On a path to healing, I found myself reading nonstop. Here's what always having a book in your hand, a download open on your tablet, and an audiobook streaming in your earbuds will do for your life.
In 2019 I Read 85 Books
Most of them were audiobooks and I have learned to love having the words wash over me as I walk around the city, work out, commute to work, and spend time in my apartment. I love a physical book for reading before bed and studying. I write in my books and come back to passages I’ve annotated in highlights and colorful margin notes. The e-books come in many forms- PDF, Kindle, and documents downloaded from the web, the library, or shared from friends. They’re the easiest to travel with and share.
The last year of the decade was a curvy one for me. I had a health issue, I left a senior position at a nonprofit (that I had helped start), my husband and I traveled to some wonderful places, we fully enjoyed living in a vibrant city, and I lost my sister to cancer. There were many ideas for projects that floated through my head, including several that I consulted my mentors on. And there were a few opportunities that I let gently pass by. Behind the scenes, I was growing from the experiences of life and learning about diverse subjects from books.
Selecting the Right Reads
I always have several books going on at once. I enjoy going between genres. I like both fiction and nonfiction. And I’m never ever afraid to abandon a book that just doesn’t speak to me anymore. I have put away or returned several that I was more than half way through. Life is too short to stick with a bad book. To me, a bad book isn’t one I disagree with- indeed, I intentionally read many that challenged me politically, religiously, or diversely. I want to be open to hear the ideas of others, even when I want to contest the premise or logic of the author. No, a bad book is one that rambles without getting to a point, one that has dry prose, one that’s not intelligent enough to use thoughtful words, or one that simply loses my interest.
Several books topped my list of outstanding reads. Either the subject matter was handled with expertise or the topic was extremely interesting. Perhaps they were just read at the right time and place for me in my life. As I mentioned, I will abandon a book if it’s no longer fulfilling, so I won’t do a list of “worst” books here. The worst ones were let go already. Every book I read had value. But there were some that will stay with me for a long time.
Here is a list of the books I read in 2019:
The Paris Wife – Paula Mclain
Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Women Who Flew for Hitler – Clare Mulley
The Perfectionists – Simon Winchester
Hardwiring Happiness – Rick Hanson, PhD
The Babylon Code – Paul McGuire, Troy Anderson
Weapons of Math Destruction – Cathy O’Neil
Super Genes – Depak Chopra, MD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD
Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi
The Narcissist Next Door – Jeffrey Kluger
Origin – Dan Brown
Calm the F*ck Down – Sarah Knight
Thrive – Arianna Huffington
How to be a Bawse – Lilly Singh
My Life on the Road – Gloria Steinem
Magical Negro – Morgan Parker
Thirst – Scott Harrison
The Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore
The Man Who Designed the Future – B. Alexandra Szerlip
Circe – Madeline Miller
The Seventh Function of a Language – Laurent Binet
The Natural Mind – Andrew Weil, MD
Nudge – Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
Golden State – Ben H. Winters
Endurance – Scott Kelly
Range – David Epstein
Mind and Matter – John Urschel, Louisa Thomas
Thank You for Being Late – Thomas L. Friedman
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rovelli
The Second Mountain – David Brooks
Unshakeable – Tony Robbins
The Threat – Andrew G. McCabe
Naked Economics – Charles Wheelan
Fascism – Madeleine Albright
The Moroccan Girl – Charles Cumming
Smarter, Faster, Better – Charles Duhigg
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
When Women Ruled the World – Kara Cooney
Magnificent Desolation – Buzz Aldrin
City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene
The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo
Daring Greatly – Breneé Brown
Measure What Matters – John Doerr
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
Essentialism – Greg McKeown
The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer
The Personality Brokers – Merve Emre
My Friend Anna – Rachel DeLoache Williams
Energy Anatomy – Caroline Myss
The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis
A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer, Charles Fishman
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Switchers – Dawn Graham
When Life Gives You Lululemons – Lauren Weisberger
Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell
A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
Archetypes – Caroline Myss
The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin
Out of our Minds – Ken Robinson
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
What It Takes – Stephen A. Schwarzman
Life Undercover – Amaryllis Fox
Then She was Gone – Lisa Jewell
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Grit – Angela Duckworth
Becoming – Michelle Obama
Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis
It’s All Good – Gwyneth Paltrow
The Starlet and the Spy – Ji-Min Lee
Justice on Trial – Mollie Hemingway, Carrie Severino
Hazards of Time Travel – Joyce Carol Oates
The Winemaker’s Wife – Kristin Harmel
Everybody Always – Bob Goff
Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
Less – Andrew Sean Greer
Dare to Lead – Breneé Brown
The Power of Nunchi – Euny Hong
You Are a Badass Every Day – Jen Sincero
The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern
The Great Pretender – Susannah Cahalan
The Longevity Diet – Valter Longo, PhD
You Don’t Get a Map, You Get a Compass – Cindy M. Hartner
How I Change My Life
My life changes every time I encounter a timely message or a different perspective. It changes when I discuss things like what makes great art, how people think, why we behave the way we do, or how science advances our lives. It changes when I have loss or joy or encounter a major change in my life that exposes me, indeed FORCES me, to live differently. There are some things that can only be explained or soothed by themes in books, the beauty of art, or the comfort of my community. So here are just a few things I’ve learned from these 85 books that shared space in my head in 2019:
Situational awareness will make you a better person. This involves being hyper aware of your environment, respecting your surroundings, and paying the utmost attention to the people in your presence.
Healing takes time and is different for everyone. You also can’t see the wounds on other people- and we all have wounds.
You can’t control the world. But you can strive to know the history of different geopolitical issues, political stances, gender disparities, and other socio-economic differences. Nothing is “today’s” issue. It all goes way back. And it will continue in directions we can shape if we only know the history and actually take some action.
Knowing yourself better helps you understand others.
You are stronger than you think, even when the world falls apart.
Not knowing is easier, but seeking understanding is imperative.
Following your dreams isn’t comfortable, smooth, or straightforward.
Taking care of yourself involves more than eating right and exercising. You have to challenge your perceptions, grow your intellect, and create space to be alone to meditate, pray, or regroup.
For a better description of the books individually, see my Instagram page. Enjoy your reading list in 2020, and be sure to challenge yourself with new topics or opposing points of view. You may surprise yourself. #blog #reading #healing #learning #growthmindset