This post was inspired by the Goodread’s list “Best Eating Disorder Books” and is mainly based off of that list.
When I was young, I didn’t know much at all about eating disorders. But by the time I got to college, I knew a handful of people who struggled with them and who I desperately wanted to help and understand. Because of this, I started trying to find books that are frequently recommended to those struggling with eating disorders or books about eating disorders. My search couldn’t progress as much as I wanted - I was still in school and I felt self-conscious about pursuing this information like I was. I didn’t know a better way to approach it with the people I knew who struggled with it and I wasn’t sure what they’d think about my research. I read countless articles, a handful of books, and also talked with people I knew about how best to deal with it. My research wasn’t perfect, but it did lead me to understand a bit more and I was glad to have more knowledge and understanding.
Today’s post is mostly based off of Goodread’s “Best Eating Disorder Books” list, what I think of it, what books I’ve read from it, and how you can use it in your life. Descriptions are taken from Goodreads. Further comments are my own.
- Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson -
- "Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.
Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.
- Personally, I don’t know that I’d love this book. It seems a little cut-and-dry YA (which I don’t love). Many people noted in their reviews that this book is triggering, but also a very realistic look at ED. I’d probably give it a try, but I can’t see myself loving or recommending this book a bunch.
BOOKS I’VE READ
- Just Listen by Sarah Dessen -
- Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" — at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store.
This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.
Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.
- This ranks 4th on the list. I read this book in middle school and only rated it two stars. I vaguely remember that I went through a pretty intense Sarah Dessen phase for a while, but got quite sick of her books by the end of it and started disliking them.
- Perfect by Natasha Friend -
- Depicting with humor and insight the pressure to be outwardly perfect, this novel for ages 10-13 shows how one girl develops compassion for her own and others’ imperfections.
For 13-year-old Isabelle Lee, whose father has recently died, everything's normal on the outside. Isabelle describes the scene at school with bemused accuracy--the self-important (but really not bad) English teacher, the boy that is constantly fixated on Ashley Barnum, the prettiest girl in class, and the dynamics of the lunchroom, where tables are turf in a all-eyes-open awareness of everybody's relative social position.
But everything is not normal, really. Since the death of her father, Isabelle's family has only functioned on the surface. Her mother, who used to take care of herself, now wears only lumpy, ill-fitting clothes, cries all night, and has taken every picture of her dead husband and put them under her bed. Isabelle tries to make light of this, but the underlying tension is expressed in overeating and then binging. As the novel opens, Isabelle's little sister, April, has told their mother about Isabelle's problem. Isabelle is enrolled in group therapy. Who should show up there, too, but Ashley Barnum, the prettiest, most together girl in class.
- This was another book that I read at the end of middle school and it just didn’t click for me. I had read several books by this author and none of them really worked for me. I appreciated that they were about real girls with real problems, but it wasn’t what I was in the mood for or what I wanted to read at that time. I’d be interested in seeing what my opinion would be now.
- The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood -
- Marian is determined to be ordinary. She lays her head gently on the shoulder of her serious fiancee and quietly awaits marriage. But she didn't count on an inner rebellion that would rock her stable routine, and her digestion. Marriage a la mode, Marian discovers, is something she literally can't stomach ... The Edible Woman is a funny, engaging novel about emotional cannibalism, men and women, and the desire to be consumed.
- THIS BOOK ROCKED MY WORLD. I picked it up (kind of on accident) during the time that I was seriously researching ED and connected so much with Marian and her struggles. While the actual eating part didn’t resonate with me personally, the parts about being a young woman going through an identity crisis really got to me and this is one of my all-time favorite books.
- Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body by Courtney E. Martin -
- "Why does every one of my friends have an eating disorder, or, at the very least, a screwed-up approach to food and fitness?" writes journalist Courtney E. Martin. The new world culture of eating disorders and food and body issues affects virtually all -- not just a rare few -- of today's young women. They are your sisters, friends, and colleagues -- a generation told that they could "be anything," who instead heard that they had to "be everything." Driven by a relentless quest for perfection, they are on the verge of a breakdown, exhausted from overexercising, binging, purging, and depriving themselves to attain an unhealthy ideal.An emerging new talent, Courtney E. Martin is the voice of a young generation so obsessed with being thin that their consciousness is always focused inward, to the detriment of their careers and relationships. Health and wellness, joy and love have come to seem ancillary compared to the desire for a perfect body. Even though eating disorders first became generally known about twenty-five years ago, they have burgeoned, worsened, become more difficult to treat and more fatal (50 percent of anorexics who do not respond to treatment die within ten years). Consider these statistics:
Ten million Americans suffer from eating disorders. Seventy million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders. More than half of American women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five would pre fer to be run over by a truck or die young than be fat. More than two-thirds would rather be mean or stupid. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological disease.
In "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters," Martin offers original research from the front lines of the eating disorders battlefield. Drawn from more than a hundred interviews with sufferers, psychologists, nutritionists, sociocultural experts, and others, her expose reveals a new generation of "perfect girls" who are obsessive-compulsive, overachieving, and self-sacrificing in multiple -- and often dangerous -- new ways. Young women are "told over and over again," Martin notes, "that we can be anything. But in those affirmations, assurances, and assertions was a concealed pressure, an unintended message: You are special. You are worth something. But you need to be perfect to live up to that specialness."
With its vivid and often heartbreaking personal stories, "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" has the power both to shock and to educate. It is a true call to action and cannot be missed.
- This book was read during my intense ED research phase and it didn’t stand out much in my mind. I rated it three stars. While this was an interesting start to learning about and looking at ED, I didn’t feel like it offered any solutions, tips, assistance, or hope. This non-fiction book read more like an expose on the issue rather than a guide or part of assistance. It was helpful in my initial learning, but I strongly desired to know more and this did not satisfy that at all.
What books from this list have you read? Which ones would you recommend? Which ones aren’t worth the time? How have you educated yourself about eating disorders?