The five best books I’ve read this year (fiction and nonfiction)

Who loves to read? I sure do! I haven’t always been like this and have taken breaks along the way depending on the season of life though. In fact, I don’t think I read a single book for about the first 10 or 11 months of Brady’s life, because his sleep was off, and so was mine (and I continue to black out that time like crazy, because being sleep deprived is not a good way to live). But these days, I read almost every single night after I get in bed for about 20 to 30 minutes before I fall asleep, which means I get through maybe one book a month or so.

Why read? It’s entertaining. It’s relaxing. And reading a paperback or hardback book before transitioning to sleep is a good way to stay away from technology and ease your mind into a restful night. I always have an actual book in my hand and have never read on a Kindle or other device.

I’m probably a bigger nonfiction reader than fiction, but I’ve done my best to switch it up this past year, and I wanted to pull together all the best titles I’ve read as of late (not of all time, but of recently). You’ll see I don’t really do crime, mystery, sci-fi or romance, but I do like variety other than that.

Bookmark this one for the future, add these to your Christmas list, or check them out from your local library, which is how I usually get my books.

The five best books I’ve read this year (fiction and nonfiction)

The five best books I've read this year (fiction and nonfiction) by A Lady Goes West

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

This is the best book I’ve read in a very long time. And if Michelle Obama actually wrote the whole book (there’s no other author’s name on the cover, like most celeb books have), she is the best storyteller ever, because she goes back and forth through memories with the most minute of details, and yet the overall narrative works out beautifully, keeping you engaged and in the fold. 

Becoming book by A Lady Goes West -- March 2019

Becoming” starts when she is young and living in the South Side of Chicago with her parents and brother. It goes through her youth in the “Becoming Me” section, moves on to when she met Barack in the “Becoming Us” section and continues as the Obamas live in the White House in the “Becoming More” section, closing just after they were about to return to civilian life.

And here’s the deal: This is not a book about politics, although you do learn a little bit about how that whole world works. This is about Michelle Obama and how she had to make many decisions and endure some hard times throughout her life, and she does it all elegantly, while showing others how they can do the same in their lives.

Even though this isn’t a motivational book, it truly made me want to help others more too. To serve more. And to just do my very best to be a good human at all times. I loved it, and I highly recommend it as my best read of the year.

Let’s pray she comes out with another book, because Michelle Obama is one interesting and amazing class act of a lady we can all hope to emulate in some way.

“Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis

This book is a follow-up to “Girl, Wash Your Face,” which I liked, but didn’t love. I enjoyed this second book of girl-power inspiration much more and got a lot out of it. Rachel Hollis has a great writing style, and therefore, this book is very easy to read and is conversational too.

I loved all the stories from her life about how she had to learn to be more confident in herself and go after what she wanted, no matter what other people said. She’s not afraid to spill some juicy stuff.

Girl Stop Apologizing Book by A Lady Goes West - April 2019

Girl, Stop Apologizing” is broken up into three sections:

  • Excuses to let go of: “That’s not what other women do.” “I don’t have time.” “I’m not enough to succeed.” “I can’t pursue my dream and still be a good mom/daughter/employee.” And so on. Been there and done that with these, anyone else?
  • Behaviors to adopt: “Stop asking permission.” “Ask for help.” “Learn to say no.” etc. Why are these so hard?
  • Skills to acquire: “Planning.” “Confidence.” “Persistence.” All of which can be learned and developed. Yes, they can.

I had a few big takeaways from the book, including to try to “only touch something once” when it comes to emails, texts, etc. and deal with things right away. I also learned about making a “results to-do list” rather than a regular to-do list.

Overall, I like reading books like this that fill you up and re-inspire you to go for what you want. For a work-from-home momma who has a very nontraditional career in blogging and fitness, this is just what I need at times.

No matter what’s going on in your life, I think you can get something from this book. And it’s funny and real, and who doesn’t love that?

“The Longevity Book” by Cameron Diaz

I wrote a whole blog post about what I learned from this book, so you can check that out if you want the specifics. I also loved Diaz’s first book, “The Body Book,” which I read last year.

This book was eye-opening. It’s not about how to not get old or how not to age, but it’s about your cells, and how everything boils down to fueling your cells properly and taking care of them. You do that by keeping it simple with your health — trying to sleep well, eating veggies full of vitamins and nutrients, engaging in meaningful relationships and moving your body regularly.

What I learned about aging from reading The Longevity Book -- A Lady Goes West - August 2019

The Longevity Book” has about as much science information as a text book, yet somehow is easy to read and is enjoyable too. If you’re interested in changing your health in the right way, I’d recommend it, as well as Diaz’s first book, “The Body Book.”

“The Last Romantics” by Tara Conklin

I love a fluffy light fiction book, and that’s not what “The Last Romantics” is at all. I didn’t pick this out myself, but my mom saw that it was a “Today Show” book club pick and sent it to me, and boy, did I love it. I stayed up late a number of times to finish this, because it truly pulled me in. It was the best fiction book I’ve read so far this year.

