Psst, before we dive in, I just have to let you know how excited I am about my new course with Plant-Based with Robin!
Now, where were we?
Ah, yes, books.
Last week, I mentioned how I’d once given up my favorite pastime, reading. By the time I was about 15, I thought I was only allowed to read “smart” books. You know, the books on the 100 Titles to Read Before You Croak list.
And just like that, reading went from an exciting adventure to an excruciating chore.
While I’ve since liberated myself from the notion that I had to read anything on any list, I now experience a sort of late onset ADHD whenever I sit down with a book – no matter how fun and indulgent the title. (Weird, huh? I mean, it’s not like anything going on in the world would make someone feel anxious to the point of being unable to focus, right? ha ha…)
Thankfully, with the advent of library apps like Hoopla and Libby (in which all you need is a valid library ID card to access thousands of free, virtual “borrows”), I’m now able to burn through dozens of audiobooks while I run marathons. I simply download the audiobook on my phone, then set it to airplane mode while I run to ensure I don’t drain the battery or my data plan. When I’m done, I delete it, freeing back up the space on my phone. Boom! (The only downside is that every ten seconds you’ll be forced to debate whether or not it’s worth stopping your running watch and covering your phone in sweat and trail dust to jot down the author’s truth bombs.)
read listened to so many books over the past couple of years this way that, as we head into summer reading season, I thought it was high time I gathered my own list of Books to Read Before You Croak!
Side note: If your library offers a choice in apps, I find Hoopla far superior in both selection and number of borrows permitted per month, though the interface is less sleek than Libby.
Let’s do this.
Disclaimer: The below recommendations contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you purchase any of the titles, but the recommendations are 100% my own and unsponsored.
To give this some structure, I’m organizing my list in the order in which I enjoyed these books
(purposely leaving off the titles that, ah, didn’t speak to me…well, I mean, they spoke to me because they were audiobooks, but, OH MY GOD THIS IS ALREADY MY LONGEST POST OF ALL TIME AND I NEED TO MOVE ON):
2018-2019 Honorable Mentions
Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon by Dr. Joe Dispenza
Right up front, let’s get one thing straight: I’m into the woo-woo. All the woo-woo. And it took 36 years for me to admit that – even to myself. Now, as a gift to disillusioned, 15-year-old Jules, I let myself read alllll of the books that fascinate and delight me, even if others might call them foolish. And it has transformed my life. Becoming Supernatural is right at the top of the list in busting open conventional beliefs about who we are and why we’re here. If you think you can handle it.
The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World by Jenn Granneman
If you’re an introvert, or love an introvert, drop everything and read this. End of story. …Or is it just the beginning?
Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change by Derek Rydall
Based only on hearing that this was written by a former actor turned guru, you’d probably sooner eat wood screws than read this. But wait! I still think of this book regularly. The way Rydall describes human life compared to an acorn becoming an oak is… well, you’ll just have to “hear” for yourself.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Narrated by the very likable author, Rubin’s year-long exploration of what happiness really is -and the daily, tangible ways you can experience it- is funny, moving, and interesting.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Oh, boy, did I ever think this former bestseller would be a clunker. (And sorry, Mr. Chapman, if your love language is also verbal affirmation. I, in fact, think this book is fabulous.) I stand corrected! I felt like Oprah based on the number of “ah hah!” moments this book led to.
Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan
I’ve already written about how much I f@&$# love this woman and this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book is for everyone – introverted or not. Laugh out loud funny, relatable, and endlessly engaging.
The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright
Similar to Pan’s memoir, this recounting by Jamie Wright gives you a no holds barred peek into her world – as the very worst missionary. Wright never shies away from telling the truth about what’s really behind some of the so-called “work” done in the Lord’s name, and she does it with the kind of acerbic self-awareness that makes a humor writer like me swoon.
Class Mom by Laurie Gelman
A cute fiction book about a woman who takes no small delight in her class mom role – emailing parents with often wildly inappropriate comments and suggestions – leading to, as you might imagine, some pretty amusing hi-jinx. This is what I’d call a “classic summer read.”
