What I Read Last Year


If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Every year I make a goal of reading/listening to 50 Books in the upcoming year. And every year I come up short by oh, I don't know? About 40 books or so?

I managed to get to 11 in both 2013 and 2014. I hit a record high of 16 last year (though I never wrote about my last 3 books of 2015: Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker, Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert). But this year?

This year I only managed to squeeze in 10 books. Which actually is kind of impressive considering how little free time I had between my new job and finishing my MBA. It was fairly non-fiction heavy, with only two (fantastic) novels making it into the mix, but ultimately it ended up being a pretty solid list.

1. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Emphatic? That's the nicest word I can come up for the most irritating quality about Shonda's writing. If Shonda wants you to get something she repeats it. At least three times she repeats it. She repeats it and she'll repeat it again. Did you hear me? She repeats. Shonda Rhimes is repetitive. In fact, once it's been pointed out, you can't unhear it from her TGIT shows. Multiple iterations, all variations on the same words and phrases, repeated constantly to drive home a point. Early on this was what made her unique. This is how she earned her success. The repetition created catch phrases, catch phrases create pop culture, and pop culture creates icons. Shonda is now an icon. So she wasn't entirely wrong. But Year of Yes could literally have been a third of it's size if she took out all of the conversational repetitions for emphasis. And unfortunately, even the third that remained would have been at times hokey cliche, at times irritating melodrama, and at times very, very insecure and desperate. I wanted so badly for it not to be this way, but I repeat: pass on this one.

2. The Fear Project by Jaimal Yogis
I've been super into exploring fear over the past couple of years and that trend will probably continue into 2017. So I was excited to check out Jaimal's take on it, especially since I liked his writing so much in Saltwater Buddha. Ultimately, this book felt like an interesting conversation with Jaimal about the topic of fear, interspersed with some crazy profiles of fearless individuals and some neat science.

3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I have avoided this book like the plague for the past 10 years for a variety of reasons, but after reading Big Magic last year, I decided to give it a shot. Parts of it were as insufferable and eye roll inducing as I expected it to be. Parts of it make you cringe. But ultimately, Gilbert is a pretty great writer and storyteller and so this was an enjoyable summer listen on Audible.

4. The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
I read this book for work and created a course for our managers on how to have better one-to-one's with their employees. It's a quick, useful read that has coaching techniques that can be applied both in and outside of the office.

5. An Abbreviated Life: A Memoir by Ariel Leve
I think this may have been my favorite book this year. Ariel Leve's memoir of growing up with a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is heartfelt and heartbreaking and reads like poetry. I tore through it in about two days and actually couldn't put it down. Like... I had the Kindle copy and every few minutes at work, I would take a quick break to read through another couple of pages on my phone. She portrays a sad situation with detached journalistic grace and somehow never once comes off as a victim, though she would have had every right to. It's a beautiful, beautiful book.

6. The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller
This book played an important role in the novel I read last year, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and when I found out it was a real book, I was curious enough to order it and read it. Apparently it was a psychology book that was hugely popular in the 70s. Alice Miller, a controversial child psychologist from Germany, believed that parents deny children their needs as individuals and force them to win their love, resulting in feelings of lost identity and emptiness for the children when they become adults. More of a guide for clinical psychologists to use with their clients than a self-help book, I finished it feeling very confused and terrified to become a parent because according to Miller it's almost impossible not to mess up your kids... so I highly do not recommend this to people who are about to become or who are new parents themselves!

7. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Ryan and I listened to Aziz's take on modern romance over the course of our West Coast Road Trip last year and it wasn't a terrible way to spend 6 of our 50 or so driving hours. It's got some interesting anecdotes about dating from Aziz's research and some cool cultural looks into other countries and thier dating styles, but ultimately it's more of a time capsule than a revelation.

8. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
Love Warrior is a memoir about Glennon, an activist and Christian blogger from Florida, her marriage to her husband Craig and the devastating revelation that Craig has been cheating on her for the duration of their marriage, over the course of a decade and three kids. It's an interesting, brutal examination of what happens when a marriage falls apart but you try to stay together for the kids, and of the work that Glennon does to understand and love herself in the process.

9. We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
I don't think there is a book that I have been more excited for than We Love You Charlie Freeman. You know how those Game of Thrones people are all amped about the next book that's supposedly coming out (but I doubt it because why write another million page book when you can roll around in money all day)? That's how excited I've been about WLYCF. I left Hunter in 2010 when this novel was in its first draft, which means I have been waiting for it for six years. And it was everything I knew it would be and more. This is a painfully beautiful exploration of family, of becoming, of inherent womanhood, of race, of all the ways we disappoint each other and ourselves and the bargaining and manipulations that occur as a result. I loved this book almost as much as I love its author.

10. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
This book kept coming to me in various ways. My favorite musician recommended it in 2005 and one of his tattoos was inspired by it, thus inspiring one of my tattoos. Then my dad gifted me a copy last Christmas as one of his favorites. And then this past season on Shameless, one of my favorite shows, the finale featured it too. So this year, I decided to finally read it over the course of Couch Week, making it my last read of 2016. It's a book I think I'll end up returning to again and again because I don't think you can learn its lessons the first time, but what I did take away is this: we are all doing the best we can.

2016 '50 Books' Progress: 10/50

I swear... 2017 is my year. Here we go!