my top 5 reads of 2016

In the last couple of years, I've tried to make reading actual books somewhat of a priority. My resolve wavered at times, but for the most part I've had something on my bedside table that I could pick up and resume reading. I often take for granted what an amazing gift reading is, and I've had to work at gaining back the stamina I used to have before so much of my reading material could be completed in under five minutes. It has been so worth it, though.

When I began toying with the idea of sharing some of my favourite books I read this year, I first referenced my Goodreads account, and then wondered how long a concise list should be. It just so happens that five was the perfect number because there are five books I really want to share with you.

Without further ado, the five books that truly impacted my life for the better in 2016 (in no particular order.)

1. Love Your Life, Not Theirs - Rachel Cruze

I love watching Rachel Cruze's videos, but more to see what cute outfit she's wearing than to heed her financial advice. I thought this book might be full of a little more "fluff" than "stuff". However, I found myself zipping through it and taking away several nuggets of wisdom about how I ought to be viewing our finances. It's an easy read, but contains an incredibly important message about the dangers of comparison living and how to avoid them. I finished it with a new resolve to get clear on my attitudes and values about money and materialism. Highly recommend. 

2. Call the Midwife- Jennifer Worth

I read this memoir on the plane to and from Bermuda in July. My dear friend Laura (my long-time and bookwormiest friend) told me it was one of her all-time favourite books so naturally, I was curious to find out why. This book had me hooked from the beginning. The writer, Jennifer, worked as a midwife in a convent during the 1950's and shares about her experiences as a midwife and nurse in the slums of London's East End. I loved Jennifer's voice as she recounts every kind of birth story you can imagine- seriously, wild. It was funny, it was moving, it was informative, and I just loved it. Five gold stars for this one. 

3. The Gifts of Imperfection- Brené Brown

I read all three of Brené's most popular books this year, and since this one was written first, I read it first. As much as I loved the following two (Daring Greatly and Rising Strong), this book seemed to resonate most strongly with me, likely because of the specific challenges I was facing at that time. If you do any amount of googling about Brené, you'll learn she has been doing some fascinating research about vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame (taken from her website.) Her words  felt like a warm, sympathetic and uplifting hug as I began to discover the language for some of my deepest and previously misunderstood experiences. If you're looking for insights and tools to help you love yourself a little more, you need to read this.

4. The Book Thief-  Markus Zusak

This book was on a "to-read" list I've had for at least a couple of years.  (SIDE NOTE: how ironic is it that my local library had to get a copy of this sent from another library because the last person who checked out the copy here never returned it...)

Although it's categorized as YA Fiction, I can't help feeling I would not have been able to fully appreciate the beauty of this book as a young adult. The Book Thief follows the story of Liesel, a young foster girl living in WWII Germany- all told from the viewpoint of Death personified. The writing style is not strictly narrative, but somewhat poetic without being too flowery (a rare balance, in my opinion.) It wasn't at all what I expected, but I thought it was beautifully written and conveyed a young person's questions about the injustices of the war quite effectively.  

5. The Art of Possibility- Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

This one barely made it to the list because I just finished it today. I think I need to re-read it immediately because there was so much to take away, I'm sure only a portion of it has sunk in.  It's a fresh perspective on how to reframe your thinking without ignoring the disappointments and struggles of real life. It isn't preachy at all; I truly felt like the authors genuinely live out these practices and want to help the reader make the same beneficial changes, too. This book contains so much information that can help create more harmony in our workplaces, classrooms, homes and communities. Best of all, it will provide you with a new mantra about mistakes:

“I actively train my students that when they make a mistake, they are to lift their arms in the air, smile, and say, “How fascinating!” It is only when we make mistakes that we can really begin to notice what needs attention."
-Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

There you have it, folks. What were your favourite reads of 2016? What are you reading now? Let me know if you have any books I should add to my 2017 reading list!