I enjoy reading a variety of books for knowledge, for escape, for relaxation, and for entertainment.
My current recommendation is Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. But here are all the books I’ve read in recent history:
Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott: In the new year, I haven’t prioritized reading for fun, and I miss it. This was the perfect book to remind me of how rewarding it is to get lost in a story. The two hours I spent making my way through the pages of this love story left me feeling full of life, joy, and possibility.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: And then I was so close to the end that I had to continue! Fortunately, I had a flight back from San Francisco to Boston that let me get through the whole thing in one day.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling: Sometimes starting from the first book is too much of a time commitment, so I enjoy picking up here—at my favorite book of the series. I always love forgetting the details of the Harry Potter books so that rereading them is like reading them for the first time.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: Since all libraries have a perpetual waiting list for this book, I finally caved and bought an Amazon copy. It was worth it. I’m half Chinese-Malaysian, so it was so cool to see phrases I’ve grown up hearing reflected in the book. Never did I think I’d read about pisang goreng and roti canai in a popular fiction novel!
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus: Plot-wise, the description “Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club” is spot on. But in a good way. Told from multiple perspective, this book got me to emotionally invest in the characters page after page.
Severance by Ling Ma: I chose this book off the shelf because it’s written by a non-white author. The fact that it’s about a zombie apocalypse in a millennial world meant I simply had to read it.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover: I could not put this book down. I was reading while walking, while eating, and even while in class. Ever since, I’ve been telling everyone to pick up a copy. Westover’s life story took my breath away. How does a girl without a birth certificate or formal education end up graduating from Harvard and Cambridge? Read this book. Please.
Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew: Filled with honest essays and witty illustrations, Andrew’s book speaks the realities of adulting. After flipping through in one sitting, my 21-year-old self felt soothed and at ease.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman: A Swedish friend recommended this book to me, and I could not have been more grateful. This story has heart and it has depth. I fell in love with the writing and with the characters. Especially Benji. I can’t wait for it to become a movie.
A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life by Tara Button: Stumbled across this book in an Oxfam bookshop, and I immediately knew it would be right up my alley. Half the book is about why we should buy things that last a lifetime; the other half is about how we make that happen. The chapters are also scattered with exercises and tips that help with everything from resisting marketing tactics to building a capsule wardrobe.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This one was a page turner. It’s one of those books that starts with the ending and unfolds to show you how we the story escalated to that point. Plus, it’s always refreshing to have non-white characters written as multifaceted individuals.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: My first ever Agatha Christie book. I wanted to read the book before watching the movie. The book had an engaging, charismatic cast of characters, but the ending didn’t blow me away.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Strolling alone in Old Town Bratislava after deciding on a three-hour pre-flight exploration of the city, I stumbled across a quaint bookshop that called to me. When I came across The Handmaid’s Tale, I recalled my single failed attempt to watch the television series. But the book did not disappoint.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman: I followed all the articles and interviews leading up to the release of this film, but decided early on that I wanted to read the book before seeing the visual depiction. The honesty and emotional sensitivity of this coming-of-age love story made it a beautifully complex story to read. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen. UPDATE: The movie was not as good. It was cinematically beautiful, but incomplete.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: A passionate bookseller essentially forced this book upon meafter I displayed great skepticism, but I’m glad he insisted I give it a read. Coming in at 480 pages, this was a hefty read. But the story’s length allowed it to continuously unfold and surprise with vibrant style and intriguing characters. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
Nigel: My family and other dogs by Monty Don: Intrigued by the beautiful Golden Retriever on the cover, I picked this up in my local Waterstones knowing nothing of Monty Don or his television show, Gardeners’ World. However, a memoir about the special relationships he’s had with his many dogs sounded simply charming. Reading this made me want to live on acres of open land, roaming gardens that I have grown with a puppy or two by my side. It was a heart-warming tale to say the least.
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed: In contrast to Big Little Lies, I
read this book before I watched the movie. And I must say, the book was far more enjoyable. Strayed is vivid, raw, and inspiring. Though I don’t think I will be trekking the Pacific Crest Trail anytime soon, it did reinvigorate my love for breathing in the fresh air of nature.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon: A whirlwind of a day where two teenagers fall in love in New York City. What’s not to love?
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: An incredible read. This book starts conversations. It tells a nuanced story of racial injustice in America from multiple divergent perspectives.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: After falling in love with the TV show, I had to get my hands on a copy of the book. I wish I hadn’t known the ending, but it was great to be in that world again.
The Girls by Emma Cline: I finally picked this book up in the Boston Public Library one day after having seen it on so many must-read lists in the past. Although I fell asleep fifty pages in, I eventually found it to be a captivating narration of the Manson murders.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: In the wake of civilization’s collapse, this tale weaves through time and space to tell the story of Kirsten, a member of a show troupe called the Traveling Symphony. It intriguingly considers what our world would look like if smartphones and credit cards were merely artifacts of the past.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I can’t wait for this book to be turned into a movie. I stumbled across this book and could never have predicted how enthralling it would be! Set in 2044, the story melds virtual reality, video gaming, and 1980’s pop culture to create a fantastical sci-fi journey. UPDATE: The movie satisfied. I only wish the characters matched their descriptions in the book, but that’s Hollywood for you.
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict: The fictional story suggests that Einstein robbed his wife of her contributions to his theory of relativity. It’s a humanizing, modern portrait of the famed physicist and his wife, who was an accomplished physicist in her own right.
