Change Your Life: Book Recs Based on the Fab Five

I was very worried when I heard Queer Eye was in Lawrence (as evidenced by their stop at our own 3-windowed 6th street McDonalds!). My first thought was to run home and clean my house as fast as possible. I’ve been a longtime fan and I love the reboot, so I’ve been waiting for season 3 since I first saw Bobbie Berk’s Instagram post last August. When it premiered on March 15th I binged the entire season in 2 days. The show is a typical makeover show with the same formula for each episode. The Queer Eye crew, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Bobbi Berk, and Antoni Porowski take a person (representative of you, Dear Viewer) and show them how get their life together through all avenues of self-care: skin and hair care, overcoming your self-defeating habits, dressing for confidence, having well-designed surroundings that fit your lifestyle, and putting some good food on the table for yourself and for loved ones. Having raced through the series, I’ve been hitting up blog posts and checking out the library catalog in the quest for life-transformative inspiration. Maybe it’s a little too pie-in-the-sky to expect a lifestyle makeover within a week, but I’ve found some great resources to help you tweak your routine. Here’s some lists based on what each member of the fab five specializes in. Enjoy!


Tan France-Fashion

Tan is less about the clothes and more about how the clothes make you feel. His thesis statement is that looking good gives you confidence. Do you think you have to be a certain size or have certain proportions to pull off a look you want? Throw that attitude in the garbage and read The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor. All bodies are good bodies.

The Body Is Not An Apology

This second pick could easily be on Bobby's list too. Local author Kelly Barth grew up in tight knit evangelical christian community and everything was great, until she fell in love with a girl. My Almost Certainly Real Imaginary Jesus tells the story of how she reconciled her faith and her sexuality.

My Almost Certainly Real Imaginary Jesus

I had to throw this one in just for fun! There was great debate on how to pronounce "squirrel" in the first episode. Is the single syllabic version "just a noise?" It doesn't matter in this great graphic novel series Squirrel Girl.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Jonathan Van Ness-Grooming

My first recommendation is based on Jonathan's Instagram videos of his skating lessons. He started out slowly, with shaky ankles and quite a few falls, but now he's spinning with a straight back and looks so much more confident on the ice! I think as adults we are marvelously scared to try new things because we're afraid to fail, so Pema Chodron's book, Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better is great reading. 

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better

Jonathan is not the first to take on the gender binary in his fashion choices. Whether it's showing a hunter how to walk in heels, or walking the red carpet in a gown, he's making femme-androgynous style choices more mainstream with his wardrobe choices. Red Blooded American Male is a fantastic book of photos that challenges traditional male imagery and stereotypes.

Red-blooded American Male

I've followed Jacob Tobia on Instagram and Facebook for a while now, and I was ecstatic when they released a book! They've long been on the forefront of non-binary activism and making us deconstruct how we think of gender and its expression. We now have the chance to peek inside Jacob's formative years where they learned to define themselves how they wanted to be defined.


Bobby Berk-Design

Who's ready to dismantle a house and reconstruct it in five days! Our transformation won't be as quick, but here's some sources to help you make your living space a refuge. I couldn't not put Marie Kondo's Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up on the list. I loved the book when it first came out and enjoyed the series on Netflix that essentially follows the same formula that Queer Eye does. You certainly don't have to follow her formula to a T, but I found it helpful in exploring why I hold onto some items even though I didn't really use or enjoy them. Extra bonus if you are a maximalist and find the thrift stores dripping with the fruits of other people's tidying!

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

Gretchen Rubin's latest book is in the same vein as Kondo's, but with more of focus on how your living space can make you feel more calm and centered. 

Outer Order, Inner Calm

UFYH has been one of my favorite websites for a while. A lot of cleaning and design manifestos don't take into account folks who have mental or physical challenges that may keep them from having a clean and tidy house. Life happens and UFYH is here to help you clean after a depressive episode, or maybe you've been taking care of a friend or family member and haven't had time to clean, and need some encouragement. Their tumblr is also full of community before and after photos so you know you're not alone in attempting to keep the entropy of life from wreaking havoc on your home!

Unfuck your Habitat

Karamo Brown-Culture and Lifestyle

I love a good self-help book, and Karamo's portions of the show are probably my favorite. Whether it's taking folks to events that might be a little outside their comfort zones, or helping someone realize how negatively they talk about themselves, Karamo is there to help you be your best self. So many of the episodes focus on getting over perceived standards of perfection, and anything by Brene Brown will help you with that. The Gifts of Imperfection encourages you to release the preconceived notion of who you should be, and embrace who you are. 

The Gifts of Imperfection

Karamo is also willing to show some tough love to some serious peter-pan syndrome cases. Michelle Tea's How to Grow Up shows us that a grown-up can be a tarot-reading, neck tattooed artist and writer. The adulting part is simply taking responsibility for your life and taking charge of the direction it goes.

How to Grow Up

How do you show your authentic self when societal inequalities prevent you from fully expressing your race, gender, and/or sexuality? Zenju Earthlyn Manuel explores that in the The Way of Tenderness.

The Way of Tenderness

Antoni Porowski-Food

Okay, so Antoni has gotten a lot of criticism for his heavy reliance on avocado and three-ingredient dishes, which to be fair, if you are just starting out cooking, or are so busy you don't have time to cook, avocados are like power boosts to 99% of dishes, and three-ingredient meals make weeknight bearable if you're trying to get out of a rut or stop eating fast food. I do love Antoni's focus on locally sourced veggies and meats. I was reminded of Sean Sherman's Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen. There's quite a few simple recipes in the book, and some more complicated sauces if you want to challenge yourself a little bit.

The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen

So I haven't taken a look at this cookbook yet, but I loved Jaime Oliver when he was on the Food Network and I felt he made cooking accessible and easy. It looks like there might be some ingredients that are a little boutique, but I hopped over to his website to check some out and they look simple to make, if you're willing to go out on a culinary limb.

5 Ingredients

Antoni's resume includes food service, so I thought I would highlight a book that puts you behind the scenes in haute-cuisine to see how the sausage is made. 

Kitchen Confidential

Whether it’s practical decluttering advice and recipes that are within easy reach of a busy week night, or transforming how we look at ourselves through the clothes we wear and the messages we tell ourselves, the library has some great resources to help you get back on track. And I would be remiss not to mention the books we do have (or will soon be getting) by the Fab Five themselves!

Queer Eye



-Kristin Soper is an Events Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.