2016 in Review: My Favorite Reads

2016 in Review: My Favorite Reads

This year, I decided to set tangible, quantifiable goals for myself vs. vague resolutions. I wrote them down, taped them on my bathroom mirror and posted them across social media. I was determined to keep myself accountable. 

While admittedly, I wasn't successful on every single goal (though I suppose I do have one more week!), I did surpass one of my goals - read 12 books in a year. I actually hit about 18 books. 

I used to be a huge reader, and ironically, during college, I almost entirely stopped reading for fun. As a Communication Studies major, I had a heavy reading load...and honestly,  it made me view personal reading with distaste - it felt like just another assignment. 

Now that I'm well out of college, I figured it was time to pick up reading again in exchange for some of my screen time. 

If you're looking to add books to your 2017 list, here are my recommendations from this year: 

Why Not Me? - Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling is among my favorite female actresses. She's hilarious, honest and really, well, real. Why Not Me? is her second book and weaves together a collection of stories about Mindy's childhood, college adventures and her time in show business. The book brings the same humor from The Mindy Project and The Office - I honestly cracked up during every single chapter. Every story was easy to relate to and was comforting to know I am not, indeed, alone with many of my thoughts on inclusion/exclusion, friendship, goals and body image. 

The Year of Yes - Shonda Rhimes
I was really on the celebrity memoir/essay collection game this year apparently! The Year of Yes comes from TGIT's Shonda Rhimes (aka creator/writer of How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal and Grey's Anatomy). Another one of my goals this year was to "say 'Yes!' to being social." As an extreme introvert and an individual who suffers painful social anxiety, this was an aspect of my life I wanted to work on feeling more comfortable in. I wanted to experience things with friends and push myself out of my comfort zone (and apartment) to grow. Rhimes shared this desire with me - she took a year of saying "yes" to every aspect of her life (health, invites, friends, work, relationships, anything that made her uncomfortable). I shared in her fears, challenges and successes and felt confident and inspired to say "yes" to the areas of my life that were lacking (particularly, socially). While there were no McDreamy's or McSteamy's, the book was a solid, inspirational listen from one of my idols. 

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
My sister gifted me The Girl on the Train - thank you! As a huge fan of Gone Girl, I was excited to dig into another thrilling mystery. I ended up reading the entire book in one day - I couldn't get enough and I needed to know what happened! The book questions what goes on behind closed doors and was complete with a twist ending, which I didn't see coming at all. 

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanith
Amidst these celebrity memoirs and thrillers, I also took a foray into non-fiction this year. When Breath Becomes Air is a brilliant memoir by Paul Kalanith, who writes with just months to live after learning he has cancer. The entire book was genuine, beautifully written and honest. While I cried quite a bit while reading (I shouldn't read in public...), I was struck with the impact people can have even after they've passed. The prose was hauntingly beautiful and smart. I may have to give this a second read in 2017. 

Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari
And here I go back to the celebrity figures...Modern Romance is written by one of my favorite comics, Aziz Ansari. While the book still is funny and honestly made me crack up page after page, I was actually surprised at how serious and scientific Ansari was. The entire book was well-researched and dove into modern dating culture both in the United States and around the world. I read the book at a pivotal time when I was scared to date and really unsure of what dating even looked like in modern times, but it gave me confidence to put myself out there...and made for a laughter-filled car ride with his audiobook. 

The Martian - Andy Weir
To be honest, I had fairly low expectations around The Martian. Futuristic topics don't always hook me, and knowing the general subject of the book, I expected to feel tragic and sad while reading. Well, my expectations were totally surpassed. The book was surprisingly hilarious and insightful into the strength of human survival. I read the entire book in two days. 

Hemingway in Love - A.E. Hotchner
My best friend set this in a cute "get well" care package when I fractured my first hip - thank you! Hemingway in Love is written by one of the famous author's best friends and delves into the author's first marriage and the remainder of his romantic history. A solid read about one of my favorite literary figures - and a glimpse into his personal life and how it impacted his writing. 

Love Does - Bob Goff
So, I technically read this in 2015..but I re-read it in 2016. That counts, right? Love Does is a collection of stories that show the incredible good in the world through daily experiences and events. The book was profound and light all at the same time, ultimately inspiring me to try to do all things in love, to see the good in others and to take glorious leaps of faith. I read this while on crutches, and it really revitalized my faith and happiness. 

The Mountain Story - Lori Lansens
This book about survival and human connection in any circumstance definitely brought out the tears and introspection. It was beautifully written, and I could picture myself on the mountain. Yet again, this inspired me (while on crutches) - the will to survive and persevere through challenges is so much stronger than you think.  

November Project: The Book
Written by the co-founders of November Project, this book talks about the origin of November Project and how the free fitness movement brings people together across its 30+ member cities. If you know me at all, you know how huge November Project is in my life. Not to sound totally cheesy, but while I read this, I felt like I was a part of something bigger, something entirely meaningful. Thanks, NP. 

Perfect Match - Jodi Picoult
If we're being honest, I feel a little ashamed to read Jodi Picoult. I picked this book up awhile ago and let it collect dust on my bookshelf until finally breaking it open a plane to Nashville this year. I could not put it down! At times, it felt like a thriller. Other moments felt like a romance. Other moments felt like a religious drama. It was convoluted and tragic and intriguing. 

Me Before You - JoJo Moyes
All. The. Tears. But, it felt uplifting to read a story of a girl really coming into her own and finding out who she really was. I don't want to see the movie, honestly! The book was magic for me on its own. 

S/O to my book club who helped keep me accountable this year! 

Happy reading! 

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