One of the most frequently asked questions of me is “What has been the best book you’ve read this year?” I have had a hard time answering the question as I’ve read so many fantastic books. (My list was sensational!) Narrowing down 112 books to 12 was hard. Allow the disclaimer that I could give you another 12 beyond this list. That being said, here at my top 12 books I’ve read in 2016:
12. Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
This book is filled with questions asked of Cheryl Strayed in her Dear, Sugar column. The questions bring a range of emotions. Better yet, Cheryl’s responses are incredibly insightful, tender and thought provoking. I was touched so many times reading her beautifully written responses. This book put a lot in perspective for me regarding things I am going through in my life. Sometimes its awful, sometimes its not as bad as I think. Sometimes I did it to myself, and if I didn’t-no matter, deal and behave accordingly. I am still here, kicking, and beyond blessed.
11. Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
First of all, I’m a big foodie. The memoir of model Padma Lakshmi (of Top Chef fame) came at a time when I needed a mental escape from what I was through in my life. She chronicles the failure of her marriage, time in her homeland India, and all about her impressive career. During today’s world of instant gratification, it is easy to see someone’s success and believe there were no struggles. I was inspired by reading about Padma’s life and how she’s triumphed in the midst of many obstacles in her life. This memoir is also filled with delicious recipes!
10. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Nike (one of my FAV brands) founder Phil Knight lays out the humble beginning of his shoe company. Nike has come a long way to be the global brand we know of today. Tales of international business risks, relationship building, family, courage, and failure are peppered throughout the story of one of the worlds most successful brands. As a business woman, former, and still aspiring entrepreneur, I was encouraged to keep pushing. Even the big dogs go though it.
9. 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green
This book challenged me. I am still mentally working through things with myself to be able to apply many of The 48 Laws of Power. You have to be mentally tough (more on that later), control your emotions, be sharp, and think ahead to deliver on the laws of power. Each law gives a story of essentially what not to do and a story of successful execution. One law of power I’m currently working on is Law 35: Master the Art of Timing. Guys, I am terribly impatient. That’s part of the mental toughness and emotional intelligence I’m working through. Making haste, shows a lack of self control and faith. There is power in knowing when its the right time to strike. Even more power in having the discipline to execute what you know.
8. How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger
If you are looking to improve the quality of your life, then read this book. Period. I’ll be turning 40 soon and have had more than my fair share of consuming junk that is not good for me. I like to know the benefits of what I am ingesting. I read this book as I was considering a vegan lifestyle. While this book is not about being vegan, I certainly learned about how to lower the chances of getting some diseases and conditions by monitoring what I consume. Though the title is dramatic-this book is really on how to consume things that will help you thrive.
7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I loved the story of Ifemelu and Obinze! Like a good love story, I was so PRESSED to find out if they pull it out. I was rooting for Ifemelu in particular because she just went through so many situations. I found her to be so smart and endearing. But this book was about so much more than a love story. It is about race, class, struggle and perseverance. So beautifully written.
6. I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Dr. Georgia Young is a successful business woman living her life in a rut and decides to make a bold change. She is a woman that made me laugh out loud, feel her frustration, understand her loss, and love her family and friends. I feel like I know her! Bravo to Terry McMillan. I really want this book to become a movie so I can see it (and I don’t even like the movies).
5. Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
So often we think its about us. It. Is. Not. But this book is better than that concept. For those of us in different places professionally (and we all evolve in different places in our career), Ryan Holiday has some words for the wise. Aspire, Success, Failure are 3 stages we all face professionally and we need to check our ego accordingly. It’s a very smart book. I can pull so many quotes this book that struck me. For now I will share: ” Let’s be clear: competitiveness is an important force in life. It’s what drives the market and is behind some of mankind’s most impressive accomplishments. On an individual level, however, it’s absolutely critical that you know who you’re competing with and why, that you have a clear sense of the space you’re in.”
4. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
In addition to business books, memoirs have been my preferred genre to read. My favorite of the bunch is that of restauranteur and chef Marcus Samuelsson. His story takes us from Ethiopia to Sweden, from France, to New York through kitchens of all kinds. Chef Samuelsson is reflective of his most prideful moments and his biggest mistakes in life. The culinary industry is not for the lazy. Being a chef at his level in the game takes someone with passion for the work, humility with the right balance of confidence and risk taking.
3. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin
One of the biggest themes and lessons I learned while doing this challenge and from many of the books I read is mental toughness. We’ve all heard that while we cannot control what happens in our life, we can control our response. Easier said than done right? At least for me. Learning to control my emotions and what I do next in response to an emotion is a big part of maturing. In fact, I’ve learned some things are not worth a response from me. A big thing for me was #4: They Don’t Focus On Things They Can’t Control. This concept and this book has allowed me to live a much more free and peaceful life this year. Since I am still a work in progress, I am working more and more on the actual application of these 13 things.
2. Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith
I have gifted this book to a few young people this year. Mychal sharing his own story gives a voice to many young black Americans. I found myself reminiscing and cosigning to experiences and commentary Mychal shares ranging from politics, literature, social events, sports, music, and television. The humor tied with vulnerability of a young man coming of age in today’s America is what I loved about this book. There are many complexities of the black experience in recent times. We are multitude of background, circumstance and perspective. Invisible Man, I see you!
1. Grit by Angela Duckworth
Don’t let “talent” fool you. Grit (the combination of passion and persistence) is what lies behind success. Dr. Duckworth proves her hypothesis through researching cadets at West Point, finalists in the National Spelling Bee, CEOs, and even football coaches like Seattle Seahawks head coach, Pete Carroll. Effort and consistency will get your closer to your goals than talent ever will. It is proven. People killing it in their field: Stay the course, do the uncomfortable work, push past pain, are mentally strong. etc. Makes me reflect on many of my successes and failures. Most things I have failed at are really things that I didn’t complete. I wonder what I’d be doing now or how far certain endeavors would have gone with a bit more stick-to-itiveness. I know I completed this challenge in spite of what life, work, and school threw at me this year. I learned I have a bit more tenacity than I used to have. I also have SO much further to go. I’m getting gritter by the day.