My Year in Books (52 books in 52 weeks) – 2016 Book List

Or actually, make that 63 books in 52 weeks ;-)

In 2014, I resolved to read one book a week, and I did it. I took a break in 2015, telling myself I wanted to read more leisurely. Take my time with a book.... stop treating each book as a "chore" or race I had to finish...

...and I barely read 14 books in all of 2015.

Without the weekly rhythm and self-imposed deadline it was just too easy for me to put off reading.

2016 became another "year of books" and having done this twice now, I offer the following reflections:

  • I'm much more open-minded. I will try new genres and new authors a because I know it's just one book in a long list and only one week of my life. In 2015 I only read books that were sequels to previous books or had 10,000 Amazon reviews. I really shot myself in the foot there because most of the popular books I didn't like. This year I vowed to be "adventurous" and I'm glad I did because I stumbled on three authors that I love.
  • I find excuses TO read. I intentionally went on longer walks, or took the slightly more scenic route home, or arrived at a restaurant 20 minutes early so I could read in my car waiting for my friend. In 2015, I had all kinds of excuses for why I couldn't read...
  • I LOVE AUDIBLE!! I don't go anywhere without headphones anymore. I listen when I cook, when I shop, when I wait in line. I've worked my way up to listening at a 2 to 2.5 speed so now I listen almost as fast as I read. I also love that audible now syncs with kindle books so I can switch back and forth between them really easily.
  • It's more socially acceptable to listen (or have your nose in a book). It didn't matter what city I was in, if I was on the bus or subway, in line at Starbucks, or at the doctor's office, if I used my headphones I got the stink eye a lot less. Even when I had a technology error and couldn't get my audio book to pause, which resulted in me doing the hold-on-a-minute-I-can't-hear-you-omggg-I'm-now-tangled-in-my-headphones-dance, no one seemed to mind that I was now holding them up... but there were so many times people seemed legitimately bothered by my reading on my phone even when it had nothing to do with them. For example, someone commented about how I shouldn't be "on my phone" at a yoga studio, and I don't disagree, but I was reading a book on meditation waiting for the studio to open... I wasn't really "on my phone" and I'm betting if I had the physical book in my hand she wouldn't have been so annoyed.) And I get it, you come across as disinterested, rude, addicted to the internet... with headphones you're still looking around and engaged... you're still appearing "open for business."
  • I watch a lot less TV. Not just because I have so many books to read and somethings gotta give, but I realized I often put TV on not because I wanted to watch the show, but for something to do. Most nights I watched TV I also did a puzzle, or colored, or scanned instagram, or tried knitting. When I realized I could do all those things with my audio book, I choose the audio book. In 2017, I'm committing to only watching shows I'm willing to give my full attention to, like I do with movies.
  • You need a sucky book to really appreciate the good books. After a particularly enthralling read, I would stress about finding my next book, worrying it wouldn't be as good as the last. Thankfully, I didn't have too many "bad" books this year but when I did, I realized that made me love my favorites even more. I was also glad I stuck with a few books that I would have normally given up on; they really surprised me or won me over in the end.
  • I have more to talk about. Instead of talking about the weather, I talk about the books I'm reading. I like to think this makes me more interesting at parties.

A few notes about my book list: I've bolded my top recommendations so you can scan quickly. I've also grouped books together by type (i.e. novel vs. self-help) and author (if I read more than 1 book by the author). Except for the first 10 (my top 10) there is nothing magical about the order.

Lastly, please don't try to infer or assume anything about me (or my family) based on the books I've read. Thank you :)

Ratings: Every book is ranked out of 5 stars (5=amazing, 4=good, 3=okay/meh, 2=didn't care for it, 1=disliked it).

