Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Year in Books

Last year I set a Goodreads goal of reading 40 books in 2016. By the end of the year I had read 42, though three of them were quick children's books.


I was pleasantly surprised, then, when I saw the total number of pages I'd read this year:


This is probably the most I've read in a year in my life!


Reading in French

Even more, I'm proud of the reading I did in French. I read my first French novel ("Bonjour Tristesse") at the end of 2015. That was not easy, but it felt very awesome because at the start of 2015 I could hardly form a sentence in French.

In 2016, the more I read, the easier it got. How exciting to read the books below in French, and enjoy them—get sucked into them—just like I do while reading in English:
  • Le Petit Nicolas et ses copains (Goscinny, R.)
  • Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers (Rowling, J.K.)
  • Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets (Rowling, J.K.)
  • Harry Potter et le prisonnier d'Azkaban (Rowling, J.K.)
  • Harry Potter et la Coupe de Feu (Rowling, J.K.)
  • Harry Potter et l'Ordre du Phénix (Rowling, J.K.)

Books Read in 2016

Beginning in December and working backwards, these are the books I read this year:







Top 5 Books Read in 2016

(In alphabetical order by author)

"My Life in France" (Child, J.)

My Life in France - Julia Child

Here's my Goodreads review of Julia Child's book about her time in France:
Wow, I really loved this book! Seeing someone so passionate and curious about a topic, and fully immersing themselves by DOING—asking lots of questions and making lots of mistakes—was very refreshing.

I also really enjoyed the historical aspect; seeing daily life after the war in France and America, and the very first TV shows, for example. 
Definitely recommended.
I used a few bits from this book in the article I wrote about learning languages with a growth mindset, and was personally quite comforted/reassured to learn that Julia knew nothing of French cuisine / cooking before she was 37. I highly recommend this book!

"Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City" (Desmond, M.)

Evicted Matthew Desmond

Matthew Desmond was a graduate student at UW-Madison when he began researching evictions in the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Now a sociologist at Harvard, this eye-opening book tells the stories of eight families that Desmond followed for years.

I learned of this book while visiting our local library, and then attended a replaying there of the author's talk in Madison. Prior to reading this book, I had no idea how so many laws and current systems are doing a real disservice to low-income families, perpetuating the cycle of evictions.

"Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" (Dweck, C.)

Mindset - Carol Dweck

This book gave me a name, framework, and spotlight for something which I knew was important to have: a growth mindset. It's life changing for parents, teachers, and coaches to cultivate a growth mindset in children—though adults can equally benefit from adapting such a mindset. (Especially to use it in our internal dialogues!)

Someone with a growth mindset knows that we can change and gain skills/knowledge with focused practice. No one is just "born with it." Perhaps today you cannot write well, speak another language, or shoot free throws—but with deliberate practice, you can become better.

"The Crossroads of Should and Must" (Luna, E.)

The Crossroads of Should and Must - Elle Luna

Don't let the subtitle ("Find and follow your passion") be a turn-off if you don't feel you have a passion. (I used to be all over the "follow your passion" message, but a podcast interview with Elizabeth Gilbert made me realize "pursue your curiosities" is much more accessible.)

Anyway, this is an awesome book that you could read in one sitting if you wanted to. Its visual pages carry an important message about what you "should" do vs. what you "must" do. Highly recommended for anyone.

"Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead" (Mohr, T.)

Playing Big - Tara Mohr

I just read this book in October (on my Kindle), and I'm currently rereading it—from my own softcover copy, highlighter in hand. It's the first time I've seen how the personality traits which made me a good student in school are actually holding me back in "the real world." I love how the content is delivered, especially the incredibly practical ways to speak up, create, and lead. I already know this book is a game changer for me.

I was drawn in from the very first page:
You know that woman. She's a good friend or a colleague from work. She's smart and insightful. She gets it: Whatever the situation at her company, or in her community, or in the news, she has great ideas about what needs to happen. She's high integrity too—no greed, no temptation to corruption, no big hunger for power. And she's funny, warm, and trustworthy. 
Sometimes, you listen to her talk and think, if only people like her were in charge . . . 
So here's the thing: The way you look at that woman? Someone looks at you that way. In fact, many people do. To us, you are that talented woman who doesn't see how talented she is. You are the woman who—it's clear to us—could start an innovative company or pull one out of the dysfunction it's in, improve the local schools, or write a book that would change thousands of lives. You are that fabulous, we-wish-she-was-speaking-up-more woman.
This book bridges that gap between what others see in you, and what you see in yourself. Some chapter topics include the inner critic, inner wisdom, a new way of looking at fear, unhooking from praise and criticism, leaving good-student habits behind, leaping, and communicating with power.

Honorable Mentions

  • "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" (Barbery, M.)
  • "The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia" (Booth, M.)
  • "Hyperbole and a Half" (Brosh, A.)
  • "Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice" (Browder, B.)
  • "Down Under" (Bryson, B.)
  • "The Signature of All Things" (Gilbert, E.)
  • "The Phantom Tollbooth" (Juster, N.)
  • "Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques" (Michalko, M.)
  • "Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living" (Offerman, N.)
  • "How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum" (Smith, K.)

Magazines Read in 2016

This was the first time in my '20s that I subscribed to a magazine. The Atlantic got mailed to me each month starting in March.


This summer while living in Montpellier I discovered the French magazine Psychologie Positive, which was very exciting. It's much easier to read extensively (for fun, no stopping) and intensively (slowly, breaking down a sentence/paragraph for vocab and grammar) when the content interests you. Since they don't ship internationally, I back-ordered a couple of issues while I was still in France so I could continue to read them—continuing with French—after leaving.


If that wasn't exciting enough, this winter I purchased some past editions of Flow—four in English and one in French. It's a magazine I'm giddy over, which I learned of thanks to Lindsey Bugbee at The Postman's Knock. It was even better than I'd imagined! (Very worth the hefty international shipping fee.)

Flow seems to align with exactly where I am in life and who I want to be: mindful, creative, connected, simple, paper in hand. I'm so inspired by its beautiful pages and thoughtful content. "Celebrating creativity, imperfection, and life's little pleasures" and "The magazine that takes its time."


What books have you read this year that you recommend?

What's on the top of your list to read in 2017?

Past Years in Books

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