The 25 Books I Read in 2016

Reading in Koh Chang, Thailand | Asia Travel

2016 was a lot of things. I became serious about my business and brand partnerships, and it was the year that I got back into reading.

Okay, to be fair, I’ve never not been into reading since I first learned how to read. As you may have noticed by the amount of 2000+ word posts on this blog (this one included, eek!), I love words.

English was always my favorite class growing up, because you got to read books for homework and you were able to discuss it with the class, even by the chapter sometimes.

It was basically like a book club, with essays, and I loved every class. Well, except for those classes where the drama kids would convince the teacher that we should all memorize poems and recite them or act out scenes from Shakespeare.

No, just no.

Once I got to college, I didn’t read as much. I had hundreds of pages worth of textbook reading each week, papers, midterms, finals, a sorority, and a part-time job to worry about. There was no time for extra stuff like reading outside of what I was assigned each week.

I would read books here and there during breaks, but probably never get through more than 10 in a year.

When I graduated, it was a little better. But then I was traveling all the time and lugging around new books wasn’t really ideal.

I got a library card in Wellington once I knew I was going to be there for a year, and that opened up my access to more books in an affordable way.

Vagabonding, one of the many books I read in Wellington, New Zealand
I read Vagabonding in 2015, right after I got my library card in Wellington.

I can pinpoint when I really got back into reading to that year in Wellington. You see, my partner is the most impressive reader I’ve come across – including my sister, and that’s saying something!

He can read a decent-sized book in just a few days. He just won’t stop. I gradually became inspired to read more after I would watch him tear through book after book.

I realized how much I missed that feeling, of getting through stories, personalities, and learning something new each time I picked up a book. I didn’t realize just how much I missed it until I came across that same deep love of books in another person.

So, I started reading more. I got a library card and then, probably the item that revolutionized my reading the most – I got a Kindle.

Reading & eating pho in Victoria, Canada
Reading and eating pho, two of my favorite pastimes, in Victoria, Canada.

All at once, I could keep up with my reading while on the road. I didn’t have to make room for 3-4 books in my backpack each trip. I had countless books at my fingertips with a thin gadget that I only had to charge every couple of weeks.

I promise this isn’t a sponsored post for Kindle or anything, but I can’t deny how much I love my Kindle. It goes pretty much everywhere with me, so I can get in some reading if I’m eating at a restaurant by myself, settling into bed, or waiting in line for something.

No joke, my partner and I take our Kindles to tourist attractions and amusement parks where we know there will be long lines. Yep, we’re that weird couple who reads in line. But, honestly, there’s no better way to pass the time, when you have to wait in a line for over an hour to get on a one minute rollercoaster.

I was one of those naysayers before I bought my Kindle and tried it out for myself. You see, I love the feel, and yes, even the smell, of books. I didn’t want them digitized and have yet another screen to read, when I already do that for a full time job.

But somehow, I fell in love with my Kindle even though I was set against it. I wanted to hate it, but it has quickly become my side kick on all of my recent journeys.

Rocking my Kindle at my apartment in Portland, Oregon in 2016
Kindle, map, and coffee in Portland, Oregon. I’m not sure there’s much else you need in life?

But I digress. I tend to get on weird tangents spouting my everlasting love for electronics. Apologies!

I started counting the books I read in a year in 2015. I read 15 books in 2015, so fitting! And hey, I was proud of that number. That’s more books in a year than I’ve read in a very long time.

Of course, when I asked my partner, he grinned as he told me he’d read over double that amount for the 2015. Challenge accepted!

So, that’s how I came to read 25 books in 2016. Part rekindling my passion for reading, a teensy part competition, and to be honest, partly because I believe that reading makes me a better and more versatile writer.

Without further ado, these are the 25 books I read in 2016. I’m aiming for over 30 in 2017!

Whiteout

Ken Follett

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

There hasn’t been a Ken Follett book that I haven’t liked. I first fell in love with his storytelling when I read Pillars of the Earth. I’ve eagerly read any other books of his that I’ve come across and I’m enthralled every time.

