Originally published 12/31/2015

I’ve seen this tag all around social media lately, and I think it’s a great way to reflect on your year.  Inspired by Liz Gilbert’s Instagram post of her favorite books from 2015, I decided to do the same.  For some of these, I sat down with the physical copy, but many I listened to through Audible during my commute to and from work.  I’ve found that, for me, it’s the best way to consume books in a timely fashion, and helps me make the most of my unavoidable driving time.  Here goes!

Rising Strong, by Brené Brown – I really love anything by Brown, and all of her books are very much worth reading.  As a shame and vulnerability researcher, I feel she gets at the core of what it means to be human.  She provides insight and guidance into how we can overcome our insecurities, dare greatly, and overcome obstacles.  In this most recent book of hers, you hear much more about her personal experiences and how she approaches life.  Her beautiful storytelling will leave you feeling as you have truly connected to another human being and prepared to take on the next big challenge in your life.

The Blue Sweater, by Jacqueline Novogratz – After hearing an abridged version of the blue sweater story, I immediately picked this book up.  I was immediately blown away by the vivid imagery and descriptions used throughout the book.  I felt as though I was standing beside Novogratz as she navigated her way through her early years in Africa.  I was so moved by her drive to travel the world and help empower women in Rwanda by using her skills and experience with finance.  The Blue Sweater is a beautiful coming of age story filled with obstacles, triumph, and inspiration.

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah – I fell in love with Hannah’s work several years ago when I read Firefly Lane.  She has a knack for capturing complex and often troubled family relationships.  The Nightingale is a heartbreaking and beautiful story of two sisters in France during WWII.  I really had a hard time putting this book down after I started it.  It’s a great reminder of the horror the world faced during this time and a story of heroism in the face of fear.  If you’re anything like me, you might want to grab a box of tissues for this one.

Mastery, by Robert Greene – Becoming an expert in any domain often feels elusive and sometimes impossible.  Greene does a great job of dispelling the myth that you must have a certain IQ or riches to become a master in your field.  By sharing stories of historical and contemporary masters, you begin to understand there is often a series of chance circumstances that put people in the right place and the right time, but above all, mastery is only achieved through diligent persistence and hard work.  He shares tips for how anyone can find their calling and become an expert in their chosen field.

Start Where You Are, by Meera Lee Patel – Ok so I admit this is not the type of book you read cover to cover, but it is still a book, and therefore counts for this list.  If there is one book on this list you buy immediately, let it be this one.  Patel has created a beautiful and captivating volume to help you explore your own mind and soul.  The pages are filled with universal life lessons and prompts for journaling.  The exercises are often unconventional and fun, and get you to think in a new way.  If you’ve ever struggled with maintaining a regular journal, this is a great place to start.  Seriously, go order a copy before you finish reading this list.

Ahead of the Curve, by Philip Delves Broughton – I’ve spent a good amount of time this year considering going back to school to get an MBA.  I know having one can open doors in your career, and I like the idea of concentrated learning about how to effectively and successfully run a business, not to mention the great people you can meet in your classes.  Broughton chronicles his two years in the MBA program at the Harvard Business School.  He captures many of the nuances you won’t read about in a pamphlet or brochure, and gave me cause to really think hard about whether or not I want to pursue the formal MBA, and if so, many things to consider when choosing a program.  If you’re considering an MBA, I’d recommend reading a copy of this book as you begin researching programs.

Conscious Capitalism, by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia – As a patron of Whole Foods Market, I figured I had a pretty good idea of how Mackey runs the company and his philosophies on business.  Conscious Capitalism proved that I had barely scratched the surface in this understanding.  I loved reading about the beginnings of this health food giant and all the ways Mackey values all his stakeholders, not only shareholders.  We also learn about how we’ve ended up in our current state of affairs and why it is unsustainable.  I truly believe Conscious Capitalism is a great guide for doing business in the future.  If you have any stake in businesses, the economy, or people, I would love for you to read this book.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert – We all know and love Eat, Pray, Love, of course, but I further fell in love with Liz Gilbert when I read Committed.  In this follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert confronted her own issues with the institution of marriage and thoroughly researched its evolution over time.  As someone who had recently gone through a divorce myself, this book really resonated with me.  All this is to say that as soon as I saw Big Magic, I knew I had to read it.  I love Gilbert’s narrative style and storytelling.  She tackles living a creative life, whether you are an artist by trade or by choice, and she does so in a way that helps you do away with all your own excuses and fears.

The Art of Non-Conformity, by Chris Guillebeau – I finished this one just under the wire, wrapping it up on Dec. 28th, but I’ve been asking myself since then why I haven’t picked up his work sooner.  I’m looking forward to becoming a regular reader of his blog of the same theme.  I love Guillebeau’s stories about choosing to live an unconventional and unapologetic life, traveling the world and seizing every moment.  Even if you aren’t interested in following in Guillebeau’s footsteps and traveling to every country, this is a great read about how to wake up and take charge of your life.