Most of the people reading this blog know that [once upon a time] I worked for Target at their headquarters in Minneapolis. But what you may not know is that I spent more than a year as a member of the ultra-exclusive book club that selects the ‘Bookmarked’ Club Picks which are featured in store. Since it was a very limited group with a long waiting list, it felt prestigious [except it totally wasn’t a paying gig]. The only requirement? Read a lot of books. Four per month at a minimum, from a pool of publisher submissions, but reading six or more was pretty much the standard.
When I first started, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books we had to read. I learned more about the dissatisfaction that comes with finishing a terrible book [ugh, I’ll never get that time back!] and realized the joy of uncovering a gem that hasn’t yet made it ‘big’ [like one of my all-time favorites, Molok’ai].
Yes, my reading has scaled back pretty dramatically since then, but I continue to read a lot of books [27 this year… to be exact]. And I can’t kick of the habit of labeling them ‘recommend’ or ‘do not recommend.’
So, out of the 27 books I read this year, here are the EIGHT you should read too. At least according to me… because we’ve already established that I’m highly qualified [hah!] for making book recommendations.
- Tiny Beautiful Things. Oh, this book. THIS BOOK. My favorite from the entire year. When it was selected for my book club, I looked at the description “advice on love and life from Dear Sugar” and scoffed [‘ugh, an entire book of advice columns? I’m going to hate this!’]. I only picked it up because I NEEDED to go to book club that month for some grown up time and a glass of wine. But, once I started reading, I wanted to highlight nearly every line Cheryl Strayed wrote. There were so many “I need to remember this some day… because THOSE are the exact words I need to say in that situation” moments. She’s hilarious. She’s blunt. She’s a teeny bit vulgar. But most of all, she’s wise. And I loved reading this book.
- The Invention of Wings. This was written by the same author that wrote The Secret Life of Bees [another favorite] so I had high expectations. It’s a fictional story about a young slave on a plantation in Charleston. As much as you can say you ‘enjoyed’ a book about slavery, I enjoyed this one. It was a really good read.
- Wonder. I don’t know exactly how to label this book. According to Amazon, it’s #1 in Children’s Personal Hygeine [HUH? I wouldn’t have given it THAT label.] Is it a Children’s book? Is it Young Adult? Yes, you could read it with your school-aged children, but it’s something I am glad I read for myself. It’s a fictional story of a young boy with a severe facial deformity and his entrance into mainstream schooling. It taught me a lot about compassion and grace. It may be difficult or emotional to read, but it will make you a better person. I highly recommend this book… for everyone.
- Lone Survivor. Oooof, another book that was hard to read. So hard at times. But I’m very glad I did. I didn’t see the movie because some of the imagery was hard enough for me to digest while reading and I don’t think I could handle watching it on a big screen. I finished this book with a greater understanding and intense appreciation for our Navy Seals. An incredible book.
- This Is Where I Leave You. Nothing like the other books on this list. A grown-up comedy about a dysfunctional family that made me laugh out loud at times [not many books do that]. It’s a little crude though so I almost didn’t put it on my recommendation list. I personally am excited to see the movie. If it’s true to the book, it’ll be hilarious.
- The Light Between Oceans. This book really sucked me in, emotionally. It’s a captivating story about a husband & wife and their very isolated life controlling a lighthouse on an island. Without giving too much away, there’s a big moral dilemma that pulled on my heart strings. I wasn’t fully satisfied with the end, but it was a good read.
- Still Alice. I’m not exactly sure why but I CONSUMED this book. I believe I read it in one day. It’s a story about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s such a horrible disease, but because it was told by the woman, it brought a new perspective that made me terrified and compassionate at the same time.
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I’m not going to lie, I kind of hate the title. It sounds like a cheesy teenage romance novel. Yes, it’s totally a love story, but it’s full of information about the Japanese internment camps. So, I felt like I learned something about history [which I certainly didn’t expect from the title]. And it’s set in Seattle… so there’s that.
Want more book recommendations? Check out last year’s list!
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