You know how you get stuck in reading ruts sometimes, and other times you’re just reading good book after good book after good book? I feel like this year had a good mix of both of those. The first half of the year was pretty slow. Although, I suppose it should be noted that I had a baby in that time, so admittedly reading wasn’t super high on my list of things I was focusing on. The second half of the year I hit a spot where I was just flying through good books.
Mostly I credit this to having access to a library card again (I will never stop being happy about that). Now, instead of buying every book (and consequently needing to research every book to death before purchasing to make sure it’ll be worth it), I can just pick out a book that looks even mildly interesting, and see how I like it. I’m much less critical when I haven’t forked over any money, turns out.
But paid for or not, I did come across some great reads this year. I’d recommend all of these, for what that may be worth to you (and if it’s worth, say 8 dollars or so, you can even purchase the book yourself; although I highly recommend you check out your local library first – you’ll be much less critical that way ?). Here we go, in no particular order:
The Royal We, by Heather Cox and Jessica Morgan – Unabashedly Kate Middleton fan-fic, and I loved every second of it. Perhaps I’ve already reread it (a clue: definitely yes). This takes the basic cinderella story that is Kate Middleton’s life – girl meets boy in college, boy happens to be a prince, they fall in love, the world (and the paparazzi) are out to get them, they triumph and have a lovely wedding – and puts an American spin on it by, surprise surprise, making the girl American. From there, they deviate from Kate’s life, and all sorts of fun ensues. I was pleasantly surprised by how much emotional depth this one had. It was longer than I thought it’d be (dang kindle books, I can never tell how long of a book to expect), but for me that allowed the story to have some real character growth, and I came away from it wishing for more.
The Martian, by Andy Weir – You’ve all read this by now, right? Because if not, you should definitely drop everything you’re doing and run to your nearest kindle, bookstore, or library and obtain a copy immediately. And if you just saw the movie without the book, you’re missing out. NASA astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars and is in the fight of the galaxy to survive until he can be rescued in a few years. This one was awesome. So awesome that Terry even read the whole thing with me. That’s basically unheard of in our marriage. Take that as a huge recommendation. We loved every bit of it. The science in it was just mind-blowing, but explained in a way that never made me feel lost or stupid. And I just loved Mark’s character. He was so cheery, even when Mars wanted to destroy him five hundred times over. In fact, we liked him so much, that’s who we dressed Sander as for Halloween! Complete with a Mr. Potatohead toy, of course. ?
Rising Strong, by Brene Brown – Taking a look at that moment when, as Brene describes, we are face-down in the arena. We’ve stumbled, we’ve screwed up big-time, people are judging, and we’re feeling despair. How do we get up from that point? And why? And how can we rise stronger? I liked Brene’s other book, Daring Greatly, but I liked this one so much more. I felt like it explained things in a way I could better grasp. And I feel like the concepts in it were just spot-on, and with real-life applications for how to view and think through those moments. I’ve thought a lot about this book in the months since I’ve read it, and that’s about as great of a recommendation as I can give it.
Okay For Now, by Gary D. Schmidt – The companion book to The Wednesday Wars, which I read a few years ago and cried over (which is basically always means the book was good – so far I haven’t ever been moved to tears by a book’s horribleness, but I guess there’s a first time for everything). In this one, we follow Doug Swieteck as he navigates life in a new town, where he’s immediately labeled a bully and a kid to stay away from. There are just so many great details in this one that really wrung my heart. Set during the Vietnam War, this YA novel was just fantastic.
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman – When 17 year-old Mia is in a car accident with her family, her body is in a coma while her mind sees what’s going on around her. She has to choose if it’s worth returning to a life she knows will be broken, or letting go. Beautifully written and left me with a lot to think about.
Where She Went, by Gayle Forman – This is the sequel to If I Stay (so…spoiler alert, I guess for book numero uno). This takes place a few years after the accident, and is told from Mia’s boyfriend Adam’s perspective. In the years since then, Mia has broken up with him and he’s gone from unknown guitarist to one of the most famous musicians in the world. Fame is hard on him and being apart from Mia is even harder. Honestly, if I had to choose (which, I don’t, but ya know, hypothetically), I think I like this one a smidge more than the first one. It was just so much more relatable for me to be reading about being heartbroken than to be deciding whether or not I wanted to live. I really really loved this one.
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty – Is it me, or is the market over saturated with memory-loss books/movies? Seems like everywhere I look, someone’s forgotten a few years, or something really important. Never seen that happen in real life though. Anyway, this one was great, even if it’s relying on a sometimes overused plot device. Alice wakes up from a head injury and thinks it’s ten years earlier. You know, back when she was happily married and about to have a baby, not like now when she’s a mom with teenagers and in the middle of a divorce. When she finds out what’s going on, she’s sort of horrified at what her life has become. I keep thinking about what I would think of myself now if I could have seen ten years ago what I would be. Living in China, married to Terry, recent mom of one, writing a novel… I like to think I’d be pleased. ? But Alice isn’t, and it leads to some soul-searching questions with answers not everyone likes.
All the Money in the World, by Laura Vanderkam – If you had all the money you could possibly want, what would you spend it on? This was a really fascinating look at how people spend their money and how they could be spending their money. From things like taking a realistic look at how much it would cost you to have the weekend of your dreams (could be more possible than you think!), to brainstorming what jobs you would never do again if you could outsource it to someone (let me just say, I am never sad when my ayi is doing my dishes), this book was a thought-provoking read.
The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin – I’ve already raved about what a pleasant surprise this one was. A compelling look at a sliver of history I knew almost nothing about, plus an engaging female historical figure who’s trying to balance family and flight – this one is a true adventure story, with ups and downs I did not expect (although, I totally should have if I’d been paying attention in my history classes, which, I guess, I wasn’t).
What were your favorite reads from the year? I’m always up for adding to my To-Read list. (Aren’t we all? ✊?).