I don’t know about you, but when the holidays roll around, all I want to do is lounge in my PJs and read books (and eat food and watch movies and sleep a lot more than normal). Of course, the biggest challenge when it comes to reading is figuring out what to read in the first place. I threw out a “what’s the best book you read all year?” to a handful of well-read friends. Here are their suggestions.
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If you liked Girl on the Train
Disclaimer starts like this: What if you realized the terrifying book you were reading was all about you?
The gist, according to the book jacket: “Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day she became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.”
Apparently this one is going to be a movie with Nicole Kidman and her perfect skin. Here’s the scoop:
“S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with this compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.”
My friend Tess simply stated, “OH MY GOD. Pretty Girls. Just started it, so good!” It’s a psychological thriller that’s been called “disturbing at times, shocking at others, and scary enough to have you checking over your shoulder while you read late into the night, unable to put it down.” Yikes! Sign me up!
Kristin Hannah is known for her thrillers, but The Nightingale is a little different. Think two sisters, France, World War II.
“With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
Our Bodies Ourselves… or something like that.
My friend Alyssa recommended What Doctors Feel to me (I had a particularly bad doctor experience a few years ago, so this topic really spoke to me. I’m already halfway done reading it!), with this note:
“I think this is such an important book! Doctors are not robots! Doctors are fallible! When we perpetuate the myth that doctors cannot make mistakes (and should not admit to making mistakes), we create a culture of mistrust, agony, and, ultimately, poorer patient care. A good read about medicine/medical ethics specifically, but also offers larger lessons on guilt and forgiveness.”
My friend Harmony is loves reading about, well, everything... but especially nutrition. She loved this book by MD Catherine Shanahan (who works with the Lakers, NBD). Harmony says, “This book is full of good information. You can literally change your genes with nutrition! Mind blown!”
If You’re Into Essays
Bad Feminist = “a collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation.”
Apparently Meghan Daum is the Joan Didion of my generation, which is all I need to know. Adding The Unspeakable to my library queue.
Books that Everybody Loves (in a good way)
Per my friend, Katie: “I don’t generally read much fiction, but I read Tell the Wolves I’m Home, which is the debut novel of Carol Rifka Brunt and I will pick up any book she writes from now on based on how rich and lovely and intricate and magical and poignant this book was. Everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it.”
According to my friend, Tess: “This was so much fun! Great, funny main character and also a mystery told in flashbacks. Maybe one of the best reads I’ve had lately.”
Celebs with Pens (or Good Ghostwriters)
Leah Remini. Scientology. Tom Cruise. I mean, why would you not want to read this book?
My friend Tim’s recap of What Remains cracked me up: “I know what you’re thinking… The Real Housewives chick?!?! In our vapid reality TV-obsessed culture, this woman is seemingly just a character on a faux soap opera on Bravo, but her back story is fascinating. A small town girl becomes highly successful Emmy-winning ABC news producer who then falls in love with a prince… who is related to one of the Greatest American dynasties – The Kennedys. What more could you want?! Love the Camelot history from an insiders perspective as well as her strength through adversity.”
The best part? I had no idea this lady was on The Real Housewives!
If You’ve Never Read Anything by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott writes about faith, family, relationships, hardships, truths and life in a way no one else can. If the book has her name on it, do yourself a favor and read it.
Seriously, everything she writes is gold.
I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.
Jen Sincero was a [self-proclaimed] loser who finally got her shit together, wrote this book and now laughs alllll the way to the bank. Read about how she got over her self-doubt and hit the big-time.
Do you want to start your own business? Great, this book will make it seem not only doable, but make you think why have I been waiting so long?! Of course, you still have to do all the hard work. Ah, details.
Mawwiage is What Bwings Us Together
Whether you’re married or not, after reading this, you’ll be all, why haven’t I read this book?! It’s about S-E-X.
“Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.”
Writers: they’re just like us! My friend Katie said, “I didn’t want this book of essays to end. Ever.”
“This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage takes us into the very real world of Ann Patchett’s life. Stretching from her childhood to the present day, from a disastrous early marriage to a later happy one, it covers a multitude of topics, including relationships with family and friends, and charts the hard work and joy of writing, and the unexpected thrill of opening a bookstore.”
If You Love a Good Series
(Not the TV Kind, the Book Kind)
Recommended by Harmony, who apparently read a lot of series this year. Here’s what this one’s about:
“For suspense-filled, post-apocalyptic thrillers, Wool is more than a self-published ebook phenomenon―it’s the new standard in classic science fiction. In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.”
The Neopolitan Novelas are dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila.
My friend Tess loved these books so much, she re-read the entire series again this year. Here’s the books, in chronological order:
Two Books About Amazing Women
Did you like Mad Men? Then you’ll love this non-fiction memoir by the original Mad Woman.
Okay, I still haven’t read this one (I know, I know), but my friend Tim did and his description of it will make you think aw… that guy is a good dad! Here’s what he said:
“This story really tore at my heart. Especially now that I have a daughter that I believe can become president (or a doctor, like her mommy!) or anything else she wants to be; this story really resonated. Here is a teenage girl that only wants to become educated and thinks that every person regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location or otherwise should have that right. She is persecuted and shot by the Taliban for these views and speaking out against the tyranny brought upon her once peaceful village. It is a fascinating read by the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and such an inspiring story of courage that I can’t wait to share with my daughter.” Awwwww!
Two Books My Friend Jina Likes
As Jina put it: “My favorite all time read that will take you through the depth and heights of human emotion: Modoc by Ralph Hefner. A true story about the greatest elephant that ever lived.” I want to hug an elephant!
This one is a little out there, but I like a little out there! Jina calls this one “a freaky, how-does-life-work book I read a couple months ago.”
Two Books I Can’t Think of A Category For
A few people recommended this one! Here’s what my friend Tim had to say about it:
“Kind of nice to romanticize about a long lost time when drinking gin martinis was the norm for high society. It’s an intriguing read about class and society set in 1930’s Manhattan. Given our tech obsessed present it’s nice to escape to a past that reminds us how much things have changed while reminding us that some things never will.“
According to my friend Alyssa, who really knows her shit:
“Best thing I’ve read this year and in many years; haunting, spare, beautiful, chilling, surreal. Contains classic David Mitchell nontraditional narrative structure, but is also quicker and easier to read than some of his other masterpieces. Hard to describe, it is a “supernatural” tale, but I would recommend it to anyone (even those that shy away from fantasy/sci-fi themes). The physical book is a treat unto itself, beautifully and artistically bound.”
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What books topped your best of 2015 lists (they don’t have to be from 2015, ’cause really… I still haven’t read most of the classics)? Share in the comments!
PS Here’s another reading list I put together last summer. I’ve read nearly all of them and haven’t been disappointed!
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