Riss Reads: Best of 2016

Is your new years resolution to lose weight?  Scratch that.  Take the number of pounds you planned to lose and multiply it by two, and that is the number of books you should aim to read in 2017.  Why?  Because reading is the best.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one,” mused George R.R. Martin.  Dr. Seuss rhymed, “You can find magic wherever you look.  Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”  It’s not that I need an escape from reality, but I find that one of the ways I can best relieve stress or distract myself from something is to bury my head in a book.  It’s also a wonderful conversation starter to tell someone about the book you’re currently reading, or to mention a great book you read recently.  These are the reasons why I read 40 books this year (and probably why I look so tired sometimes or procrastinate cleaning my room).  I’ve been keeping track of these books in Goodreads, an amazing social media site for avid readers.  Feel free to add me on Goodreads, and take a peak at some of my favorite reads of 2016:

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer | Who knew art could be so interesting?  This ornate tale of the rise and fall of artist Gustav Klimt is immortalized by his renowned Portait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, and familiarly known as the “Lady in Gold.”  The prized painting survived the Nazi era and became the subject of a heated lawsuit to return it to its owner’s ancestry.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics | Without a doubt one of the best pieces of nonfiction I’ve ever read.  It’s not a book about Nazi Germany, but more about Hitler’s vision for the Olympics and how the varsity boys boat at the University of Washington thwarted his vision and overcame all odds to medal (I won’t tell you which one!).  In an era when rowing was one of the most popular sports in the country, it’s a great book for history and sports aficionados alike.  (Thank you to my dad for lending me this book and telling me I should read it!).

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail | It’s hard for me to believe that the novel’s protagonist, and author, was only 26 when she embarked on an unfathomable journey: hiking over one-thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to Washington, alone.  The anecdotes from her expedition are incredible and inspiring, and you will enjoy embarking on the journey with her.
Hillbilly Elegy | J.D. Vance delivers one of the best books of 2016 in this heart-wrenching and awe-inspiring memoir about his upbringing in a white, poor, rural town in Ohio in the heart of the “hillbilly highway.”  He is now a veteran of the Marines, Ivy League graduate, and successful lawyer and husband in San Francisco.  Read this memoir to see how he got there and why so many from his childhood have not had the good fortune he has.  (Thank you to my friend Laura for telling me about this book before it was cool!)

Self Help
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now | I appropriately read this on my 22nd birthday and it set a wonderful precedent for my year ahead.  So many people say “thirty is the new twenty,” but that’s not true.  As the author illustrates with many anecdotes from young people, no one wants to wake up 30 years old and realize they haven’t accomplished anything.  Even if you don’t want to plan your future right now or make long-term commitments, use your twenties to earn some “identity capital” and acquire skills, characteristics, and experiences that will serve you well in the long run.

 Just some of the 40 books I read in 2016. I can happily say I loved them all.

41: A Portrait of My Father | One of the best biographies I’ve ever read, mainly because it’s not everyday you read a biography of a U.S. president, written by his son, another president.  George H.W. Bush is an extraordinary man with arguably one of the strongest resumes of any U.S. president in history.  The stories that his son, George W. Bush, shares about his entire life are gems that only the bond between a father and son could unearth.
And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side | My boyfriend gave me this book because he has a crush on Dana Perino, and honestly now I do too.  The TV host and commentator on Fox News was the second-ever female White House Press Secretary, and she was only 35 years old when President George W. Bush appointed her to the position.  Her path to success at such a young age was an unconventional one, and is proof that your vocation isn’t always in plain sight, but who you surround yourself with and the choices you make can definitely put you on the right path to one.  (Thank you to Chris for giving this to me!)

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life | Written by AEI scholar Charles Murray, this book originated from a guide of tips and advice for interns that staff contributed to at the American Enterprise Institute.  It is full of priceless wisdom for how to approach an internship, college classes, your first job, working your way up at a job, and taking steps to find happiness as a young adult.  Charles Murray points out that millennials have a lot of innate flaws, such as saying “like” too often, but having a curmudgeon as a boss (or even a parent) can correct any wrong behavior and help catalyze your success.  The Curmudgeon’s Guide and The Defining Decade are my top must-reads for anyone in their twenties.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead | I happened to read this book on my way to the beach this summer, after I graduated college and defended my thesis on paid maternity leave.  Sheryl Sandberg is living proof that being a woman in the working world comes with a host of obstacles and challenges, and that’s even before you have children and have to raise them.  While I don’t think I appreciate Lean In at the age of 22 as much as a working mother does, it gives a profound glimpse of the road ahead for young working women.

