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Backonthescales's ED Bookshelf: Reviews, Excerpts, Discussion

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#1 backonthescales


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Posted 17 April 2015 - 04:17 PM

Welcome to my Bookshelf!



Grab a coffee / tea, pull up a comfy chair and let's get started   :)                                                   7LDojBq.jpg


I have (so far) a collection of 30 odd eating disorder related books - some memoirs, some fiction, some text books, some YA books, some adult ones, in general a mish-mash of everything. It's mainly centred on anorexia, but has some about bulimia and ED-NOS/OSFED too. Seeing as so many people ask questions on here like

"Can you recommend an ED book?"

"What do you think of 'X', should I bother reading it?"

"Can you get a free pdf?"

              etc etc etc and I am currently re-reading my entire collection, I thought I could collate a lot of the info into one larger thread. Each month I will submit a review of one of the books I have, say what I liked about it (and what I disliked) and invite others to comment on it for the week. If I can find a pdf link I will post it.


Anyone is welcome to pitch in and comment, either on the books I have already reviewed, or on one that you would like to discuss regardless.


Also, please 'follow' if you want me to reply to a comment because I only have IE on my computer and so my quote function doesn't work, so you wouldn't get that notification that I had replied to you....



For Quick Reviews Reference:


Page 1 - Purge by Sarah Darer Littman,                                              

              The Hanged Man by Francesca Lia Block,                                      

              Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb,                                                                                                                                           

              Anorexics on Anorexia edt by Rosemary Shelley


Page 2 - Letting Ana Go, by Anonymous      

               Midnight Feast by Martina Evans    


Page 3 -   Appetites: Why Women Want, by Caroline Knapp 

                  Fragile by Nikki Grahame                                       


Page 4 - Hunger Point by Jillian Medoff                                            


Page 5 - The Best Little Girl in the World  by Steven Levenkron                                             


Page 6 - The Stone Girl, by Alyssa B Sheinmel

               Kessa, By Steven Levenkron

               Skin & Bones, by Sherry Shahan

               Raw, By Lydia Davis


Page 7 - Purge: Rehab Diaries, by Nicole Johns

               Monkey Taming, by Judith Fathallah

               Skinny, By Ibi Kaslik

               The Life of a Real Girl, by Johanna Garfield


Page 8 - Going Hungry, edited by Kate Taylor

               Wasted, by Marya Hornbacher


Page 9 - How to Disappear Completely, by Kelsey Osgood


Page 10 - Mad Girl, By Bryony Gordon

                 Gravity Journal, by Gail Sidonie Sobat

                 The Time Inbetween, by Nancy Tucker


Page 11 - Seconds to Snap, by Tina McGuff 

                 Eve's Apple, by Jonathan Rosen

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#2 shiju333


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Posted 18 April 2015 - 12:23 AM

Ooh. I could participate in that too. I have, easily, hundreds of eating disorder books, and I hunted for obscure books and topics.

"The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain." ~ Karl Marx

#3 pantenellama



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Posted 18 April 2015 - 07:01 AM

Please do! I've only found a few books that have good writing and an honest portrayal of eating disorders. I really enjoy delving into the psychology and nutrition as well, so any recommendations are welcome:)

#4 backonthescales


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Posted 18 April 2015 - 11:50 AM

Yay! Glad some people are interested  :wub:


So - first of all I'm starting off with a couple of YA books, mainly because they are quick to read and I have a veritable mountain of other non-ed books to get through too. So the first 4 will be YA novels.


KEY:  A - Anorexia

          B - Bulimia

          C - Compulsive Overeating (BED)

          E - Ed-Nos

          F - Fiction

          H - Self Harm

          I - IP/ Hospitalisation

          M - Memoir

          R - Recovery

          S - Self Help

          T - Text Book / Psychology book

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#5 backonthescales


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Posted 18 April 2015 - 12:41 PM

Review #1 - "Purge" by Sarah Darer Littman


[ B, F, I, H, R]                                                                                 Warning contains some plot spoilers!


    Set in a treatment centre, Purge is the story Janie Ryman, who has bulimia. It's a fictional account, although written from the author's own experience, but it sometimes comes across as an ED-by-Numbers book, with a stock cast of supporting characters and a plot that, if you've read any ED Young Adult novel, won't come as a huge surprise.  There's the hardcore anorexic who fights her treatment and dies, (though thankfully this isn't the pivotal crisis point of the novel) the angry, abused patient, the guy coming to terms with his homosexuality, the 'perfect' sibling that is Janie's yardstick, boyfriend issues, parental issues (overbearing father and a self-centred, overly dramatic mother with a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses complex) and of course the staff at the centre whom she hates at first, but ultimately tip her into recovery.