Top 10 Books:

  1. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. If you listened to season 1 of my Shortcut to Slim podcast you know I'm obsessed with this book. (5/5)
  2. What Alice Forgot. My favorite novel in 2016! This story is fantastic, but also deep. We tend to look back at our history with today's eyes, judging our younger selves rather than look at our current self with the judgmental eyes of 10 years ago. What would your 10-year-ago-self think of you today? (5/5)
  3. If You Find Me. Very close second! Audible kept recommending this book to me and finally I bought it on a whim before a flight. Fantastic! Heartbreaking and heart-filling in that rare, perfect balance. Highly recommend the audio version. (5/5)
  4. Stranger. I'd never heard of Harlan Coben before, mostly because his genre isn't my usual forte, but audible recommended this title and after listening to the 5 minute sample I had to have it. I've since read 5 other Coben books and this one still sticks out the most. (5/5)
  5. Good as Gone. This is the first novel that I thought, "I'd like to read this again" while reading it. I'm glad to see it's becoming popular! (5/5)
  6. The Handmaids Tale. When I saw Hulu had a new series based on this book, I decided to check it out. (That's one of my book selection strategies! It gets tiring looking for new books to read so I often pick books for upcoming shows or movies so I can compare them.) It was a little eery reading it right before our recent presidential election, but I can see why the book is so beloved. Atwood has a gift for exploring a broad range of issues (including politics and gender) that seem ever-relevant. Claire Danes reads the audible version and her performance is perfect. (5/5)
  7. The Help. Omgggg. I'd already seen the movie a few times, but picked up the audible on a whim... I binged listened. I blew through 4 hours and finished the rest the next day. The movie is great, and a fair adaption, but there was so much more in the book... themes about feminism and equality of women... so, so good. (5/5)
  8. The Perfect Girl. I enjoyed "What She Knew" so much that I immediately pre-ordered Gilly MacMillan's next book (via audible) without even reading what it was about! The day it released I stopped reading my current book and started this one, finishing it the next day. (5/5)
  9. Everything We Keep. Another audible suggestion that I caved into buying when I couldn't find anything else. I was sucked in immediately and recommend it as a beach read if you're into suspenseful romance. I'm thrilled there will be a sequel. (5/5)
  10. The Alchemist. A close friend had a long rehabilitation ahead and I looked for a book to give her with that sort of symbolism. This book was the perfect selection and I'm so glad I read it along with my pal. I found myself constantly jotting quotes from it in my journal. I want to read it again. (5/5)
  11. Everything I Ever Wanted. I'd read Lauren's previous memoir about her time in a Harem, so I was curious how her life continued after. What I didn't expect was how much I'd connect to her son's adoption story. Hearing how she handled some of the emotional challenges helped me resolve some of my own feelings about my adoption. Lauren is also adopted herself. (4/5)
  12. Postcards from the Sky. (1/5)
  13. Is Everyone Hanging Without Me? (4/5)
  14. Bossypants (5/5) This was such a great book. Entertaining with several pieces of really good advice!
  15. Histoires a lire le soir (French study)
  16. After You. Me Before You was my favorite book in 2015, so I devoured this "sequel" the moment it came out. (5/5)
  17. ROOM. I bought this book up when it first came out, but quit it, finding it difficult to read the "kid speak." I started it again after the movie was made and it's a fair adaption. I might even like the movie better, although I'm not quick to recommend either of them. (3/5)
  18. Pretty Girls. This book started strong but then just became unbelievable and annoying. It's pretty gross and gory at times. This was my first experience with Karin Slaughter, not sure I'll read her again. (2/5)
  19. The Crown. I got sucked into this series back in 2014 and still recommend it, even if though this final book leaves you a bit disappointed. It's not the actual ending that's meh, it's that the book was humming along beautifully and then abruptly resolves in a few pages. It felt like the author got bored and decided to quit rather than finish it properly. (3/5)