Whiteout was no exception. It’s a thriller novel set in Scotland (double points!) about a deadly virus that goes missing during a Christmas blizzard.

Although you know who steals the virus pretty soon into the book, the way that Follett lays down the story is remarkable and engrossing as usual. It’s not so much about twists as it is about just damn good storytelling.

The Good Girl

Mary Kubica

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

I received this book as a Christmas present and it only took me a couple of nights to read it. It’s a young adult fiction novel that is easy to read and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I’d say this is a good beach read, nothing too difficult and easy to read.

There were some issues I had with the book, mainly the ending and how the male character was portrayed (barf), but all up it was an enjoyable read.

It wasn’t one of my favorite books from the year, but if you’re a fan of the thriller genre, than you’ll probably like this one too.

Why Not Me?

Mindy Kaling 

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

After a couple of intense thrillers, I decided to change directions and read some humorous books that I’d been eyeing for awhile. Mindy Kaling, as you may remember, was Kelly from The Office and she’s a hilarious author.

This is her second book, I haven’t read her first yet, Why Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, but it’s on my list. In this book, she talks about life as a writer/producer and star of The Mindy Project and daily musings around LA and beyond.

This is another easy read that’s perfect for a long flight, very tongue-in-cheek, and will probably make you laugh out loud a few times.

Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari 

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

In the same humorous vein, I tackled Aziz Ansari’s first book, Modern Romance. It was part humor, part social science, and actually gives you a lot to think about it when it comes to romance in the modern age.

He makes so many good points in this book that I felt my head nodding along through most chapters. Mainly the increase in divorce rates – does it have to do with our abundance of choice for a partner in the modern era?

Our grandparents would be restricted to who they met on a daily basis, who lived in their apartment complex, or who went to their church. It’s a testament to how far our society has come, and whether it’s for the better.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo 

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

This was one of those books that I kept hearing was an amazing read, and would completely change the way I organized my life, blah blah blah. Maybe it’s because I had such high expectations, but I actually thought this book was a bit dull and not all that helpful.

I found it hard to get through the short repetitive 213 pages, because I didn’t find her advice all that actionable or new. There were some takeaways I gleamed from the book, especially about how to decide what to give away in your closet, but overall it wasn’t as great as I thought it would be.

However, Marie is a successful personal organizer and has helped a lot of people, so I’m sure there are many who do well by her advice. It just wasn’t for me.

Big Magic

Elizabeth Gilbert

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book interesting to say the least. I enjoyed it, but I found it to be a very round-a-bout book that was more like a stream of consciousness than anything else.

It’s probably not for everyone, but I did appreciate her thoughts about the creative process, inspiration, and the power of the universe.

She talks about the pressures we put on ourselves to be creative, and how and why that doesn’t always work. And also why failing doesn’t always have to be a negative thing, it’s all a part of the journey.

Although I didn’t agree with everything she penned down in this book, it definitely gave me some food for thought for my own creativity.

All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

This was one of those books that took me awhile to get into, but once I got into it, the story destroyed me. It took me until near the end of this book to decide how poignant of a story it was, and it’s one that I’d want to re-read in the future.

There are different layers to this book, and it had me shed some tears by the end. I adore WWII-era stories. I find them fascinating and this book did not disappoint. Very beautiful, sad, raw, and true when it comes to the futility of war.

It wasn’t the easiest book to read, it’s a hefty and at times a dense story, but it’s well worth it in the end. Hauntingly beautiful is a good way to describe it.

Love with a Chance of Drowning

Torre DeRoche

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

Although I hadn’t read her blog previously, when I heard in a couple of my Facebook groups that a fellow travel blogger, Torre, had released a new novel, I knew I wanted to read it. It’s not always the easiest going from blog writing to a full-blown non-fiction memoir, but I think Torre did splendidly.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed toward the end of the book – I felt like it was rushed and happened too quickly. I think the story could’ve been a little longer and explained more fully.

The overall premise was one that I highly enjoyed and related to. Namely, falling in love with a foreign man who has a dream of sailing around the world, and deciding whether or not to follow him or keep doing your own thing.

Oh and there’s the added kick of being terrified of the ocean thrown in, which made for some hilarious (but oh so empathetic) parts of the book.

