I have always desired to be a “reader” and I have always enjoyed reading. This has never translated to me actually being  what I would call a “reader.” In 2017 I made a goal to read more. I was hesitant to set a specific goal but wanted to average at least a book a month. In mid-November, as I write this review, I have logged 40 books on Goodreads. A few of these were books I had read previously but logged for Goodreads to make recommendations. My pace slowed towards the end of the year when I started doing more research for this blog, choosing podcast over audiobooks when I had time to read or listen, but I was pleased with my progress over the year.

A few tips for those in the same boat as me- desiring to read more but don’t have the time. Audiobooks are amazing. I would not have completed so many books without the option of audiobooks. I actually completed one book in a single day while I cleaned our house. Between listening in my car on the way to work, at the gym, and during breaks at the office I am probably able to log 1-2 hours a day that I would not have available to sit and read a physical book. I use audible.com and the Audible app for purchases. I have a subscription which runs about $16 a month and allows for one credit a month, and I keep an eye out for deals they offer where I can often find credits for around $10 each. (one credit is typically the value of one book). Audiobooks are read by actors or by the authors themselves. When the author reads, especially for nonfiction books, their inflection and cadence add value that isn’t present on paper. It’s more entertaining to listen to the author tell me their story than to read it myself.

My second tip is Goodreads. Goodreads is a social media app that allows you to log the books you’ve read, keep a list of books you desire to read and connect with friends to see what they’re reading. This completely solved my problem of having a little downtime to read, but no idea what to read. In less than two minutes I can sit down to relax, open my Goodreads “to read” list, download a book from audible.com, and get started. How amazing is that? Because we all know “free time” is rare and not scheduled or planned. I follow a few friends and have learned which ones have similar preferences to me and will browse both their “read” and “to read” lists. You can also set goals and watch your progress.

Finally, don’t forget your public library. I finally took the kids down to our local branch and signed us all up for a library account. With my local branch only a mile away, It was easy enough to reserve a book online and stop by on my way home to pick up or drop off. While not quite as convenient as downloading a book from the comfort of my couch, this option is FREE. They even have audio versions available to borrow but I have not tried this yet. I also look forward participating in activities the library offers for kids and families.

With that, here are my top 10 picks for this year. I am not ranking them because I don’t have the energy to stress over that and I find it difficult to rank books of different genres. You will notice I have a preference for nonfiction, I always have but I do try to throw in a fiction book here and there. You will also notice a heavy nutrition theme as I was brushing up on a long list of these books I have been meaning to read and was finally motivated to do so in preparation for VFL.

