What I’m Reading: My Top Book Recommendations of All Time

Between making my way through my master’s degree, my one-hour nightly reading ritual, and my penchant for poolside weekend reads, I go through a LOT of books. On average, I read 3 books a week.

Each month, I’ll be sharing my favorite books of the past 30 days. If you’re looking for even more wordy goodness, check out the list after my monthly reads, which list my favorite books of all time (including fiction, autobiographies, personal development, and more).

This doesn’t have to be a one-way street; please share YOUR favorite books and reading recommendations in the comments!

What I Read Last Month

 

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite writers, and this book weaves together three seemingly separate stories of love and life in Appalachia into one connected summer. Described eloquently as a “hymn to wildness that celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature, and of nature itself” by Amazon, I’d agree with that synposis.

 

 

 

The Leavers by Lisa Ko [Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Los Angeles Times, Buzzfeed, and Bustle; Finalist for 2017 National Book Award]

Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to work and disappears without a trace. The book is told in turn by Deming (who becomes Daniel when adopted by a pair of wealthy professors) and his mother. It should be required reading for anyone who doubts the cruelty and inhumanity of the current US immigration policy.

 

 

This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life By Annie Grace

The number one book supporting and inspiring me in my quest to lessen my unhealthy attachment to and dependence alcohol, which started with a sober trip to Nicaragua and is currently looking like having just one glass of wine when enjoyed with family and friends.

If you’re questioning alcohol’s role in your life (or want to understand more about its effects on your body and mind), I can’t recommend this book more highly.

 

 

52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life: BS-Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve by Andrea Owen

I read a LOT of personal development books (I am a counselor-in-training, after all), and this is one of my new faves. I love that it is broken up into goal-oriented lessons (you could conveniently tackle one per week) to guide you through tackling sometimes overwhelming subjects like people pleasing, letting go of unsupportive friends, and getting over self-limiting beliefs.


Memoirs and Biographies

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Is this a memoir or a personal development book? Both? Regardless its category, this is my number one most gifted book, and the most life-changing. Read it yesterday.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman

This book is basically the rally cry of every fun and funny solo female traveler anywhere and everywhere. I have never ever EVER laughed so hard in my entire life at a book. I seriously wished it wouldn’t end and I’m still hoping for a sequel.

Favorite quote: “Do the thing you’re supposed to do in the place you’re supposed to do it”

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail by Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young

A MUST read before any trip to Bolivia, especially if you plan to stop in La Paz, but an absolutely fascinating book even if you don’t have plan to ever visit Bolivia. I’ve never said “WTF” so many times while reading, and it’s hard to believe that this is an autobiography. Rusty (one of the co-authors) was a broke backpacker who agreed to become a drug smuggler, got busted, and landed in South America’s most infamous (and bizarre) prison.

Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

I love Ellen, I think she’s the perfect role model for being a kind person while also being incredibly strong. This biographical book touched on themes of positivity, self-worth, and self-esteem while staying light and fun.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

I love anthologies of short stories, and this is no exception. David provides humor and insight, and my favorites were mostly in Part Deux, as he talks about being an expat in France.

My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler

Chelsea is just fricken hilarious, and she relives her slew of one-night stands with honesty in this book. It was so raunchy in some parts I actually felt for her parents (eek) and hoped they wouldn’t read it.

Nonfiction and Personal Development

Personal Development

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

I’d describe this as Tim Ferriss meets Martha Stewart. In a good way.

Relationships

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

One of my favorite books about relationships, by my favorite modern psychologist. This book explores the “paradox between domesticity and sexual desire”, and gives advice gleaned from couples around the world in maintaining fire.

The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary D Chapman

It might sound cheesy, but this book literally changed my view on my relationship and has improved my understanding of my husband.

Spirituality

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

A spiritual self-help classic.

Psychology

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Habits are EVERYTHING. If you’ve been struggling to make a change or to understand why you do what you do, this is the book you need.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Everything by Malcolm Gladwell is worth reading, especially this, which helps you to understand your first impressions and instinctual thinking.

Work (work work work work)/ Professional Development

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna

If you hate your day job and are looking for meaning, this is your anthem.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

AKA The digital nomad bible.

The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki, Peg Fitzpatrick

It’s 2018, and pretty much every business and brand (ugh) needs to understand social media. This is a good place to start.

