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.
My goal for this past year was to read 40 books, but I actually ended up reading 48 which was, of course, very thrilling.
I didn’t really do it on purpose, but I always like to have a new book to talk about in my Friday morning newsletter. Between that and my increasing dependence on reading as a stress coping mechanism, it was mostly easy for me to stay motivated and on track each week.
ANWAY. I read SO many amazing books this year, and it took me all week to edit this “best of” list down. I know it’s still a long list, but I guess that means there’s something for everyone?
If you’re new to reading (or coming home, so to speak), I wrote a post at the beginning of the year that includes all of my tips for reading more books–check it out here.
I have pretty much accepted that anything I read from Elizabeth Strout is going to end up on my yearly list. This book expands on the world of Olive Kitteridge, a brusque but compassionate school teacher from Maine.
This is a thriller/family drama about two sisters in Philadelphia. One is an addict, and the other is a cop. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I still think about it all the time despite having read it at the beginning of the year.
Dear Edward is a fictional story of the sole survivor of a commercial plane crash, a young boy who lost his entire family in the event. The book is based on a similar tragic circumstance that happened in 2010. The author shares that she wrote this book because she needed to find out if there would have been a way for the little boy to move forward after having lived through such devastation.
Homegoing follows the lineage of two sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century. Each chapter features a snapshot into the life of a succeeding descendent. There are some parts that were difficult to get through, fair warning, but it’s truly a STUNNING book.
The Queen of Rom Com knocks it out of the park with People We Meet on Vacation. I didn’t want this book to end–it’s clever and quick and the characters are just perfect. Hands down my number one “beach read” recommendation ever.
Like many of Colleen Hoover’s books, this was intense. I found the domestic violence content extremely upsetting, but it’s also the most compassionate depiction of the subject I’ve ever read. This book is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth the read for the author’s note at the end alone, I swear.
Pachinko follows a family as they migrate from Korea to Japan in the 20th century. The author weaves in multiple generations, characters, and side stories in a meaningful way. Highly recommend this to anyone looking to read more books based in other cultures, something I am going to push myself to do more of this next year.
This book is about a young woman who becomes a caretaker to her boarding school roommate’s new stepkids, a pair of ten-year-old twins. The catch is that the twins spontaneously combust when they get mad or stressed. This story is ridiculous, but the writing is phenomenal. I just loved it.
The protagonist of Nickel Boys is a black teenager named Elwood Curtis who gets unjustly sent to a reform school in Florida. The school is beyond corrupt, and the most upsetting part is that this book was actually inspired by a real “school” in Florida that operated like this for over 100 years. This book is just as good as everyone says it is, and Tyler, who almost never takes my book recs, read and loved it too.
It seems like Sally Rooney’s books are polarizing–you either love them or hate them. I, personally, love them. This book is honest, witty, and a hauntingly realistic depiction of the lives of four young people trying to understand love, relationships, and the world.
This is an amazing thriller that begins with a kidnapping in Pike Place Market in Seattle. There are twists and turns in every chapter, and I stayed up way too late finishing this one.
Silver Sparrow follows the lives of the daughters of a bigamist in Atlanta. Only one of the girls knows about their shared father’s double life, and chaos ensues when their paths inevitably cross in high school. This was gripping and profound in every way.
I rarely read memoirs, but when I do I always think “wait why don’t I do this more.” JD Vance illustrates his upbringing in poor Middle America and walks through the motivations and plight of a group of people that often gets overlooked, at least by spoiled Californians like myself. I think the best thing about memoirs is they allow the reader a chance to understand and empathize, something we could all do a lot better job of.
Operating Instructions is the journal that Anne Lammott kept during her son’s first year of life. This is the most beautiful and honest depiction of motherhood I’ve read, and I recommend it to all parents or to-be parents.
This is my favorite book I’ve read from Brené Brown and one that I truly think everyone could benefit from. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she walks through her ten guideposts to what she calls “wholehearted living” which basically means living (and loving) from a place of worthiness and abundance.
In Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner writes about her Korean heritage and her mother’s battle with cancer. This is honest, funny, and heart-wrenching. Absolutely loved it.