Great Big 2016 Book Review

Happy Monday! How was your Christmas weekend? I’m still up in Dallas with my family – all 7 of my siblings are here! My sister started this tradition of making The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, and they are out. of. this. world. delicious. I mean, maple coffee frosting? 2 cups of butter poured on top of the dough? All of these things are beautiful.

Today, I’m going to share some of my favorite books of 2016 with you! I decided to read 100 books in 2016 as part of my 30 before 30 list, and I just finished my last one. Woohoo! It was honestly just such a random hodgepodge of books. I set this goal for myself because I’d like to be in the habit of constantly reading, all of my life. And even though I love reading and read a lot as a kid, once I got into college and grad school I wouldn’t open a book unless is was a required text. (Anyone else guilty of that?)

(Here’s the list of books I read in 2016 – all 100 of them!)

Ok, so let’s jump right in!! Here are some of my favorite reads from 2016.

Favorite Fiction

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a young adult novel from 2013. (Hmm…what does it mean that my favorite fiction of the year was a YA novel?). It’s a coming-of-age story about two misfits in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s adorable and awkward in all the best ways, and since it’s a young adult novel, it’s a super quick read – perfect for a flight or as an audio book during a drive. I adored this book.

I also really enjoyed reading Room by Emma Donoghue. (I watched the movie first, so I thought that the book would be a little dull since I already knew what happened, but I was on the edge of my “couch” the whole time). This book is almost identical to the movie: mother and son are held hostage in a man’s backyard shed for years, and the son has never seen the outside world. The 5-year-old boy is the narrator, which leads to some fantastic prose. Donoghue does a great job imagining the way the world would look through the eyes of a 5-year-old who has spent his entire life trapped in a tiny room. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this one!

Favorite Historical Fiction

I read a couple good historical fiction novels (one of my favorite genres!), but The Paris Wife by Paul McLain was my favorite! This one is told in first person by Hadley Richardson, the first of Hemingway’s four wives. I didn’t know much about Hemingway’s life, so most of the book was new and unexpected to me. (For instance: I didn’t realize he was married four times…). I listened to this as an audio book while I was driving to-and-from evening gigs, and I would definitely recommend its audiobook version.

Favorite Mystery/Thriller/True Crime

This was the genre that surprised me the most this year! I never knew that I was into it, but I read one true crime novel at the beginning of the year and then read about 4 more throughout the year! My very favorite was…

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was another one I listened to as an audiobook, and I was hooked! I remember getting home at 11:30 one night after a gig, and I was so exhausted but I stayed sitting in my parking lot in my car for 15 more minutes to finish the chapter….it totally grabbed me!

After I finished the book, I watched the movie and was disappointed. The book is (reasonably) long, so they had to cut some stuff out in the movie, and it lost its edge. Read the book!

Favorite Nonfiction

I read way too many GREAT nonfiction books this year to pick just one! I narrowed it down to three..

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the perfect book to read in your twenties when you’re struggling with  the question what do I really want to do with my life?! Ha. But for real. This well known psychologist uses his years of research to discuss how we can create and control “optimal experience” in everything we do, and what it is that makes certain things fly by (you know when you’ve been working on something for 8 hours straight and realize you’ve worked straight through dinner and didn’t even miss it? That’s “flow”). This was such a good book for me to read about finding happiness and fulfillment in every little area of life. Even something as seemingly dull as taking a walk down the street can be used as an exercise to find “flow.”

I want all of the parents of my violin students to read A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink! In this book, Pink argues that society is shifting into an era in which right-brainers will rule the future of global business. After the agricultural age (farmers), followed by the industrial age (factory workers), and then the information age (knowledge workers), the time has come for the conceptual age, which will rely on creators and empathizers. This book is great for anyone to read, but especially if you’re a teacher (specifically a fine arts teacher!!) or parent.

This is my favorite non-fiction book of the year! Susan Cain’s Quiet completely changed how I feel about being an introvert. In the past, I’ve felt a lot of shame about it (especially in high school! ugh…), and I wish I could go back and give my 15-year-old self this book! Start by watching Susan Cain’s TED talk about “The Power of Introverts” to see if this sparks your interest. Even if you’re an extrovert, it might be an interesting read for you…I’ve heard from multiple extroverts (who are married to introverts) that it was a helpful book to read to help in understanding their significant other.

