Matthew and Marissa Bishop are a seemingly perfect couple living in the bougie part of DC (one of my favorite settings, for some reason). In the wake of a massive betrayal, the couple begins to see a therapist named Avery Chambers in an attempt to work through their issues. Avery Chambers isn’t a normal therapist, though; in fact, she lost her license the previous year for her unconventional tactics. Avery decides to take on the couple but realizes quickly that either one or both of them are hiding something. The point of view switches back and forth between Avery and Marissa which was fascinating and made the book feel like it was going a mile a minute. I had NO idea how this was going to end because there were so many moving parts, but I have to say it “stuck the landing.”
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I’m still not over it. Long Bright River details the lives of two sisters in Philadelphia. Kacey is an addict, and Mickey is a cop. Kacey vanishes one day, and Mickey throws herself into the case, even though she and Kacey are no longer on speaking terms. The story is narrated by Mickey, who became one of my favorite characters of all time. This is a family drama and a pulsing thriller all in one.
Ansel Packer is a convicted serial killer on death row. The book takes place over the course of the day of his execution, broken up with flashbacks from the point of view of various women in his life: his ex-wife, the detective who solved his crimes, and his mother. This psychological thriller was unlike anything I’ve read before–I could not put it down. The characters, the plotline, and the writing were all SO addictive. While the book wasn’t overly graphic, the subject matter is very dark, so fair warning.
This thriller takes place on a college campus. It’s Homecoming weekend, and a group of friends return to celebrate their 10 year reunion. This isn’t just any normal group of friends, though. A member of their group was murdered in her dorm during their senior year, and another was accused of the crime but never convicted. Jessica, the narrator, is eager to flaunt her new glamorous lifestyle, but one of their classmates has even bigger motives–to finally solve the murder once and for all. I'd consider this a "must" if you're into thrillers.
No summer is complete without an Elin Hildebrand novel. A billionaire named Xavier Darling buys the run-down (and haunted!) Hotel Nantucket, pours a ton of money into it, and hires Nantucket local Lizbet Keaton to manage the new, wildly opulent property. This book is just fun–full of glamorous interiors, island gossip, and a century-old mystery. The descriptions of both Nantucket island and the hotel itself are giving me the urge to book a trip back East ASAP (I’m a sucker for coastal New England).
I loved this book so much that I wanted to sleep with it on my pillow. Is that weird? This story is about two best friends, Alex and Poppy, who met in college and take a trip together every summer throughout all of their twenties. The book details the journey of their relationship and bounces back and forth between their past vacations and the present day on their trip to Palm Springs. I loved this book so much that I didn’t want it to end. The writing is witty and quick, and it’s just the most perfect beachy book.
This book is about a single mom who accidentally falls in love with the world’s biggest pop star (think no further than Harry Styles). When I first heard about this book, I kind of rolled my eyes. However, it only took me a few chapters to become absolutely invested in Solène and Hayes’ relationship. The characters are well-written and irresistable, making this a very elevated (IMO) beach romance.
This is a witty and adorable British rom com about two people who don’t know each other at all and begin to share an apartment. One of them works days and the other nights, so it’s a “ships passing” situation. They get to know each other by leaving sticky notes around the apartment for each other. I loved this book—it’s clever and cute and very funny.
This book was phenomenal. Homegoing begins with two sisters in Ghana in the 18th century, Effia and Esi. Effia marries a white colonist and stays in Ghana, and Esi is captured and put on a slave ship heading to America. The story follows each of their lines of descendants, each chapter providing a snapshot into one of their descendant’s lives and corresponding time period. I almost had to quit the book because I found the first few chapters so upsetting, but my friend who recommended it to me encouraged me to stick with it. This is such a beautiful, important work of art, and I recommend it to everyone, seriously.
This story takes place on the isle of Guernsey in the time immediately following World War II. And despite the events leading up to it, this book is just delightful in every way. Juliet Ashton, a writer, begins corresponding with a man named Charles Lamb who lives on the isle of Guernsey, a place that is recovering from the recent German occupation. The book is written through a series of letters, a format that took a second to get used to but lends itself wonderfully to the story. This, to me, is a "perfect" book.
This book details the true (!) story of Pino Lella, an Italian teenager living in Milan during WWII. After spending several months helping Jews escape Italy during the Nazi occupation, Pino’s parents force him to enlist with the Germans in an effort to keep him out of the dangers of combat. Pino is devastated by his parents’ decision but lands a role as the driver for the second-in-command Nazi leader in Italy, allowing him to spy on the Germans on behalf of the resistance. This story is absolutely insane.