  The protagonist Janie, is well written, a typical teenager, but clever and sassy enough to remain interesting. She tells the story through 'real time' narrative and her treatment journaling. Occasionally she can come across as irritating/naïve/rude, but ultimately she is narrating stuff we all think but would never say (!) and I think that in some ways that's part of her teenage charm. I have to remember that I'm reading from an adult perspective - if I had read this as a teenager, I would probably have empathised and connected with the character more; I can certainly see elements of my past teenage self there. I do like the contemporary and casual style of writing. She comes up with some great nouns (Pukus interruptus, Purge Partners and the Bond of Barferhood are foremost in my mind) and in general I found the book to be a quick, fluid read. She does, however, like to throw in some more intellectual vocabulary, which can come across as showing off, but that could also be part of Janie's character as she does want to be seen as cleverer than some of the other patients in the centre.


    Now - The Ed Stuff: Littman is good at describing the Urge to Purge and Janie's own view of her relationship with food, but she doesn't always hit the mark. Littman also, frustratingly, manages to go through the whole book without telling us Janie's weight or whether she actually is fat or thin, just Janie's perception of her weight - which of course is fat! This was possibly because she didn't want to put any markers down that could trigger people. However, she does mention quite a few tricks: napkins, vomiting into socks whilst in the centre, 'forgetting' items in her room so she can burn more calories going to get them etc., so if you're reading this as a trigger book it's not bad.  BUT, I have seen several other reviews on amazon that comment on how unrealistic her treatment time is. (She was released back into her parent's care after only 3 weeks.)  Ultimately, it seems by the end of the book that she will recover. Some reviewers on amazon commented that she was 'cured' at the end, but the book actually makes it clear that Janie doesn't know if she will ever fully recover and that she still has a long way to go, it's not the "tada!!! All better!" ending some make it out to be. 


So over all I enjoyed the book, despite its flaws and would recommend it to the YA audience.           3/5







What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Did you think it was a good depiction of bulimia / eating disorders? What did you like or dislike about it? 

#6 backonthescales


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Posted 25 April 2015 - 09:22 AM

Extract:  Pages 53-55  (Shortened)



       Instead, all I can think about is the fridge at home, and what I would be eating from it if I weren't

confined to my room inside this prison.  I'd start with the freezer, the Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy

ice cream.  I'd check to see if there was any chocolate syrup in the fridge, and if so, I'd pour it straight

into the tub of Ben & Jerry's and maybe even cover it with Reddi-wip.  Then I'd see if there were any 

brownies or chocolate chip cookies, or maybe some of that Belgian chocolate that Mom buys from 

Whole Foods.

       My imagination of what I would eat is so vivid that after I've worked my way through my mind's freezer

and refrigerator, I feel like I have to purge, even though I haven't really eaten anything.  My stomach feels

bloated and distended, like it does after a binge, and the critical voice in my head starts berating me: You

fat pig! You're disgusting.  I can see the rolls of fat hanging over your waistband and poking through the

thighs of your jeans.  You make me sick...On and on it goes until I feel like I have to purge or I'll die.  I look

around the room to see what I can throw up into without the nurses finding out.

        Then bingo!  I remember Bethany and the peas in her sock.  In the top drawer of the scratched, Formica

covered dresser are several pairs of potential barf-receptacles. [....] Sock in hand, I pull the desk chair over

to the window, climb aboard, and stick my fingers down my throat.  At first I only gag, but then I feel the full-

fledged barf reflex starting.  I cover my mouth with the sock, which smells, strangely of home, and regurgitate

what little is in my stomach.  The problem with puking when it's been a while since your last meal is that all

this stomach acid comes up too, and it really hurts your throat.  Puking right after eating is a cinch.  That's

why they keep us Barfers away from the bathroom for so long after each meal.

         The sock is filled from toe to heel with warm vomit, and I need to get rid of it before the whole room begins

to stink.  Since I don't plan on using that sock again, I decide to toss it out of the window, throwing it as far out

as possible, so if it's found, no one will be able to pin it on me. [...]

          I know I'm supposed to be in here so they can "cure" me of doing this, but I'm not so sure I want to be

cured.  I don't know how to achieve that feeling of empty okay-ness without sticking my fingers down my throat.

