Tag Archives: reading

Top Reads of 2020

[Collage made from cover photos on Amazon.com, as most of these were read through hoopla or library checkout.]

In last year’s Top Reads post, I said that I was bumping the goal up to 36 books for 2020. I made it with 3 hours to spare. I must admit that I checked at least as many books out of the library and returned them unread, due to a brief spell of being a library employee. I’d wander around shelving books, see something that looked good, use the library card barcode that I’d pasted on to my badge…and then realize I had far more books than time.

  1. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane: I saw the movie many years ago, and remembered enjoying it, but very little about the plot. When I had too many books and needed to return some, I thought I’d just read a couple of pages of each and decide if I still wanted to read them after that. This was the first one I picked up, and didn’t put it down until the final page.
  2. Some Day by David Levithan: The original book, Every Day, was on my Top Reads list a couple of years ago and this one was quite possibly even better. It added depth to the strange premise that, in the first book, was primarily a teen love story.
  3. How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow: Another repeat author (from last year’s pick, Girl In Pieces), although this one is not a continuation of a series. I am very impressed with her treatment of teenage characters as being complex individuals.
  4. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter: I have a confession…I can’t even remember much about the plot of this book. It’s fairly graphic, and I don’t use the 5-star rating lightly, but I’m having some significant memory issues this year. So in all likelihood I could think, “I want to read a good book” and go grab this one, with the knowledge that I loved it but the absence of knowing what’s about to happen.
  5. Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop: I think this might be the only thing in the self-help category I read all year, and I picked it up as a joke, thinking my therapist would be amused by the title. I actually found it rather inspiring. Another case of not remembering the details, just that the overall concept was stop thinking so much (an unhelpful habit of mine).

Top Reads of 2019

I know I’ve kind of vanished from blogging.  Still here, just super busy.  I did manage my GoodReads goal of 24 books this year and am bumping it up to 36 for 2020.  Here are my top reads from the past year, in no particular order:

IMG_20200101_173326009.jpg[Not pictured: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  Read the Kindle edition on my phone.]

  1. Bird Box by Josh Malerman: I had seen exactly 5 seconds of previews for the movie and accidentally stumbled on a list of “scariest books we’ve ever read”.  This was on the list and it said it was way scarier than the movie.  Of course I would read the book first anyway, but that intrigued me, because movies have the advantage of visual effects and sounds for scare factor.  Read straight through this and was totally freaked out in a very enjoyable way.
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: I had some Barnes & Noble gift cards and was browsing the website’s section of YA books because they are easy reads and usually pretty good.  I’d never heard of this one, but it starts out with two teens in a clock tower, potentially ready to jump, so I was curious.  This book saved my life.  I can’t go into detail without spoilers, but trust me that it was so good I ended up buying the pocket version and the Spanish version as well (reading it in Spanish is a goal for next year).  There’s also a movie coming to Netflix in February so read it now to be prepared!
  3. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott: Another book from my YA kick, this one was already out as a movie when I read it.  I didn’t really know what I’d think, but I had a friend whose son has cystic fibrosis and she wasn’t sure if she could handle reading it, so I read it to give her my advice on whether to try or not.  It would have been intense for her, I think, but worth it, in the same way that I push my way through books about suicide and self-harm.
  4. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow: Aaaaaaand….here’s the book on self-harm.  I wish I could get everyone I know to read this.  There are a number of really bad books out there that include characters who self-harm and they just don’t get the motivations right.  This one does.  It should…I knew within the first chapter that the author was writing from personal experience.
  5. The Mindful Mom-to-Be by Lori Bregman: I went through a long span of baby fever this year and was reading everything I could on pregnancy and childbirth.  This book had a lot of great information for those who want to get through pregnancy and childbirth using natural remedies, birthing methods, etc.
  6. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: I actually saw the movie first, something I rarely do, and was terribly confused reading the book due to the movie covering the whole trilogy.  So putting that out here: if you’ve seen the movie and want to read about that, you’re committing to a trilogy.  I totally loved the inclusion of pictures of the peculiars throughout the book.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Yes, I made it to 39-years-old without reading what is typically a high school English assignment.  You see, my school had remedial English, English, and college prep English.  Instead of reading the same material but processing it at different levels, we were assigned completely different material, so basically anything that was considered a universally assigned book by the world of my teen years?  Not assigned to me.  I really was just tired of not getting the references made in pop culture, and someone gave me this book, so I went ahead and read it and was shocked to find out it was actually GOOD unlike so many of the “classics”.

