The Rosie Project
by Graeme Simsion

I loved this one.  One morning last month, I was out walking my dogs, as I do many mornings, and I ran into my friends from the neighborhood, Sue and Beth.  Our kids went to elementary school together, and we used to walk our dogs around the Peters Canyon loop after drop off.  I hadn’t walked with them in years, but I joined them and their dogs that morning.  Instead of talking about 5th grade drama though, we were now sharing stories of high school shenanigans and college tours. Oh how life goes on. As we were about to part ways, Beth mentioned that her book group was coming over that night, and that they had just finished a very fun and lighthearted book about a quirky, handsome Australian genetics professor.  Unconvinced he will ever find love, but confident in the Scientific Method, he initiates a project to find his perfect mate via a marriage questionnaire – The Marriage Project.  Of course, Rosie of the book’s title comes along – and she’s wrong in all the important ways. It’s a hilarious story about perfect imperfection, and about how simple and complicated love can be. I highly recommend it!  I know, I know… I had you at “handsome Australian professor.”

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Same genre, same set up, but completely different details.  And the difference is always in the details. Quirky bachelor book store owner meets even quirkier intellectual young lass.  It’s a story of hope, of family, of friendship, of forgiveness.  Of the beauty of books. Of a life well lived and well read. Of the resurrecting power of love, when resurrection and new life is something I need to believe in. Here is a quote that, when I read it, I wanted to cut it out of my library copy so that I could tape it to my mirror: “We are what we love… We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read.  We are, for as long as we are here, only love.  The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on.” To be honest, I haven’t even finished this book yet… ten pages from the end, and I wish it would go on for another hundred. Also recommended by Beth.  She’s got good recommendations, that Beth.  I like her style.

Braving the Wilderness
by Brene Brown

This book played a big part in the second half of my year. It helped me face the pain and hurt I have in my life.  It helped me see that not doing so, suppressing it and pushing it down, causes it to fester.  I have never thought it efficient to recreate the wheel, so I’m just going to quote Brene Brown, who says it so much better than I do: “Pain will subside only when we acknowledge it and care for it. Addressing it with love and compassion would take only a minuscule percentage of the energy it takes to fight it, but approaching pain head-on is terrifying. Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it. Our families and culture believed that the vulnerability that it takes to acknowledge pain was weakness, so we were taught anger, rage, and denial instead. But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.”

She’s pretty deep, that Brene Brown.  This was probably the most impactful book for me this year, but you can see why, after a fall of dealing with pain, I needed “The Rosie Project.”

Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers
by Elizabeth Edwards

I forgot that Elizabeth Edwards, in addition to getting cancer, beating cancer, standing by her husband who lost a vice-presidential campaign, finding out along with the rest of the world that her husband cheated on her with THEIR CHILDREN’S NANNY and fathered the NANNY’S CHILD, and then dying of cancer, she also lost her beautiful, talented, sweet teenage son, Wade Edwards, in a car accident. On a summer vacation. He was two years older than his sister.  So many parallels to how we lost Dragon.  I looked to this book as I did with every other book by authors who lost someone, to find out: how does one survive this loss?  How does one go on?  Edwards is so eloquent in her grief! And in how she started to live again. No one deserves any of that.  Elizabeth Edwards shouldered far more than her fair share.

Hillbilly Elegy
by JD Vance

This book tries to explain how Trump won. Or at least, it explains in unflinching sentimentality one part of U.S. population that supports him.  I had to read it to understand how we got here.  It has not explained everything, but it helps.

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well
by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

I am terrible at accepting criticism, so I know what I am talking about when I praise this excellent book written by two Harvard Law School professors. Their premise is that we are getting feedback all the time – not just from bosses and co-workers, but from spouses, friends, parents, children – and that most of the time, it does not go well.  Instead of teaching the feedback giver how to give feedback, it attempts to teach us feedback recipients how better to accept it.  On this note, I will share with you, dear Reader, one dysfunctional story about me.  Last year, I needed a phone charger for our old Honda that could also connect the music from my phone to our car stereo.  I researched Amazon and bought the one with a five-star rating and over a thousand reviews. On our way to drop Hannah off at school on her very first day of high school, I plugged in my new charger and connected my iPhone.  I started to play music.  The reception was scratchy, and we could barely hear the music over the annoying static.  Where were all those five-star ratings now?  Daniel turned to me and made a comment.  What he said was, “That charger sucks.” What I heard was, “You’re so stupid, you can’t even buy a phone charger.”

I’m just going to say, the rest of the car ride was downhill from there.  And that is just one story from my life.  So, when I came across this book, I decided I needed to read it.  It does not disappoint.

I have read other books this year, but these are the ones that had the most impact. I hope you find something in here that sounds useful or intriguing!