2016 Books in Review

Last year, I did a Dating Year in Review. Does it say anything about #whyimsingle that I’m replacing that this year with my books in review?

This year, I finally got into tracking my books consistently on Goodreads. Why, you say? Because one day I read a book and found it fascinating. New. Intriguing. I was surprised I hadn’t read it before. Shortly after, I was wandering through my journals and read a note that I’d read THAT SAME BOOK and loved it some 10 or 15 years ago. I’m too young for that to happen, so I’m starting to keep track of my reading. (I can’t even remember what book it was now).

This year, I also got into audiobooks hard core. And I started getting my tax dollars out of the local library. In the past, whenever I’ve wanted to read a book, I just Amazon Primed (yes, I’m using that as a verb) it to my house. Now, I just Salt Lake County Library it to the holds shelf a few blocks away and/or to my OverDrive app. Much less expensive.

Since this list is so long, I’ve contemplated writing a monthly post on some new reads. So if I get a good response here, maybe you’ll see me do it. Let us begin.

Old favorites

Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery

I started this series over the Christmas holiday at the end of 2015 and carried them into 2016, reading them at a ridiculously rapid pace. I have read the series before, of course. These books are seriously some of my favorites. L.M. Montgomery was brilliant at captivating the coming of age of a precocious young redhead. Anne is so intelligent, so fiery, so stubborn, so charming, so endearing. She loves, she hates, she forgives, she’s forgiven. I cried at the end of every book and at the end of the series I wanted her back. It makes me miss the wonders of my youth and makes me long for the wonders of motherhood. Kindred spirits. Bosom buddies. Matthew. And Marilla. How could you not love them? It makes me grateful for a strong female role and makes me wish for my own loving (and uber patient) Gilbert. It takes Anne SO LONG (books-wise) to finally figure it out with Gilbert. But (spoiler alert) she does. And then her children. And the torch is passed. L.M. Montgomery is on the list of people I want to see in the next life because I can’t meet Anne. But I hope I find a bit of Anne in her.

Some of my favorite quotes.

“Humor is the spiciest condiment in the feast of existence. Laugh at your mistakes but learn from them, joke over your troubles but gather strength from them, make a jest of your difficulties but overcome them.” ― Anne of the Island

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ― Anne of Green Gables

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ― Anne of Green Gables

“I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.” ― Anne of the Island

“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more… though I know that IS the noblest ambition… but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.” ― Anne’s House of Dreams

New Reads by Favorite Authors

The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery

Since I’m already on a Lucy Maud note, I decided to try some of her other books out. The Blue Castle was different, interesting, frustrating, and although the character development is not as strong as some of her other works, I came off loving Valancy in the end. Maybe tied up a little too tightly, but sometimes you just want happiness for those who lead hard lives. And it’s always good when an “old maid” finds happiness. Or does she? Find out!

Educational Books

I don’t know what else to call these books, but I learned a lot from them, so educational seems to fit.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

One of the directors at work recommended I read this if I really wanted to know what the conditions and problems of poverty are like worldwide, especially for women. It is based off many research studies and analyses of nonprofit organizations that attempt to help solve problems for women. It was graphic and hard to get through at times. It was sickening and enlightening. It contradicted itself in places, but ultimately provided excellent thoughts and solutions for what we can all do to improve the conditions of women (and everyone really) worldwide. The raw and real needs of women  inspired me to take action. I am now involved with several organizations promoting education internationally because this book inspired me. And I am even more passionate about my volunteer work as a mentor for a refugee teenager at the local community center. I never feel like I’m doing enough, but this book helped me see that it’s important to just start somewhere. And local efforts do make a difference, often the most difference.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Steven D. Levitt

I felt like each chapter was a new podcast of economic research. Super fascinating. It does jump around a lot, and the author explains why in the beginning because there’s not much that ties everything together. But I always get jazzed when thinking about complex issues differently. It is also full of many moral questions, so be prepared.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan D. Cain

A few years ago a friend sent me a “How to Deal with Introverts” article. I hated it. I don’t like categorizing people into special groups. I see people as individuals who have individual needs and can’t be easily categorized. Nevertheless, I learned a lot about how to work better with introverts. I consider myself an ambivert because I do have some introvert tendencies (for as much as I love to get to know people, sometimes large groups and gatherings wear me right out instead of giving energy, and so on). If you’re an introvert, you’ll feel validated by this book. If you’re an extrovert, you’ll probably feel annoyed that introverts seem to be portrayed as victims. If you’re an ambivert, you’ll get a taste of both. 🙂

How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton M. Christensen

The greatest lesson I learned in this book was to take an inventory of what my priorities are and compare that to how I spend my time. Surprise! It didn’t quite match up. My hours tend to be spent more in working jobs (outside of what’s required) rather than in some of the other activities that are important to me (such as being available for others). I feel fairly good about how I would measure my life, but there are a few things that I plan to shift.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

I think my Facebook post after finishing this book pretty much sums it up: “I just finished read/listening to ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’, the incredible story of HeLa cell research which has probably affected your life without you even knowing it. Brilliant. Beautiful. Scientific. True. Heart-warming at times. Shocking at other times. Incredible investigative journalism. The author, Rebecca Skloot, is the kind of author I want to be.”

