December 29, 2015

My Top 20 Books of 2015

Well, one thing I will fully admit I failed at this year is the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge. I set a goal of reading 100 books, and so far I’ve read… 59. But hey, as Goodreads has so kindly pointed out, 2015 isn’t over yet.

OBVIOUSLY I could still pull this off and read 41 books in two days if I just had more motivation. Thanks, Goodreads!

I would guess I’ll finish the year just over 60 books, since I’m in the middle of one right now and also have a fairly short read queued up. That’s nothing to sneeze at, though I do hope to do better next year.

I may not get to 100 books, but I do think I can break 20,000 pages by Thursday night. (Screenshot taken after I discovered that I had forgotten to log a book from earlier this month. One more down; hooray!)

Updated to add: I have since learned that I actually read 66 books/22k pages, thanks to a few books that I had marked with the date I started reading rather than the date I finished (and therefore they didn’t get counted).

But in the meantime before we kick off 2016, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite books of the year.

More than half of the books I gave five stars to this year were novels:

  • The Selection Series: Basically, imagine if The Bachelor reality competition was how the ruler of your country chose a wife, and then cross that with some Hunger Games-style rebellion. This is certainly not intellectual, but I loved every book in the series and am eagerly waiting for the next one.
  • The Knockoff: Pure chick lit in the same vein as The Devil Wears Prada, it follows a Gen X editor-in-chief who has to try to survive the complete transformation of her job by her Millennial former assistant. Again, not at all intellectual, but really fun, particularly in its astute call outs of social media and how it’s taken over.
  • Commencement: I read this toward the beginning of the year and so can’t remember it quite as well as the others; however, the basic premise is that a group of girls become friends in college and then continue to stay close after graduating. The characters were really rich and it was interesting to see how their lives grew apart (but still intertwined) as adults.
  • The Martian: This book is certainly famous now that the movie came out, but I would highly, highly encourage you to read the book (even if you’ve already watched the movie). I read it in less than two days, and once I got Adam into it, he did as well. This book was outstanding in both the jokes and scientific details, and was just an excellent read.
  • We Were Liars: This novel starts off a bit slow, but then became a page turner that I stayed up late to finish. Provides a neat look into the privileged lifestyle that exists at people’s summer homes, but it’s definitely not light or fun.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: If you want to read about the lifestyles of the rich (and sometimes famous), this book delivers in a lighthearted way. I read it in an afternoon and loved every minute of it.
  • After I Do: This book manages to transcend the line between chick lit and actual literary fiction by tackling a tough topic. Is loving someone enough reason to stay with them forever? The story follows a couple who decide to spend a year apart and see whether they are really meant to be together.
  • Honorable mention goes to Biglaw (follows one woman’s crazy life inside a big NYC law firm), The Royal We (kind of a twist on Prince William and Kate Middleton; loved it except for the lame ending), The Admissions (how does a family survive the stress of today’s college admissions process?), Until You’re Mine (really dark thriller that keeps you guessing), and Home Front (female pilot and mother of two gets unexpectedly deployed to Iraq; follows her time there and her difficult return to civilian life). I gave each of those four stars but they were still really memorable!

On the non-fiction front, there were four memoirs that really stood out to me:

  • It Was Me All Along: Andie is a blogger that a lot of my friends know personally, so there was a lot of hype around the blogosphere! I was ready to be disappointed but this actually lived up to those high expectations. Andie is incredibly transparent about everything she went through, and her honesty is refreshing and inspiring.
  • Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time: I’ve enjoyed Rachel’s other books, and this one didn’t disappoint. I wrote a bit more about it here, but the short version is that Rachel tries month-long experiments to get the best aspects of various celebrities: Jennifer Aniston’s body, Gwyneth Paltrow’s cooking skills, etc.
  • Living With a Seal: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet: I liked this book so much that I gave it to Adam for Christmas 🙂 It made me laugh out loud nearly every chapter, and I usually don’t do that when I read! Meanwhile, the intensity of the training also made me feel like if Jesse could get through that, surely I could push myself hard in a difficult gym class. So, funny and inspiring.
  • Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want: I read this one in two parts, since I ended up having to return it to the library in the middle. But it gave me a lot of food for thought. Tess Vigeland basically has her dream job as a host for NPR, but she ends up walking away from it – without knowing where exactly she’s going. There are some great insights in here around goal setting and societal expectations… I might do a full post on this book at some point.

Finally, in the general non-fiction category:

  • Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield: I heard this one is going to be made into a movie next year, and it came highly recommended from a few media sources, so I figured I’d get ahead of the game. Wow – it is an outstanding read! It follows the first women to be on the front lines in Afghanistan, from their selection to training, deployment, and service. It’s riveting, and I shed more than a few tears while reading. Definitely check this out before the movie comes out next year!
  • Executive Presence: I read this for my women’s book club at the office, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to up their game at work. (Hey, there’s a great new year’s resolution!) It draws attention to some of the small things that may be undermining your success,
  • Honorable mention to the Confidence Code (similar vein as Executive Presence, but focused on gender issues and how they can be limiting; I wrote a bit more about it here) and A Path Appears (focuses on charity: how it works, why it’s important, and how we can help) – both of which were also read for my women’s book club. We definitely have some good picks in there!

And as for 2016? Well, I’m hoping to read at least as many books as I did this year – though hopefully a few more! I’m really looking forward to finishing Carly Fiorina’s first memoir (I am about halfway through but it ended up being due back at the library so I’m now back on the hold list), Fates and Furies, School of Greatness, Year of Yes, and Spark Joy. Plus, I am really excited about this list of books coming out in 2016, brilliantly curated by Adam Grant.

Any additional books you’d suggest for me? I always love a recommendation! And feel free to friend me on Goodreads here, to keep up with what I’m reading throughout the year.


14 thoughts on “My Top 20 Books of 2015”

  1. Can I just say the Selection Series is a very guilty pleasure of mine! Loved them. I read a LOT this year after looking at my kindle library. But next year I want to be more thoughtful in what I am reading. I didn’t read enough serious, or thought provoking books for my liking so hope to change that.

  2. I just added a bunch of these to my Good Reads bookshelf. My goal is to read 12 books in 2016. Seems paltry, especially since I’m a fast reader, but it’s hard to do with a toddler.

    1. Your life is SO busy with Alexander; I am impressed you can read that many! Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions 🙂

  3. I think that I might read the paper version of the Ashley’s war movie before it is out. So cool of them to release the paper version before the actual movie is released!!

    The martian is 100% my kind of book. If only all books were that good / interesting!!

  4. Wow I have not read very many of these books! You are giving me a lot of books to add to my to-read list. I am reading We Were Liars right now, I just started tonight and I’m already 100 pages into it. It’s definitely a very quick read. I am not quite at the page turning part yet though and so far I’m just kind of confused haha.

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