Happy New Year everybody! It’s that time again, isn’t it. The alcohol has coursed through your veins, you awoke in a mixture of shame, regret, and pride, ready to never do that again in your life until next time. Or perhaps you laid low, in bed before the clock struck midnight, far away from the boisterousness of the crowds outside. I feel you. I was puppy sitting. It was perfect. But another year means another batch of books and this is where I’ve got you covered. My New Years resolution for 2018 was to read more- I love a good undefined goal- and I think I did it with 32.5 books (150 pages of Catch-22 was enough. Seriously, who was the editor? We get it, ok!?) compared to the 14 I read in 2017. I hope to read even more in 2019. So, without further ado, here are my favorites from this year. It should be noted that I don’t finish a book unless I’m enjoying it, so at the bottom of the page you will find the entire list, all of which I recommend (except Catch-22. I included it on the list because IT COUNTS. It’s a classic though, so, yeah whatever).
Listed in the order I read them:
A haunting true story of a child soldier. Throughout the entire read, I was wondering how he survived it all and came out on the other end a caring and kind individual. Not for the faint of heart, this book is an eye-opening account of the reality that too many have had to face in Sierra Leone and elsewhere. I am drawn to stories of people whose lives have been much different from my own, and places that aren’t mentioned much in the news of American media. I recommend this in particular to gain a new perspective and perhaps find some gratitude for your own life.
I don’t play video games and I have no idea what even made me choose this book but I’m so happy I did. Set in 2045, this tale follows teenage Wade Watts as he takes on a challenge much bigger than he bargained for. If you’re looking for an adventure-packed, thrilling work of fiction, I highly recommend it. This one pulled me in right away, making it one of my favorite fictions in recent years.
I don’t know how it took me this long to pick up Frankl’s masterpiece, but better late than never. This should be required reading for all of humankind. Frankl describes his survival through concentration camps but with a heavy emphasis on psychology and what one needs mentally to survive unsurvivable conditions. Seriously, if there’s one book you read all year, make it this one. I even bought it for my sister for Christmas and one for myself and I’m looking forward to reading it again in 2019.
This is the ultimate history of the Americas before Columbus arrived. Mann touches on everything from technology to population to agriculture. I’m pretty picky with books about history because the writing style can sometimes be dull, but he kept me captivated from beginning to end (ok, I skipped a few pages when he really went into the debate about maize but the book is almost 500 pages long, I won’t complain). I highly recommend it as he stresses the importance of recognizing the advancements made in the “New World”, a large part of human history that is often neglected and their accomplishments deemed rudimentary at best. Mann proves this is simply not true and urges the commentary to change. Seriously, read this book. It will alter your outlook on the indigenous population pre-Columbus and how the terms “Old World” and “New World” are arbitrary at best.
At 57, Max Lugavere’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers.A seemingly healthy, average middle-aged woman, it seemed a mystery as to how someone as young as her could have developed the disease. As a result, Max spent a few years studying the brain and how the foods we eat affect it. This book is a culmination of his findings. It is my favorite book on nutrition I’ve come across as it’s accessible, well written, and clearly explained. I didn’t find my eyes crossing like I have in other books, and each page contains loads of information that forced me to keep a notebook of everything I learned. What we eat affects our brains and so much information in the media is contaminated by big companies looking to make a quick buck. A whole foods, nutrient-dense diet is what Lugavere preaches and I am all in. Each of the 12 chapters showcases a “genius food” and the good it does for your body. Do your health a favor and pick this up.
The timing on this one could not have been better (I picked this up right before our administration decided to do even more damage to the country by denouncing transgender folks). It’s a fiction book not only about the youngest son, Claude, who was born a boy but was really a girl, but also about family and one’s loyalty to it. Gorgeously written, the eloquence had me turning the page of this beautiful story. This also had me laughing out loud and was really just a joy to read. Definitely one of my favorite fiction books of all time and a great way to educate yourself about transgenderism while pondering family values.
