Last year, I asked people for book recommendations. I got a long list of books I normally wouldn’t touch and had so much fun getting outside my reading comfort zone. This year I would love to hear recommendations again, and also wanted to share some of my own favorites. Comment with your recommendations!
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you. And while I would love to get rich off of commissions, I highly recommend checking these books out of the library or using the Libby app.
This is a beautiful memoir, written by a 37-year-old mom with terminal breast cancer, reflecting on the loss of her mother and her own shortened life. Griggs happens to be the great, great, great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and her writing reflects it. I believe it should be required reading for anyone who works in oncology. I learned a lot about what to say and what not to say in the sacred space of a terminal diagnosis. While it may seem like a sad topic, Griggs infuses her book with humor and lightheartedness.
Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, And Other Big Ideas, Alexi Pappas
This is a recommendation for all of my running friends! In this memoir, Alexi Pappas details her life as a professional athlete- how she got there, and what it took to stay there. Pappas ran the 10K in the 2016 Olympics and is no stranger to pain and hard work. She is also a poet and sprinkles the book with her poems. Her quirky personality shines through her writing, and you will likely finish the book inspired to head out the door for a run.
In his memoir, Stevenson details his career spent on death row, defending the poor and wrongly incarcerated. This book tore me apart. It was brutal to read some of the scenes, and terrifying to learn about how marginalized groups are often blamed for crimes they had nothing to do with. It really made me think about the injustice of the poor and marginalized being unable to afford good lawyers who can represent them.
I believe this should be required reading for anyone of voting age.
Compilation of Essays
Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist
Shauna Niequist writes in the form of short essays. Her writing style is warm and relatable and she is by far, one of my favorite writers. In Present Over Perfect, Niequist details her journey from being burned out on busy to finding acceptance of herself in a quieter life.
My main criticism of this book is that while she has great ideas about letting go of perfectionism, I don’t buy that she was there yet. But in her next book…..
I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, Shauna Niequist
She takes you through the nitty gritty of working through a really hard time in her life: learning about a scandal in which her dad was involved, wondering who she is, how her faith has evolved, etc.
This is one of those books where the author gets graciously vulnerable- lets us into a place most writers stay far away from- and leads you through her journey to the other side.
Because let’s be honest, I need all the help I can get.
How to Keep House While Drowning, KC Davis, LPC
Those who know me well know that keeping my house clean is not one of my strong suits. I find it to be overwhelming, and I always considered this a character flaw. Davis doesn’t share long lists of tasks to keep the house in Instagram-worthy perfection. Instead, she gave me a new lens to look at housework through- one that included self-compassion, and reminded me that, “you do not exist to serve your space, your space exists to serve you.”
One of my favorite quotes from her book is: “Imperfection is required for a good life.”
Side note: I also love her podcast, “Struggle Care.”
Off the Clock, Laura Vanderkam
Okay, proclaiming my love for this book may put me in the nerd category, but alas. I’ve always been a nerd. The grape kind.
Vanderkam takes the concept of time management and makes it interesting- fascinating even. She tracks her time in a spreadsheet (I do not), only to discover that she does have time for the things she loves if she is intentional… yes, that means less Instagram scrolling. I read this book on a yearly basis because it is a good reminder to make time for the things I love.
Listen on Audible
These books are great no matter what, but all of them are read by their authors on Audible, which makes for a fun listening experience.
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson
Wilson is an avid hiker and eloquent writer. In this book, she shares her journey with anxiety. I love how rather than turning her mental health disorder into a problem, she views it as a strength- having positive powers that can be harnessed and used. She has an Australian accent, so it is fun to listen to this book on Audible.
Did I Say That Outloud?: Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them, Kristin van Ogtrop
This is a great book for dog lovers, and those going through menopause. I am neither of these things, but absolutely love the writing style of van Ogtrop. She has a very down-to-earth, humorous lens on life, and her hilarious stories make aging seem a little less scary. If you can, listen on Audible, because she reads it, and is a great storyteller. I wrote an essay on my love for this book here.
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
If you are going to read this book, which you should, listen to it on Audible, because it is read by Bourdain himself, and his rapid-fire, expletive-laced, words just make more sense when they come directly from his mouth.
I learned so much about chef culture, and behind the scenes in restaurants. Bourdain lived a colorful, fast-paced, life in the senses, and this book reflects that. The book sucked me in, and would be a great listen for a road trip (without kids).
My Top 3!
If I had to narrow it down to 3, these are my top picks.
I’ve Seen the End of You, W. Lee Warren, MD
I think this ranks in my top 3 books. Neurosurgeon, W. Lee Warren, grapples with the concept of faith in hopeless situations, specifically in patients with glioblastomas. In the oncology world, glioblastomas, or GBMs, are known for their incurable nature. They are highly aggressive and leave behind devastation. So where is God in all of this? And is it really worth praying, if we already know that the person with the GBM is incurable?
Warren takes on all the big questions as he wrestles with them himself. I would highly recommend this book to anybody, but particularly to healthcare providers who may have struggled with these very same questions.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb
Another book in the top 3. Gottlieb brings the reader into her therapy office for a fly on the wall kind of experience. But she also brings you along on her visits to her therapist as she navigates a painful breakup. While this book chronicles the journeys of other people, I guarantee you will see yourself in one or more of their stories. The insight she gives her patients is insight you can take to your own life.
I laughed, I cried, and this book brought me peace about moving out of the one and only state I had ever lived in, and across country.
If you like the book, she has a podcast called, “Dear Therapists” that I would also highly recommend.
If you have ever struggled, this book is for you. The book is a compilation of small pieces of wisdom the author shares to get through dark times, ranging from just a sentence long to a few pages. I leave it at my desk, within arms reach for an instant ray of hope. And any time a friend is having a bad day, they get a picture of one of the pages of the book.
Haig has the right words, always.
“It never rains forever. And know that, however wet you get, you are not the rain. You are not the bad feelings in your head. You are the person experiencing the storm. The storm may knock you off your feet. But you will stand again. Hold on.”- Matt Haig
I hope you enjoy these recommendations, and like I said, I would love to hear yours in the comments below!
Happy New Year,