December 31, 2016

My Top Books of (the second half of) 2016

Today I finished my 100th book of the year, meeting my goal! And now I’m already diving into my first book of 2017, Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.

Hooray! The last time I read 100 books in a year was 2011, so I’m pretty proud for achieving this aggressive goal.

I’m so happy to see your thoughtful comments on my top books of the first half of 2016, and that inspired me to get the second half done quickly too. Hope you enjoy these books I enjoyed between July and December!

  • Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success, by Angela Duckworth. I’ve read about Duckworth’s research in many other articles and books, so I was really excited for her own book – and it didn’t disappoint. This is incredibly motivational, and I also really enjoyed the section on how to teach your children to have the grit they need to succeed.
  • How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, by Caroline Webb: Basically every work-relevant piece of behavioral science ever, with new/innovative twists, brought into one book. Although I had heard of many of these studies before, Webb did a great job writing about them in a fresh way that makes it easy to actually make changes. (Read how this inspired my one-touch email goal for September here.)
  • One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I rarely give novels five stars, but I read this in one night and just loved it! The story was fascinating, but as usual, Jenkins Reid does an amazing job making you think about the bigger questions in life. Do we all really only get one true love, or is it possible that someone can have more than one? And how on earth can you compare? Jenkins Reid’s books are always great in their ability to be light reads that aren’t the least bit boring, but still be thought-provoking.
  • Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World, by Adam M. Grant: I loved Grant’s first book, Give and Take, and his second was equally inspirational. I got some big ideas from reading it… we’ll see if I make them happen in 2017 🙂
  • TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, by Chris J. Anderson: I wrote about how helpful this book was when I was preparing to present at Discover (see more details here). Very instructive and yet still interesting!
  • The Thousandth Floor, by Katharine McGee: Another novel that made my coveted five star list! This book is a futuristic look into what happens when the population grows and technology improves to where our “cities” are in fact thousand story buildings that people never leave. The technology described is really fascinating, and the story focuses on issues of classism that are relevant to our world today.
  • Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult: I think this was my all-time favorite book of the year. Yes, it’s another novel, but it was so powerful and heavy hitting that it affected me as much as a non-fiction read. There were times when it was really tough to keep reading, but it was well-worth the emotional turmoil. If you read nothing else on this list, read this book.
  • Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your Employees to Give It Their All, and They’ll Give You Even More, by Mark Murphy: A friend of Adam’s recommended this one to me, and it was a really excellent management book. While many books in this vein are idealistic, Hundred Percenters did a great job sharing sample dialogue and otherwise making the practices seem achievable. I learned a lot about myself and my management style by reading, and have been working on applying the concepts to my work.
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck: My last book of the year, and also one of the best! Like Duckworth’s Grit, I’ve long been fascinated with Dweck’s research, and have seen the dramatic changes in my own life when I shifted from a fixed to a growth mindset. This covers what those are, why they’re important, and perhaps most critically, how to make the shift yourself in order to be more successful. Loved it so much, and I would name it my top non-fiction book of the year.

And to keep things in line with my previous post, here are the runners up (or those to which I gave four stars out of five). First the novels:

  • Eighteen Acres, It’s Classified, and Madam President, by Nicolle Wallace: This was a series of three books that I unfortunately read out of order. But it was still fantastic! The author was the former chief of communications under President Bush, and her novels are a great picture of what really goes on in the White House behind closed doors. The characters are fascinating, as are the issues they face, and I would highly recommend them.
  • The Blue Bistro, Barefoot, and The Matchmaker, by Elin Hilderbrand: Hilderbrand’s books are great beach reads. They’re fairly light, always have a happy ending, and take place on Nantucket. I loved The Blue Bistro in particular because it centered on a restaurant, and I think the hospitality business is fascinating.
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein: A sweet story that tries to answer what a dog’s life is really like – along with a bit of explanation for the times you wonder how the dog can be that smart 🙂 If you’re a dog-lover, you’ll love this book.
  • Who Do You Love, by Jennifer Weiner: I wanted a light romance book, but this one hit really close to home. It’s about two kids that meet on vacation, a la Beaches, but it’s a boy and a girl and they fall in love. But one thing I loved most about it is that one becomes a professional runner, so you get to see what that life is like. I loved this book and might even bump it up to five stars, in hindsight.

And the non-fiction four star reads:

  • Sweat Equity: Inside the New Economy of Mind and Body, by Jason Kelly: This was a cool look at the evolution of the fitness industry. I found it fascinating to see how each of the different players in the fitness industry started, grew, and evolved – it felt like getting the inside track.
  • Meb For Mortals: Harness the Training Methods of a Champion Marathoner to Achieve Peak Running Performance, by Meb Keflezighi: I read this after meeting Meb on a plane this summer, and I loved how his thoughtful, intelligent voice came through in the book. Meb did a great job explaining exactly what he does as a world-class athlete, but also suggesting how those things could be adapted for regular people who don’t have the same time/resources. I thought it was incredibly realistic, while also still being inspiring. (And if you want more from Meb, check out his guest post I featured on five mistakes first time marathoners make.)
  • The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, by Valerie Young: I definitely find myself plagued by imposter syndrome (thinking I’m not really that great and someday everyone is going to discover what a fraud I am), and this book offered a lot of practical tips for changing that mindset to overcome it.
  • Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji: This book is being heavily championed by my firm right now, so we decided to select it as one of our women’s book club reads. It was excellent, though also sometimes tough to swallow! Essentially it teaches that all of us have blindspots/biases, and that the key is identifying them and talking about them rather than trying to cover it up and pretend they don’t exist. (Kind of a similar lesson to the admitting your weaknesses lesson that’s emphasized in Mindset.) I think reading this did a lot to change my long-term perspective on implicit bias, more than just vaguely understanding the concept.

So – that’s lots of potential reading material for you for 2017! Hope you had a fabulous year of reading, and are looking forward to some good reads ahead. Perhaps in 2017 I’ll even do this roundup of my favorite books once a month rather than all in one shot? In the meantime, follow me on Goodreads for updates on what I want to read and have recently finished.


4 thoughts on “My Top Books of (the second half of) 2016”

  1. I completely agree with One True Loves and Small Great Things – I just loved both of those books.
    I’m just about finished Happiness for Beginners, and I think that may make the list as well.

    Now I need to start reserving a bunch of these at the library! I’m amazed at how much you’re able to read given how much I know you work 🙂

    1. Last year, I got in the habit of going to lunch and dinner with a book (rather than a coworker/client) almost every day. Eating with a book is a habit I picked up while I was a kid, and while it got me yelled at then, I love it now. That meant I got in at least an hour of reading every day, plus whatever time I’d read before bed (usually 10-30 minutes, depending how exhausted I was).

      I’m adding Happiness for Beginners to my list!!!

  2. Wow – 100 books in a year is SO impressive. I don’t know how you do it! Thanks for all the awesome recc’s. Definitely adding some to my list.

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