Carefully Crafted on December 28

2016 Reading Challenge: Favorite Books + Lessons Learned

This time last year, I set a goal to read 24 books in 2016. Interestingly, it’s the only New Year’s resolution I actually kept up with all year. (Notably, it’s also the only one that had a metric attached to it. My need for data apparently knows no bounds!)

You can see the full list of books I read this year below, but a few highlights:

  • I love strong female leads. Four of the six biographies or autobiographies that I read were about women, and all 10 of the fiction books I read featured a strong, complex female character. If you know me, that’s not a surprise at all.
  • I hate books of essays. I’ve never been able to get into David Sedaris. I tried reading a few books that didn’t follow the standard format (e.g., Feminist Fight Club, How to be a Woman) and just couldn’t get into it. Lesson learned: I stopped trying to read these kinds of books. There are plenty of other excellent books that resonate better with me. I shouldn’t try to force myself to read a certain format … even if it means I’ll never read Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?
  • iBooks fundamentally changed how I read. For the past two years, ALL of my reading has occured on my iPad, in iBooks. I read more, faster this way. Plus, I love that I can download a sample to “test” a book before fully committing to it. I used to force myself to finish every book I started, which meant it would take a long time to finish some books that I found boring. Now, if I can’t get into the sample, I just move on to the next book without feeling bad. By not wasting money on books I don’t love, I don’t feel bad if I start/stop until I find a book I love. As a result, I read more because I’m only reading books that I’m truly excited about.
  • I almost never read books for work. When you look at the 24 books I read this year, not one of them focuses on PR, social media, marketing or similar topics. In fact, Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek, is the only book that I read specifically to for work purposes. If you’re in a leadership/management role — or aspire to be — I’d highly recommend that book. For me, reading is an escape … an opportunity to refresh and recharge. I read a lot of other things each week (blogs, enewsletters, New York Times, magazines) to get work-related content. When I’m reading a book, that’s “me” time.
  • But I do read to learn and grow. This year, I read books that focused on race relations, Amish culture, minimalism, courage and vulnerability, meditation, mental health, women on Wall Street, politics … while I don’t read books for work, I do enjoy reading books that force me to think differently, learn about a new topic or issue, and improve my personal well-being.

Knowing all this about my reading habits and preferences, if you have suggestions for books you think I’ll like, please share! I’ll be doing the same reading challenge in 2017, so I’m constantly on the lookout for amazing books to explore!

And with that, here are the books I read (and loved!) in 2016:

Biographies & Memoirs

Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction

by Elizabeth Vargas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

I Know What I’m Doing—and Other Lies I Tell Myself:
Dispatches from a Life Under Construction

by Jen Kirkman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Notorious RBG: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

by Irin Carmon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

by Portia DeRossi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

United

by Cory Booker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Fiction

 

An Untamed State

by Roxanne Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

First Comes Love

by Emily Giffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Heartburn

by Nora Ephron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Modern Lovers

by Emma Straub
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

The Mothers

by Brit Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

The Nest

by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Opening Belle

by Maureen Sherry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Plain Truth

by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

The Sense of an Ending

by Julian Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Small Great Things

by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Personal Development

Calm

by Michael Acton Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Daring Greatly

by Brené Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Leaders Eat Last

by Simon Sinek
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Minimalism: Essential Essays

by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

No Bad Kids

by Janet Lansbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

The Power of Habit

by Charles Duhigg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Rising Strong

by Brené Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

We Should All Be Feminists

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

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