Food and Recipes

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health

Whether you’re vegetarian/vegan-curious or just trying to get healthy, this book can cause a major perspective shift. The recipes are AWESOME and the book price is worth it just for that.

Novels

Do Not Say We Have Nothing: A Novel

am fascinated by stories of the Cultural Revolution in China, and this is one of the most beautiful, intimate literary tales I’ve ever encountered.

“In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old.”

The Girl on the Train

I usually prefer to read books AFTER the movies (I generally find them to be so much better!) but in this case, I read the book long before I’d heard there was going to be a movie. I loved the book so much, I chose never to see the movie. The book was thrilling and unexpected, and the story has been called “the next ‘Gone Girl'”. The main character is imperfect and flawed, which I always love and can appreciate (and empathize with).

Shantaram

My FAVORITE novel of 2016, this was recommended to me by one of my best friends. It is lengthy, but I wished it would go on forever. It is a brilliant depiction into India told from the perspective of a charismatic criminal escapee. This book made me want to travel to the subcontinent more than ever.

Too Much Happiness

Alice Munro is a genius and one of my favorite authors, ever. These 10 short stories (all about women) garnered the Man Booker Prize, and for good reason, as they are absolutely gripping and unique. I read it again and again.

The Vegetarian: A Novel

While it was originally the title that drew me in, the book isn’t really about vegetarianism. It is actually shocking, disturbing, and deeply unnerving. As for the rest, you’ll have to read it.

The Book Thief

As are most stories about World War II, the Book Thief is devastating and full of death and the worst of humanity. At the same time, it invokes hope, friendship, and altruistic kindness.

Waiting by Ha Jin

I’m not a person who can see a movie twice (except for Moulin Rouge) or usually read a novel again, but Waiting was the exception. The story of a man who repeatedly tries to divorce his village wife, and fails, this story is more complex and subtle than the simple overview could ever betray.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Another book-turned-movie, I did actually watch the movie after reading this one, it was so good and so devastating. Dystopian and realistic, the story centers on a group of friends raised as sub-humans meant for organ harvesting.

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste Ng

Set in the 1970s, the book centers on a Chinese American family whose daughter is found, dead, in the lake. The characters are realistically flawed yet lovable, and provides insight into the prejudices faced by Chinese Americans.

Daughters of the North: A Novel by Sarah Hall

Dystopian (my fave) and set in England, contraceptive coils are forced upon every woman of childbearing age, with reproduction existing only as a lottery.

The Bloodletter’s Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) by Linda Lafferty

One of my first forays into historical fiction, this dark story is based on the life of Emperor Rudolf II’s son Don Julius, and the attempt to cure him of his madness by bloodletting.

Life Among Giants: A Novel by Bill Roorbach

“There’s murder and intrigue and sex and terror, and Roorbach is generous with it all . . . Which isn’t to say there isn’t real meat here. Roorbach doesn’t let the novel’s rich entertainment stand in the way of emotional subtlety . . . [He] seems to relish creating lushly bold biographies for his characters, then getting the shading right–carefully applying depth and warmth.” ―The New York Times Book Review

The Feast of Love (Vintage Contemporaries) by Charles Baxter

Heartbreaking and human, told through a variety of voices in chapter-long vignettes, this book’s subject is my favorite (LOVE!), and is one of the few that I do, still, re-read. Bonus points: the book’s characters are all in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

 

Have Kindle Unlimited? Yay me too! Check out my favorite Kindle Unlimited Books here


I was entirely uncertain about the switch to digital when I bought my first kindle 6 years ago (one of these). I’ve been a book-lover pretty much since birth, and abandoning paperbacks felt, well, WRONG.

But to be entirely honest, there is something incredibly convenient about not having to go to a bookstore when you’ve finished your last book. There is everything convenient about being able to just log on and buy a few more online (or have a subscription service providing UNLIMITED BOOKS for one low price!), from the comfort of your bed at midnight or wherever you’re sitting when your plane has been delayed for the fourth time.

So convenient and so wonderful, in fact, that I upgraded to the new version for myself and for my husband for Christmas a few years ago. (he wasn’t convinced at first, either).

The hardest part about Kindle? Deciding which new book to get next.

I’m constantly asking my friends for recommendations – so I decided to offer my recommendations to you! This post was first published in January 2016, and I’ll continue to update it with my new favorites each month.

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Steph

A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. 6 years later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and Puebla, Steph is on to her next adventure and living in sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She is traveling and living around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook

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