The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps, Michael Blanding

I’m a nerd-o fanatic about maps now. This book details how E. Forbes Smiley, a brilliant map collector and seller, turned into a criminal who potentially stole hundreds of maps to resell to private and public collections. I am desperate to visit the New York Public Library and other libraries to see their original New World and other map collections after reading this.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin

I heard Doris Kearns Goodwin speak at the 2016 RootsTech conference and loved her storytelling and her incredible knowledge of history. This book had been recommended to me several times and I finally got to it. What else can be said other than that Lincoln was phenomenal in working with his rivals to create unity and somehow keep a broken nation from falling apart. You can tell an author is truly genius when you know the outcome of history, but you are still left guessing the plot along the way.

Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Liz Wiseman

I read Liz’s other book “Multipliers” and loved it. I’ve listened to a few of her speeches as well. Her business acumen and ideas resonate with me. This book explores one of my favorite ideas: you don’t have to actually know anything to be good at it. In fact, not knowing can sometimes push you to figure it out in a way others never have before. #rookiesmarts Guys, she’s speaking at the Innovator’s Summit at RootsTech this year, so…think about going.

Fantasy

The Book of Three, Alexander Lloyd

This is the first book in The Chronicles of Prydain. I didn’t love it. It’s an unlikely boy hero story, but the victory was too easy for my taste.

Elantris, Brandon Sanderson

This was my first Brandon Sanderson book. I am more of the “Lord of the Rings” type fantasy, but I did enjoy this book and it was gripping. The tale was new enough not to make it easy to guess the ending (I mean, all stories really are the same, but it had enough of a different flavor to keep me interested). I was shocked it hadn’t been made into a movie yet because it seems a perfect fit for adaptation for fantasy fans.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling

I almost didn’t put that I read this book this year. It’s just not really Harry Potter. 🙁 It brought back all the nostalgia and I loved the magic feeling, but it tied up way too easily and tightly. I understand it’s a screenplay, but still. I just couldn’t. And I still haven’t gotten over the idea of Hermione marrying Ron.

Churchy-ish

Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, Patrick Q. Mason

This is the number one book (aside from scriptures, of course) that I would recommend to anyone who is struggling with his or her faith. It reminded me of what it means to be planted in my faith and continue forward even when it’s so easy to doubt. Doubt your doubts first, friends. Faith is exhilarating and beautiful.

The Great and Terrible Series: The Brothers, Where Angels Fall, The Second Sun, The Great and Terrible Fury, Clear as the Moon, From the End of Heaven, Chris Stewart

This falls in Churchy-ish because it follows an LDS family in a fictional setting of the end of days. Skip the first book and just know that it’s weird and follows the premortal life where some people did righteous things so the enemy is out to get them. The rest are quick, easy, and compelling reads. Imagine what the end will be…it will be insane. It just will be. This book sets forth (spoiler alert) the possibility of Middle Eastern tensions and a massive EMP (electromagnetic pulse) and the devastation as a result. This series stressed me out, but I also felt so grateful to just know that whatever really does happen at the end of time, there is a balm in Gilead, and the Prince of Peace will make all things right.

A Heart Like His: Making Space for God’s Love in Your Life, Virginia H. Pearce

Friends, if you sometimes feel your heart is cold or unfeeling,  you need this book. I needed this book. I need to actively open my heart to others and to love others more freely. This book also brought massive feelings of guilt and inadequacy about all the things I was failing at, but in the end, I felt inspired to take action to love.

The New Testament

This is the Word. I love the New Testament. It is true. I believe in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He is my saving grace. What more can I say?

Memoirs

Sum it Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective, Pat Summitt

After reading an article about Pat Summitt when she passed away from Alzheimer’s this year, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of her before. So I snatched up her memoir to learn more. I laughed, cried, got angry, and celebrated with her through her eyes. She was an Olympian and did so much for women’s collegiate sports. I’ve never been that big into basketball, but I cheered on every game in the book and came to love her players. I loved that at the Rio Olympics this year, several of her former players and rivals were coaches and players on the Olympics team. I knew some of their journeys. And Pat’s name was mentioned. I feel like I know her now. And I hate Alzheimer’s for what it takes from people.

