A little background first: I developed my love of reading from my mother. She used to regularly take my younger sister Kandiss and me to the library, and on nice days she would pull us there in our little red wagon. This weekly trek is how I first developed my curiosity as my mother encouraged my sister and me to get many books on almost any subject we wanted (my mom was not playing when it came to any scary or witch/ghost books). Reading put the whole world within reach and I was able to learn how incredible the planet and its inhabitants are. I later realized that reading was the cheapest way to get an education.
Throughout the rest of my life, my consumption of books and other reading materials has gone in waves, but I’ve never lost my love for reading —although my college years almost destroyed that love.
At the beginning of 2016, I challenged myself to read 36 books by the end of the year. That seemed like a reasonable challenge since it averages out to 3 books a month, and I knew I would be traveling full-time beginning in April. I’m happy to say by the end of 2016 I will have read 42 books!
This year I decided to rate the books I read as well. As soon as I finished reading one I would rate it so that at the end of the year I could rank them and hopefully make meaningful recommendations next time someone asked. Based off of my ratings I’d say any book over a seven is worth a read, and any book over 8 I strongly recommend.
The criteria for how I assign a number is not scientific, it’s more of a feeling. My scoring formula is loosely based on the following: How hard was it to put the book down, did I learn something new, did it challenge me (intellectually, emotionally, morally). Sometimes a book will be more fun than deep and that’s ok – like I said this isn’t scientific. Without further ado, here are my top 10 rated books I read in 2016 with a few thoughts about each. The full list of books is listed below.
- Between The World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates (9.5)
The first book I read that had a profound effect on me was the Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. To its credit, Between The World and Me left me feeling much the same way. I have read Haley’s book multiple times and each time I continue to be challenged by Malcolm’s thoughts on what it means to be American and what it means to be black in America. Malcolm’s commentary on America endures because of how prophetic and poignant it was. I believe that Coates work will endure in much the same way.
- The Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela (9.5)
Courage. Incredible Courage.
- Going To Meet The Man – James Baldwin (9.2)
James Baldwin is a national treasure! Going To Meet The Man is my favorite Baldwin work and I will need to read it a few more times in order to digest his genius.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey (9)
One of the last books I read in 2016, but one that will probably benefit me the most in 2017.
- Creativity Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull (8.8)
- Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh (8.8)
Culture is king! Each author has been instrumental in building the unique cultures of their respective companies (Pixar and Zappos) and using it as a guide to successfully grow their business. It was a great reminder as I think about my next move.
- The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman (8.7)
I’ve been married for 8 1/2 years and I wish I read this book 9 years ago.
- The Conservative Heart – Arthur C. Brooks (8.7)
Growing up in a politically moderate (sometimes liberal-leaning home) that historically votes democrat I wanted to learn more about conservative philosophy. I consider myself to be a moderate and pride myself on having a circle of friends that cover the political spectrum, although the majority of my circle leans left. It is important to me to not only know what people believe but why and Mr. Brooks does a great job outlining his beliefs on why conservatives believe what they do, and I am enriched because of it. While I still challenge some conservative ideas, it did change my perspective. This is another book I’ll probably revisit in a few years.
- No Higher Honor – Condoleeza Rice (8.6)
Do I agree with all of Secretary Rice’s philosophies or decisions? No. Do I respect her journey, intelligence, and commitment to a better America and world? Absolutely! Condoleezza Rice is one of the few public figures I would like to have lunch with.
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (8.5)
A classic that I read too long ago to remember vividly so I chose to reread it. The book is still an American heavyweight.
- Baking Cakes in Kigali – Gaile Parkin (8.5)
The book started a little slow for me but by the end, I felt like Angel was one of my aunties. I could bake cakes with her and listen to her wisdom all day.
- Spy The Lie – Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero (8.5)
This book fueled my inner Sherlock Holmes and Lisa is once again annoyed. The book is filled with great tips and techniques to help you ask better questions when it’s time to make important decisions.
The Rest of the List:
- The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama (8.3)
- Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin (8)
- The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind – William Kamkwamba (8)
- Bob Schieffers America – Bob Schieffers (8)
- The End of Power – Moises Naim (8)
- The Book Of Unknown Americans – Cristina Henríquez (7.8)
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain (7.8)
- The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg (7.5)
- The Turner House – Angela Floury (7.5)
- I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai (7.5)
- Midnight Rising. John Brown And The Raid That Started The Civil War. – Tony Horwitz (7.5)
- Speak Up With Confidence – Jack Valenti (7.4)
- Start Something That Matters – Blake Mycoskie (7.4)
- Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee (7.4)
- Son of Hamas – Mosab Hassan Yousef (7.3)
- The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl – Issa Rae (7.3)
- A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer (7)
- Seven Brief Lessons On Physics – Carlo Rovelli (7)
- It Worked For Me In Life And Leadership – Colin Powell (7)
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave – Frederick Douglass (7)
- Before Amen – Max Lucado (7)
- The Art of Stillness – Pico Iyer (7)
- The Reagan Diaries – Ronald Reagan (7)
- Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell (7)
- The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell (6.5)
- Another Country – James Baldwin (6)
- The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch (6)
- Last Man In Tower – Aravind Adiga (6)
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (3.5)
- The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley. (3)
Have you read any of the above books? If so what are your thoughts?
In 2017 I’m challenging myself to read 48 books or 1 book a week. Are there books you recommend?
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