This has been a big year for me for traveling and reading!
I enjoyed a trip to New York City (with my 12-year-old daughter—her first time there!), a family vacation to Florida, a quick jaunt to North Carolina’s Wake Forest University for a conference of The Honesty Project, an amazing yoga retreat in Iceland (that’s me doing a handstand on Hrisey Island, where the elf magic is strong), and a lovely trip down to Corpus Christi, Texas, with my mom, aunt, sisters, and cousin to see our relatives.
But with books, my brain traveled even further than my feet. I completed (and exceeded) my Goodreads challenge to read 50 books, which is far more than I’ve managed to read other years.
What I love about tracking a reading challenge is that each little thumbnail of a book takes me back to a moment. The one I was reading in Iceland during that wild windstorm. The one I listened to on the plane ride home. The one I plucked from my Little Free Library and read in my hammock. The one I read while propped on the couch after hurting my back.
This was also the year I discovered how much I love listening to audiobooks.
In fact, I recently wrote a piece for NBC News THINK—half love letter to audiobooks, half defense of them against those who think listening is “cheating.” It’s called, fittingly, Of Course Audiobooks Count as Reading. I’ve heard from many people that they’ve also developed an audiobook habit, and find listening a more accessible way to engage with books.
(Hint: You don’t have to buy audiobooks; you can check them out from the library, just like any other books, and listen on your phone. Download the Libby app and find your library.)
Best Reads and Listens of the Year
I wanted to share my 10 favorite books of the year. Because who doesn’t love a list?
In no real order:
The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave, was the book where I had to know what happened next. A mother and her step-daughter go on a journey to track down the truth about the past.
This Time Tomorrow, by Emma Straub, was my time travel book for the year (I can’t not read a good time travel story). Woman in her 40s wakes up on her sixteenth birthday and tries to figure out what the heck is going on.
Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult, was the Covid-19 novel I didn’t know I needed. Woman goes to Galapagos Island, just as lockdown happens.
Star Fish, by Lisa Fipps, is a middle grade novel in verse about a girl who is bullied for her size. It broke my heart and gave me some conversation topics with my own middle schooler.
Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights, by Karen Blumenthal, was my rage read, after the downfall of Roe V. Wade in June. Rage is essential. So is being informed.
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, was the book I’d been afraid to read for years. It’s the unfinished memoir of a brilliant young neurosurgeon who is dying of cancer.
The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, was my favorite historical fiction novel, and it had some tough competition! It’s based on the true story JP Morgan’s personal librarian—Belle da Costa Greene, a woman from a prominent Black family and daughter of civil rights activist Richard Greener. She changes her name and passes as white to survive in a racist world, and then has to keep the secret as she becomes famous.
The Love of My Life, by Rosie Walsh, was the novel I crawled inside and didn’t want to emerge from. A husband and wife. A secret. An unwinding. Characters you can’t help but love.
Unbound is Tarana Burke’s memoir. Tarana Burke is the original woman behind #metoo. She’s been through some horrific shit, but she survived and she’s leading a movement.
Signal Fires, by Dani Shapiro, was the most beautiful, haunting novel that I couldn’t stop thinking about. (This was also the year I discovered Dani Shapiro and blew through 3 of her books.)
(And I’m currently listening to the novel Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus, the story of a female scientist in the 1950s, who is trying to make it in a man’s world. It’s sharp and snappy and thoroughly entertaining, when it’s not pissing you off. I felt like I couldn’t officially put it on my list of favorites since I’m not finished yet! But it’s GREAT.)
Have a great holiday!
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