Mid-Year Book Round Up: Best of What I’ve Read

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I’ve been using GoodReads the past two years to incentivize myself to read more books. Reading is pleasurable – but I wasn’t doing enough to keep myself better educated and entertained in those spare moments of the day. Reading has been a source of enjoyment for as long as I can remember, whether for fun or even for assignments. Certainly, books of my own choosing win over books for English class! In case there are some of you out there who are looking for recommendations, I thought I would share my first half of 2017 “best of” books that I’ve read so far!

Current Reads

Here is a crazy number: I have SEVEN books on my “currently reading” status. SEVEN! No, not to keep to some lucky number, but for well-intentioned reasons. Sometimes I find a book I need to spend more time with, so I have to be thoughtful and intentional about getting as much out of it as possible, as opposed to consuming it as fast as I can. Joanna Barsh’s Centered Leadership: Leading with Purpose, Clarity, and Impact is one of those. There is so much action-oriented information to pull out for self-development, it isn’t easy to get everything out of it I can on a crowded train. Another one is Chris J. Anderson’s TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.” Improving at public speaking, and maybe even adding professional speaking to my current resume, is a goal of mine, so there is a lot to gain from this book, too!

If I am taking the time and expense to read these books, I want to gain from them, not just swipe through pages on my Kindle. The reason I find myself with several thought-inducing books is because I am looking for something to re-start in my “in-between currently reading” space. Unfortunately, I also find other books that fall into this category!

Other times I find books that are good in small doses, for whatever reason. These books may not pique my interest at the time but may have been recommended or been published to some worthy acclaim that encouraged me to pick up a copy of the book. Maybe you find it just as frustrating to spend $10, or $15, or $20 or more, hoping to find a few hours of pleasure or opportunity to learn, and are completely unsatisfied along the way.

As one who is becoming increasingly aware of the value of my time, I’ve started to stop reading books that feel like a chore.  I normally hate quitting on my goals, but if a book is not adding value or enjoyment, it is not a goal worth having to only finish it. I usually give 40% of the book to decide to keep going or not (and this sometimes falls into the category above of needing to set aside for a bit – but for a different purpose!). Usually by that time I’m past a slow intro or into some good content and it is worth reading.

This year, only two books (both rated above 4 stars on Amazon or GoodReads) have fallen into this category – one star in my estimation. They shall remain nameless to not bias reading opportunities negatively. The one I am struggling with – despite recommendations and high rating all over the internet – is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. I’m not going to give up on this one yet, and try to get to at least halfway.

The Best I’ve Read in 2017

I’m defining the “best” of the first half of 2017 by those books I have given 5 stars to.  I have to be compelled strongly to give a five star rating, and truly feel a passion for what I have read.  My list of the best I’ve read in 2017 are, in the order in which I read them:

  1. Breaking into the Boys’ Club by Molly D. Shepard. Having been in male-dominated fields my whole career, I wish I had read this sooner! It is one I will probably re-read at some point to refresh the principles and remind myself of what is worth fighting for, and how. It was a mind-opening book that I highly encourage other women in similar positions to take a few hours to read. Ms. Shepard’s writing is sharp and clear with great storytelling!
  2. The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer. Who doesn’t love a book set on Nantucket! This was well written, I could feel the breeze and smell the ocean! The story line was sweet enough, and not over-saccharine. I felt relaxed reading this book at the same time on the edge of my seat egging the characters on in my mind. I look forward to reading more by Ms. Thayer!
  3. Originals by Adam Grant. This book was highly recommended by a good friend, which moved up this book on the reading list. Finding it on discount was an added bonus. For someone who is considers herself a non-traditional creative, or an original of sorts, this book hit home and while enjoyably informational, was also comforting that I’m not alone in this world, and that
  4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Couldn’t. Put. This. Down. Every free moment I had to read, I had Fangirl opened up. I was skeptical at the content, but I’ve loved everything Ms. Rowell has written that I’ve previously read, so I picked it up. It reminded me of the difficulties of finding who you are when settling into college, but also that joy of self-love and self-discovery when you find it. The narrative is fantastic and dialogue never forced.
  5. Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennette. Twelve year-old me would have been all over this book. It left me inspired to do more to support my own journey and other women in my life specifically and generally.  The tips and tools were helpful and thoughtful – not necessarily common sense, and I mean that in a good way. The illustrations added to the humor on an important subject. Had I bought this in hard copy I would have been giving it to every friend I could.

Notable 4-star books include:

  1. Earning It by Joann S. Lublin
  2. The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Women by Glynnis MacNicol
  3. Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte (this was close to a 5 star for me – I think had I not been reading it on my honeymoon, it might have inched up!)
  4. Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher

For someone who doesn’t claim to read a lot of fiction, I was surprisingly reminded that I do love the escapism of a well-written story of fiction! I tend to gravitate more towards self-improvement books that will help me grow as a person and as a professional, but once in awhile you need to live in someone else’s world to feel normal, or accomplished, or that all really is well. I did only read three fiction books this year, but two are certainly worth noting. I’ll be picking up more from those authors! Rainbow Rowell in particular has been a star for me. I’ve loved everything I’ve read from her. This goes along with other authors like Jennifer Weiner and Curtis Sittenfeld, at least in my eyes!.

How I’ve Been Achieving My Reading Goals

As of today, July, 20, 2017, I have read 22 of my 35 book goal for the year. This goal seemed audacious back when I set it, and given my success so far, combined with knowing people far busier than I read over one hundred, or even multiple hundreds, of books each year, my goal for next year will be to read an average of one book each week, or 52 books in 2018.

I see four primary reasons for why I am on track (and even slightly ahead of!) my goal for books to read this year:

  1. Kindle. Ease. Affordability ($1.99 sales versus $30 hardcovers!). Portability.
  2. Take opportunity to read whenever I can. Kindle helps with this – easier to carry, multiple books at once, ability to highlight and go back to those lessons.
  3. The tracking on GoodReads helps me stay motivated. I am a goal-oriented person. Reading to read often falls off the to-do or daily practice list, but knowing I am striving for a certain number of books read is a huge motivator!
  4. Some of the books have been short! Is this cheating? I don’t think so. The reads that are 4-5+ hours make up for the short reads in the average – but it certainly helps the tally up! Sometimes you need a small win when you can – finishing a book, no matter the size, is always a rewarding accomplishment.

What are you reading work recommending? Do you have a first half of the year book list to share? Post your list or a link to it in the comments and hopefully we all enjoy more of our days spent reading!

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