  1. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.
    Read. This. Book. I kept finding Brene Brown’s name being thrown around in the nutrition/health/wellness circuit of blogs. I watched her Ted Talk which has been viewed almost 32 million times to date and was intrigued enough to pick up two of her books from our local library. This book will influence you to be a better person. It has positively influenced me as a parent, spouse, employee and a human in general. It is so timely for our culture and even though I said I wasn’t going to rank my list, I would put this as #1 in terms of most valuable.
  2. Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown.
    Even though I don’t gravitate towards science fiction I found this on a few of my friend’s Goodreads list when I was in the mood for fiction so gave it a go. Think Hunger Games meets Star Wars meets Game of Thrones. If that completely turns you off then forget I said it and read it anyway because that doesn’t really do it justice. The series consists of three novels: Red Rising, Golden Son, and Morning Star. I will admit Red Rising was a bit hard to get into at first because of the world-building, but I stuck with it because of my friends that recommended the series and I’m glad I did. Golden Son was my favorite of the trilogy.
  3. Game of Thrones series by George R R Martin. Yes this was a bandwagon pick and yes I am behind the times and yes they were awesome! Oh my did it take forever to get through these (at 1.5- 2x speed on audiobook it still took 30-40 hours per book) but the well written, complex and character-driven series was so enjoyable and different from anything I have ever read before. Plus my husband and I were able to binge on the show right after finishing the series.
  4. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This book is authored by a young neurosurgeon after he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. If his surgery skills were anything in comparison to his writing skills and ability to connect with the soul through words, the world lost an amazing surgeon. This book really struck a chord with me as a healthcare provider as it bridged that gap between the provider and the patient and asked what truly makes a life worth living? The non-healthcare world often things all doctors and providers are altruistic good samaritans who only want to help people get better. That is sometimes not the case, our world is full of people who show up to work, do their job, and go home and don’t give a second thought about how what they do directly affects other human beings on a very personal level. This novel is meant for all, the provider and the patient and no eye will be left dry by the end.
  5. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Not a nutritionist, but a journalist, Michael Pollen knows more than any nutrition “expert” about our food, where it comes from, and how to respect it as it relates to our health and the world we live. His famous line “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants” has become the foundation of clean eating. You will learn not only how to make more intuitive food choices to enhance your health but how to enjoy food the way it was meant to be.
  6. Always Hungry? by Dr. David Ludwig, MD, Ph.D. If I could pick one “diet” book (you know I hate that word) for my patients to read it would be this one. A little heavy on the science but clear enough for all to understand, Dr. Ludwig brings years of experience as an endocrinologist specializing in obesity and lays out a nutrition plan that is sustainable. He addresses the underlying issues that keep people from losing weight and everything is explained with good science. And the best part, you will learn why it’s not your fault that you can’t lose weight. Spoiler: it’s not because you are lazy or haven’t tried hard enough.  Also check out his book Ending the Food Fight: Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food world if you have children, especially if they are obese or overweight.
  7. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.
    Also a journalist, Taubes again shows us that most nutritionists don’t know what the heck they’re talking about and couldn’t back up what they say with any shred of good science. Journalists are very good at researching and when it comes to topics like nutrition, where the history behind guidelines and current recommendations is filled with corruption and false science paid for by companies who profit from it, I say if you can show me the evidence I will listen, regardless of your credentials. This book presents the best and most concise information and evidence behind the myth that fats and excess calories are the cause of obesity.
  8. Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson.
    I believe my husband purchased this audiobook when we first signed up for our audible.com subscription because it had really high reviews. I selected it one day when I wasn’t picky and was pleasantly surprised how intrigued I became with a book that covers topics I have absolutely no interest in including submarines, scuba diving and military history. I suspect it connected with my adventure side. The author presented a page turning (or whatever that expression would be for an audio version) delivery of two men, a dangerous hobby, and the spirit of adventure.
  9. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book that unearths the 10,000-hour rule (the concept that becoming an expert on something requires 10,000 hours of practice). This would be one of my top 3 pics for sure. This book will motivate anyone that has ever wanted to be great at something and explains how the greats rose to the top. He effectively explains how hard work, privilege, where one grew up, culture, parents (all for better or for worse), and sometimes plain luck all contribute to success.
  10. The Survivor’s Club by Ben Sherwood.
    Another journalist. As it turns out they make pretty good writers. This book flows like a novel but is more of a step by step on how to increase your odds of surviving an accident or tragedy. There are traits and practices as simple as paying attention to your flight attendant’s instructions, always knowing your exits, paying attention to the annoying warning lights on your car’s dashboard, and many others that statistically improve your chances of survival. You will learn whether your natural tendency is to panic, take action, lead or follow and how that affects your ability to react and respond. The Author presents riveting stories of survival that are relatable to anyone who participates in everyday life.
  11. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
    This was so good I couldn’t leave it out so this is now a top 11 list. I have always wanted to read C.S. Lewis because his quotes fascinate me. When I read classic novels it takes a while to process the flow and language that is so different from books written today and this was no exception but after getting through that I was fascinated with Lewis’s ability to put intellectual thoughts on paper. This classic novel is a fictional collection of letters back and forth from Satan and an apprentice demon charged with corrupting and converting a young man. You are simultaneously entertained and convicted as you read this novel written in 1942 which amazingly applies very much to our current culture.

Other books read in 2017 are listed below. Find me on Goodreads to see what I’m reading.

  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • It starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (full review available)
  • Spartan UP! by Joe De Sena
  • Spartan Fit! by Joe De Sena
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Honest Life by Jessica Alba
  • Option B by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Raising Your Kids to Love the Lord by Dave Stone
  • Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
  • The Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
  • Rabid by Bill Wasik
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
  • Extreme Medicine by Kevin Fong
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines