What I Read in 2013

I’m a little overdue with this post…much like I’m a little overdue on a lot of things these days it seems. 

But better late than never, right?

I only read 22 books in 2013. By comparison to 2012, I was a literary slacker. I did make up for it in other ways, though. 

I think. 

Anyway…without further ado…here’s what I read and loved in 2013.

 

I cranked out a lot of nonfiction and some of it might just make people uncomfortable. Some of it you may not even care about. And, looking at the list, it covered a varied range of topics. So, in no particular order, here were the nonfiction reads from 2013:

1. Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex by Erica Jong. 

This book is a collection of essays that explore what it is that women want, female desire, our fascination with sex, and our attitudes about the same. It was an easy read and includes a variety of contributors including Jennifer Weiner, Naomi Wolf, Eve Ensler, and Gail Collins. 

2. Why Have Kids?: The Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti

It wasn’t my first trip through the pages with Jessica Valenti, and I appreciate her thoughts about sexuality and becoming a parent. I picked this one up when I was very much on the fence about do we keep trying to have a baby or not? Do I really want to start parenting from scratch (now that the kids who live in my house are kind of emerging into adulthood)? And if parenting is making most of us in this country unhappy, why even do it? As usual, Jessica Valenti explores some great questions, incorporating research, stories from the field, and her own experience as a new parent. In the end, she moves beyond the typical “mommy wars” topics to a reality that is filled with joy, ambivalence, guilt, and exhaustion.

3. The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive and Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol

Y’all, I have struggled with the ways in which my body seems to hate me, and sometimes my reading leads me down the road of trying to find a solution to some things. This one is chock full of interesting information about different types of hormones and the ways they affect our bodies…and how to eat and exercise to address having too much or too little of those boogers coursing through our veins. 

4. Mending Broken: A Personal Journey Through the Stages of Trauma & Recovery

I read and reviewed this one for SpeakEasy earlier in the year. It was a brave work that incorporated personal story and information regarding trauma and healing from it. It also was an accessible read that is helpful for someone looking for a deeper understanding of what causes trauma and how people navigate moving through their experience to a new kind of wholeness on the other side.

5. Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

This was a popular read for a lot of people last year, and I hopped on board…partly to see if there was new information (yes) and partly to see if losing the wheat from my own diet would make a difference (maybe?). Written by a cardiologist, this book explains the benefits of removing wheat from our diets…and makes quite the compelling case for doing so. It’s certainly worth the read.

6. Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction–and My Own by Mika Brzezinski

I’ll admit it. I like watching Morning Joe. Usually it only happens a couple of times a week when I’m on a treadmill in the morning, but I really do like Mika. So when the book came out and she described the subject matter, I hopped on board. I appreciated Mika’s honesty (and that of her co-author) about her own struggle with food…and accepting her body at a healthy weight. This book also was an act of bravery and contributed to the larger conversation about why America’s eating habits need some serious overhauling…while at the same time recognizing that it’s not just in the hands of the consumers.

7. Answering the Contemplative Call: First Steps on the Mystical Path

I read this one for a SpeakEasy review as well. This book broke down mysticism and contemplative living in a way that is accessible to anyone interested…with some practical suggestions for those just starting out and for those already on the path. It was a helpful read that invites us on the adventure of a more contemplative path and call.

8. Pretty in Plaid: A Life, A Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase by Jen Lancaster

Y’all. If you haven’t read anything by Jen Lancaster by now, you should. Like right now. She is so freaking hilarious and writes about her live with such humor and candor. This one was her first memoir, describing how Jen developed the hubris that seems to keep her in trouble. It was the precursor to….

9. Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office

Jen Lancaster had the perfect life…until she didn’t. After going from six figures to an unemployment check, she finally stops to consider her attitudes and values…and how she wants to live a little differently.

10. The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians

This one also was a SpeakEasy read and review. Having grown up in a moderate but still evangelical context, I was intrigued by this notion of what evangelicalism looks like now. Because let’s face it, “evangelical” is a dirty word for most people…and most of us refuse to use it as an identifier. After reading this book, however, I’m much more inclined to reconsider its use–as long as this brand of evangelicalism becomes mainstream at a level the previous version enjoyed. 

11. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How it Can Renew America

I so appreciate Thomas Friedman. I’m glad I finally got around to this book (it came out when I was in the thick of grad school). Honestly, I wish this book were required reading for everyone working in our government. Friedman outlines the global threats to the environment and why we should do something to address it. Then he outlines incredible technologies that can provide a viable, sustainable solution to at least some of the issues. It will make you think very differently about how you use your resources but also about how our policies and politicians should be operating in a different way.