The Last Romantics book by Tara Conklin by A Lady Goes West - August 2019

The book is about a family who goes through quite a bit of trauma early on, and it follows their lives as these problems continue to resurface, even as the decades go by. The children grow up and go their separate ways, but they stay connected, especially as hardship occurs. The writing is fantastic, and the storyline is both interesting and intricate at the same time.

Even though this book is titled “The Last Romantics,” it’s not really a love story, but more about the family and how love made them do certain things. I felt all the feels, even crying during the last few pages, which is a little cathartic, you know? I’d definitely recommend this one if you’re into that kind of thing.

“When Life Gives You Lululemons” by Lauren Weisberger

Whereas the last title was serious, this one was most definitely not. “When Life Gives You Lululemons” is about some drama and secrets in the affluent Greenwich, Connecticut area, outside of Manhattan. It follows a popular model, who gets arrested for a DUI, and then details how she tries to get her life back with a little help from her friends. One of whom is Emily, from the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” And throughout it all, we learn a lot about the craziness of the super rich.

When Life Gives You Lululemons book by A Lady Goes West -- November 2018

There’s a lot of drama, a lot of questionable behavior, and I just thought it was a fun escape to read. Not exactly a Pulitzer Prize winner, but enjoyable nonetheless. We all need that kind of book in our lives sometimes, and I think I read this one right after a more meaty nonfiction book, so it was timed perfectly.

And there you have it! My top reads from the last year, all worthy of a recommendation.

My fall and winter reading list

I have my name on the waiting list at the library for the following books …

Other posts you may like …

Sneaky, sneaky giveaway: I’d love to send my copy of “When Life Gives You Lululemons” to one lucky reader to read and keep (and I’ll throw in some Beautycounter samples). Leave a comment on this blog post to be entered. Thanks for being here, and have a GREAT start to your week! 🙂 

Questions of the day

How was your weekend?

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Do you like a paperback, hardback or a reading device?

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  1. I also read The Last Romantics and thought it was great.

    Will have to read some of the other picks. Great post. I love hearing interesting reads.

    1. I didn’t either until I read the book cover and then the book — I love the movie too. Maybe they should make this one into a movie. Hope you had a great weekend, Amy! 🙂

  2. My weekend was great – I completed my first Spartan race and it was so much fun! I completely agree about reading from an actual book, and I typically prefer paperback, but I also borrow from my work library a lot so I tend to up with hardbacks more often 🙂

    1. Ashley! That is an amazing accomplishment on the Spartan race. Congrats to you!! And I also have hardback books most often because that’s what my library has. Hope you have a great week, my friend! 🙂

  3. I read Becoming as well this year. Also read The Minimalists, Then She Was Gone, and working on Educated. All fun in their own right.

    I’m all about audio books. I used to read like crazy when I was a kid, but now I don’t make the time. Audio books allow me to read on my commute, while out on walks, or cleaning my house. I love it!

    1. I watched The Minimalists documentary — is the book similar?? I’ve heard good things about Educated too — thanks for the reminder on that one. And believe it or not, I’ve never done an audio book. Love that you make use of your time in that way, Nicole! 🙂

  4. The Minimalist book is way different than the documentary. It’s more of a How-To manual. It gives you challenges to enhance your life as well as the inspiration behind the writer’s lifestyle. It’s actually what kept me motivated to renew my Audible subscription, helping me to realize I can turn my commute time into something enjoyable instead of dreadful.

    Keep the book recommendations coming! I’m looking for a new read each month now!

  5. Another vote for Educated! Also Little Fires Everywhere!

    I’m with you on Becoming – my no 1 book this year 🙂

    I tend to buy paperback/read hardback from the library.

  6. Yay books! I’ve read several of the ones you mentioned. I mostly read (with books checked out from the library) on my Kindle Paperwhite, which is as easy on your eyes as a book, since it doesn’t use backlighting technology.

    Some of my favorites from this year include:
    * The whole Harry Potter series (I finally read them!)
    * The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
    * A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
    * The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
    * Atomic Habits by James Clear
    * First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story by Huda Al-Marashi

  7. I haven’t read any of these, thanks for the recommendations! My favorite and only book I have read this year was Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. I’d love to read more too but can relate to the sleepless nights with my second who is now 15 mos old- there’s light at the end of the tunnel though!

    1. Hi Stephanie, oh girlll, I’ve been there — it seems like you’ll never get out, but you will. I hope you have a lot more reading in your restful nights soon! And thanks for the tip on that book! 🙂

  8. I need some good fiction books in my life! I’m adding these to my to read list!
    Definite team book in hand over here! I am not a fan of reading on a device.

  9. Best book, hands down has been The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. I LOVE paperbacks….all the wrinkles and folding of the cover is my favorite part of reading 🙂

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