I started writing this post in July, when we were halfway through the year – but never quite ended up finishing/posting it. But here we are in December, when all of us are trying to wrap up all those loose ends before the new year… and so the draft has resurfaced!
This year, my goal was to read 100 books over the course of the year. Well, on December 29th, I’m squarely on track – about 25 pages to go in the non-fiction book I’m reading (Mindset by Carol Dweck), and I’m also halfway through a novel that is a fabulous read that I just can’t put down (It’s Classified by Nicolle Wallace). I should easily finish my 100th book by the end of the year… or perhaps even a bonus extra.
When I look back at the five or so years I’ve tried to read 100 books, the years I’ve been most successful have been the one where I’ve been consistent. And this follows in that trend! 2016 has been a pretty steady year for me reading-wise; halfway through the year, I was at 53 books.
Last year, I did a post on my top books of 2015, and got a lot of positive feedback. So this year, I wanted to do the same. I’m breaking this up into two posts so that I can share all the books that I loved. Today’s will focus on my favorite books in the first six months of the year.
There were six books to which I gave five stars, so let’s start with those:
- Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes. I read this in January, so I don’t remember it quite as well as some of the others, and I was a little surprised to see I had given it five stars, since it hadn’t really stuck with me. But – I guess I highly recommended it then! :) And I’ve heard from a lot of friends that they loved it too, so you don’t have to rely on just my take.
- The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, by Ron Lieber. The first chapter was a little bit slow (or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it), but then it picked up and was fascinating. So many great lessons on how to raise kids, all grounded in social psychology and some anecdotal experiments as well.
- Getting There: A Book of Mentors, by Gillian Zoe Segal. No matter what field you’re in, you could find someone to identify with in this compilation of advice from many very successful people. But more importantly, each story had some universal advice that anyone could relate to. Plus, with each chapter essentially being a standalone essay, this is a great book to pick up and put down frequently, rather than feeling like you need to read it all in a sitting.
- Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, by Anne-Marie Slaughter. I read this for the women’s book club I run at my office, and found it really thought-provoking. Slaughter did a great job sharing the challenges that women face, and the compromises that you have to make while balancing family and career. I found this much more realistic than Lean In in its practicality, and offering good advice for how to make things work.
- Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. Duhigg’s first book, The Power of Habit, was so excellent that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one, although I worried it would be overhyped and not nearly as good. Wrong! This was outstanding, and in some ways even better than the first because of its breadth without losing the specific actionable ideas that made the first book so good. If you’re interested in improving your life in any way, I highly recommend reading both of these.
- Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, by Mika Brzezinski. This was so fantastic I literally read it in one day, which explains why it came highly recommended to me by a coworker I admire.
As much as I love fiction, it looks like all my top books for the first half of 2016 were nonfiction! In case that’s not your thing, here are the fiction novels to which I gave four stars:
- The Ramblers: A Novel, by Aidan Donnelley Rowley. Normally I don’t like when the focus changes back and forth between characters, but in this book, it worked. Each of the storylines was interesting, and I found something I could relate to in each character.
- Perfect Match, by Jodi Picoult. I had just finished a string of books that I didn’t love, and was looking for something that I knew would be good. Picoult never disappoints me! Her reads are always page-turners that also make me think a lot about serious issues.
- True Colors, by Kristin Hannah. Most of Hannah’s novels take place in the Pacific Northwest, so this surprised me by being set in small-town Montana. At first it seemed cliched, but then I began to love the characters and was eager to keep reading.
- The Hypnotist’s Love Story, by Liane Moriarty. Moriarty (almost) always writes fabulous novels, and this one intrigued me by centering around hypnotism – something I had never really thought much of before. I found it really interesting and intriguing after reading this.
- Pointe, by Brandy Colbert. I loved that this was about the ballet world, since that was my world as a kid. It was very heavy (especially for a young adult novel, as it’s billed), but kept me invested in the dark story.
- The House at the End of Hope Street, by Menna van Praag. This was highly recommended by Amber, and was exactly as promised: a sweet, happy read with a good bit of magic. Great if you need a pick me up!
- The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. This is kind of on the opposite side of the spectrum: historical fiction that is incredibly sad (though realistic). I loved this novel, particularly when I realized that it was based one some of the most important people in the history of women’s rights. I’d love to see this being assigned to high schoolers, as it’s incredibly instructive about history as well as interesting.
- Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld. This was hailed as one of the best books of the summer. It didn’t quite live up to that for me, but I thought it was a fun read and found myself thinking about the characters well after I was done with the book.
- The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. The foreshadowing at the beginning of this made it hard to read – I hate reading books where I know early on that one of the main characters is going to die! But this was a great story, and certainly historically accurate to what the French citizens experienced during World War II. Like Invention of Wings, this is a perspective that most of us don’t learn in school, but should.
- Every Fifteen Minutes, by Lisa Scottoline. Scottoline’s books are always exciting page turners, and this fit that mold perfectly. If you like Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll love this novel about right and wrong in the medical profession.
- Things You Won’t Say, by Sarah Pekkanen. Pekkanen only has a few books published so far, but I’ve loved every single one and she’s one of my favorite authors. This one was very different than her other novels, but focuses on a police officer who is shot, and how that stirs up questions of race in the quick decisions that police officers make afterward. Very timely and interesting to see the firsthand perspectives.
- Maybe in Another Life, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is kind of like a choose your own adventure book: the reader gets to see what happens either way a seemingly small late-night decision is made. But where Jenkins Reid excels in her books is in making you think about the deeper questions: how much in our lives is chance? And is there one “right” way for our life to go or can we be happy with multiple outcomes? I am always eager to read anything Jenkins Reid puts out, and this lived up to her others.
If you’d like to stay up to date on my latest books, follow me on Goodreads. And stay tuned for another post on my favorite books the second half of the year!