Favorite Memoir it turns out that this was my favorite genre of the year! I didn’t realize it until just now when I was looking through the list of books I read, but apparently I really like reading memoirs! Here are a few that were notable:

Now, I’m not a Grey’s Anatomy loyal fan (I watched one or two season, then fizzled out), but I loved reading this memoir from the creator of Grey’sShonda Rhimes’s The Year of Yes was funny and inspiring! I love how she doesn’t apologize for the what she’s good at OR what she’s not so good at. She just owns it all. I think I’d like Shonda Rhimes as my BFF.

My friend told me she was reading this book and I should too….but when she told me it’s a little bit “wah-wah” (her exact words!) I wasn’t sure if I would be into it. Friends. I LOVED Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert!! For anyone who ever feels that their creativity has been squashed and needs a re-boot, this one is for you. I felt invigorated after I read it, and I often come back to thoughts I had while reading this book.

The Book That Made Me Cry

There were two more memoirs that I was so happy to have read this year, but I’m putting them under the category of “The Book That Made Me Cry.” Neither of these were easy to read, but I think that it’s necessary to feel, and these books both made me feel in the deepest core of my being.

When Breath Becomes by Paul Kalanithi is an autobiographical account of Dr. Kalanithi’s battle and death after his discovery of his stage IV lung cancer. The epilogue is written by his wife. Although I don’t work in a health profession, I appreciated hearing his main theme of the book: as a doctor, is my job to heal the patient, or to prepare them for whatever comes next? He talks about death throughout the book, a subject he can’t avoid because he knows it is rapidly approaching for him. This was a potent, worthwhile book for me to read this year.

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold is written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. I will warn you: this isn’t an easy book to read, and my emotions all felt “off” for a couple days after finishing it. Mrs. Kelbold is a brave, strong soul for writing this book in order to share her years of research about mental illness in children. A Mother’s Reckoning tells the story of Dylan’s childhood and Sue Klebold’s grieving and questioning after she was told of her son’s participation in the Columbine shooting. This book shed a new light on my perspective of Columbine. I also want to give Mrs. Klebold a big hug.

The Book That Made Me LOL

Another memoir, but a much, much lighter one!

My fiance and I listened to Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari as an audiobook while we were driving up to Dallas one weekend in the fall. (Aziz narrates his book in the audiobook version and it is PERFECTION.) I was laughing the whole way and we still quote from this book all the time! If you’re a Master of None or Parks and Rec fan, read this book!!

Favorite Series

I never read the Harry Potter books, but I decided to give the Cormoran Strike series a try, written by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym).

This detective series was so good! I fell in love with Cormoran Strike and his grouchy-kindness. I read all three books this year, and they get better as you go! Anyone know when the fourth one might be coming out?


I think I could list about 20 more books that I loved this year, but I’m going to wrap this up! If you click on my books page, you can see the entire list of 100 books I read this year; the ones I loved are marked with a * if you need some holiday reading inspiration!

Wishing you a wonderful Monday morning!




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Mary S
Mary S
7 years ago

Alright, I’m officially motivated to up my reading. Some of my favorites are up there!

7 years ago

Good list, Kelsey! Some of these have been on my list for a while so this is a good kick in the butt to read them already! Congrats on the accomplishment!

Elle Wilkerson
Elle Wilkerson
7 years ago

This is amazing. I cannot fathom reading 100 books in a year! You’re a stud!!!

7 years ago

[…] of the Christmas music, cozy mornings in bed, and cups of tea! In December, I finished reading 100 books in a year, a goal that I decided to do to re-inspire myself to read more for […]

7 years ago

[…] in 2017, I’m excited to be a bit more organized about what I’m reading. In 2016, I decided to read 100 books, and my only rule was “read what you want.” So, I basically had no rules. Haha. I was […]

2 years ago

[…] in 2017, I’m excited to be a bit more organized about what I’m reading. In 2016, I decided to read 100 books, and my only rule was “read what you want.” So, I basically had no rules. Haha. I was […]

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