Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Top 5 Books Read in 2016

Image result for reading
Like many teachers, I tend to read for enjoyment a great deal more in the summer than during the school year. The reading of essays, reflections, and other classroom writing is all-consuming and a necessary part of my job. When I do have the opportunity to read during the year, I tend to read young adult novels, particularly from the Abe Lincoln Award Winning List, searching for books to recommend to my reluctant readers. This year, I have found inspiration in a few books that challenged me to think deeply, allowed me to have a cathartic moment, and kept me captivated. My top five books read in 2016 are books that left a lasting impact, and I am thankful for the unique experience each one provided. Here's my fab five of 2016:

1. Two Kisses For Maddy by Matthew Logelin

My favorite genre is memoir. I prefer nonfiction in general, but I also love a quality story. With memoirs, I have the opportunity to get lost in a narrative while also reading something true to life. This memoir, written by Matthew Logelin is one of the most honest books I've read in a long time. Immediately after Matt and Liz Logelin became first-time parents, Liz unexpectedly dies and leaves the author alone to raise his daughter and navigate life without his wife. In this book, Matt retraces his experiences with his wife and takes his daughter on a journey to find peace with his wife's death and honor her life. Emotionally riveting, heart-wrenching, and humorous - this book will a reader cry, curse the world, and inspire all at the same time. When I read this book, I was teaching summer school. I am certain some of my students thought I was more than a little emotionally sensitive because as I read this book, black tears rolled down my face constantly. I make not apologies for the ugly cries that were shed over this remarkable recount. Another great read that was along the same vein was It's Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort. Purmort's book is significantly more humorous and focuses on the grander picture of her life, specifically her adolescents, but I did appreciate the two books together and thought their stories complimented each other well.

2. Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

As I stated earlier, I love nonfiction, and this book had me captivated from the start. After listening to a few Freakonomics and NPR podcasts on productivity, I came across Charles Duhigg and his most recent book. While I had read, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and thoroughly enjoyed it, I had not researched Duhigg any further. This more recent release examines group interactions and decision making while analyzing what makes companies such as Google and the FBI more productive and ultimately more successful. For anyone as obsessed with Google as I am, this is a must read. Through careful research, Duhigg uncovers how daily decisions lead to innovation and shares it in a compelling, well-crafted book. The pop culture references and real-world examples are thought-provoking and engaging. I loved this read, and I have since applied many key ideas to my coaching philosophy this year.

3. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

From the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and deliverer of The Power of Vulnerability this book focuses on our need to belong and fear of taking risks. Brown challenges her readers to examine our own sense of self to understand our emotions, both the positive and negative ones. The ideas within this book are meant to inspire individuals to embrace vulnerability as a powerful tool to allow us to break down personal barriers and reach beyond insecurities to achieve our personal bests. Beautifully written and refreshingly convicting, I loved how this book asked me to reflect on my relationships, how I engage with others and the world around me, and encouraged me to embrace the actions and interactions that make my life meaningful. I definitely recommend this read to introverts, sensitive souls, and people who live life passionately.

4. Orphan Train by Christina Kline

As a historical fiction novel, Kline's book does a beautiful job capturing the perspectives of both a senior woman and a young, troubled teen whose lives parallel each other in unexpected ways. As one of the two main characters, a foster child, finds herself in a bit of trouble, she is assigned to help an older woman clean her house. What she finds as she reluctantly completes her community service is a kindred spirit who also was at one time an orphan who rode a train to find adoptive parents who will love her as opposed to use, oppress, and abuse her. As the older character reveals her painful past, the younger character begins to make connections and find hope in the stories retold that sadly reflect a period of our own history. Griping, descriptive, and moving - I found the two juxtaposing voices to be a powerful reminder that while our experiences may be different, our need for love, compassion, and a place to call home remain the same.

5. Great Teams: 16 Things High-Performing Organizations Do Differently

As a coach of a sizable team, I am always seeking inspiration from experts in the area of group dynamics and athletics to help me further my team's success. Efficiency, expertise, and excellence are important concepts that need to be cultivated; understanding of these concepts is gained through experience and wisdom. This book was a random find at the library but has helped me to reflect upon how to create a cohesive organization, motivate people to work harder, establish individual and group goals, and begin to develop an exit plan (as I look to focus more on raising my children than being the head coach). With many sports analogies, I had to ask my husband countless questions - although, I did find the stories fascinating (I'm extremely into 30 for 30 documentaries - especially One Night In Vegas). While I do not have enough space in my brain to invest too much into sports, I love a great feature story. This book was very laid out and contained several examples of the ideas it addressed. I found it incredibly helpful and highly recommend to a coach of any sport or competitive activity.

In addition to the novels I read, I have been reading to my two and one-year-old daughters. At the end of July, we began recording the books we've read in hopes of hitting 1000 unique books in a year (meaning, even though we have read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 53 1/2 times, it only counts once). We are on track to meet our goal. Children's books are moving, full of life-lessons, hysterical, and full of beautiful imagery. I have loved taking this adventure with my daughters and am so grateful to our local library for the diverse selection that it has provided for us. My most memorable children's book honorable include:
I have immensely enjoyed this year of reading all different genres and age-leveled books. I cannot wait for what literary adventures have in store for me in 2017. First stop - George Cuoros's The Innovator's Mindset

Image result for the innovator's mindset
Tweets by @Steph_SMac