This has been a year of self-discovery for me. I started a new job, celebrated my one-year wedding anniversary, and have been exploring new interests in an effort to meet new people and expand my horizons. One of my renewed interests through all of this has been my love of stories.
The opportunity to practice writing and tell some of my own stories via blogging has been exciting and liberating. While there is still much work to do, I am slowly finding my voice. Through writing the world around me is beginning to make more sense and I see now that it holds so much more meaning than I realized. This is my 48th post (and counting).
I have found a lot of inspiration through the stories of others, in their styles of storytelling and in the stories they choose to tell, whether true or fictional. I discovered a few captivating podcasts this year that I highly recommend: This American Life, The Moth, and TED Radio Hour. Additionally, I am astounded to say that I have read 95 books this year (and counting). In all fairness more than half of those were audiobooks consumed while commuting, walking the dogs, or doing chores. But yes, 95!
A handful stood out from all the rest, so in celebration of a successful year of writing and reading, here are a few recommendations:
Just Mercy (Nonfiction, Memoir) – This book changed me. It awakened in me a deep sense of compassion that I was unaware had grown dormant. I cried through every case story in which author Bryan Stevenson struggles to free the criminally convicted from death row. I laid awake thinking about each chapter as I finished them. Everyone should read it. Everyone.
The Bone Clocks (Fantasy) – David Mitchell’s writing talent is off the charts. It is rare that I find myself in pure awe at the skill of storytelling alone, but he is a master of his craft. The story starts with a teenage girl who has psychic abilities but weaves us through encounters with other complex characters all interconnected by a supernatural struggle for control.
Circling the Sun (Historical Fiction) – I love a strong female protagonist, especially one that fights for what she wants in life rather than giving in to what society expects of her. It’s a story of an English raised in Kenya trying to make her way in the world while staying true to herself. (Author Paula McClain also wrote Paris Wife, another favorite of mine about Hemmingway’s first wife.)
Replay (Sci-Fi) – This one was a surprise lent to me by a friend. The main character dies only to repeatedly wake up at an earlier point in his life, retaining the memories of the lives he has already lived. It’s like Groundhog Day, only with much more interesting twists and challenges. I expected to be bored with all the repetition, but I was engaged and interested through the end. As a time travel story first published in 1986, there are a lot of fun throwback experiences in previous decades.
The Obstacle is the Way (Nonfiction, Personal Development) – Ryan Holiday adapts the philosophies of Stoicism to modern day life. He discusses how not to simply overcome obstacles in your life but how to see them as opportunities. It’s easy to read, understand, and follow, and supplied me with some great advice that I actually use.
Bird Box (Horror) – I read some seriously creepy books this year, but the creativity of this one is the best. Something outside makes people turn crazy and violent when they look at it. No one knows what “it” is, but the community in which Malorie and her children live is no longer safe, and for a better chance at survival, they must travel to a new place, completely blindfolded. So good.
For additional recommendations from earlier this year, check out For the Love of Books.
What books stood out for you this year and why? Please share!