, where Dr. Harper writes, “The driving force of striving for self-esteem is fear… Self-compassion, instead of being driven by fear, can be thought of as driven by love.” 

This is a zine for anyone afraid of making mistakes.

We could all use a little more self-compassion.


This review was written by winter intern, Noah Deans-Gravlee. Follow them on Twitter @noahyouknow and check out Dr. Faith Harper’s other work here.

Summer Reads, Queer Adventures

6 Books to Get You in the Adventuring Spirit

When someone mentions adventure books, what do you think of? A big, burly man adventuring out into the wilderness to, I don’t know, claim his manhood or something? Thankfully, the patriarchy doesn’t have the adventure department completely cornered.

To kick off Pride Month and Summer, we’ve put together some of our best and favorite books about queer adventurers, because adventuring isn’t just for “cis-het normies” (as Eli Sasche likes to call them in True Trans Bike Rebel).

We’ve filled our list with fantastic adventures on bikes and down rivers, but also with adventures into everyday life and into the adventurer’s own, very rad, queerness.

A quick note for PRIDE month. We use queer as it’s a truly inclusive term that has room for every member of the community, including aromantic and/or asexual and transgender and nonbinary people. It’s been reclaimed as an umbrella term for decades, and so we refuse to give it back to the people who would use it to do harm and exclude vulnerable members from the community.

True Trans Bike Rebel

photograph of books on display, "True Trans Bike Rebel" at the center

In this edition of our Taking the Lane series explores trans, nonbinary, and intersex folks’s adventures with bikes. This book ranges from one woman’s journey road-tripping by bike in “Everything I Needed to Know About Being Trans I Learned on the Pan-American Highway” to a story about a young person adventuring into nature to find solace and identity, and more.

Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan

While everything in the Lumberjanes series is great, Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan is super great and super gay. Mal and Molly’s cute picnic date turns adventure-date when they are interrupted by a mysterious bear woman. Magical shenanigans inevitably ensue and the two must use brain and brawn to make it back to camp. This volume is the first in the series to really get into Mal and Molly’s relationship and is definitely worth a read.

Invincible Summer: An Anthology II

In the second installment of her Invincible Summer series, Nicole J. Georges has another volume of adventures in her day-to-day life. Featuring vegan recipes, fashion advice, friendship, and the rise and fall of Georges’ long-term relationship, this graphic novel will have you smiling and laughing the whole way through.

Shut Up and Love the Rain

Part comic, part essay anthology, and part intimate interview, Shut Up and Love the Rain follows author Robnoxious’ journey from early sexual exploration to his “sex-positive, constantly deprogramming, uber-healthy queerness” of today. Rob’s adventures through his own queerness show us how experimentation should start early, that guilty pleasures need not be so guilty, and that there’s nothing more adventurous and exciting than discovering and living your queerness.

Unsinkable

Also By Robnoxious, Unsinkable: How to Build Plywood Pontoons & Longtail Motor Boats Out of Scrap, is an adventure story/how-to-book hybrid following his trip down the Missouri river on a homemade boat. Rob and his friends meet wild rednecks, see sublime sunsets and encounter deadly storms in this incredible rollercoaster of a read. If Rob’s boating adventure leaves you itching to go on your very own, the DIY schematics included in the first part of the book can equip even the least experienced to build their own boat.

Unfuck Your Intimacy: Using Science for Better Relationships, Sex, and Dating

Unf*ck Your Intimacy and other Dr. Faith titles on display

Sometimes one of the biggest adventures you can go on is one into yourself and your life. Best selling author of Unfuck Your Brain, Dr. Faith throws out all that Cosmo-grade B.S. relationship advice and uses real science to dive into topics like kinks, consent, shame, and trauma recovery.
Sections of this book also specifically cover queer relationship/sex topics, including for trans, ace/demi/aro people. Whether you’re looking to heal from past wounds, make better choices, improve an existing relationship, or figure out how to get the sex you want, this book is for you.
We recently posted a review of Unfuck Your Intimacy, so you can learn more and see if it’s for you.

What adventures are you looking forward to this summer?


This post was written by summer intern Rachel Dutton

People’s Guide to Publishing: How Amazon Has Changed Publishing

For many years, new publishers and authors have posed questions to us about distribution. They want to know why distribution is so expensive and exclusive. It’s a much more complicated answer than they were expecting so we’re going to break that out in a weekly video series over the next few months.

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