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg: I loved Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, and this was a worthy sequel. He weaves science and storytelling using contemporary examples to present thought-provoking ideas about productivity.
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong: I love anything that peels back the curtain on the world of television and film, especially when the television show being illuminated is Seinfeld. Hearing more about how Seinfeld came to be was right up my alley.
The Graces by Laure Eve: A fantasy that captured my attention with its combination of mystery and magic. But the twist at the end of the book is what really made it worthwhile!
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss: This is a must-read. The food giants have manipulated the American diet for their own bottom lines. I learned so much. For example, Kraft created demand for Philadelphia cream cheese out of thin air. And companies determine the “bliss point” of sugar for maximum pleasure and addictiveness. I look forward to reading this book again.
A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder: Wasn’t the most memorable biography I’ve read, but it did capture the story of Kayak.com founder Paul English effectively enough. I also appreciated that the book introduced vulnerability to its discussion of English’s struggle with bipolar disorder.
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle: Loved this book. It inspired me to stop posting on Instagram and Snapchat and delete my social media apps, which had such a freeing effect. No longer did I spend valuable time and mental energy considering how to curate the aesthetic of my feed.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Man, what a page turner. I unintentionally tore through this book in three hours on a flight home from Boston. You know when you look down at the page number and wonder how you read 186 pages in the blink of an eye? That was this book for me. This suspenseful, sci-fi thriller was an ideal way to kick-off my Thanksgiving break!
Rising Strong by Brene Brown: I fell in love with Brene Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability, so I figured that I should read one of her books. Essentially, the book is about being okay with falling down and being able to get back up. The Rising Strong Process, as outlined in the book, is how to do exactly that.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: I chose to read this book because it centers around the mixed-race Chinese-American Lee family, which has a Chinese dad and White mom. However, the similarities with my family end there. Nevertheless, the mystery of how middle daughter Lydia drowned in a lake grabbed my attention.
But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman: It is safer to assume we are wrong about everything than to assert that we are 100% right about anything. Klosterman challenges normative thinking to theorize possible (and likely probable) ways we will look back on the present and facepalm. Hindsight is 20/20.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid: Not my typical choice, but this suspenseful psychological thriller did keep me turning the page (maybe not the best thing to read before going to sleep). Despite some intriguing philosophical discussions throughout the book, I was not a big fan of the ending.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight: Another great memoir. I never knew the story of how Nike came to be, but I’ll now have a greater appreciation for that iconic swoosh. Knight’s emphasis on business for something greater than money was also exceptionally refreshing.
Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti: I think I’m on a strong female voice kick, because this memoir doesn’t hold back. Valenti honestly describes the sexual violence she’s endured as a “sex object” (i.e. woman) growing up in New York. Not the most uplifting book, but it’s a must-read for both women and men.
Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders: A short read–the book is a transcript of his graduation address at Syracuse University–with a simple but resounding message of kindness. Don’t be passively unkind and actively selfish; be actively kind and effortfully selfless.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: Took me quite a bit to get into this memoir, but once I got to the part where Jahren begins her relationship with lifelong friend and lab partner Bill, I was hooked. Alternating between science and life as a female scientist, Lab Girl was worthwhile.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany: Couldn’t put it down after I picked it up from Costco. Far from the best story of the series, but Scorpius, Rose, and Albus are great additions to the Wizarding World. Nostalgia also prompted me to reread the series. I’m currently on Order of Phoenix.
Unthinking: The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy by Harry Beckwith: Enjoyed the contemporary references (Malcolm Gladwell, Nike, Kobe Bryant, etc.) used to reveal the psyche of the American consumer and how marketers tap into it.
How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct by Greg Gutfeld: I picked it up because I thought it would be about how to be right, not how to be Right. Nevertheless, it was intriguing to hear the conservative perspective of a relatively witty white male Fox News TV host. Some things I agreed with, and some things I didn’t.
Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta: I was drawn to this because of the centrality of tea, but I didn’t expect it to be about a dystopian future in which the scarcity of water forces it to become a commodity. Overall, it was a quick and mildly entertaining read.
The Misfit Economy: Lessons In Creativity From Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters And Other Informal Entrepreneurs by Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips: My biggest takeaways are that camel milk is a thing and there’s a lot to learn from those who hustle, hack, copy, provoke, and pivot. Worth reading if you’re interested in any of the trigger words in the title.
Between You and Me by Mary Norris: A lighthearted and historical perspective of the tenants of grammar through the autobiographical lens of a copy editor for The New Yorker. Topics include spelling, punctuation, profanity, and how it is “between you and me” not “between you and I”.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Self-aware and insightful look at race, love, and the immigrant experience in America, specifically noting the differences between Non-American Blacks and American Blacks, from the perspective of a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the U.S. for education and work. Worth the near-500 pages of small text. Unexpected love story. Even included the fantastic list of questions from Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline: Although I felt like I already knew much of what it was addressing, it was nevertheless a relevant and eye-opening look at the horrors of the fashion industry, specifically pertaining to fast fashion (i.e. how most of us shop). Here are some top facts from the book as reported by Huffington Post.
The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick: Good for anyone interested in using social media for business or personal branding. Includes over 100 tips in list format.
The Underground Girls Of Kabul: In Search Of A Hidden Resistance In Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg: Similar to this NPR segment on how Maria Toorpakai dressed as a boy to compete in sports, this book documents the bacha posh–girls who are temporarily raised as boys for one of several reasons including raising the family’s social status in the patriarchal Afghan culture. Intriguing and nuanced read.