Sure, I don't like the actual act of throwing up.  I hate it.  But it's like the opposite of eating.  I love eating, but

hate having eaten.  I hate barfing, but love having purged. 


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#7 backonthescales


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Posted 25 April 2015 - 09:25 AM

Anyone have any comments about this book?


If someone has an epub / download link please add it too :)


Next up will be The Hanged Man, by Francesca Lia Block

#8 backonthescales


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Posted 30 April 2015 - 09:09 AM

Review #2 -  "The Hanged Man"  by Francesca Lia Block


 [ F, A]                                                  



      Have you ever had a dream that is so vivid it could have been real, and yet so strange that you knew it to be a dream whilst you were in it? And so evocative that it stayed with you days afterwards? Reading this book is like that.


  It doesn't have a plot, exactly, it's more a series of chapters hung around the structure of a tarot reading. Each chapter reads like a stream of consciousness and recollections, the musings of the narrator. It's a very short book - only 137 pages - but there is so much packed into those pages that I definitely didn't feel short changed. The poetic style and ethereal atmosphere hid real meanings, using insinuation and metaphor to divulge the past instead of statements. I don't think I understood every complexity until at least the third reading.


   The main character (Laurel) lives in a very free, artistic area of LA in the canyon for which she was named. She walks in and out of friend's houses, where it seems someone is always having a party and drink, drugs and sex are openly available. She is obsessed with death, having just lost her father to cancer, meets a dark and intense man called Jack - who may be the feared Canyon rapist (or not) or who may just be a figment of Laurel's imagination. Block doesn't give us any real closure for many of the questions posed within the novella.


 It's a difficult and disturbing little book (which is only right, considering it deals with incest and mental anguish) and could be dangerous if read in a dark frame of mind. The eating disorder part is not the main topic, merely a by-product of the past abuse; a coping mechanism employed until the narrator faces up to her past and finally tries to deal with it. There's not much in the way of detail, mainly her feelings and preoccupations with her bones, purity, and death, but what there is, is beautifully written. I feel it is important to note that this author too had/has an eating disorder which she writes about as a contributor to "Going Hungry", which I'll review later on in this thread, but that here she chose not to be specifically autobiographical.


It's a YA book, but I don't feel it's for younger teens. I find it hard to rate this book - I really liked it, but I have a notion this one's a bit like marmite: you'll either love it or hate it.           4/5



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#9 backonthescales


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Posted 30 April 2015 - 09:31 AM

Extract - Pages 95-96


  I sit at the kitchen table looking at pictures of missing children. Eyes, hair, D.O.B. I drink

coffee that buzzes through my blood, better than the sluggish chocolate love and I smoke.

I smoke and smoke. My lipstick stains the ends of my cigarettes as if they have made my

mouth bleed. The ashtrays fill with lipstick-stained butts and ashes.

   Claudia says, "You smoke when you really feel like crying."  I smoke and smoke. Have

you ever had the sensation of losing flesh?  You begin to feel the bones of your skeleton

under your flesh. Bones of the shoulders. Bones of the rib cage. Bones of the hips. It is like

finding a new being, one free of desire, free of time, almost.

   At night, I lie awake thinking about the man who climbs in through windows and kills women.

My eyes choke on the darkness and my stomach is like a live thing - a separate creature that I

have imprisoned, that is under my power. It is a little painted demon howling inside me. I imagine

that the reason I don't bleed anymore each month is because this demon, this lie-baby, is

sucking up all the blood to feed itself, to keep itself alive. I hear horror stories about girls who

don't eat - how their hair turns white and their gums bleed. But I feel beautiful, perfect. I am all

pale bone and bone-pale flesh and pale hair and I am light. I am like some fairy thing. I dream

about fairies dancing around the house with their rib cages showing like baskets under their flesh.

     I could drift up and away from here. I am so light. Bound by nothing. Not even time. And I am

pure now.

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#10 backonthescales


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Posted 07 May 2015 - 11:12 AM

Review #3  -  "Stick Figure"  by Lori Gottlieb


   [ M,A,I,R]


  A short review this time, because I read it before I started this thread and I couldn't be bothered to re-read it! This book is an odd one, in that it is a diary of an 11 year old re-worded / edited for an adult audience. As such it veers from sounding naïve and annoying to perceptive and interesting. Lori tries to work the minefield of familial relationships, school and dieting friends during the summer of 1978. She has a horrendous mother, an intellect above her school level and she is completely baffled by social mores. Yet she manages to highlight the hypocrisy inherent in in attitudes towards dieting and the 70s expectations for women and women's roles in society.  