Pachinko is a stunning novel about a Korean family who immigrated to Japan. The story spans multiple generations and characters, and the author is able to do this in a meaningful, intentional way without feeling chaotic. I was locked in from the start and felt a little sad to say goodbye to my favorite characters when I reached the end of the book.
This is a really beautiful story, kind of a mystery and family drama rolled into one (my favorite kind of novel). Two estranged siblings, Benny and Byron, reunite to review their mother’s will after her passing. Benny and Byron are baffled when they learn that their mother has left them a Caribbean black cake in the back of her freezer. And they’re even more confused when the lawyer makes them sit down together and listen to an audio file explaining an entire side of her past that the siblings had no idea about. While I didn’t necessarily fall for any of the characters in this book, I loved the story and found myself googling flights to the Caribbean. This book had me hooked from start to finish, and the ending is phenomenal.
The Dutch House is one of those sweeping family novels with characters that you just never forget. This story is about Maeve and Danny Conroy, a brother and sister who grow up in a mansion known as The Dutch House in Pennsylvania. Maeve and Danny’s mother abandons the family when they are very young. After their father dies, their stepmother kicks them out of the house. The story follows Maeve and Danny over the next decades as they rebuild their lives and face their past. I couldn’t have loved this more, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have tears streaming down my face on more than one occurrence.
UGH. I loved this book so much. This novel is about a man named James Witherspoon who is a bigamist. The story is told from the points of view of each of his daughters from his two families–one the first half of the book and the other the second. The girls are of similar age and lead parallel but radically different lives in the same area of Atlanta. Eventually, their paths cross in high school and things hit a breaking point. I couldn't put this one down.
This novel details the relationship between two NYPD cops, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, and the intersection of their families throughout multiple generations. At first, I didn’t really know where this was going, but I found myself very attached to the characters and their journeys. This is well-written, sharp, and breathtaking, and I loved every page.
Big Magic is a cheeky celebration of creativity and provides a perfect combination of dazzling inspiration and a tough-love type of “kick in the butt.” Liz GIlbert debunks the myth that there are creative people and not creative people; she argues that creativity is central to the core of what it means to be human and is therefore deeply ingrained within each of us. She also talks a lot about the benefits of creative living (didn’t really need to sell me there) and emphasizes the importance of consistency, discipline, and treating yourself well. I can’t recommend this enough to anyone who is stuck in a rut or wanting to explore their creative side.
This is the best I’ve read on the subject of creating “good” habits. It’s inspiring but—more importantly—practical. If you are looking for a reset or are interested in overhauling your daily routines, Clear’s advice is to just make one small change at a time. I also found his theory on habit stacking to be extremely helpful. I’ve employed several tactics I learned from this book over the past couple of years and recommend it to *everyone*.
Motherhood has brought out a particularly neurotic side of me, and I’ve found this book to be enormously helpful and encouraging in my current phase of life. Brené outlines the principles of what she calls “wholehearted living “and talks a lot about shame and perfectionism. I found a lot of her talking points to be great jumping-off points for my own self-reflection. I have read (and loved!) several of her books and think this one is a great place to start because it’s the most straightforward.
I read this book a few years ago—my first introduction to stoicism—and still think about the concepts often (I know, what am I? A 30-something startup bro?). Joking aside, Ryan Holiday has this no-nonsense way of storytelling and illustrating the ideology behind stoicism. In short, stoicism centers around the idea that while we have zero control on the world around us, we do have control on how we react to what happens to us. I found it all to be very much in line with my faith and thought his points about resilience and grit amidst adversity were very compelling. I HIGHLY recommend this book.
I read this book when I was pregnant with Charlotte, not really knowing what to expect out of motherhood. I found it absolutely fascinating, and many (though not all) of the concepts have shaped the framework by which Tyler and I approach parenting to this day. Pamela Druckerman, an American woman living in Paris, goes on a quest to figure out why her French mother peers were so much more put together than she was and why their children seemed to have a better grip on sleeping, eating, and behaving than her own. She interviews parents, teachers, doctors, and experts in Paris to try to uncover the differences in French and American parenting. Not all of this is super practical, in my opinion, but it's a very fun read and I still think about a lot of the content as I carry on my day-to-day with the girls.
This book lays out the science behind a child’s brain and offers practical, tangible tools for how parents and caretakers can foster healthy development. This book was enormously helpful in “setting the stage” for us, as it walks through exactly what is going on in a child’s mind as they approach their day and the challenges it may bring. The authors explain our role as parents is to help our children develop “mindsight,” or the ability to understand how we process emotions and events. This helps our kids grow into integrated, balanced, healthy young adults. I foresee myself returning to this book again and again over the years.