  20. The Weight of Silence. I discovered Heather Gudenkauf back in 2014 and her books never disappoint. Little Mercies is still my favorite, but even when the description isn't all that appealing to me, I always end up enjoying the book and finishing it pretty quickly. (4/5)
  21. Find Her. I picked this book up running through the airport. The cover (and title) that caught my attention. If you liked Gone Girl, A Girl on the Train, or The Luckiest Girl Alive I think you'll like this one too. It has that same sort of dark twistiness, along with a character you don't really like but you follow with interest anyway. I haven't read anything else by Lisa Gardener yet, but I did pre-order her new book, Right Behind You. (3/5)
  22. Harry Potter (book 1) I've seen all the movies and have wanted to read the books forever but treated them like an avocado. I wanted it, but also wanted it to be perfect, so I was waiting for my perfect moment. Christmas travel seemed like the best time, and I love them even more than I thought I would. I have cried so many times and connected so deeply with all the characters. It's a magical world I want to stay in. I'm doing the audio version and strongly recommend it! (5/5)
  23. Harry Potter (book 2) (5/5)
  24. Harry Potter (book 3) (5/5)
  25. Home. After Stranger, I looked for another Coben book and picked this one since it a stand alone (not part of a particular series). I didn't like it as much as the others but it was still good.
  26. Play Dead. My second favorite Coben book, although Coben says if you're new to him, this isn't the book to start with and I agree with him there. I catch myself thinking about this book a lot, which is rare for me... I tend to have amnesia after I read a book and forget everything (which is great and not) so when I do remember and think about the book's plot or characters months and weeks after, I know it was a keeper. (5/5)
  27. The Innocent. My third favorite Coben (it was really hard to rank them btw). If you're looking for a "starter" in the Coben line, this is a good choice. It's messy and heartbreaking but you never stop wanting to hear more. (5/5)
  28. Missing You. (4/5)
  29. Gone for Good. (4/5)
  30. Dark Matter. This started interesting but then just sort of sputtered out. Scott and I listened on a long drive and agreed it was meh. (2/5)
  31. Before the Fall. There were times when I had to know what happened next but also a lot of times where I just didn't care or I felt it was slow. By the end it was a solid "middle" rating. Not terrible, but not great. (3/5)
  32. The Secret History. I've owned this book since it came out (as a Classics major, I was very drawn to the book) but I always had trouble reading past a few chapters. I ended up reading this over three months while reading other books at the same time to keep pace. Basically, if I finished my "book of the week" early, I would read this one for the rest of the week. Donna Tartt's books are just too long for me. I think the overall stories are great, but they go too deep and spend too much time on unnecessary details imho. Both this book and The Goldfinch I found myself saying "can we move past this already? drip drip drip." I don't think I'll read anymore books by her but if you're always looking for a minute-by-minute story that slowly builds, you'll love her work. (2/5)
  33. Black Eyed Susans. Audible kept recommending this book to me until I finally caved. I'm glad I did because I loved it and couldn't stop listening. It was suspenseful but not necessarily a "who done it." I sorted out pretty quickly who is involved, and then spent the rest of the book trying to wrap my head around how they did what and why. It was a nice change from just trying to figure out WHO. (5/5)
  34. The Dispatcher. I'd listen to Zachary Quinto read me the phone book! This story was interesting but mostly I was blown away by how awesome Quinto performed. I'll listen to anything he narrates!! If you want to try audible without making a big time investment, this is a great choice. It's only 2-4 hours. (5/5)
  35. 5th Wave. I started this series when the movie came out and really liked it. If you really enjoyed the Hunger Games, this would be a good series for you. I don't know if they'll make movies out of the other books, but this is one of those books that way better as a book. (4/5)
  36. Infinite Sea (4/5)
  37. Last Star (4/5)
  38. Kill Order. I started the Maze Runner series in 2014 (because they were being turned into movies) and have stayed with it. This is a "prequel" and my favorite in the series, though I wouldn't start with it. I would still read these books in publication order. (4/5)
  39. This is Buddhism. Straightforward intro to Buddhism but in desperate need of a copyeditor. (4/5)
