It’s hard to start a new year without, well, properly closing out the previous one. Last year was a big one. I moved houses, changed continents, pretended to write a PhD thesis, became a mom, and reconnected with loved ones. I moved back to the DC area while public servants and politicos are under a microscope. But this town is tougher than it looks. Between Ta-Nehisi Coates book launches hosted by Sankofa Bookstore and Solange concerts at the Kennedy Center, haters are going to have to come harder. Even with all the crazy politics afoot, 2017 was quite good to me.
Despite all the changes, one thing that stayed the same, however, was my love for books. In 2017, an audible subscription and a lengthy vacation contributed greatly to my successful consumption (I dare not say “reading” since, I audio-booked it out a lot) of 50 books over the course of the year. There were countless articles and excerpts mixed in there too, but that’s neither here nor there. “I done good,” if I may say so myself. You can see the full book list here, so you can say so too.
In keeping with tradition, here are my top 5. Perhaps you’ll want to pick them up for your own 2018 challenge!
(I have to apologize in advance to you fiction lovers out there, I’m a non-fiction aficionado. Novels aren’t really my schtick.)
Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown
You should already know that anything by Brene Brown is enlightening and well worth the cover price. In this text, she explores vulnerability even further, by contrasting it with the idea of belonging. She goes into her own family experiences, as well as a confrontation with someone who assumes she’s an NRA supporter. Yea, it’s worth reading.
Settled Strangers – Gijsbert Oonk
This text is a really interesting read about Indian immigrants to East Africa. The premise of the book is a bit novel in that it tries to contest the idea that all Indian immigrants were success stories. Oonk brings in the notion that the stories of failure simply never get told, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. For research and for history, I see this book as a significant contribution to the body of literature about Africa’s diversity .
Unsettling Memories – Emma Tarlo
I’m learning a lot about what I don’t know about India. Yes, you heard me. The more I read, the less I know. I had no idea that the world’s biggest democracy had a period when it suspended democracy. Did you? During this period, there was an extensive effort to incentivize sterilization in exchange for urban resettlement for the poor. Sad, but true. This book explores it all, so get your tissues ready.
The 4-Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss
Anyone who has talked to me in 2017 knows how much I am fixated on retiring at the earliest possible opportunity. I discovered that that’s my lot in life after reading this book. A friend gifted it to me and it’s been a signpost of success ever since. It helps combine my inner productivity nerd and my outer personal finance ambassador, for a balanced life.
This book tells us to quit multi-tasking. We actually suck at it (even though we think we don’t) and it’s draining (even though we think it’s a time saver). I loved reading it and should probably re-read it every quarter, because I’m a horrible and compulsive multi-tasker. I’ve already relapsed, but you should save yourself!
Since there weren’t any flat out duds this year (woo hoo!), I’ll share some honorable mentions in recommended categories:
I read lots of memoir & essay by people of color this year, namely Phoebe Robinson‘s break out You Can’t Touch My Hair, Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine, Trevor Noah‘s Born a Crime and Sonia Sotomayor‘s My Beloved World. This is a new genre for me, especially since most of these folks are considered too young to really have a story to tell. I mean, Phoebe is 33! Even Justice Sotomayor only writes about the earlier part of her life, pre-Supreme Court. Anywho, it goes to show that the canon is changing. Just as Roxane Gay is redefining what it means to be a Bad Feminist, so too are emergent writers shifting the meaning of what is worth writing (and hence, worth reading) and that seems to include the experiences of younger voices.
Last, but not least, I’ve done a lot of reading about birth and parenting lately. For any expecting parent, I’d recommend Hypnobirthing, by Marie Mongan. It helped me immensely to prepare for and to experience labor (with no medication of any kind). It worked very well for me. I also took a 5 session course to practice the techniques. Find a hypnobirthing class near you.
All thumbnail pics lifted from goodreads.com