  Gottlieb is pretty honest about her eating habits, weight and thoughts behind her disorder, and it's certainly interesting to see the old style treatment she received during her stay in hospital - things have definitely evolved since then! Overall I would give it a 3/5. It's a good read and sometimes very funny, and it's always intriguing to read someone else's story, but there's nothing 'new' here.





#11 fancypantses



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Posted 18 May 2015 - 01:04 PM

oo thanks for the review of The Hanged Man.  Sounds good. 

You're a good reviewer.

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Dinner is the least important meal of the day.

#12 backonthescales


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Posted 19 May 2015 - 05:15 AM

Thank you!  I'm trying to be objective, but of course these reviews are just my opinions. I'm trying to get to the heart of WHY I like or dislike each book and give people a choice at the end of it. I'd also love it if those who have read the books chimed in (at any point!) to start a discussion going. I know that us peeps with EDs read these books for different reasons than the non ED afflicted. Really, we read them to either feed our disorder - ie as triggers - or to find a level of understanding, both of our disorder and to feel like someone might possibly understand US and what we are going through. I've done both at different times in my life and different stages of my ED.

#13 backonthescales


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Posted 19 May 2015 - 05:57 AM

Now my computer is fixed - I can post  a sample of "Stick Figure"! I chose this passage because I think it helps show the constant opposing ideologies that Lori was faced with as an eleven year old and some of the hypocrisy inherent in 70s society. This is pages 60-62, abridged.



 "When we finally got to Dad's cousins' house for dinner, I found out that my cousin Kate and her mom do the tasting thing too.

Kate seemed nice. She's four years older than me, and she wears all these grown up clothes. Kate's mom said she used to be

a loudmouth, but lately she's matured a lot. I couldn't imagine anyone ever calling her a loudmouth. But Lou said she wasn't

really a loudmouth, exactly, she was just too 'spirited'. "What's wrong with that?" I asked, but then everyone just laughed at me.

I swear, people are always laughing when I ask questions. That's why I never get any answers. 


  The whole time we were talking, we were sitting around in the living room while Mom kept posing for pictures and asking Dad

to take a second shot, in case she blinked when the flash went off. I didn't want to be in any of the pictures because I felt ugly

standing next to Kate. Kate's so much taller and thinner than me. She's like a real woman.


  Mom finally ran out of film in her camera, thank God, so we all went into the dining room for dinner. That's when I found out that

I also eat much more than Kate does. Kate and her mom took tiny helpings of everything, and just like Mom does with Dad and

David, they said they would taste Lou's dinner. I wasn't about to go tasting someone else's dinner, though, so I took normal helpings.

That's when Kate said, "You must be really hungry," but she didn't say that to David even though he took the same amount of food

as I did. "You must be really full," I answered, since all Kate had on her plate was a small piece of chicken and a spoonful of rice.


  Since Kate and her mom ate hardly any dinner, I figured they'd definitely eat dessert. Kate's mom bought three different desserts.

She stood at the head of the table and asked my Dad which desserts he wanted. Dad said "Some of all of them, please". Next it was

Mom's turn. She said she would have a tiny sliver of the chocolate cake, and she'd taste Dad's lemon tart and cheesecake. Big surprise.

When it was my turn, I said I would have some of the chocolate cake and some of the cheesecake. Kate said she didn't want anything

because she was too full. Then Kate's mom sat down, but she didn't take any dessert either. She just brought in two clean forks for

her and Kate so they could both taste Lou's dessert.


   Then we all talked about how great the chocolate cake was, and Kate's mom said it was her favourite cake in the world because it

came from the best bakery in town. So I asked why she wasn't having any if she loved it so much. "I want to maintain my girlish figure," 

she said, then she winked at Lou. "That's my girl," Lou answered, and he winked too. I almost puked.


  So I guess here's another rule: If you're a woman, you're supposed to try to look like a girl with a "girlish figure". But if you're a girl, you're

supposed to act like a woman by not being "spirited."  Except I eat and talk like the guys do. No wonder everyone thinks I'm a weirdo."

#14 backonthescales


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Posted 19 May 2015 - 05:59 AM

Next up is a different type of ED book "Anorexics on Anorexia" edt by Rosemary Shelley. 

