The Best I’ve Read This Year: Fiction

fiction

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

This novel is nothing short of a masterpiece. I read this book with a friend (what we’re calling a “two-person book club”) and I am so glad I did — this is the kind of book you’ll want to discuss with everyone you meet. Featuring an intriguing cast of characters in a contemporary setting, incredibly and uniquely well-written,  and interwoven with current events and issues, Freedom is worthy of all the literary acclaim it has received. Read it, then call me to discuss… I will honestly never get tired of talking about this book!

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Another best-seller worth the hype, Beautiful Ruins is set along the Italian coast, not far from the Cinque Terre. Written back and forth across time zones and through multiple character’s perspecives, the book never loses momentum and kept me interested throughout. The writing style is light enough for a quick vacation read, but the zany characters and unpredictable plot line keep it interesting. Plus, it’s funny — an added perk that made me laugh out loud a few times.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I suppose this book is technically non-fiction, but I already included it in this post soooooo it’s going to stay here. After all, this book was so well written, the characters so well imagined, that I felt wrapped up in a rich novel rather than a true story. This dramatic novel tells the story of the USA 1936 Olympic Rowing team — from the team member’s humble Depression era beginnings through the team’s incredible quest for a gold medal. An fascinating, historical page-turner.

A Storm of Swords (Game of Thrones Series) by George R. R. Martin

A commitment to reading the Song of Ice and Fire series is not for the weak of heart.  The six long and detailed novels (with a seventh forthcoming) take place in a fictional world with a history of thousands of years. Throughout the novels, a dynastic war throughout several prominent families rages.

I’m only through the third book (taking breaks between installations), but the series keeps getting more interesting. I highly recommend diving in — especially during these winter months that create the perfect setting for a nice long read.

The Best I’ve Read This Year: Non-Fiction

Non_Fiction

I like to read a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. I tend to read a couple books at one time, generally keeping one non-fiction around on my bedside table for regular installments of reality in between more gripping novels.

These four non-fiction books, however, held my entire literary attention from beginning to end. No need to take a break for a more exciting plotline — these authors know how to write a deeply personal, interesting, and thought-provoking narrative. All four will definitely be taking their place on the reread list sometime soon.

Thinking Out Loud by Anna Quindlen

This collection of articles and essays by Anna Quindlen was the first book I read this year. I love her voice, a combination of sentimental and poetic with down-to-earth, very real and sometimes sarcastic comments. Her strong voice and sense of self is clear throughout.

One of my favorite quotes from the book: “I don’t want to be perfect or fabulous or amazing. I just want to be good enough with a little relaxing time left over.”

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

I know, I know — I just posted about Brene Brown! When will the obsession end? Answer: never. I jumped on the Brene Brown train at the beginning of this year and my love for her writing just keeps picking up steam. This book is the perfect summation of everything she talks about surrounding vulnerability, empathy and living a full life  — Recommended to anyone who wants to improve their understanding of their families, friends and selves.

Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle

I started this collection of short personal stories and essays on a cross-country plane ride and couldn’t stop reading! I finished just as the plane touched down back in Portland. An emotional, touching and often hilarious read. With plenty of humor and an incredible lack of self-pity, Glennon frankly writes about her struggles with drugs, alcohol, motherhood, marriage, and more. An inspiring and honest look at life that really made me reflect on my own personal journey.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Another book by an amazing woman author (I am actually just realizing how woman-author dominated this list is — maybe I should give male authored non-fiction a chance?). It was fascinating to read a bit more about Tina’s rise to fame in the comedy world, written with her signature self-deprecating and witty sense of humor. If you have a free afternoon or two, it’s a quick, satisfying, and hilarious read.

The Best I’ve Read This Year: Online

I like the end of the year. I love how the business world slows down a bit as we all scatter to our holiday family nests. My favorite way to spend these winter days is taking long walks with my mom and the family dogs, cooking special meals in the kitchen, deep sleeps in my childhood bed, and curled up by the fire reading.

I also love taking the end of the year as an opportunity to look back and reflect. I’m starting this reflection process with the best things I’ve read, heard and seen this year — through a variety of mediums.

To begin: the three online articles that most affected me in 2013… the ones I’ve gone back to for re-reading and deep thinking.

My Pursuit of the Art of Living by Leo Babuta on his blog ZenHabits

I first read this post at a time this year when I was feeling especially frustrated and scattered. It seemed like I was trying to do too many things at once, and somehow failing at all of them. The simplicity and beauty of this post really resonated with me.

I too have been trying lately to practice the art of living. Most difficult for me is patience and remaining present in the moment. But, as Leo points out, the most important is being okay with imperfection, to always aim for compassion and treasure curiosity. He acknowledges that when we try to be present, we need to accept failure as part of the process. That alone will make such a big difference.

How Real Do We Want to Be? by Andrea Scher on her blog Superhero Journal

Andrea’s writing is so personal and perfectly casual — I love her honesty and vulnerability in this post. This is pertinent to me as a businessperson (especially as my company’s “brand ambassador”) but also just as a person existing in the online universe. A good question to continue to ask myself as I put more and more of myself out into the world. How real can I be? How real do I want to be?

The Living Continuum by Kelsey Brown on her blog Happy Yolks

I don’t often have the opportunity to read articles written by my peers: women in their early twenties. Maybe that’s why I loved this post by Kelsey so much — I’ve read it several times a month every since I first came across it at the beginning of summer. I love how her writing reads like poetry, how she so perfectly merges food blog and personal writing, and how she really strikes at the heart of how it sometimes feels to be a woman.

More than anything, this post reminds me of something that I know in my heart but don’t always employ: that in times of stress, the best way to keep self-criticism at bay is to be in nature.

More of my Best Read this year coming tomorrow. Next up… Non-Fiction Books.