2016 was an amazing year of reading! I managed to read a whopping 82 books from the list of 100 books I shared back in January. While I strayed from the list (people kept recommending books I just had to read), I found having this list to refer to helped keep me organized and motivated.
I read some great non-fiction books this year and today I’m sharing the ones that left a lasting impression…
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Schwalbe’s beloved memoir has been on my reading list for years and I was determined to read it before the end of 2016. This one is a must-read for all you true book lovers! When Mary Anne Schwalbe is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, she and her son Will spend many hours sitting in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre. One day, over a cup of mocha, Will posed the question: “What are you reading?” and their two-person book club was born. I loved hearing about Mary Anne’s fascinating, full life and her determination to keep on living fully right up until the very end. A beautifully written, inspiring tribute to books and the way they connect us and an important reminder to live well. Bonus: Schwalbe included a list of all books, plays, poems, and stories discussed or mentioned in the memoir.
Food and the City by Ina Yalof
I’m pretty sure this is the book I’ve recommended the most this year. I’m a huge fan of food memoirs and Food and the City is in a class all its own. Yalof interviewed professional chefs, restaurant owners, line cooks, waiters, food vendors, and purveyors who call the city home. I loved getting a tour of New York’s vibrant food scene through the eyes of those who are the very heartbeat of the Big Apple. I loved hearing about how people came to New York, how they ended up in the food industry, and the trials they faced along the way. Packed with moving and inspiring stories and fascinating tidbits, it’s a true learning experience. By the end, I had a long list of New York City restaurants and bakeries to check out on my next visit!
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Susannah Cahalan’s memoir was my pick for ‘a book I previously abandoned’ for this year’s MMD Reading Challenge. I read this book back in 2010, but I only made it halfway through. The story of a 24-year-old New York Post reporter’s horrifying descent into madness frightened me. But this time around, Cahalan’s story hooked me; I could not stop reading and it didn’t scare me as much. With no recollection of what happened to her, Cahalan depends on video footage from the hospital, the journals her father kept, and interviews with her doctors to piece together that missing month of her life. Incredibly brave and brilliantly-executed, I am happy I gave it a second chance. I can’t wait to watch the film adaptation starring Chloë Grace Moretz.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Back in March, I read this beautifully-written, moving memoir in under 24 hours. Written after Kalanithi was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer and while he completed his neurosurgery training, it’s an honest examination of his transition from doctor to patient. I was so moved by Kalanithi’s courage, vulnerability, and compassion for his patients, respect for his colleagues, and love for his family. The epilogue written by his wife Lucy moved me to tears. I am still thinking about it after all these months and I will be re-reading it sometime in the future.
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders
I’ve been telling everyone about this book. Enders does an incredible job of breaking down the science and I have a new-found respect for my gut. Smart, funny, and easy-to-digest. The accompanying illustrations are amazing. I learned so much and jotted down a ton of notes. Who knew the gut could be so fascinating? Everyone needs to read this book at some point.
Through the Glass by Shannon Moroney
This memoir has been on my reading list for two years and it felt good to finally read it. Moroney, a high school teacher and guidance counsellor married her boyfriend of three years in October 2005. One month into their marriage, her new husband is arrested and charged in the assault and kidnapping of two women. Shannon shares how she dealt with the grief of losing her husband, the stress of the criminal investigation, the rejection and judgment from people in her community, a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, all while trying to understand what drove her husband to violence. She takes us inside the walls of prisons and courtrooms and I was shocked by the lack of support services available to the loved ones of offenders. It’s an incredibly heart wrenching yet hopeful story of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, letting go, healing, and moving forward. It would make an excellent book club pick.
Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin
In the wake of the U.S. election, I needed an uplifting read so I picked up Michelle Obama’s biography. A former Washington Post national staffer, Slevin has a decade worth of experience writing about Barack and Michelle Obama and political campaigns. With top-notch reporting and an eye for detail, Slevin tracks Michelle Obama from her humble beginnings on Chicago’s segregated South Side to the halls of Princeton University and Harvard Law School to the corporate law firm where she met Barack to mentoring youth in her South Side neighbourhood to the White House. This beautifully written, engaging, thoughtful, revealing, and hopeful book deserves a spot on your reading list.