#15 mxnniemouse



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Posted 21 May 2015 - 08:39 AM

love the idea of reviews!!!

height: 5'9

CW: 64.7kg  

BMI: 21.12




general: accountability


weight goals

❤ gw1: 62kg  |  bmi: 20.24





#16 backonthescales


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Posted 21 May 2015 - 12:02 PM

thank you xx

#17 fancypantses



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Posted 23 May 2015 - 06:15 PM

What did you think of Letting Ana Go, by Anonymous? I enjoyed a lot of it, great dialog, good interaction with her parents, good plot, but found it ultimately unsatisfying because, no explanation as to why she rejected food all of a sudden.

It was as though her parents split up and suddenly our heroine is disgusted by food. Or, she is required to keep a food diary for track, and suddenly she starts restricting.

And why was she so taken with Susan, her friend's mother? Her own mother was fine, and loving.

Answers needed!!
Dinner is the least important meal of the day.

#18 backonthescales


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Posted 25 May 2015 - 01:25 PM

I haven't read that one yet - but I do have it (it's one of my very recent purchases), so after I've finished the one I'm reading now, I'll do that. Give me a week and I'll let you know :lol:

#19 backonthescales


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Posted 28 May 2015 - 09:18 AM

Review #4  -  "Anorexics on Anorexia"  edited by Rosemary Shelley   




  Anorexics on Anorexia is a collection of short accounts, written by those with anorexia about their life with an eating disorder. In other words, what it says on the tin! It was first published in 1997, so as you can imagine, medical understanding of anorexia was not as it is now. The authors are a mixed bunch: male and female (though mostly female), some young, some old and one child, some are still very ill and some are recovered. It's not solely about anorexia though, as some authors switched between disorders during their reported life. The book is edited by Rosemary Shelley, a former anorexic, who created this book because she wanted and could not find one like it when she was sick.


  It is an interesting book, if you like reading other people's stories and it is a good historical perspective of eating disorder treatment in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century, but, of course, only from the standpoint of the patient. One important thing to note - this book is both a trigger and a deterrent. It doesn't shy away from describing weights, behaviours and disordered thinking, but it definitely does emphasise the terrible effects of eating disorders have on the sufferer and those around them. Pro-ana it aint! A reoccurring comment across the chapters is how many years the patients feel they have lost to their illnesses, sometimes 30 years or more. It does have quite a 'victim' mind set throughout the stories, which can be annoying; in some cases I felt like saying to the author 'well you only have yourself to blame' (it sounds harsh, but read the stories before you judge) but I guess it depends on the reader's frame of mind at the time. The overall aim of the book reports to be to bring hope to anorexics and understanding to the medics involved and the sufferer's families.


  The book sits firmly in the 'Memoir' category of eating disorder books, but it is rather dry and sometimes emotionless to read, as if it were a psychological text book with the stories as small snippets used as examples to illustrate a point, rather than autobiographical. However, because it is presented in short chapters, with a different author for each one and no through flowing narrative, it is a very easy book to dip in and out of. It is certainly a good addition to any collection of books about anorexia and other eating disorders.           4.5/5




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#20 patchworkgirl


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Posted 29 May 2015 - 06:38 PM

i LOVE these reviews! i have read all of these except "purge", because i read so many mixed/mostly bad reviews.

hanged man - i found it to be typical of all of francesca lia block's writing, pretty much. used to read her books a lot as a teenager but started just getting annoyed with her writing, because while it can be pretty, it has just over the years become almost like a parody of itself or like she is just stuck in the same place, if you know what i mean. no real evolution in her writing process. plus i knew too many girls who tried to replicate her writing & it just became super super annoying. also i found that in this book, she makes eating disorders too poetic, too beautiful. she romanticizes the shit out of everything, pretty much, whether it is intentional or not.

stick figure - i still love this book. the late 70's stuff rocks, the story is interesting. she seemed like a cute kid most of the time. her weight triggered the hell outta me. the hospital she was in & experiences she had on the ward reminded me in a lot of ways of my time in a children's hospital for anorexia, even though i was in the hospital in 1999, not 1978.

anorexics on anorexia - i pretty much agree with your review. though i do like this book, i can't reread it very often because it weighs on me, & the stories are so short there is no time to really connect with the people telling them. & it comes across like clinical case studies at times, though told in the first person. still, my copy is dog eared & underlined like crazy.

i can't wait to read more reviews!!!
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