12. Warrior Girls: Protecting our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports

For the most part, this book addressed knee injuries (typically ACL tears) that have become something of a given among young, female athletes. It’s a book that is easy to read, teaches you a lot about ACL tears and the process to healing, and why the injuries keep happening. The author provides great research regarding tears and surgery–as well as ways that have been proven to prevent these types of injuries in the first place.

13. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

One of my administrators recommended this book to me and so, well, I read it. Of course. Dweck’s research, spanning 20 years, indicates that our mindset is not a personality quirk–it’s defines our whole mental world. Our mindset makes us an optimist or pessimist, shapes our goals, affects our attitudes toward work and success, shapes our relationships and how we talk to children (ours or the ones we teach/interact with). Our mindset, it turns out, is a great predictor in terms of whether or not we fulfill our potential. And it was an interesting read from start to finish.

14. We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success

Three boys growing up in the ‘hood in Newark, New Jersey, a place where few African American males make it out alive if they make it out at all. These three boys easily could have followed the same trajectory into drugs, gangs, and prison. But one presentation at school made them aware of options beyond their neighborhood got them thinking…and promising one another that they would make it out and be successful. Only to return home to provide hope and healing to the very people around which they grew up. 

 

Shew. That was a lot of nonfiction. No wonder that by the end of the year I was ready for a steady diet of spies and espionage.

Here’s my smattering of fiction reads from the year, again in no particular order.

1. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

A co-worker recommended this one to me and I’m so glad I read it. This was a great story but also provided some insight into the ways in which a young boy with autism views the world. Charming, sweet, gripping, and beautiful, this book was well worth the time. 

2. The Leveling

When this second book in the Mark Sava series was set to go to press, Dan Mayland, the author, contacted me and offered me an advanced reader copy to review if I so chose. I jumped on that–and wrote a review. This second book was 10 times better than the first and an incredible romp in the far Middle East. I’m looking forward to more from Dan Mayland and Mark Sava.

3. True Blue

I think this is my favorite David Baldacci book to date. He intentionally set out to write strong female characters–and succeeded within the context of a story that made me want to cuddle with the book until I was done…and even after. I’m hoping these characters will make a return in the Baldacci repertoire. 

4. Echo Burning

This was a Jack Reacher novel…and the first one I had a hard time getting into. But because it was Jack, I persisted. And it picked up about halfway through. Reacher finds himself in a small town in the middle of nowhere Texas being asked by a woman trapped in an abusive family to help her kill her husband who was due to get out of prison in a few days. The driving question was whether Jack would do it or, if not, how would she survive an angry, abusive husband and his just as angry family? 

5. The Panther

Y’all know I love Nelson DeMille and his main protagonist John Corey. These two always team up for a thrill ride full of snark and suspense and I love the combo. This book was a little heavy on detail that didn’t always move the story along…and was probably the slowest of the John Corey books I have read. But I just can’t help myself when it comes to this character and author. 

6. Split Second

This was my other Baldacci book from the year…the first of the King and Maxwell series. We actually did the audio version of this one and it was very well done. Two secret service agents come together after failures at work link them in a way nothing else would. They end up working together to get to the bottom of both failures…and work to find a way to redeem both of their careers.

7. Without Fail

I managed to squeeze in a second Jack Reacher novel this year as well…and I’m so glad I did. This one also was an audiobook and well worth the listen (though the paper version would be just as good). Jack Reacher gets hired to assassinate the Vice President before the inauguration. And then the story flies from there. As always, Lee Child writes a thriller that has you hooked from the beginning.

8. The Silent Man

Y’all. Alex Berenson writes one hell of a spy novel. His protagonist John Wells is a badass who can’t quite give up the job and can’t quite face all of his demons enough to move forward with the woman he loves. This was the third book in the series and another one that hooked me from page one. 

 

I’m not sure how much reading I’ll get done in 2014. I’m trying to finish a couple of nonfiction bits I’d started last year but haven’t quite finished. After reading over this list, I finally figured out why I’ve been jonesing for fiction so much lately…so maybe I’ll get on that. I do have a variety of books I’d like to get to this year including: Wild, Lean In, Gone Girl, some more Jack Reacher, John Wells, and Gabriel Allon, and other things related to professional reading. Hopefully, I’ll hit the 20 book mark by the end. 

Happy reading in 2014!

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