Category Archives: Books

Some of my best reads from 2016 and 2017

For whatever reason, 2016 was a reading binge year for me that spilled over to 2017. Of the too many books I read, these are the ones that easily come to mind when I think back to the books I enjoyed, or made me think, or made me cry.

Top 3

These are the books that linger in my brain and my heart, long after I finished reading them. Re-reading these are in my near future.

Reclaiming Conversations, by Sherry Turtle – my “Recommended Read” of 2016, this book was a catalyst to reflect on my own relationship with the mobile device in my hand, and not just as a resource for planning the introduction of mobile ownership to the kids. (nonfiction)

Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (first book in the “Kingkiller Chronicle” trilogy). Tai’s “recommended read” of 2016, and I’m kind of jealous that he claimed it first. It’s a fantasy book with such a unique system of magic, and it has amazing pacing. Such an amazing protagonist overcoming jaw-dropping challenges, but so many well-rounded supporting characters too. I wholeheartedly enjoyed it better than Game of Thrones, and I really liked GoT when I first read it too!

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi – an absolutely beautiful memoir written by a bright neurosurgeon who discovers he has late-stage lung cancer. Before going into medicine, Kalanithi completed an English degree, thinking he would be able to explore “the meaning of life, and death” thru literature. The journey he goes through and the deep introspection he has on why he became a doctor, and what makes a good doctor, are written about exquisitely. This was one of those books where many times i had to put it down just to reflect on the brilliant sentence or paragraph that i just read.

Fiction Faves

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell – if you love Harry Potter and teen drama, this was a highly entertaining read with an amazing story twist half-way through. It borrows heavily from the tropes in Harry Potter, but makes it a completely different wizarding world, and you’re dropped into the adventure immediately (the story opens up at the start of their last year in wizarding school).

Actually, anything by Rainbow Rowell has been wonderful. Eleanor and Park was a beautiful YA romance. I wrote earlier about my reaction to reading it.

For a completely different tone, her Landline is an adult novel that explores the heart-rendering dilemma of a woman torn between her career (which she loves and is driven by) and her husband and kids (who she loves, but feels inept to be present for–he is a stellar stay at home dad). Her personal life is a kind of a mess. An incident around the holidays leads to a fight and he travels to his parents’ for christmas with the kids as initially planned, while she decides to stay home for work. There’s additional tension of wondering whether she and her writing partner (a hot guy she’s been writing with since college) would end up together. Throw in a mystical landline phone that seems to be the only way she can get a hold of her husband, but it seems like she’s talking to him from 15 year ago. I just found it captures so many of the more subtle challenges an adult faces, compared to a YA.

Jane Steel, by Lyndsey Faye – it’s Jane Eyre meets Dexter meets Nancy Drew. Jane is an amazing female protagonist. Her resiliency, pluck and smarts make you cheer for her in this Victorian England historical-mystery-thriller-romance. It was a slow first chapter for me, but then picked right up. Along the way I learned a bunch about British Colonialism in Sikh region of now India.

The Voodoo Killings: A Kincaid Strange Novel, by Kristi Charish. A super fun mystery thriller, in a world where the raising of zombies has just been made illegal in the USA. The protagonist thus loses her job consulting for the Seattle police force (since even the temporary raising of zombies to ask murder victims about how they died is illegal).

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. This is a sweeping novel of a family drama taking place in two worlds I knew little about: the country of Ethiopia and the practice of medicine where doctors and nurses do not have the resources we take for granted in North America.

The Martian: A Novel, by Andy Weir – this totally appealed to the science geek in me. It was thrilling, smart (the author tried to be as scientifically accurate as possible), and funny, showing such a positive example of human ingenuity and good humour conquering over the dire circumstances of being stranded on Mars.

For a completely teeny bopper YA romance though that is thoroughly enjoyable brain candy, I also recommend Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. She’s a mixed Korean & white junior in high school in Omaha (or some such place in the US midwest), who would write letters professing her love to the boys she had crushes on, to try and get over them. She’d then save the letters and not actually send them. Until one day she makes her little sister mad, and then the sister sends them off in the mail! Hijinks ensue. As an Asian girl growing up in the Canadian Prairies, it’s nice to identify with this character in a way I couldn’t when I was a teen, due to lack of representation in the books available then.

Fiction Honorable Mentions
  • Wonder, by RJ Palacio – a kids book that centers around an extraordinary boy Auggie who also has a severe facial deformity. It should actually be read by all adults as a reminder of the importance to always be kind.
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett – started my journey to better understand and empathize with the African-American experience in the South in the age of the Jim Crow segregation laws. Telling the stories in a really accessible manner, it is at times funny, tense, bitter and heartwarming.
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue. The synopsis given by the publisher is better than my many attempts at trying to describe this. It was discovering the world anew from the eyes of this 5-year-old child who knows nothing beyond the single room. I found the second half lagging a little as it switched gears, but still interesting in a more clinical way.
  • Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes – a funny and weepy romantic novel. Lovely easy read. No bodice ripping though…it was made into a movie last year.

Non-fiction Favs

Reinventing Organizations, by Frederik Laloux – an organizational theory book that revolutionized my company, as it gave us the language and terminology to describe our organizational structure and culture. It accurately calls out many of the underlying causes to why i had to leave Accenture (more than just the commute and the work). The abbreviated illustrated version now available makes the content much more accessible.

