As I shared on Instagram, I had a (crazy) goal of taking in 75 books in 2016. All that time in the kitchen and on the road allows for quality time with my audiobook selection. (That is unless it’s election season and you find out CNN can stream from your Tune In app, but whatever…)
In honor of a more reasonable goal (one book a month), here are my twelve favorite books from the year. Except for one, there is a definite theme: girl power. I would have told you that my favorite books are the light and airy beach reads sold as “chick lit” where the protagonist ends up with a husband, the hot bod, AND the expensive purse. Turns out, I like my ladies to actually serve a purpose.
P.S. Yes, let’s agree that #girlboss is almost as bad as being “obsessed”. Totally overdone and very, very 2016. That said, if the stiletto butt-kicking shoe fits…
I read this one right before Crab Rangoon was born, so I’m sure this book was made better because “it’s funny cuz it’s true”. If you’ve ever been pregnant or plan on doing so someday (or loving someone who has), this is a hilarious study about what life truly is like for a new mom.
Botany sounds like women’s work, so I let The Martian sneak into this list. By now, we’ve all seen the movie, but have you read the book? It’s even better! It’s so funny and quick reading you forget you’re learning, too. Randy is slowly bringing out the space nerd in me (check out Mars on National Geographic!) and this book fed right into that desire.
I get uncomfortable when I pick books from this series up from the library. I mean, is it okay for me as a white lady to walk around with a book with “CRAZY RICH ASIANS” blazoned on the cover? I don’t know, but so far, they have totally been worth the side eye. This one, book two of the series, continues to tell the story of some of Singapore’s richest (fictitious) families who are mostly governed by their matriarchs. I’m not looking forward to being a grandma, but if I could be a grandma with a private plane, a room for my diamonds, and the fear/respect of everyone younger than me, that doesn’t sound too bad.
After reading The Paris Wife by Ms. McLain last year, I was excited to see another book by this author. In this one, she profiles Beryl Markham, a strong woman living in Kenya during the 1920s in this piece of historical fiction. I don’t feel like I know much about the colonization of Africa (or anything about Africa’s history, if I’m being honest) and this was a great introduction to the region and time frame. The fact that we learn about it through the story of a fierce and independent woman makes it all the better.
You guys, this was hands down my favorite book of the year. Again, I found myself learning a perspective we don’t often hear in history class (World War II as told by two French civilian women). The words were so engrossing I found myself feeling anxious for the women as if I was in their shoes. If you only take away one suggestion from this list of books, please let it be this one.
The Nightingale was so good I went looking for more novels set in the same time frame. Turns out I didn’t have to look too far because Lilac Girls was right on the “Lucky Day” shelf at my library. Again, we have three female protagonists working to keep afloat during World War II. This time we hear from an American, a German doctor, and a young Polish ingénue who quickly learns to do whatever it takes to help her side in the war. Gut-wrenching in many ways (let’s just say “science experiments on live women in the concentration camps”), this book will keep your attention late into the night. Then it will make you want to go out and do something.
I’ll be honest, I have a tough time sitting through any Jane Austen books. Early English literature is just too difficult for me to take in right before I go to sleep. Enter this book, a light and airy current-day take on Pride and Prejudice. In addition to the traditional story we’ve come to love (hey, I may not have read the book, but I’ve seen the movie a bunch!), there’s CrossFit, a reality tv show, and a yoga practitioner. Emails are taken out of context and missed texts add to the drama. Ah, modern day courting – it’s not for the faint of heart.
P.S. If you like this book and want to read more by Ms. Sittenfeld, I suggest American Wife before Prep. It’s based loosely on a woman that sounds mysteriously like Laura Bush. It’s a fascinating take on what it’s like to be a bystander to your own life as a potential future first lady.
There is one very popular book you won’t see on this list – Amy Schumer’s Girl with a Lower Back Tattoo. It was good but just felt like an extension of work I’d already heard from Ms. Schumer. On the other hand, I picked up this book, You’ll Grow Out of It, after hearing an interview with Ms. Klein on NPR. I wanted more! As a writer for SNL, Inside Amy Schumer, and Transparent, Ms. Klein has the skills to write this book that I think I could have written. Well, I could have written it if I were roughly 5,000 times funnier and more well-spoken. Moral of the story – I related to every damn story and laughed myself to tears more times than I could count.
I stumbled across this book in late October when everything was looking rosy for Hillary Clinton and anyone who liked him in the first place was basking in the last bit of sunlight brought to the world from an Obama presidency. At the time, I couldn’t get enough of all things politics (please see the note about streaming CNN above. Seriously, I had a problem there for awhile), so this book scratched that itch when it was time to step away from real life and read fiction.
Though it does lean democratic (the main character’s husband is a fictitious employee for real-life Obama after all), I think you’ll love this book no matter your political leanings. If you liked West Wing, you’ll like this book for it’s inside look at what its like at cocktail parties with DC colleagues, fund-raising events with big league players, and all the inauguration balls you could handle. The main character is more along for the ride than directing the ship, but in the end, she is a master of her own future.
P.S. Talk about a real life White House romance. Look who was a groomsman this weekend!
Mindy Kaling does it again! This book of essays was actually better than her first one, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. As every thirty-something lady’s superhero, it’s great to hear a real life take on the Hollywood life (which with her regular trips to McDonald’s sounds strangely like my life back here in Wisconsin.) This book reads like a blog – very easy to just read one essay or the whole book of time allows.
Have y’all heard about this series? I stumbled across this book because it was one of the few books available from my library’s audiobook selection, but I’m so glad I found it!
This book is a take on the Cinderella story, but with a science fiction, post World War IV, part human/part robot bent. Cinder, the heroine, definitely isn’t waiting for the prince to save her. She can save herself, thank you very much. The story is great on its own right, but it looks like it’s just the start to a whole series of revisited fairytales. If you have a young adult in your life enjoy their series with them.
I don’t know what rock I was living under but I didn’t know who Felicia Day was until I read this book. Now I want to be her best friend. This memoir explains her rise to the top of the gaming world and what it’s like being a lady in a gameboy’s world. Genuinely funny and humble, with an, “if I can do it, so can you” undercurrent, this book serves as a good motivational read when you feel like you’re treading water (and/or fighting off trolls.)
So these were my favorite #girlboss books of 2016. As I’m building up my list for 2017, let me know – what are some of your recent must-reads?