Top Reads of 2018

As usual, I’m writing a little about my favorite books that I’ve read this year.  I know the year isn’t quite over, but I’m not in a place where I can really sit down and read more.  I wanted to get an update onto the blog, because it’s been 6 months and I swear I haven’t vanished.

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(Not pictured: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll)

In order by date read:

1. How to Be Interesting: An Instruction Manual by Jessica Hagy: A book of diagrams explaining, well, how to be interesting.  An example, not from the book:

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I loved it because it was simple advice in a simple format, that really made me think about how I was living.

2. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll: I ran out of Gillian Flynn books to read and this had praise from Gillian Flynn.  It’s a similar style with the story unraveling slowly through present and flashbacks, and you will absolutely not expect what is coming.

3. Every Day by David Levithan: I saw a preview for the movie and whenever I get excited about a preview I go read the book instead.  Absolutely read this book.  It is simply impossible for the movie to have captured what goes on inside the character’s mind while traveling from body to body.  While the premise sounds weird (well, it is pretty weird), the author took it seriously with good results.

4. Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them by Tina Gilbertson: My list is actually a little light on the self-help books this year.  This one was my favorite, because it acknowledged that emotions serve a purpose in our lives and we need to experience them in order to overcome being bound by them.  It was advice people can actually follow without feeling that they are in some way inferior.

5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger:  This premise may be even weirder than that in Every Day, but it is absolutely beautifully executed.  It’s a love story with real meat to it, and I promise you will be impressed just trying to wrap your mind around how the author planned out all the details in this book.

Top Reads of 2017

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2017 was a light year for reading.  I had to make my way through several lengthy textbooks and that plus the struggles I had with my mental health led to not reading nearly as many books as in recent years.  Thus, I only found three to be highly recommended.

  1. The Buddha and the Borderline by Kiera Van Gelder – A memoir about recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder, this book artfully describes the reality of living with the disorder and how Dialectical Behavior Therapy (and its roots in Buddhism) led the author to a more manageable life.
  2. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – This is a mystery in the vein of the author’s past book, Paper Towns, only the main character spends much of the time caught up in “invasives” – the obsessive thoughts that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is named for.  The descriptions of her thought processes are very poetic and insightful.
  3. No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh – Inspired by The Buddha and the Borderline, I began reading books on Buddhism.  Among several books I read in a short span, this one on relieving suffering helped me the most.  In DBT group we often discuss how rumination turns pain into suffering, and I have a strong tendency toward rumination.

Top Reads of 2016

Last year I failed to complete my Goodreads challenge.  In 2015, my goal was 48 books, or 4 per month.  I bumped it up to 52 books for 2016, thinking I could manage a book per week.  Perhaps this would have worked out, but I returned to college and some of the books I read were lengthy textbooks, which took time away from that last 4 books I needed.

I’ve set my goal back at 48 books for 2017.  There will still be lengthy textbooks, but maybe I’ve better learned how to juggle the necessary reading with the fun reading.

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[Not pictured: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class On the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.]

  1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – I read my first book of 2016 in one day, during my last stay in the inpatient psych unit.  I was admitted late on January 2nd, and January 3rd was a Sunday so there were no groups to attend that day.  I pulled this, the only decent-sounding book, off the bookshelf and curled up in bed and read all day.  I’d recommend it for anyone who was able to look past historical inaccuracies and enjoy The DaVinci Code for the fun story it is.  It also evoked images of the TV show Warehouse 13.  I wouldn’t say it is directly comparable to either of these things, but I feel those are reasons I enjoyed it.
  2. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT by Russ Harris – Sadie printed an article by Russ Harris out for me, which was a brief introduction to the content of this book.  I use some of his techniques frequently.  If you have trouble with getting stuck on negative thoughts, read this for ideas on how to accept them as just thoughts and let them go.
  3. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore – If you enjoyed any of the Sherlock Holmes books, you must read this.  It weaves a continuation of Sherlock’s story with a modern story about a Sherlock fan trying to solve a crime.
  4. The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle – You will probably cry more than once during this book about immigrants from Mexico and residents of gated communities who want to keep the Mexicans away, but it’s wonderfully written with rich details and interconnected storylines.
  5. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class On the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – This is definitely a love-or-hate book.  Obviously I loved it.  I haven’t exactly finished the tidying up, but I did get through all my clothes and donated a bunch of stuff that didn’t “spark joy”.  I also learned better ways to fold clothes that are stored in drawers.  If you are the type of person to care about decluttering, I’m sure you’ll find at least a couple of helpful ideas.