How to Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran – a super hilarious collection of biographical anecdotes from this UK journalist that collectively combines to be a siren call for “strident feminism”. I will be making my daughters read this when they’re teens, no lie. (nonfiction)

Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg- while it’s a very funny and entertaining read, as I’m reading what the dating scene looks like in the past decade, all I could think was, “Thank god I’m not single now and looking for love”. And then I thought about how it ties into what I read in Reclaiming Conversations.

Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – this really helped us deal with jealousy issues in our children last year

Decisive: How to Make Decisions in Life and Work, by Chip and Dan Heath

Enjoy reading! And send me your favourite recommendations!


Star Wars, and other Arts and Culture that moved me in 2015

I don’t get out on the town that much anymore, other than my season’s tickets to the National Ballet (young kids are such a bummer). Even so, there was still lots of arts and culture that moved me in 2015. And since it’s already into February in 2016, without further ado, let’s get to the list!

TV / Webseries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a webseries on Youtube.

This 2013 production takes Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and updates it to the current modern era and format with aplomb. Lizzie Bennett is a video blogger (aka vlogger) and through her semi-weekly videos (each usually lasting between 3 and 5 minutes), the story unfolds. It’s not necessary to know the plot of Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this series, but it does give an extra layer of enjoyment to be able to anticipate the plot, and compare the adaptations. It even won an Emmy! I love that Charlotte and Bingley/Bing Lee are Chinese! I love the costume theatre! (you’ll see) I missed this web series during the original publishing back in 2012, so I did lose out on the interactive trans-media aspect of it, but it was no matter, I was hooked all the same and binge watched this in two sessions. If you’re a romantic, give it to episode 7, and see if you too aren’t hooked for the count. Continue reading Star Wars, and other Arts and Culture that moved me in 2015

Nostalgia for some books of my childhood

I recently finished rereading Anne of Green Gables. It is E1’s copy of the book we gave her for Christmas, and when I read the first few chapters aloud to her, I got hooked again. In the evenings, as she slept, I borrowed the book to read furtively onward. A smile was likely on my face the whole way through to the end, delighted with the character of Anne and the “scrapes” she got herself into.

It’s also delightful seeing E1 also getting taken up in not only the characters and the story of Anne of Green Gables, but of many of the books she’s reading. I look at her and I see myself at her age. I am nostalgic for the books of my childhood and early teens, and for how they made me feel, the childhood memories they invoke, or the lessons I still keep from them. Here are some of them. (Unfortunately, I am terrible at remembering plot details or character names, so please don’t expect a synopsis of these books!) Continue reading Nostalgia for some books of my childhood

Falling in love with Eleanor & Park

I fell in love with this book, Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, quickly and completely. Much like how the title characters do with each other.

Eleanor is the eldest of five children in a family smothered under poverty and the tyranny of an alcoholic, abusive stepfather. With bright red, curly hair, pale skin, Rubenesque body, and strange thrift-shop wardrobe, she stands out in school for all the wrong reasons. Continue reading Falling in love with Eleanor & Park

How To Be a Woman

In the last six months I’ve read a bunch of books, many of them by funny women, but none of them have impacted me as much as How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran.

Book cover for

She lays bare many of the underlying reasons of the angst I feel about being a woman in these modern days. At least as a woman into her late 30s, because admittedly she hasn’t reached middle age yet. Best of all she does so in a thoroughly readable, entertaining, and often laugh-out-loud funny manner. The things she points outs here is so on point and truthful that I am going to make my daughters read this book when they are about 12. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman who thinks about her place in this world, and any man who wants to understand more about real women.

Continue reading How To Be a Woman

Wise words from Amy Poehler? Yes Please!

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler

Lately I’ve been on a reading kick, and particularly autobiographical books from funny women. Amy Poehler’s contribution to the collection is one of the best. Part memoir (from her “middle-years”), part words-of-wisdom, part collection of funny stories, it was a real treat to read.

You can tell that this was a book written as snatches of stories in stolen snippets of time, but masterfully edited together. Seriously, kudos to her editors. The 3 sections/themes of the book likely weren’t planned on the outset, and yet it works.

Not only is she very funny, Poehler is thoroughly quotable with some very wise words regarding working and career that really resonated with me.  Continue reading Wise words from Amy Poehler? Yes Please!

Book review: Death Comes to Pemberley

Jacket cover for

I do love a good mystery. I thoroughly enjoy Jane Austen’s novels as well. P.D. James has gone and put the two together in Death Comes to Pemberley, and does an astounding job of it. This really is a murder mystery done in the tone and style of Jane Austen, using the familiar characters from Pride and Prejudice. It would totally be believable as a shocking sequel to Pride and Prejudice if Jane Austen a)were to write any sequels and b)were to write something as gory and ugly as a murder.

I admit that I didn’t remember all the characters that had already been introduced in Pride and Prejudice (ahem, Captain Denny, the poor victim), but it was kind of delightful “catching up” with these characters six years after the events of P&P transpired. Indulgent, sure, but it definitely enables James to easily establish our sympathies for these characters, their actions and their motivations without having to spend a lot of time with backstory. Continue reading Book review: Death Comes to Pemberley