This past year, I joined a challenge in which I was the only contestant.
Sometimes, when you’re trying something new, it’s good to leave the back door open in case you get bored and need to flee to the Land of Quiet Failures. Ironically, I learned this after a few years of realizing around January 13 that food tastes way too good not to eat and we’re only given this one precious deep-fat-fried life, aren’t we.
That said, this year, I committed (with no real commitment) to reading a book every single week and last week, I completed 52 books. I celebrated like only a nerd can celebrate: by going and sprawling in the aisles of Barnes & Noble and glaring at small children making noise in this sacred space.
Lying there, I struck up a conversation with another human (yes, bookstores are one of the only places I make eye contact with humanity) and after hearing about the 52 books, she asked, “What were your favorites?”
So here goes. I thought maybe after you’re done buying everyone else a present or two this holiday season, you may want to buy yourself the Gift of Escape. These were the only books out of the 52 that I gave five-star reviews. (The links below are commissioned links and help maintain the cost of this website. Thank you in advance.)
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This is a book that you can’t predict the ending and you feel so many feelings that the only way to deal with them is to eat an entire box of Oreos.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Every person, especially medical professionals, need to read this one. It made me a better person. It is written by a neurosurgeon who finds out he is dying of cancer and his wife ends up finishing the book after his death. I ugly-cried through the last pages of this one but it was worth every tear.
Your Heart is a Muscle The Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Be careful with this one. It made my top 10 because I couldn’t get the story out of my head. But it is highly controversial, attacking issues of political injustice and socialism. A fast-paced story on top with deep allegories.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
A lighthearted, endearing story of a grumpy old man. Nothing short of brilliant.
A Little Life by Hanna Yanagihara
If you struggle with a mental illness, please know this book is full of triggers. At 832 pages long, it also takes a huge time commitment. This book tackles issues such as self-mutilation, depression, suicide, racial tensions and equality of life choices. This book has some adverse language in it.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
About a Cameroonian family coming to live in New York City. The writer challenges racial bias, issues of immigration and assimilation. When you finish a book and you feel like you now know a family in New York City, you know it has totally captured you.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The writing was what captivated me. Right from the beginning, the words are more poetry than a story.
David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
I tried to keep the psychology books I read off this list but this one fought its way out. Thought-provoking. You will walk away with a confidence you didn’t know possible.
Room by Emma Donoghue
This book takes off and it doesn’t settle down until you are completely exhausted from reading. It was one that I read in two days because, well, life sometimes has to wait.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Technically, I read this book in 2015. But then I re-read it in 2016 because it was the best book I have read in years. If you haven’t taken the time to devour this novel, stop what you’re doing, take a mental health day from work, and enjoy.
I would like to make a personal thank you to Book of the Month for the amazing job they do at finding all the good books and making me wait impatiently by my mailbox each month. This was the best club I’ve ever joined and I can successfully say I’ve been one happy, loyal and active member (unlike my dusty gym membership). If you join using the link above, it’s only $10 a month.