2017. The year that I read more books than I’ve ever read before. Also the year that I’ve been the busiest in terms of work, having a toddler, podcasting, training to be a health/life coach, attempting to keep this blog going (sorry about that!), writing my book, etc.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – audiobooks. Audiobooks changed my reading landscape this year, and I can’t wait to make GREAT use of audiobooks during my maternity leave when I’m couch-bound feeding an infant.
Anywho… if you’re anything like me, you look forward to the holidays not just for the tasty treats and fun times with family, but also for those stolen moments when you can curl up on the couch with a good book.
Based on the 63 books that I’ve read year to date, here are the ones that I wanted to recommend to you, all for very different reasons!
I want to note that many of these books can be found on Audible, so for a FREE book, use this link.
I find I’m reading a lot of end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it type books at the moment, but Station Eleven was a true standout for me AND… it’s Canadian! It takes place during, before and after a pandemic called the Georgia Flu which takes out 99% of the population. Those that are left are surviving as best they can, including the Traveling Symphony for whom survival isn’t enough. They perform music and Shakespeare for their tiny audiences throughout North America.
Station Eleven holds many different points of view and it was fascinating seeing how the characters weaved together throughout the 30-40 year time span. The author was so brilliant in how she imagined a post-pandemic world, one where children grow up never having known the internet, airplanes, telephones or electricity. Beautifully written, crafted and a great story.
You may know Liane Moriarty’s name from Big Little Lies which went global with the TV show this year, but the first book of hers that I read was What Alice Forgot. It plays with the trope of memory loss and how your last memory could be of being pregnant with your first child, in love with your spouse, and you wake up with three kids and in the midst of a divorce. It’s a great picture of how much your life can change in ten years, and how important it is to be as intentional as possible with your decisions. It also shows that on the surface, something as terrible as divorce can still be the best choice for your survival as an individual.
Oh, Jenny Lawson, how I love you. It’s so great to find a book about mental health and anxiety that is approached with pure humour. I had so many head-nodding moments where I could relate like no other! I find very few books to be laugh out loud funny, but Lawson pulls it off and I had myself snorting at inopportune moments on the bus.
That said, the subject matter is real and raw, but handled with the grace and humour of someone who has been through the trenches of anxiety and mental health challenges, yet lives to share the upside of the dark side.
This was the year that I wanted to give graphic novels a go, so upon the recommendation of friends, I picked up Persepolis. It’s the memoir of Marjane Satrapi, of her time growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. History has never been my strong suit, so much of it came as a shock to me. I remember my parents saying that Iran used to be very modern, but as a youth who grew up with the Middle East of 9/11 and beyond, this seemed hard to believe.
Reading the stories and seeing the gorgeous artwork by the author herself, it opened up a new side of Iran to me, and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to read it. It has heavy moments, for sure, but it’s also told from the point of view of teenage Satrapi, so there are most definitely moments of teenage levity.
To be clear, I read two books by Cal Newport This Year. Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You were both phenomenal reads, and he takes all the psychology, theories and gathered case studies, and makes them very readable as opposed to being academic and dry. So Good They Can’t Ignore You is actually all about how the “do what you’re passionate about” career theory is pure junk. Interesting… I thought. That’s what we’re sold, yet as someone with many interests (many which aren’t money makers), I’ve struggled with this. Newport’s book talks about the process of how people become that level of good that gives them the freedom to have the kind of working life they desire.
Seeing the cover of this book was my “me too!” moment. I’m a person that constantly says, “I’m busy”, and while that might feel true, that’s exactly the problem. Reading this book and interviewing the author for the podcast (check out the interview here), was an eye opener. Busy, overwhelm – it’s a state of mind. I have more control over it than I realize.
Learning to say no, learning to re-prioritize, learning the things that bring me true joy – these takeaways were invaluable. I get that it’s going to be a lifelong journey, but I’m so glad to have at least started on that path thanks to this book.
In my quest for more diverse reading this year, my friend Nicole (check out her podcast interview here!) recommended The Hate U Give. It’s a very relevant book, told from the point of view of a teenage girl who witnesses her unarmed friend be shot by a police officer. As the key witness, she’s centre to both a criminal and a socially charged investigation that could tear apart her community. She also straddles two worlds – the one where she grew up, and the predominately white school that she attends.
This book was so incredibly powerful and will hit you in the gut. Well worth the read.