Capital Crimes Series | Besides Harry Potter, the only sequel of novels I read this year and enjoyed almost as much is the Capital Crimes series by Margaret Truman.  The daughter of President Harry Truman, Margaret Truman lived in the White House as a girl and then in D.C. for the rest of her life.  Her novels are some of the most accurate representations I’ve ever read of the nation’s capital, from neighborhood hangouts to popular museums and historic streets.  And these are also good old-fashioned, not sociopathic or chilling, mystery novels (sorry, I did not like The Girl On The Train).  You can read the series in order, or skip around to read some of my favorites: Murder in the White HouseMurder in Georgetown, and Murder at the National Gallery.  (Thank you to my mother for recalling her days as a D.C. lawyer and which books she read to pass the time on the Metro!)

Why Not Me? | Someone warned me that I would pee myself laughing during this Mindy Kaling masterpiece, and I almost did.  From her geeky childhood and messy dating life to her comedic frankness about her image insecurity and work life, everything she writes is 134901230498% relatable.  Reading her books makes me want to watch “Mindy” from start to finish right after.  I don’t know if I liked this as much as Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? but it was so good I took notes of funny quotes in my phone to text to friends.

God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School | The authors, John and Greg, were Harvard MBA students who worked hard on acquiring wealth and planned to retire by 40.  Then, in a theology class while at Harvard Business School, they realized that they could use their financial skills to give money away instead to those who needed it more than they do.  This book is full of great spiritual examples and personal anecdotes, and John and Greg lead such lives of examples and are true servants of God and His Kingdom.  If you are a person of faith and don’t always feel the fulfillment of a Christ-lived life, or seek success but still feel empty, read this book!  It’ll change how you think about wealth, success, and your life’s purpose.

Beach Reads
Here’s to Us | I bought this hardcover in Nantucket and whenever I was missing that magical island I could delve into this book (and many other Elin Hilderbrand novels) to be transported.  This one I liked a lot more than Elin’s other books because it didn’t have murder, (too many) affairs, or a dirty feel.  It focuses on the meaning of family and how families come in all shapes and sizes, and even ones that don’t get along can still come together for a momentous occasion.  Plus the main character is a chef so the author creatively sprinkles some yummy recipes throughout the book.  (Thank you to my friend Kira for always recommending Elin’s books to me and being my Nantucket adventure pal)
Me Before You | I am so glad I read this instead of seeing the movie because I know I would have cried.  Will is a wealthy young man paralyzed by a past accident, and Louisa is a quirky young woman hired to be his caregiver.  Louisa and Will have such a beautiful love story, and I actually found it pretty believable.  I like romances that start between friends and theirs is a strong friendship…one that I recommend reading about and falling for.
A Certain Age | I have only read a few good historical fiction novels that transport you to the glamour of the age but also quench your thirst for gossip, and A Certain Age does both.  A wealthy married woman of Fifth Avenue and Southampton has been in love with her young lover, and the feeling is mutual, until he falls for a girl more his age.  The book takes exciting and unpredictable turns but also paints a detailed picture of high-society New York wrestling with the Jazz Age.  (Thank you to my friend Corinne for lending it to me!)

Thank you for being extraordinarily patient and reading these book suggestions and teasers!  Please comment on this post if you have any books suggestions related to the ones above, and do make a Goodreads profile!  It changed my life for the better.  Also, if you have already read most of the above books or this list doesn’t satiate your appetite, here are some of the books I’m looking forward to reading in 2017…happy new year and happy reading!

I want to read in 2017… Love in the Time of Cholera, Beloved, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Settle for More, Alexander Hamilton, Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter, Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, America Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract In the Age of Individualism, The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region.

© Rissponsible Living, 2017

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