Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Favorite {Grown-Up} Reads of 2015

I'd like to start doing more book recommendation and reviews here.  I read a lot.  It's by far my personal hobby on which I spend the most time.  I've thought about how awesome of shape I could be in if I worked out as much as I read.  Like 6-pack shape.  But that's never going to happen.  My go-to for relaxing on my own is reading.  Has been for almost 30 years. Last year I read 115 adult books plus probably at least that many kid books (and there were some of those that probably got read 100+ times each, you know how it goes when kids pick a favorite).  With all this I should have some recommendations, right?  So I'm going to try.

Here are my favorite adult (as in, not toddler aimed) books I read in 2015.  I (mostly) only included books I read for the first time in 2015 (30 of my 115 were rereads).  That's what happens when I finally, briefly, catch up on my "to-read" list!  (In no particular order)

1) The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel
Kinda a tough book to summarize but it is about Kate whose husband died 10 years previously and she doesn't think she'll ever really move on.  But then she's engaged but not so excited about it and she starts to dream about her dead husband and things happen.  It's kinda about destiny and how much of our lives are going to happen, no matter what.  A different sort of love story.

2) The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I've posted about this before (back in April) and it might be my favorite new read of the year.  It's a story very similar to Kate Middleton and Prince William's: 3rd in line for the throne falls for a "commoner" while at college, they date, they break up, they get engaged.  I don't think any of that counts as spoilers because it was pretty obvious by the cover where this was headed.  There are plenty of differences from the real story though (for one, their "Kate" is American...so different) and of course only two people know everything that happened in the real romance.  Duchess Kate is probably the celebrity I follow most closely (in a very non-stalkery, I like seeing what she wears, kind of way) and I loved this.  I got up, on my first day off in 5 months, at 4:30am to watch the real Royal Wedding.  Of course I'm going to read, and enjoy, the fictional version.

3) The Martian by Andy Weir
I actually am planning to write more about this soon but the post hasn't gone up yet.  The movie came out last fall - astronaut gets accidentally stranded on Mars (his team had good reason to think he was dead) and he has to figure out how to survive.  I don't normally read anything science fiction-y but I enjoyed this.  So much that we bought the book and now Matt's reading it.  And we even pre-ordered the DVD.  Worth the read.

4) 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam 

Better time management is a constant project of mine (more of that coming soon) and so I found this book very interesting.  It's exactly what you'd think from the title: making the most of the 168 hours in a week.  A lot of it didn't directly apply to me since I don't work (much) outside the house but there was plenty about household management, spending time with kids, housework, hobbies, etc.  Ms. Vanderkam's big thing is spending a week writing down what you do, every 15 minutes.  I did this.  It was harder than it sounds!  She talks about how you can (in most seasons of life) fit in family, work, fitness, hobbies, and plenty of sleep.  Just takes intention and practice.  Definitely would be a good book to reread once a year or so.  Who doesn't need help figuring how to make the best of their hours?

5) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
I mean, obvious, right?  I reread the whole series for the first time in 6 years and it was honestly a little bit of a drag to read through the first two but by the time I got to the end I was so caught up in all of it.  This is the first time I had reread it since the Deathly Hallows movies came out and it was nice to read it with those images, easier to visualize for sure.  Plus, all the feelings by the end.  Like almost tears.  So good.  The scene where pretty much every friend and ally and teammate Harry's ever had comes through the Room of Requirement to help him fight...might be my favorite of the series.  And when he has to walk into the woods to meet Voldemort with the ghosts of his parents and mentors...tears.  Another favorite.  Reading this book doesn't have the same weight without reading the 6 previous ones so it will probably be awhile before I read it again but totally worth putting aside my usual "to read" list for a month to reread all of these.  (Previously mentioned here)

6) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My favorite YA read since Eleanor & Park, although I didn't read this one in 3 straight hours like I did that one.  It's the story of a girl who has a disease so serious she can't leave her house and any visitors have to go through a cleaning process to get in the house.  She befriends a new neighbor (a teenage boy, naturally).  It was adorable. 

7) Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling's second book (I also enjoyed her first Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?).  His wasn't filled with laugh out loud moments but plenty of amusing stories about life in Hollywood and running her show (which I don't even watch).  I took a break from reading a potty training book to read this one and it might be part of the reason I really enjoyed it (that potty training stuff had me really stressed out) but an enjoyable enough read.  I'd read it again.

8) The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
I read a lot of books that take place in New York City.  I'm never going to live there myself and this way I can live vicariously through books.  Especially never going to live in NYC and have a fancy job at a big magazine (maybe also why I love The Devil Wears Prada movie).  It's about a magazine exec in her 40s (maybe?) who returns from a 6 month health leave to find her magazine being taken over by her 20 something former assistant.  Obviously the old assistant has plenty of different ideas, a lot of them digitally based.  All the apps and social networking can be a little out of control, I think we all know this or know of this, and this was a bit of commentary on that but also more.  I really enjoyed it, maybe because it's so different from my real life.

9) Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I always enjoy a good read about time management or decluttering.  I've read many on both.  Ms. Rubin does a lot of research into her topics and it really shows.  She studied habits which sound boring but it's more about daily routine, how many auto habits we already have, things you don't even think about.  And the more habits you get into, the less mundane decisions you have to make each day, the more you can free up brain space for more important things.  It helped me understand some of my own habits better and even some people better.  Another one that would be good to reread every few years. (Previously mentioned here)

10) Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand
This is the second in a trilogy, both of which I've enjoyed.  Like all of Ms. Hilderbrand's books, it's set on Nantucket and tells the story of a family that has a B&B.  It was short, under 300 pages and such a pleasant read in December.  This family has a lot more...issues, than my family and a lot of drama (why it makes for a good book) but still a lot of love and holiday stuff.  These two books have reminded my of The Family Stone, one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies.

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