You know when books happen to come into your life at just the right moment? To Shake the Sleeping Self was such a book for me. When he turned 30, Jedidiah Jenkins biked from Oregon to Patagonia. This is his memoir of the journey and it seemed like some dark, twisted magic had taken many of my own thoughts right out of my brain and put them into his. It was pensive and philosophical, yet fun and a page-turner. I really enjoyed Jenkins’ candor- you get the feeling that you are thoroughly rooting through his mind bit by bit. It is vulnerable and open and he does not hold back. What he did was remarkable and you feel as though you’ve done the journey right alongside him. I highly recommend.
Aside from Genius Foods, this one probably ended up being one of the most useful books I picked up this year. It’s a fascinating dive into how our minds operate differently from hour to hour, and the negative effects that take place when we ignore these natural lags in mental state. For example, did you know that there is a 65% chance of a judge granting parole at 9am, but almost 0% at 11:45am? Something that highly affects a person’s life is decided by the time of day in which the decision takes place. Pink also emphasizes the importance of breaks, how to break effectively, how to organize your day based on these natural mood shifts, and how to readjust our focus in the middle of reaching a goal. As the book says, timing isn’t everything, everything is timing. I gained a lot from this one, I hope you pick it up so that you can benefit as well.
Bryson did it again. I picked up A Walk in the Woods in January, and ended the year with another gut-buster of a book. I laughed so hard the first half (he calms down a bit later on) and also had the crap scared out of me about my pending trip to Australia. Filled to the brim with history, geology, geography, and funny anecdotes, this was a great introduction to the vast continent. Witty, humorous, and interesting to the core, I bought a copy for myself to read through again on my flight to what will be my home for a year. Whether you intend on heading there yourself or just travel there through these pages, it’s an amusing read and you will learn something about this country that no one really knows anything about.
Here is the full list:
- The Year of Magical Thinking- Joan Didion (1/6-1/7)
- Talking as Fast as I Can- Lauren Graham (1/7-1/8)
- 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do- Amy Morin (1/8-1/9)
- A Walk in the Woods- Bill Bryson (1/9-1/16)
- Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen- JK Rowling (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in German)
- A Long Way Gone- Ishmael Beah (1/30-2/15)
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry- Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2/15ish-2/25)
- Ready Player One- Ernest Cline (2/25-3/2)
- Tribe of Mentors- Tim Ferriss (3/2 off and on)
- In Cold Blood- Truman Capote (3/3-3/16)
- The Undoing Project- Michael Lewis (3/18-3/31)
- Song of Solomon- Toni Morrison (3/31-4/4)
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe- CS Lewis (4/4-4/5)
- The Rules Do Not Apply- Ariel Levy (4/5- 4/11)
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind- Yuval Noah Harari (4/11-4/24)
- Man’s Search for Meaning- Viktor Frankl (4/25-4/30)
- Wild by Nature- Sarah Marquis (7/18ish-7/23)
- 1491- Charles C. Mann (7/24-8/1)
- Fifth Avenue, 5am- Sam Wasson (8-11-8/16)
- Catch-22- Joseph Heller (8/17-I read 150 pages. I just can’t anymore.)
- Genius Foods- Max Lugavere
- Before We Were Yours- Lisa Wingate (~8/26-9/6)
- Little Fires Everywhere- Celeste Ng (9/7-10/14)
- The Greatest Knight- Thomas Asbridge (9/8-10/14)
- This Is How It Always Is- Laurie Frankel (10/14-11/6)
- To Shake the Sleeping Self- Jedidiah Jenkins (10/15-10/22)
- The Art of Work- Jeff Goins (10/23-11/3)
- When- Daniel H. Pink (10/23-10/30)
- Originals- Adam Grant (11/10ish-12/5)
- This Will Only Hurt a Little- Busy Philipps (11/13-11/21) *I enjoyed this one a lot too.
- The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story- Douglas Preston (11/22-
- Vagabonding- Rolf Potts (11/28-11/29)
- In a Sunburned Country- Bill Bryson (12/5-12/25)
The Name of the Wind- Patrick Rothfuss (12/9-
These Truths- Jill Lepore (12/25-