At the beginning of 2016, I set myself a challenge to read at least one book per month. This was to address the dwindling amount of books I was getting through each year, which became increasingly shameful as I consider myself a proud, self-professed book lover with a habit of staying up all night to finish a really great read.
So how did the challenge go? Pretty good, all things considered. Naturally, “life” got in the way in a couple of the months; I read more than one book in others in an effort to even things out, just in case (with good reason).
Below are my thoughts on the 14 books I read. These are my opinions and I’m in no shape or form a proper book critic.
JANUARY: The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor
I enjoyed the overall message of this book, which is essentially “be happy first, then success will come”, not the other way around (e.g. if I just get that promotion, then I will be happy). Written with a good amount of humour; relevant research is highlighted throughout and the book flows quite smoothly from concept to concept. However, if you were to ask me to describe to you more details, I’m sadly unable to, seeing as this was the first book I read and my memory is not as good as it used to be.
FEBRUARY: Red Notice, Bill Browder
A thrilling read about an American investment dude that pisses off the wrong people in Russia. Basically, don’t ever piss off the wrong people in Russia, not only because it will make your life hell, but it will make the lives of those involved with you suffer worse fates. I was equal parts fascinated with this man’s quest to right the wrongs and infuriated that he would not leave it alone; I kept going back and forth as I furiously turned page after page to find out what would happen in the end. I polished this off in two days.
FEBRUARY: A Big Little Life, Dean Koontz
I’m not sure what possessed me to get this book, seeing as I’m not a Dean Koontz fan. But it’s about his awesome dog Trixie, a Golden Retriever who was retired from her service work early in her life and subsequently adopted by Dean and his wife. Their story is heartwarming, with so many vivid and wonderful stories of Trixie. I ugly-cried so much at the part describing her passing. RIP Trixie.
FEBRUARY: Free Days With George, Colin Campbell
I couldn’t help myself from reading another dog book. This one tells the story of an abused rescue dog named George, a giant Newfoundland that helped the author heal his own broken heart. Damn, I was feeling heartbroken for Colin when he described how his wife left him suddenly with no explanation. Just one day decided… I’m outta here. That’s hella cold. But awesome dog George came into his life at just the right moment and they share together a beautiful journey. I ugly-cried reading this as well. Seems to be a common theme with me and dog books.
MARCH: The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
As a huge fan of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, I was excited to read his newest novel. It’s hard to even summarize or describe the plot; it’s a dark, fantasy-type tale that unravels in an almost whimsical yet heavy-hearted way. Ultimately I thought it was about the relationship between the two protagonists, Axl and Beatrice, as they set off on a journey to find their son.
APRIL: Daughters of the Samurai, Janice P. Nimura
A fascinating and compelling read about five young Japanese girls that are selected to live abroad in the United States to bring back what they learn from the West. From the arduous journey to the culture shock they inevitably experience, this was an interesting look into a chunk of history I didn’t know existed in Japan.
MAY: Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
I wasn’t too sure about this one because I’m not into the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Very quick, easy to digest chapters on releasing the inner Big Magic that exists in everyone. Might be a little too new-agey for some, but even for someone who considers themselves on the more pragmatic side, this was an interesting look at how we can all harness our own individual creativity to create some serious magic in our lives.
MAY: Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
A funny read, especially as a married woman. This made me so glad that I met Mark before the explosion of internet dating (we met in a very old-fashioned way – at church). No having to fill out profile after profile, deal with creepy messages, or accidentally swipe right when I meant to swipe left (or is it the other way around? See, I have no idea). Some great research and tidbits included as well.
JUNE: Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book and honestly, it took me a while to get into it. But I ended up pleasantly surprised by this tale of a butler who goes on a holiday and meets up with an old colleague. Along the way he shares various stories of his butler life.
JULY: How We Got to Now, Steven Johnson
An interesting science-y read about six innovations that shaped the modern world. I’m normally not into books like these, but it was eye-opening to read about the enormous influence of the printing press on the invention of glasses (basically, once books became more accessible, people began to realize that their vision was awful). And there really existed a man that sold ice. Really!
JULY: The Brain’s Way of Healing, Norman Doidge
Probably one of my favourite reads of the year. This basically turns the oft-accepted concept that the brain can’t generate new cells right on its head. Turns out, the brain is more than capable of producing new cells and actually heal itself. I will likely re-read this again in 2017 because it’s chock-full of fascinating research and stories of people who were able to harness the power of their brains to heal serious injuries and work around disabilities that were once thought to be unmanageable. So, so good.
AUGUST: Originals, Adam Grant
The key message I took from this book was that it’s not such a bad idea to mitigate risks when it comes to doing something original. There is no one “right” way to hit it big. The author debunks a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be creative or original, and this book gave me hope that even a wimpy dreamer like me could do something that isn’t so conformist to society’s ideals.
SEPTEMBER: Dog Medicine, Julie Barton
Yes, another dog book. I love dogs, what can I say. Julie’s journey from depression to healing is an honest look at a mental illness that wasn’t so recognized when she was first battling it. I identified with a lot of what she went through. Her story is about the healing power of man’s best friend and how our four-legged friends can often be the best medicine.
NOVEMBER: Part Wild, Ceiridwen Terrill
I came across this book while I was reading a blog post about wolf dogs written by Patricia McConnell; she recommended it as a must-read and I was interested to know more about Ceiridwen’s experience raising a wolf dog. This story was, in one word, heartbreaking. It was also infuriating to read some of the decisions she made, but I couldn’t fault her for being honest and going on to do her own extensive research into the phenomenon of these wolf-dog hybrids that are caught between two worlds. As much as people think that dogs and wolves are closely related, over thousands of years of selective breeding for a domesticated companion have separated the two species entirely. Wolfdogs are beautiful, no doubt, but I don’t think they were ever meant to be pets. This book will show you why.
What were some of the books you read in 2016? I’d love to hear if you have any recommendations!