No-Drama Discipline draws on the science explained in Whole-Brain Child and applies it to discipline. The biggest takeaway I got from this book was that it helped me define the “why” behind my parenting strategy. I think I had it in my head for a long time that the goal of discipline was to develop a “well-behaved” child. What this book helped me realize is that the goal should actually be to help your child learn to process emotions, develop resilience, and approach conflict in a healthy way. This book really changed the way I think about discipline because it helped me understand WHY kids act out and what’s really going on underneath a tantrum. It taught me how to hold a boundary with compassion and how to walk alongside my kids when life seems hard or unfair.
The ideology behind No Bad Kids is in line with Dan Siegel and TIna Payne's work, but Janet Lansbury puts her own (very practical) spin on it. This book is, I believe, a collection of her most popular blog posts, so each chapter is very "snackable," offering concrete takeaways and scripts to use in specific situations. This is the book I turn to when I have a certain issue I'm dealing with and need something I can use FAST.
I read 46 books this year. I didn’t have a set goal, although I knew that if I basically read a book per week then I’d get pretty close to 50.
While I have a handful of strategies for reading more books (you can drop your email at the bottom of this blog post to receive my best tips straight to your inbox), the main “rule” I follow is consistently heading to bed early enough to have time–and energy–to read. We always turn the TV off by 8:30pm. This gives me plenty of time to pick up the house, do my night time skincare routine, and settle into bed with a book.
This is the first year that I decided to break up the list by category. I wanted to include some thrillers and lighter reads on the list but felt like it was weird to include Book Lovers (a fabulous rom com but a rom com nonetheless) alongside Hamnet (a stunning, poignant work of art). I wanted to include a few standout books from the less serious genres because those certainly have a time and place.
I’d LOVE to hear your faves from the year, too, as I am always on the lookout for recommendations.
I went back and forth on if this modern classic qualifies as a thriller, but I think it does at least count as a “suspense.” A cohort of philosophy students at a college in New England become involved in a murder coverup, and pure chaos ensues. Donna Tartt’s writing alone is worth the trek through this one.
A mystery with Clue/Agatha Christie vibes, this story revolves around a loveable and quirky maid who inadvertently finds herself at the center of a murder investigation.
This is the story of a serial killer’s life told through the lens of the women who are living in the aftermath of his heinous crimes. I found this book utterly fascinating.
Another murder mystery set in the world of academia, this book is the definition of “unputdownable.”
This was a GREAT thriller, kind of a cross between Where the Crawdads Sing and The Girl on the Train.
Emily Henry has a way of writing rom coms that feel more authentic than any other author I’ve read and does a fabulous job of making her characters feel complex and nuanced. Her books are light and cozy without leaving that too-sweet, eyeroll-y taste in your mouth.
Elin Hilderbrand’s latest novel is the quintessential beach read that has something for everyone: a century-old mystery, some romance, quirky characters, and a juicy hotel setting. I loved this one.
If I absolutely HAD to choose a favorite book from the year, I would probably choose Hamnet. In this reimagining of the events of Shakespeare’s life, Maggie O’Farrell breathes air into the mostly-untold story of Shakespeare’s wife and their son, Hamnet, who is reported to have died of the Black Plague.
Two estranged siblings begin to uncover the truth about their mother’s past. This story was so interesting, and it has a GREAT ending.
I am a sucker for anything Elizabeth Strout writes, but this novel in particular really stuck with me this year. Lucy Barton’s mother comes to visit her in the hospital, and the two women are forced to rehash their past and Lucy’s grim childhood. I loved this.
Tova Sullivan is a lonely widow who works the night shift at the local aquarium. She befriends an octopus named Marcellus who uncovers what happened to Tova’s son who disappeared over 30 years ago. This story sounds weird, and it is, but just trust me.
This book has received a ton of fanfare in the last few months, and I believe it’s well-deserved. The story centers around the lives and relationships of two video game designers named Sadie Green and Sam Masur. I absolutely loved it.
I, of course, had to pick up Maggie O’Farrell’s latest novel after having my heart and soul displaced by Hamnet. Set in Renaissance Italy, this novel is a reimagining of the marriage of Lucrezia de’ Medici’s fateful marriage to the Duke of Ferrara. I couldn’t put this one down.
Of all of the books I’ve read over the years, this one has had the most significant impact on my day-to-day life as a creative. I can’t recommend it enough. I actually learned so much from this that I wrote an entire blog post about it.
This book was a little out there for me, but I actually found myself thinking about many of the concepts long after I finished it. In short, it’s about letting go of emotions and inner conflict and letting yourself truly live in the moment.
I can’t believe it took me 30 years to realize that there was a term to describe many of the qualities that I previously deemed as flaws. I learned SO much from this book.
What’s the book you read this year?