When I unwrapped a Barnes & Noble gift card at our family Christmas party yesterday, it reminded me how much of a predictable bibliophile I (still) am. I do have a Kindle, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go of cracking open new books, folding page ends, writing notes in the margins, highlighting text I don’t want to forget, and of course using covers as coasters, computer props and decor at my bedside table.

Let’s face it, interior design is not really my thing, but books – stacks of them – remain a constant element I love to see throughout my home. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the best decor a mom of two (active) boys could ask for. They’re not breakable. They can get knocked off a shelf and survive. They look great together or alone. The pages make great wall art that never goes out of style. And with a simple change in title, size or cover art, they fit in every room.

I’m also married to my Audible account to keep my hunger for new books satiated in between trips to B&N. With Audible, Kindle and bookstore trips, I read a lot of books. Here are 16 I read this year along with some notes on each, starting with some of the books I read most recently:

  1. You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero > While this might technically be classified as a “self-help” book, I thought it was a great motivator, especially anytime I felt like I was getting off track. Anytime I needed a boost, I could open this book to any page and it lifted me up in more ways than one.
  2. Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton > Because I tend to absorb and internalize the feelings of those around me, reading this book took me longer than usual. I found it emotionally taxing sometimes, but a must-read memoir as Glennon bares all. It was one of the most vulnerable, candid books I’ve ever read in my life. And well worth it.
  3. Style Your Brand, Fiona Humberstone > As I started a new business this year, I went down the rabbit hole of branding 101 on Pinterest and in the stacks at the library. I didn’t read this book until after I already “styled my brand” but I wish I had read it before starting the journey. It still made a huge impact on how I look at brand styling for clients, web and digital platforms.
  4. Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert > This book changed the entire trajectory of the path I thought I began when 2016 started. Until I read this book, I hadn’t really given myself permission to continue to create and put art out into the world. Reading this book was a game-changer that forced me to take my writing and my PR work more seriously.
  5. Leave Your Mark, Aliza Licht > I’m an experienced PR Pro, but I can’t resist a good memoir and I’ve been a fan of @DKNYPRGirl for years. So I read this and re-read it, flagged it, highlighted it, folded the page ends and then passed it on to my PR BFF.
  6. #GirlBoss, Sophia Amoruso > After reading Aliza Licht, I was hungry for more of the same, but #GirlBoss fell flat. I never liked reading about how Sophia’s dishonesty or shady lifestyle ended up serving her so well (including scenes of her stealing from others). She wrote herself as a rebel, but it never sat right with me. In the end, this book was a good reminder to keep a true north, remember where you come from. I also think it’s possible to be a rebel, even an anarchist, without raising kane.
  7. Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay > This was (surprise!) the first feminist book I ever read. And I’m so glad this was the first one. Before 2016, I was an amateur feminist in training. This book was my gateway into other feminist works and now I’d like to think I’m a more serious, activist, intermediate feminist, however still in training. Roxane has a great perspective on feminism and how the world views women. Must read for any feminists, amateur or intermediate.
  8. The Hustle Economy, Jason Oberholtzer > This was a random B&N find I remember vividly. Featuring essays from self-made “hustlers” who turned their creativity into their career, I jumped around in it. One Amazon review said, “same old crap,” but this book told me one thing: you are not alone. Also, that Venn diagrams are still cool AF.
  9. Make It Happen, Lara Casey > This is an easy, motivational book you can really journal through, if that’s your thing. It is half memoir, half workbook with prompts and questions to get you thinking and writing and overcoming your personal obstacles.
  10. The Widow, Fiona Barton > A recommendation of The Skimm (sponsored, no doubt), my book club gave The Widow a whirl. I was in suspense the entire time and it was an easy, quick read with a plot twist that keeps you guessing the entire time. Since I normally never stray from nonfiction, this was a nice break for my lifelong-learning brain.
  11. The Fever, Megan Abbott > Again, this book was another recommendation found in my morning Skimm newsletter. It’s a young adult novel, which I love, with small elements of science fiction woven through a plot full of teenagers at a small town high school near a strange lake. I STILL have questions about what happened in this book!!!
  12. Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin > Gretchen Rubin is the author of “The Happiness Project” but Better Than Before was all about habits: how to break them and how to make them. She bundled science with anecdotes and lots of zingers I put in my back pocket for later. And I even made some good habits after this I still have today!
  13. Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin > I’m going to be honest. I found this book hard to make a priority. I don’t think it was my cup of tea, but I got through it. It’s a NYT Best Seller, and I can see why. The characters were well-written and the story is golden as you enter the lives of New York’s high society. But I found it unexciting and difficult to return to.
  14. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood > I shared this Bookly Club recommendation with my book club and we gave it a try (with not much success, I’m afraid). There were several in the group not into reading this classic. Still, it’s an important one. A fictional dystopian tale, women are treated only as slaves or incubators for procreation. The book speaks to gender inequality and political games. Interesting read, for sure.
  15. The Magnolia Story, Chip Gaines > I picked this book up for my mother-in-law as a random thank you gift, knowing she’s a big fan of Joanna Gaines (and her furniture). I had never actually seen their Fixer Upper show before but I’m catching on. This book is the story of how they created an empire from nothing, lost it all in the recession, and then rebuilt an empire and lived to tell about it.
  16. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates > Working with the Baltimore County Public Library Foundation on some PR initiatives, they were planning a panel of special guests to discuss the topic of fatherhood with this book as the backdrop. Coates writes what it means to be a person of color in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century and I found the message and the book very important. Must read.