Top Reads of 2015

I have read 115% of my goal on Goodreads this year, and it will probably be a little more after the last 10 days are finished.  However, I know I’m ready to share my top books of 2015 and this year I wasn’t able to limit it to 5 – there is a bonus 6th book.

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  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – I was a bit turned off by the idea of this the first 100 times I heard of it, and I definitely wouldn’t have watched the film as I’m not a Julia Roberts fan.  When I saw it for $0.50 in a Goodwill store though, I figured I’d try it.  Although the author and I have next to nothing in common and I’m not at all into the pursuit of religion or spirituality of any kind, I still found the book inspiring.
  2. The Happiness ProjectOr Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin – As someone who has struggled with depression all her life, I’m always on the lookout for ideas on how to be happier.  What I enjoyed about this book was the fact that the author was already happy and could still find ways to increase her happiness.  It made me feel hopeful that happiness didn’t just come down to luck.
  3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey – I’m a little embarrassed that I hadn’t read this book sooner, given that I’ve been using an element of it for 15 years.  One of my college professors introduced me to the concept of the Urgent/Not Urgent, Important/Not Important grid for prioritizing tasks and I’ve used it frequently over the years when struggling to get through enormous to-do lists.
  4. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson – I’ve followed Jenny’s blog for a while and read her previous book last year, which I also enjoyed.  This one focuses a lot more on her struggles with depression and anxiety, but it’s not at all a downer.  It’s still filled with all the hilarity her followers know and love.
  5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Another of her novels, Sharp Objects was on my Top Reads of 2014 list.  I downloaded this one night when I awoke around 2 am and couldn’t sleep, and I read straight through without stopping.  I’d say I enjoyed Sharp Objects just a bit more, but both were excellent books.
  6. You’re Never Weird On the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day – I’ve been a fan of Felicia Day for ages and was so excited about this book that I pre-ordered it at full price.  It did not disappoint.  In fact, I had been feeling discouraged about my own memoir-in-progress and though reading other memoirs often discourages me more, this one instead made me feel motivated and encouraged to keep writing.

The best news in this post is that I am giving away copies of books 1-3.  They are the copies pictured above – paperbacks in good condition with no writing in them.  All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment stating which of the three books you’re most interested in reading.

EDIT: I forgot to set a deadline.  Comment by December 31st and I’ll select winners on New Year’s Day.

Top Reads of 2014

I have read 158% of my goal on Goodreads this year.  Some of the books have been life-changing, others have been complete garbage.  Here are my top 5 to recommend, in no particular order:

2014-top-books

(Not pictured: Mental Health First Aid USA, because I gave my copy away and haven’t replaced it yet.)

1. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
A lot of the content will be familiar if you read Allie’s blog, also titled Hyperbole and a Half.  Yes, if you’re like me and “clean all the things?” is your favorite internet line ever, you will find it here.  There’s just something special about holding it in book form though, with the bright colors on pretty glossy pages.

2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Not one to follow the popular crowd, I skipped over Gone Girl with all its pre-movie hype and tried this one instead, based on the intriguing blurb on Amazon.  Part murder mystery and part exploration of the main character’s physical and emotional scars, I was impressed with the author’s success at tackling the rather unsettling topic of self-injury without making the character one-dimensional.

3. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by BrenĂ© Brown
This book was a gift from my first therapist when she left at the end of her internship.  As I read each chapter I thought, “This is why she gave me this book!  No, wait, THIS is why!”  I found it funny that a book on imperfection could be so perfect for me.  Now, 6 months later, I feel like it’s time to go back for a second reading to see if I’ve grown in any of the areas addressed in the book, and to really tackle any areas where I haven’t grown yet.

4. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me by Ellen Forney
I first discovered this book when someone shared the page “What is a “MOOD DISORDER” anyway?”, which is featured in this interview in The Guardian.  I read quite a lot of books on Bipolar Disorder this year, having just been diagnosed.  I have a couple of favorites, and this one (as a non-self-help book and humorous) is the most relatable for those who don’t share the diagnosis.

5. Mental Health First Aid USA by Betty Kitchener, Anthony Jorm, and Claire Kelly
Designed as a textbook for the course of the same name, this book is a basic, straightforward guide to identifying potential mental health issues and supporting those in crisis.  Like physical first aid, the idea is to teach average people to help long enough to get the person transferred to a professional.  As I mentioned above, I gave my copy away after I finished it, because I felt that strongly about other people learning to use these skills.