  40. How to Eat. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has a whole "How to" series. It's a quick little read but not many actionable steps. (3/5)
  41. Eating in the Light of the Moon. (2/3)
  42. Never Binge Again. (3/5)
  43. Why Diets Make Us Fat. (2/3)
  44. Beck Diet Solution. Several Meal Mentor members talked about this book and kept saying "She says a lot of what you say Lindsay!" so I finally read it and we do agree on a lot of points. It's not a "diet" as in you'll get a dietary plan but she does offer many tips and suggestions that I've used and taught for years. (4/5)
  45. The Clutter Diet. The idea that if your house is a mess, so is your life and dietary choices is interesting. It makes sense that when one thing falls into place so does everything else and we know from Wansink's research that your environment has way more to do with how much you eat than your brain (willpower). Check out the Shortcut to Slim podcast for more info. (3/5)
  46. How Not to Die. This is a great book if you have a specific medical problem you want to cure or improve with a plant-based diet. I do think it gets a little too reductionist at times and encourages slight food OCD. (4/5)
  47. Misdiagnosed. Seriously, read this book. Especially if you have medical issues. It's a real testament to how we must be our own advocates every step of the way, ask questions and challenge opinions. (5/5)
  48. Madame Chic. I spent the first four months of this year living like I was "French" and it was a wonderful experiment. I basically cultivated my life at home to mimic the lifestyle I had living abroad and I incorporated many of the practices I observed my French and European friends doing, like not snacking, eating meals at a table, and wearing nightgowns instead of ratty pajamas. I referenced this book and one other occasionally, mostly to confirm that my memory and interpretations were spot on. Even if you don't want to try the French lifestyle experiment, this book is a great little read with excellent "minimalist" advice on an array of topics. (4/5)
  49. French Chic. (2/5)
  50. Mindset. Scott kept recommending this book to me and I loved it. I've listened to the audio version at least twice. It's one of the best "self-help" books I've ever read.
  51. Better Than Great. (3/5)
  52. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? This book changed my life. It will either apply to you or not. If you're unsure, read this article first. (5/5)
  53. Inner Critic is a Big Jerk. Some helpful tips. (2/5)
  54. Show Your Work. I loved Steal Like an Artist, but this follow-up (if you can all it that) didn't light my fire as much. It is helpful though. (3/5)
  55. 5 Love Languages. I read this book again this year and will read it again and again. It has had such a profound, positive impact on my relationships with others. If there were two books I'd strongly recommend for a better 2017, it's this book and StrengthsFinder 2.0. (5/5)
  56. Your Erroneous Zones. Another really empowering "self-help" book (4/5)
  57. StrengthsFinder 2.0. (5/5)
  58. Right Words. This was a thesaurus-type book. (2/5)
  59. Alcoholics Anonymous. My message is "progress not perfection." I never thought I came up with it; I'd always assumed I'd heard it some where and just grabbed hold... then someone left a comment on Facebook once saying PNP came from AA. I thought, if one quote from AA has had such a monumental impact on my life, maybe there are other lessons I can pull from the program. There absolutely where. (5/5)
  60. As Bill Sees It (5/5)
  61. At Home. I have loved so many of Bill Bryson's books (A Walk in the Woods and A Short History of Nearly Everything are still top favorites) but this book was just... boring. (1/5)
  62. (currently reading) Shantaram. One of my best friends recommended this book (it was her 2015 top pic) and while I do love it, it's incredibly long. I'm treating it like The Secret History, picking it up when I finish other books earlier in the week. I hope to finish by the end of the year.
  63. (currently reading) Papillon (P.S.) I took a class in law school called "prisoners rights" and have been somewhat obsessed with the subject since.

52 books in 52 weeks - 2014 list

I also asked Facebook for recommendations, which you read here.

Please share your reviews and suggestions in the comments.
I'm resolving to read 100 books in 2017 :-)

If you'd like to read along with me (even for just one of the books) friend me on Goodreads and Instagram. I'll be posting what book I'm reading each week + giving a mini review of each book I finish :)