The Best Books I Read in 2016

As I have for the past few years, I kept track of the books (only the books, not magazines!) I read in 2016. I read slightly more than my average of two books per week this year, partly because I am doing a lot of "work" reading. So out of 106 books here are my Top 11 (in the order I read them), complete with the little review I wrote on my "Reading List" section. Note this is dominated by fiction (only two non-fiction), and female authors (seven women). 1.Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead– Definitely my favorite book of 2016 thus far. So captures the angst of relationships in middle school and budding romance, fused with modern technology. Tackles complicated issues while giving the kids agency and complexity, which I love. Highly recommend for adult and young readers! And, and, and.

2.Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly– I’ve been clear about my Veronica Mars love, and this book (what will clearly be a series) is very reminiscent of the TV series, movie, and book series. But it’s also different– a male “Veronica,” no Logan, etc. But a town with lots and lots of secrets, a class divide, an enduring mysterious crime, and kids who are too smart by half. It’s a quick, witty read with teenage angst and romance thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss it. [I love mystery series.]

3. This Side of Providence by Rachel M. Harper– A haunting, lyrical, multi-faceted look at poverty, addiction, immigration, education, and more. Hit home for me in many ways, especially with the Providence location and my volunteer CASA work. It’s also written by a Wheeler grad (where my son is at school), but I would love this book anyway. I am still thinking about it.

4. Dark Road Home by Anna Carlisle– The first in a new series. The bed news is that it just came out this week and I read it in less than 12 hours, and now I likely have to wait a bit for the next installment! Interesting characters, setting, motivation. I’m excited to see where it will go. If you had any interest in the TV series “The Family,” note you will really enjoy this. Compelling stuff. [I also liked latest installments in Kate Burkholder, Cork O'Corcoran, and Joe Guenther series this year, but didn't include them on this list.]

5. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg– It is an actual shanda that I had never before read this amazing history (based on girls’ diaries) of girls and their bodies. I love the organization of this book, its focus on everyday life, and it’s insights that resonate today. Would love to know Brumberg’s take on the role of social media now– both as a cultural mirror AND as a diary– in young girls’ lives today.

6. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy– Wow, I LOVED this book. I had to stay up late to finish it after I began it that day. It’s been a long time since I have done that. About loving yourself, body, complicated role of pageants in small towns. But it’s also the story of friendship, romance, and more. Highly recommend.

7.  The Black Widow by Dan Silva– Gulped it down in less than 24 hours. A big move toward new action and possibilities– and eerie with real world ramifications. If only we had real life Allons, which I hope we actually do. Had to wait awhile to start a new book after because I was still lost in this novel.

8. The Dread Line by Bruce DeSilva– So good. Gobbled it down so quickly. So many different, interesting threads. Movement forward in all directions. Can’t wait for next Liam Mulligan novel!

9. Sweetbitter by Stephani Danler– Wow. This novel engaged all my senses. I wish I had read it sooner– believe the hype. It is such a specific moment in time and in age.

10. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond– This book is the real deal– well-researched, compelling writing, important issue. I love the last lines in the Prologue: “Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord.” (5) It is a little depressing (though by all means this should NOT deter you from reading and facing the subject), and at times the chronology feels off, but it is an important book. I will continue to think about stable poverty vs. grinding poverty.

11. Livia Lone by Barry Eisler– A more than worthy successor to the Rain series– loved this new character and the Then-Now technique. Very much looking forward to the follow-up and seeing what becomes of some old friends.

I ended the year with some great books, which was very nice. I just bought this necklace (on my other addiction, Zulily) that captures how I have always, and continue to feel, about reading.

"She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live."

My older son just started reading his first chapter book and I just get so excited for him knowing the worlds he will see through reading...

My Reading List in 2013

This past year, for the first time since middle school, I kept track of the books I read. And I am SO happy I did! It made me read more critically and it helped me make better recommendations to friends. I'm definitely doing it again this year, a year in which I suspect I will be reading a lot as I prepare to deliver and nurse again (I found I read a ton while nursing last time). I also learned that I was correct in my assessment that I read two books per week, on average, as my 2013 total was an even 100. I didn't read as much serious non-fiction as I suspected, but that's because of both terrible morning sickness that made it easier to get lost in a story and because of all the writing and promotion I did for my own book, which was released in September. People ask me how/why I read so much and the simplest and truest answer is that reading still shows me new people and places and ideas-- and it's basically my favorite activity in the whole world. I can't imagine that changing and I love sharing it with my boys. I suppose if you count board/children's books, I have read hundreds of books this year, ha ha. Look forward to modeling good reading for the family (on hard copy paper and in e-form) for years and years to come...