#GirlBoss

Sophia Amoruso

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

I’ve steadily become more interested in entrepreneur memoirs, especially of the female persuasion, since I started my own business – surprise, surprise. But even if you aren’t an entrepreneur or small business owner, it’s hard not to like #GirlBoss.

Yes, it’s a bit narcissistic (it’s a memoir after all), braggy, and even patronizing at times, but I loved the theme of girl power and how you can make anything with your life if you have the drive and creativity.

Sophia doesn’t just tell you how she made a business overnight and suddenly found herself rich and successful. She dives into the hard work and determination it took once she found what she was good at after years of what felt like failing at life.

So many good life lessons and business tips to be learned from this book. I’d say it’s a must-read for anyone, especially fellow female entrepreneurs.

Year of Yes

Shonda Rhymes

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

You can probably tell by now, that I tend to read genres in batches at times. After finding some inspiration from #GirlBoss, I picked up Shonda Rhymes new book, Year of Yes.

Shonda’s TV shows have long been guilty pleasures of mine, although I stopped watched Grey’s Anatomy circa 2012. Scandal has quickly become a show that I tune into every week. It’s so bad at times, but I can’t stop watching it. Partially due to Kerry Washington and her badass acting and swagger.

Shonda truly has a gift for writing good TV, even though her shows can be full of repetitive one-liners and crazy scenarios that would probably never happen in real life (i.e.a bomb lodged in a chest cavity? C’mon man!). But isn’t that most TV anyway?

I was interested to read her memoir of sorts about a year of saying yes to everything. And I loved the concept of getting out of your comfort zone and doing what scares you. For her it was social situations, award shows, and speeches, which I can relate to – well maybe not the award shows, but the speeches at least!

I ended up enjoying this book more than I thought I would and it continued the inspiration train from #GirlBoss, so I was happy to have added this to my list.

Sounds Like Me

Sara Bareilles

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

Sara Bareilles has been one of my favorite artists since she came on the scene during my high school years. Her song writing and music has always resonated with me, I love her voice, and her personality seems so goofy and down-to-earth.

She played a show at my university freshman year and it only made me love her more. My sister and I also always loved that she went to UCLA too, my sister’s Alma Mater and a sister university to UCSD.

It was a no-brainer that I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it, and it was everything I wanted in a book from her. The music nerd in me loved that she based every chapter around one of her songs, and I learned more about her as a musician and human being in the process.

If you’re a fan of her music, or even if you’re not, this is an honest and funny memoir that deserves a read.

David and Goliath

Malcolm Gladwell 

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

I’ve been a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s books since I first read Outliers and it profoundly changed my thinking about certain aspects in life. David and Goliath ended up being my least favorite book of his, and I’m not exactly sure why. It just didn’t have the sam “wow factor” that his other books have had for me.

This one took me awhile to get through because I kept forgetting to read it, yeah it got to that point. He makes some interesting and well thought out arguments, because it’s pretty much impossible for him not to, but it wasn’t a very engrossing book for me.

Missoula

Jon Krakauer

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

The book that changed my life this year was Missoula by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer is one of my favorite authors because of his investigative journalism and persuasive writing. His books can be very one-sided, but I can’t help but love every book he has written for always teaching me disturbing new things about the world.

This book is mainly about the sad state of rape culture in the US, especially on college campuses. He uses Missoula, a college town that is big on their sports, as an example. However, he makes it clear from the beginning that Missoula could be interchanged with most other college towns in the US.

This book made me so angry, sad, and frustrated all at once. It’s a book that everyone should take the time to read. Allow yourself time to think about what we can do to change how rape is viewed in the US and worldwide.

Missoula was hands down my favorite book of the year for making me think, for making me outraged about rape culture, and for inspiring me to try and help change it.

Tiny Beautiful Things

Cheryl Strayed

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

Cheryl Stayed’s book is a throw back to her time as an anonymous online advice columnist – Dear Sugar. It’s all kinds of funny and sad, and discusses the hard truths about life and romance through letters. There are sure to be some letters that give you new insight, and show the breadth of human compassion and baseness.

