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!