Of the 100, here were my Top 10 from 2013, all of which I have already, and will again, recommend. Listed here in the order in which I read them; some of them surprised me in making the cut but they are the ones that stayed with me long after finishing.

1. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

3. The Innocents by Francesca Segal

4. The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

5. Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster

6. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiScalfani

7. The English Girl by Daniel Silva

8. The Good House by Ann Leary

9. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

10. Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Honorable Mentions: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan; Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker; andThe Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.

And I already have my first entry in for 2014! One change I plan to make to the list this year is that I didn't find it particularly useful or meaningful to report/record the way in which I read the book (iPad vs. Hard/softcover), so I plan to drop that this year.

Happy Reading in the New Year, everyone. :)


I not only get to write books these days, I also get to write ABOUT books

Books are my life these days-- and I wouldn't have it any other way! If I'm not reading or writing about my own book, I've been enjoying writing about *other* people's books.

As a non-fiction writer I especially appreciate the clear prose and narrative, but research-based, focus in books like Emily Bazelon's Sticks and Stones.

0-2Here's part of my recent review on the Brain, Mother blog:

The 1999 Columbine massacre changed the way we see bullying in schools. Since then 49 states have passed laws addressing bullying. In her recent book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, Emily Bazelon, a lawyer and journalist, shows how in post-Columbine America bullying has become one of the biggest stories about 21st century childhood.

And, yet, according to Bazelon’s research, things aren’t as dire as you might think. The stats show that somewhere between 15-20% of kids are regularly involved in bullying (either as victims or bullies) and while cases of bullycide are tragic, often there are underlying issues such as mental illness. To make her case Bazelon draws on Scandinavian research, analysis of legal cases, and in-depth investigation of three high profile cases involving children in the Northeast.

Sticks and Stones is divided into four parts; the first two focus on the stories of Monique, Jacob, and Flannery, while the third focuses on a synthesis of research, and the fourth on conclusions and tips to combat bullying. I found Part III to be the most compelling, particularly Chapter 9, “Delete Day,” which concentrates on Bazelon’s visit to Facebook and what the social media giant is doing about cyberbullying.

Bazelon writes: “The electronic incarnation of bullying also changed the equation for adults by leaving a trail.” Kids today care more about having a Facebook account suspended than getting suspended by their schools, so she argues that the company should do more protect teens (Bazelon suggests a simple solution that Facebook make the default settings private for any teenage account holder, which Facebook hasn’t yet done).


In the print version of the current issue of Brain, Child Magazine I have a review essay on fact-based pregnancy books. You can read that in full BY CLICKING HERE! Oh, and for the record, this pregnancy I have had NO desire to eat that Sierra Turkey sandwich (too spicy for this expecting momma)... Maybe I simply don't want it since I gave myself permission to eat it?

I'm extremely excited that soon others will be sharing their thoughts on my book. And, get this, it was just announced that PLAYING TO WIN is the focus of The Brilliant Book Club: Illuminating Reads for Parents. Definitely a club after my own heart. Stay tuned for more!

Blogging and Reading in 2013!

Like my friend and writing buddy Rebecca Sullivan (whose blog June Carol Clair I love)--and inspired by another by writer friend, Nina Badzin--this year I'm going with an unconventional New Year's resolution. I'm going to keep track of all the books I read in 2013 on my blog and include, like Nina, "pithy" reviews. Reading in 2013

I always say that I read a lot (I estimate on average 1-2 books per week), but I haven't kept track of what I've read since middle school when I went a little crazy participating in my school's Accelerated Reader program (one year I read about 1500 points worth and by eighth grade I was writing tests since I'd read so many of the books already...). So I'm excited to share the books that I read for fun (a mix of mysteries, fiction, and some YA) and for work (non-fiction about beauty, kids' activities, competition, and mainstream sociology and non-fiction)!

For each book I plan to say how I read it (on my iPad, Kindle, or in paper form) with a short description, link, and any other pertinent details. For example, here are two books I recently read:

1) Circle of Silence by Carol Tanzman (paperback version)- I enjoyed Tanzman's dancergirl (which I reviewed here) so I couldn't wait to read her latest. The main characters are new, but some of dancergirl's main characters make small appearances, tying the high school trilogy together. In the wake of Newtown was even more disturbing, but teens will appreciate the suspense, romance, and independent teen lives portrayed.

2) Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham (advance reviewer copy) [Note that the author spells her name the "right" way, ha!]- Another YA book with a plot that anyone who has ever loved NKOTB, N Sync, or One Direction will relate to-- and anyone who has ever had friends who change in high school. A fun summer read with movie-like qualities (which makes sense given the author also writes screenplays!).

Can't wait to read and write with you in 2013!