I picked this book up, for the reason I’m sure a lot of people did, because I read Wild. This is a completely different book than Wild, obviously, but it was one that I still really enjoyed. Tiny Beautiful Things makes you feel something with each set of letters, it’s the sign of a beautiful writer and a great online columnist.

Me Before You

Jojo Moyes 

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

I was surprised with how much I liked this book and also how deep it got toward the end with bigger life issues brought into the picture, besides just a classic love story.

I originally wanted to read this because I saw the trailer to the film based on the same book, and it was a starring Emilia Clarke. Since I’m a big Game of Thrones fan and it sounded like a nice love story, I was eager to read it.

Little did I know how much this book would capture me. I could hardly put it down in the little less than a week it took me to read it. I really enjoyed the character of Louisa Clark and her bumbling and klutzy nature and her friendship with Will.

This book was one of the biggest surprises for me with how much I enjoyed it. And funnily enough, once the movie finally came out I didn’t like it that much. Good thing I read the book first!

The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

Another thriller to round out the year, Girl on the Train is another Gone Girl type book where a female goes missing and there are a lot of suspect characters.

Okay, to be honest, it was a gripping thriller. I wanted to read it nonstop and not put it down until I found out the ending. But by the time I reached the ending, it was that feeling like I’d just had a whole family-sized bag of Cheetos to myself, feeling a bit gross, unsatisfied, and full of air pockets in my stomach.

There were no likable characters in this book and the character development was pretty non-existant. To be fair, it did make for an interesting psychological spin that all of the character were just not nice humans, but I found it hard to relate to the story at times because everyone was kind of annoying and desperate.

Rachel was the worst kind of pathetic as the main character, and I get that that was the whole point, but it would’ve been nice to have someone who had a little more backbone. I also thought the ending was odd.

Buy hey, it was a good and fast read and one that would be perfect for a day at the beach.

The Richest Season

Maryanne McFadden

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

The worst book I read this year was The Richest Season, mainly for its cliche nature and cheesiness. I knew that would probably be the case, but I was reading through all of my old books before my move abroad and I’d had this one sitting on the shelf for over five years.

It was given to me for Christmas one year by my brother’s ex because, if you notice, the author has a similar name to me – Maryanne McFadden vs. Marian McFadden.

She thought it was funny so she picked it up and gave it to me as a present. I waited five years to read it because just reading the back made me feel sleepy with boredom, and that’s never a good sign.

The premise is that a middle-aged woman is fed up with suburbia and her husband’s corporate job, so she decides to leave him and discover herself by moving down to a tiny beach town in the South.

The story didn’t really lead anywhere much and the ending was a little too perfect. There wasn’t much in terms of a layered story or two-dimensional characters, it just kind of fell flat.

But, if you think a well off middle-aged white woman escaping from suburbia sounds like an interesting plot to you, you may like it.

Harry Potter Series 1-8

J.K. Rowling 

The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

And finally, to finish off 2016, I read the holy grail of favorite books – the Harry Potter series. Or, I should say, I re-read books 1-7 and read the new play that came out, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I wanted to re-read all of the past books before I read the new play, because I’ve only read them once in my life and that’s as they were coming out when I was quite young.

And I’m so glad I did! It was very cool re-reading Harry Potter as an adult, seeing new facets to the book, and falling in love with the series all over again. Seriously, I’m so happy whenever I’m reading Harry Potter.

I thought the written play was…okay. I understand that it was more to give something new to the fans, but nothing actually happened and the writing was pretty bad. It read like fan fiction more than anything else.

Regardless, because it’s JK Rowling and it related to the Harry Potter saga, I still enjoyed reading it. And you can bet I’d love to see the play if I can ever get/afford tickets.

 

So, that was my 2016 in terms of books. I’d love to know – did you read any books that made an impression on you in 2016? What are you most looking forward to reading this year? I can always use new book recommendations!

Note: This post includes affiliate links, which help reduce the costs of running this site by providing me with a small commission. But don’t worry, it’s with no extra cost to you! 

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The 25 Books I Read in 2016 - The Atlas Heart

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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