6 books I’m basically begging you to read

“I must purge this evil from my life.”

Thus has been my battle cry yet again, as I try to get my freaking crap together priorities straight.

Ok, here’s the thing about me. I have a highly addictive personality. And I married a man with a highly addictive personality. Here are just of a few of our obsessive phases:

  • The West Wing
  • Panninis
  • Bachelor in Paradise
  • Reverse-adillas (Quesadillas with the cheese melted crispy on the OUT-freaking-SIDE)
  • Refinishing furniture
  • The gym (short lived)
  • Grilling
  • McDonald’s breakfast
  • McDonald’s dollar menu
  • McDonald’s soda
  • Pokemon Go
  • Paper cranes???
  • Every Star Wars film
  • I’m not going to confess anything more

Needless to say, we often have to recalibrate our time management, especially now that we have two very lovely and demanding children. I realized toward the end of last year that I was uncomfortable with how much time I was spending scrolling needlessly on my phone.

I knew that I couldn’t just tell myself to “stop spending so much time on my phone.” That’s like when Eric and I tell ourselves to “stop spending so much money,” and then plan a spontaneous trip to Disneyland. I decided to make a conscious change to fill my time with better things and one of the first ways I wanted to put this plan in action was to start reading more.

I have always loved books and learning and reading, but it’s taken a backseat to my college textbooks, phone and Netflix and blah blah blah there’s always something and IT ENDS TODAY, PEOPLE.

So I’m bursting with pride to brag confess to you that since I started reading again last November I’ve read 25 books ranging from rip-your-heart-out YA Fiction, to a hilarious book about punctuation, to a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Rediscovering reading has been like rediscovering an old version of myself that I’ve truly missed. But what’s more, I found that it’s helped break my addiction to my cell phone and I’m more present with my little ones. That, in my opinion, is a huge success.

I’ve been so impressed this year with so many of my friends who have made similar resolutions to read more. I love their book recommendations! And I’d love to share mine, too. So, without further ado, here are the best books I read in 2017.

  1. The Read-Aloud Handbook 

This book was the genesis of my reignited love of reading. My dear friend Hailey recommended it to me as a guide for how to help my children become lifelong readers. I could’t put it down. This book offers wonderful suggestions and resources for both parents and children to increase their love and frequency of reading. Some foundational research for this book cites that children who read more books in their formative years have more expansive vocabularies upon entering school. Sounds great, right?

At the time I read this book, Bell had just had surgeries to place tubes in her ears and remove her tonsils. Each procedure was done to help her hearing, and therefore her language, which was about six months delayed. We started reading books after not seeing the results we would like following her surgery. Today, Bellamy is expressing her thoughts exponentially better and we are floored with her progression. So many of the words in her lexicon are from books we started reading together each night. I’m so proud of her and so grateful for this book. It’s one that will be in my library forever.

2. All the Light We Cannot See

This book was jaw-droppingly good. It was a thrilling historical fiction set against the backdrop of World War II. It orchestrated two protagonists whom I became deeply attached to and beautifully and (heartbreakingly) orchestrated their fates together. It was an incredible read that I highly recommend.

I have what I often refer to as emotional PTSD. I fear feeling uncomfortable emotions. It literally causes severe anxiety for me. Don’t even get me started about Jack’s death from This is Us. So, I started avoiding media that makes me feel things. Hence, scrolling on my phone for hours like a zombie. But books, somehow, have bridged that fear for me. This book was very emotional and reading it, and leaning into that emotion was cathartic for me. It helps that this book is exquisitely and beautifully written. It’s like word candy.

3. Rising Strong

And speaking of emotions, let’s talk about Brene Brown. Brene Brown is my spirit animal. She writes passionately and informatively about subjects I deeply care about: shame, belonging, authenticity, empathy. This book is about the characteristics possessed by people who have the ability to rise from the ashes of their pain and sorrow transformed into something beautiful.

I listened to the audio version of this book (which I highly recommend) and as I listened to Brown talk, a thought hit me hard: This is the theory of Christianity. So much of what she writes in this book is about being a good, kind, empathetic humans. It genuinely helped me with some perspective I had been needing in my marriage. I appreciated her words so much and because I listened to this book with Overdrive, I felt like I was getting free therapy! I can’t wait to read more of her work.

4. All The Bright Places 

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know I’m a huge advocate for mental health. This book, you guys. This. Book. It was beautiful. And a bit heavy. And haunting and enchanting and just a beautiful, bright refuge in my life at the time I read it.

This is the story of Finch and Violet. These two high schoolers (YA Fiction) each struggle through their own unique battle with mental illness and grief. This book was so brilliantly written. It gave a soul to bi-polar disorder, something that is unfortunately still very taboo and misunderstood in mainstream society. If you are a human who loves another human, regardless of their mental status, you should read this book. It’s one I will read again and again.

5. The Hate U Give

This was perhaps my favorite book I read last year. It’s certainly one of the books that has stuck with me the longest and the reason why is simple. It’s phenomenal. It gave me the gift of a perspective different than my own and taught me to feel empathy and compassion in a way I had not previously.

This is a book about race and police brutality. It is told from the perspective of a young black girl, Starr, who lives in the ghetto and attends a predominantly white school across town. One night while leaving a party with a childhood friend, the two are stopped by an officer and the driver, Starr’s friend, is shot and killed. It’s a deep and emotional dive into her experience as she feels caught between two different worlds that are literally black and white. This book has a lot of grisly language, but was so poignant and insightful. I was grateful I read it and plan to read it again. I think everyone should read this book because it does what books do best – allow you to journey through the pains of life in the shoes of someone else.

6. Radium Girls

I feel like with each book I add to the list, I’m really just saying “No, this one was my favorite!” But really. Radium Girls was incredible.

It’s the story of the women who worked as dial painters for major radium companies in the early 1920s and 30s. The book details their daily work duties, and the graphic and horrific side effects that came from radium poisoning – a product of their jobs. The book details the women’s literal disintegration and their epic legal battle for justice. I was yelling at the characters in this book because I was so invested in their lives. It is a historical book with excellent research, but it reads as a novel. Kate Moore (author) is a brilliant storyteller and made an important history lesson a real page-turner.

And here are the honorable mention:

  1. Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day (I’ll let you know how it goes…)
  2. When Breath Becomes Air
  3. The Happy Kid Handbook 

But my real question is: WHAT ARE YOU READING?? What books have you read recently that you can’t stop thinking about? What books changed your perspective? What books did you hate? (I could share a few…) I’m always looking for new reading material and I’d love your suggestions.

You can follow me on Goodreads here.

 

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