I’ve always been a voracious reader (though I read little compared to many, my sister included). However, adulthood and school had kept me from reading as much as I would like. After I purchased a Kindle in 2016, I did read a little more. In 2017, however, I reengaged with reading in a meaningful way. I also
cofounded joined my first book club (I merely pestered a friend for ~8 months until she created one and now hosts it each month ha).
Below is a recap of the Top and Bottom 5 books I read last year. My complete 2017 reading list can be found here. Books in italics were read for the book club.
1- At Home in the World, Tsh Oxenreider
This book was recommended by my sister. I have traveled many places with her, and when she told me the premise (a couple puts “normal life” on hold and travels with their 3 kids around the world for a year) I was hooked. Before reading it, I thought, “This is the dream, I absolutely want to do this when I have kids!” After reading, my opinions had changed (I prefer to travel for leisure and it sounded like a LOT of work). That doesn’t change the fact that this story is wonderfully written, engaging, and eye-opening. I found myself jotting down quotes about love and travel and happiness, and taking notes about places to go or how to travel with kids.
2 – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
I found this book enlightening, both about myself and others. First things first: I am generally an extroverted person (this has been confirmed by an online personality test and anyone who knows me). This book helped me realize that we all have important, introverted tendencies. As the title states, we live in a society that emphasizes being outgoing and ascribes success to those who are the most social. The book is written to help both introverts and extroverts understand what introverted really means. It should not be synonymous with antisocial, depressed, quiet, or boring. Rather, it discusses that introverts rejuvenate and re-energize in solitude rather than in social settings. This book can help you understand yourself, your kids, your spouse, or your coworkers better which can in turn, help shift society’s view of those who are not and do not desire to be the center of attention. Highly recommend for anyone.
3 – Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Adam Alter
A scary read, if I’m being honest. This is an easy-to-read book about how humans are becoming more addicted to technology and ways we can fight back. The author is well versed in the psychology of addiction, success, and isolation. He acknowledges that this is an addiction unlike drugs, in that our society can’t function without the internet. However, we can manage the issue by understanding how a technology addiction is similar to a drug addiction. For example, I no longer get email or text message notifications on my phone, which I have found to be a healthy practice of limiting interruptions of my in person interactions. The scariest aspect of the book for me was that looking at the use of technology by kids and teenagers. We are all susceptible to the feelings of isolation that technology causes (lack of face-to-face interaction), but it’s especially harmful during the developmental years.
4 – Forward: A Memoir, Abby Wambach
Great insight into the life of one of our generation’s most prominent female athletes, this was a well-organized memoir that I enjoyed reading. Each chapter was represented by a single word on which she elaborates (e.g., daughter, gay). I could relate to many of her childhood stories about the desire to compete, being a tomboy, and playing high school soccer. However, Abby has also lived a life to which I cannot relate at all. She divulges private information about her struggles with being secretly (and not so secretly) gay, depression, medication abuse, injuries, marital issues, and losing her identity after retirement (ok I can relate to that last one!). She is resilient, funny, and human. I’m glad that Abby shared her story with the world.
I figured I should include at least one piece of fiction in my top 5, so I chose my favorite novel of the year. The story telling was intriguing, following a split family over many generations. Each chapter left questions unanswered (and never returned to it). This is normally a style I dislike, but the storytelling was compelling and each subsequent chapter eliminated my need for closure. By the end, I even felt as if the book would have been lesser if all loose ends would have been tied up. Perfect weekend/summer/book club book.
1 – Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey, Ed Stafford
This book was on a reading list I compiled eight years ago. After reading it, I wish the list had remained undiscovered. This book was a slog, even though I usually love true stories of people conquering obstacles and pushing themselves to the limits (e.g., Into Thin Air). There were no good takeaways from this book and the author was unable to elicit any emotion from me. I never felt that the author was in danger, I never thought the police were going to harm him, I wasn’t nervous when he encountered drug trafficker nor was I worried when he got bit by an anaconda. I didn’t even feel happy for him when he completed the trek. Just, blah.
2 – The Slight Edge: Secret to a Successful Life, Jeff Olson
I love a good self-help book, but this was a tough book for me to finish. The concept is that doing small things over and over will lead to big changes, but I’m honestly not sure how the author filled an entire book repeating the same concept: save just a little each day, eat just a little less, walk just a little each day — it all adds up. All true, but I’m bored just thinking about it again. I’m sure it’s right for someone.
3 – Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, Dan Lyons
Worth a try if you are interested in hearing a 50-year old venture into the startup world. I felt like this book wanted to be funny, but just wasn’t. Perhaps there was part of me that, having worked in a company similar to one the author described, wanted to avoid hearing how ridiculous it sounded…
4 – Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
This book was actually okay. I listened to this book on audio and it just didn’t really do much for me. I wasn’t engaged in the gossipy narrative or figuring out “whodunnit.” As expected, the end reveal was neither surprising nor invigorating. I hear the TV adaptation is good though.
5 – Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
To start, I’ll mention that I don’t like science-fiction books. This book was readable, but I just don’t become enraptured with a book that has a fictitious setting with a slime monster who infects people in a mysterious ways and offers no closure to any plot line. I also felt like character development was lacking (there were only 4 characters to begin with). It is the beginning of a trilogy so I assume the author wanted to leave the reader hanging in some ways. I will, however, not be reading the other two.
Of course, this list is subjective. Regardless of your genre preferences, I hope you enjoyed reading my analyses and perhaps feel inspired to pick up a book of your choosing. Please comment if you agree/disagree with any of my choices!
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“Give me a good cup of coffee and a good book and I’ll be happy.”
January 2013, a stray kitten snuck into my apartment for the morning. Of course I had to call in sick to work and buy pet food and kitty litter. It was a good 5 hours until the owner called me about their missing kitten.
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