I’ve set (and met!) the goal to read at least two books per month for the past two years and during that time I’ve fallen in love with the digital library. I was so reluctant to embrace ebooks initially, but look at me now! Every book on my list this year was borrowed from the online library. It is so convenient! I love that I can get a book the minute I want it – or at least put it on my hold list if it isn’t available and find something else to read in the meantime. I use the Overdrive app to borrow and my Kindle app to read, so the book I am currently reading is always with me on my phone. The best part? No late fees! There’s no physical book to return, so even if I forget to return it, my loan will simply expire. The only problem I run into is that books on my hold list tend to come available all at once and I can’t get them all read before they expire and I have to put them on hold again. So, basically I am saying my biggest problem is there are too many books and too little time to read them.
Now, on to the list!
1. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes
I’ve been varying degrees of fat my entire adult life. This book was incredibly insightful about that struggle. And when I put the “what to do about it” into practice (which I was all revved up to do right after I read it), it worked (-20 pounds!) in the short term, at least. That’s the hard part, obviously, as I am still fat now. I have the author’s latest book The Case Against Sugar on my list for this year.
2. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
I’d seen the movie, which was great, but the book feels a bit different and is definitely worth reading. It’s short, but powerful.
3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I was completely swept up and couldn’t put it down. According to some negative reviews I’ve read, this makes me a dumb reader, but that’s alright. I was surprised at most of the “predictable” plot turns and that made it fun to read. I haven’t seen the movie, but I hope to.
4. The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson
I have never been disappointed by a Shirley Jackson book. She was brilliant, so this one is wonderful, of course. (If I had to recommend just one of her books, it would be We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It is my favorite.)
5. Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir by Wednesday Martin
I probably shouldn’t read bad reviews of books I’ve liked because it’s such a bummer. This one has a lot of them. The book was more thoughtful than I expected it to be. I should probably start making notes about books that struck me somehow, because I cannot remember exact quotes, but there were moments in it that gave me a new perspective I want to keep. It was worth reading.
6. On Writing by Stephen King
I took an online writing class a year or two ago in hopes of reinvigorating my passion to write, which was a loss I felt when the numbness of post-partum depression took hold. Writing my little blog was so satisfying before that. It boosted my creativity and managed to stir up excitement in other areas of my life. The course didn’t work any magic (I sort of gave up on it partway through), but reading this book – which was recommended for the class- certainly did. It is a manual and a memoir and a whole lot of inspiration.
7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The best mystery book I’ve ever read.
8. Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison
This is embarrassing to list. It was one of those books I borrowed because the first three I searched for weren’t available and I just wanted to read something. It looked like a fast, juicy, guilty-pleasure sort of read. It was not. Mostly, it was sad and whiny. It made me rethink my rule that I have to finish every book I start.
9. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
This true story is incredible. It broke my heart and will stay with me forever.
10. I Smile Back by Amy Koppelmann
Oh my gosh, this book really bummed me out. I didn’t read anything for two weeks after.
11. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein
I read this book mostly while I was outside on a sunny, spring day and bought some Sleater-Kinney tunes after.
I recommend anything by Gretchen Rubin. I think she’s a genius! Her books are practical and insightful and always worth the read. (And a re-read.)
13. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
I’ve always been interested in the secrets of Scientology and Leah tells a lot. I liked her so much more after I read this book.
14. Reckless by Chrissie Hynde
I had hoped for a little more about her life while she was in The Pretenders, but the book focused mostly on her life before that. It was interesting and it felt honest. Chrissie Hynde is a real badass.
15. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
“Use The Secret!” has become a daily utterance in our household.
Dave: “We’re going to be late for school!”
Kids, from the back seat: “Use The Secret, Dad!”
Me: “Tell yourself we have plenty of time.”
It’s sort of a joke. Sort of. The Secret is mostly about the law of attraction, and I do think there is something to that, but I’m not sure it is a secret. The best thing I gained from the book was this quote I have shared with my kids when they ask me about death:
You are energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Energy just changes form. And that means YOU! The true essence of YOU, the pure energy of You, has always been and always will be. You can never not be.”
This has seemed to satisfy them and assuage their fears more than anything else they’ve heard.
Also, the advice to “be happy now, feel good now” is pretty wise. I am trying to follow it.
I am a preacher’s kid who grew up in the church and into an adult that no longer goes there, so this book spoke to me. I loved the idea, but was worn out by the end.
17. Too Pretty to Live: The Catfishing Murders of East Tennessee by Dennis Brooks
This book was so interesting and disturbing! It is a true crime story written by the lead prosecutor of the murder case. He presents the facts the way he uncovered them and it is fascinating. It’s hard to believe something so crazy could actually happen.
I usually have a hard time reading more than one book at a time, but I read this one while I was reading others. I’d read five or ten of the 100 things each day, which felt like reading a “Tips for Happiness” blog post.
19. Happiness is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life by Sylvia Boorstein
I collected so many quotes from this book in my quote folder that I think I should just re-read it.
20. The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell
I’d read about the five love languages before, but enjoyed this focus on children. My kids are all so different. While reading this, I paid more attention to how they express love. I really think I had pegged Phoebe with the wrong love language before reading this. (She is words of affirmation!) And maybe Julia, too. More than anything, it helped me be more mindful to make sure I am expressing love in all the languages to cover my bases.
21. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I can’t believe it took me so long to read this. It is essential reading I should have done sooner.
22. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
James Baldwin wrote so beautifully. He is unmatched in this area. This is a tragic love story. He wrote it in 1956, but it feels contemporary.
23. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The best fiction I read this year. I was enthralled! I loved trying to figure out what the Sci-Fi angle was, but it was so much more than that. It’s a captivating story I still think about months later.
24. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Conner
I read this and gave Dave nightmares talking about the stories! They reminded me of the Twilight Zone. Dark, with a twist. The writing is incredible. It was published in 1955 and while there are plenty of elements that date the stories, much of it is still relevant today. I may not have felt that way if I had read it a year or two ago. Then, I would have said, “My how far we’ve come.” But, reading this during the election, I was stunned at how much the bigotry and racism portrayed in this book still exists. Sad!
25. Dietland by Sarai Walker
This book was a wild ride and not at all what I expected.
26. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Gosh, what an interesting and sad story. I’ll never forget it.
27. Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende
This is a short book that took me a while to get through because I couldn’t read more than a chapter at a time. They all made me cry! This was a good one to end the year with.
What are you reading? Give me your recommendations! I’ll add them to my reading list.
No school today! And Dave is off from work! What a glorious gift the freezing rain has given us – time together! To play Minecraft! Is “squee!” still a thing? Meanwhile, look at these kittens.
Dave turned 44 over the weekend. Jack is turning 4 in March. (Dave looked absolutely horrified when I pointed this out.) Those are both even numbers. The girls and I are all turning odd numbers this year. Our piano teacher told us it sounded like the set up for a word problem. Somehow the situation gives me a satisfying sense of all-is-right-with-the-worldness. I’ll take that anywhere I can get it right now, because the world? Yeesh.
We spent most of Dave’s birthday playing the board games he got for Christmas and his birthday. (I recommend Splendor and Forbidden Island. They are lots of fun!) Later, Dave and I went out BY OURSELVES for dinner. I had an alcoholic beverage! We had tickets for a show that had to be rescheduled, so we ended up bowling. Dave outscored me every game. I got a number of strikes while he only got one, but he got tons of spares while I didn’t get any. THAT sounds like the start of a word problem.
And now, a birthday haiku for Dave.
you were trying hard to score
just like our first date