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Fellow Blogging sensation Jenny Lawson details her struggles with mental health in a way that makes you laugh and cry – in all the best ways.
The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks
Written by Stanford psychologist Gay Hendricks, this book exposes the many ways in which we put a “ceiling” on our own possibilities – including how happy we’re allowed to be. Even if you’re thinking you’ve heard all of this before, I promise you’ll gain some surprising new insights into why you STILL HAVEN’T FINISHED THAT G.D. NOVEL ALREADY.
Happy Trail: A Trapped Together Forced Proximity Romance by Daisy Prescott
Um… so… if you geek out on through-hiking, lumberjack chic,
and lots of wood, go for it. Exactly the kind of romance novel you’d expect from the cover art.
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
The way the authors weave research and personal stories through this book is masterful. If you’re a teacher looking to blow your students’ minds, an office worker hoping to transform your organization, or anyone trying to create more meaningful moments with loved ones, I’m confident you’ll walk away moved and empowered by this book.
Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines by Jonathan Mooney
OH GOD THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. In this part memoir, part historical exploration, Mooney (a now-father raised by anything but normal parents) delves into the origins of normalcy in a way that absolutely blew my mind. While the tone is conversational, the content is rich with fascinating data. If you’ve ever felt misunderstood or ‘less than,’ this book will be your new favorite.
96 Miles by J.L. Esplin
This is a young adult fiction title recommended to readers who liked Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Um, helloooo, only my second favorite kid’s book of all-time! (Bested only by Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.) It was gripping. I cannot believe it’s meant for 8 to 12-year-olds. It also includes some fantastic education around Type I diabetes if, as a parent or educator, that might come in handy.
Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall
If you loved McDougall’s smash hit Born to Run, or anything by Bill Bryson, you’ll definitely dig this one. A true life historical recount told like an action-packed blockbuster, this book explores the ancient art of human badassery – though I can’t say I agree with all of the dietary recommendations near the end. (Here’s a much happier way to eat .)
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Whew. Grab the Kleenex before diving into this memoir by the late neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, who passed away from lung cancer at age 37. He left us not only this beautiful book, but his shining yet realistic example of selflessness. (All the more moving thanks to the absolutely poetic closing chapter by his wife.)
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron
Whether or not you’ve ever heard of the enneagram model, this book is a fantastic read. Exploring the history and details of the nine personality types described by the enneagram, you’ll laugh (and groan) as you gain insight into what makes you, and others, tick.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
I don’t know how I made it until May 2020 without erecting a shrine to Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and more. This woman OWNS primetime drama and is a beacon of hope for any female writer or introvert with a dream.
Kind is the New Classy: The Power of Living Graciously by Candace Cameron Bure
I know! DJ Tanner writes books (yes, plural)! I didn’t realize this until my friend, Sandy, mentioned it on her blog. Entering in with rock bottom expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Cameron Bure’s got something. And no one can deny this woman’s work ethic. A little memoir, a little self-help, and a whole lotta Jesus… I’d read more.
The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff
If, like me, you’ve ever described yourself as a “sponge person,” absorbing all of the energy and emotions of the people around you, you’ll adore this book. It’s woo-woo all right, and it explains EVERYTHING.
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
I was late to the Rachel Hollis game, and apparently this is like her 47th book. Sort of a shrill Tony Robbins, admittedly, there’s no denying that Hollis MAKES SHIT HAPPEN. My inner project manager geeked out on this brutally honest, practical how-to, and I definitely recommend it if you identify as a woman stuck between dreaming and action.
Reflections on the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Like many with a creative dream, I’ve been a HUGE fan of The Artist’s Way‘s 12-week program since I was a teenager. In this three-part audio series, Cameron addresses an audience, answers questions, and then faces a one-on-one interview – all in under two hours. I was delighted to find that I still have so much to learn from this prolific, spiritual powerhouse.
NEXT UP: The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner
Having just written about anger’s place in our lives, I’m really excited to dig into this. Stay tuned.
What are you reading lately?