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

Another beautiful memoir. Mostly cried through it. It’s a tough one. I can’t even believe Paul’s tenacity and desire to keep working at his career as a neurosurgeon even after a difficult cancer diagnosis. And even more, his desire to become a father. Read it. Learn from it. And feel it.

Regular fiction

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell

The movie “North and South” is one of the most intense 4 hours of your life, culminating with one of the most beautiful ending scenes ever. The music. The tenderness. Yeah, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff. The characters are somewhat different in the book (as usual) so I’d recommend a read. I loved getting the flavor of Gaskell and understanding the story so much more deeply. And then go watch the last 5 minutes of the movie again.

Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell

After one taste of Gaskell, I had to try another. This book was frustrating! That’s what I have to say. But I still like Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing. She can write frustrating characters very well.

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

Bless my soul, I finally finished the unabridged version of this book. I started it the year prior, set it down for a few months, and picked it up again and plowed through. I love the musical Les Miserables. I love the story. I read the abridged version in high school and loved the history and nuances and connections that Hugo brilliantly weaves together. The unabridged version reveals even more. The music rang through my ears for months as I worked through this one. I love tales of redemption.

“Romance”

All right guys, this is about the closest I’ll get to what you’d call romance, so just go with it.

Learning to Fly, Spencer Durrant

One of my former interns wrote his first novel so I thought I’d give it a read. Light and short little diddy. A good proofread once-over would have helped a bit, but it was an interesting short novel if you’re in for a quick read about a Montana-land football player and his unlikely marching band love interest.

Mistletoe Inn, The Mistletoe Promise, Richard Paul Evans (Reader’s digest version)

I don’t know what this says about me, but when I was visiting my grandma one day, she handed me two books she’d just read from her Readers’ Digest book collection and told me I needed to read them. I’d heard one of them had been made into a Hallmark Christmas movie, so since I didn’t have time to watch any of those sappy love stories this year, I quickly consumed these. Reader’s Digest books tend to only take an hour or so to whip through, and I couldn’t very well give them back to my grandma without reading them, so on a lonely little evening I discovered that it’s all OK that I have a failed love life so far because some rich millionaire is just waiting to find me. I just need to be vulnerable, get upset at myself (and him) for it and ruin everything, and then he’ll still come for me anyway. Oh, I’ve also been going about this all wrong because I need to have a dead-end job and hate Christmas. Oops. #notworthit

Children’s Books

I’ve spent a lot of time reading children’s books this year. Like mucho time. I can’t write them all, so we’ll just go for the faves.

The Pigeon Books, Mo Willems

One of my nieces is out of her mind crazy about the pigeon books. She has them pretty well memorized and she takes them along with her on overnight trips. I bought her an activity book for Christmas and she sat down for 2 hours and steadily worked through about a quarter of it. They are fun reads for adults, too, so I don’t mind.

Books do not Have Wings, Brynne Barnes

A bishop that I met on my mission, Rogerio Coelho, is a world-class illustrator. He’s mostly done illustrations for books in Brazil, but finally there’s one you can buy here in the US of A! I love the book for its illustrations, but it’s clever as well.

The Blessing Cup, Patricia Polacco

This is a beautiful book ultimately about love and the linking of generations through family stories. Why didn’t I think of that? A wise friend gave it to me because she knows I eat up anything family history related. #nailedit

I think that about wraps it up because I can’t remember any other books I read. #longestpostever #peaceout

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4 Comment

  1. Hey, I’m happy you found overdrive and the hold option at the library. It was a life safer for me when aí first moved here.
    After Freakanomics, I would suggest you read Blink, then Think, Fast and Slow. In that order. The second is a thick book, but full of knowledge.
    I like your reviews, thoughts, and stories. I am taking a writing course at SLCC this semester. Practicing how to write more, then maybe better. Hence me here, writing…
    We had a couple books in common this year and now I want to read The Map Thief

  2. You have to keep doing this! I love mining book suggestions from friends. For the record I LOVE LM Montgomery. And Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my all-time favorites. I have no idea what reaction I’d have to the Chronicles of Pryden today, but boy did we love to snuggle with dad while he read them us back in the day! So maybe read them with kids? We couldn’t get enough. “Crunchings and munchings!”

  3. Yay reading!!! Thanks for adding way too many books to my Must Read list. Reading everything you want to/should read is one of those never-ending always-failing life projects, but it looks like you did a great job of chipping away at it last year. Best of luck in 2017!

  4. Nice reviews. You gave me some ideas for reads to try this year! Next time you should mention which books were audio and how you liked the reader. I found that makes such a huge difference.

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